(Spoilers ahead for the more mystical portions of Marvel’s “Black Panther.”)
“Black Panther” is here, and the final story in the Marvel Cinematic Universe prior to “Avengers: Infinity War” has been told. The stage is now set for the biggest fight yet for the myriad heroes of this gargantuan movie franchise — we’re only three months away from Thanos showing up on Earth to get that party started. But there’s still one big piece missing.
What Thanos (Josh Brolin) has been working toward during all these movies is to collect the Infinity Stones in order to power his Infinity Gauntlet, which would give him essentially complete power over the universe and even the nature of reality. He would become not a god, but the God. But that will only happen if he has all six of the stones — one for each of his five fingers on the Gauntlet, and the last for the big slot in the middle of the back of his hand.
Over the course of the last decade of movies, we’ve seen five of the stones bouncing around the universe, often passing through many different hands. Thanos will have obtained two of the stones by the time he gets to Earth, judging by the “Infinity War” trailer: the Space Stone and the Power Stone. The Space Stone, A.K.A. the Tesseract, was last seen in the hands of Loki (Tom Hiddleston) at the end of “Thor: Ragnarok.” The Power Stone was entrusted to the Nova Corps at the end of the first “Guardians of the Galaxy.” The trailer shows those two stones equipped in the Gauntlet.
Two other stones are known to be on Earth: the Time Stone, which Doctor Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) wears around his neck, and the Mind Stone, which is what gives Vision (Paul Bettany) life. The fifth known stone, the Reality Stone, was last seen in the possession of the Collector (Benicio del Toro), an immortal Elder of the Universe.
That leaves the Soul Stone, which was not seen in “Black Panther” — at least not directly.
A key thing to remember about the Infinity Stones is that they usually don’t initially appear in the form of a gem. The Tesseract, for example, has always appeared as a large blue cube; the Reality Stone, known as the Aether in “Thor: The Dark World,” was a liquid in that movie; and the Mind Stone was hidden in plain sight inside Loki’s scepter for a whole bunch of movies before its true nature was revealed in “Avengers: Age of Ultron.” So it’s very likely we have seen the Soul Stone, or its effects, without having seen something that looks like an Infinity Stone.
While we did not see anything that looked like the Soul Stone in “Black Panther,” we definitely did see some things that could have been caused by the Soul Stone’s power. Specifically, Wakanda’s Ancestral Plane, in which T’Challa (Chadwick Boseman) is able to consult with his dead father twice during the film.
One of the key traits of the Soul Stone is that it, well, captures souls. In the Marvel Cinematic Universe, it could be the Soul Stone, trapped inside the Vibranium meteor that crashed in Wakanda thousands of years ago, that created that spiritual plane. Likewise, the Soul Stone could also be the source of the Heart-Shaped Herbs that give the Black Panther his power — it would follow then that it’s the use of the Herb would then tie a Panther’s soul to the Soul Stone.
We know from “Infinity War” trailers that Wakanda is a major locale in the film, and not just because of Black Panther’s greater involvement with the Avengers. Thanos’ forces collide with Wakanda’s army in the trailer, suggesting the most technologically advanced nation on Earth has something the supervillain wants. That provides a little further evidence for the theory that Wakanda is, perhaps unknowingly, housing the Soul Stone. If the stone is what gives the Black Panther his powers and creates the ancestral realm, it would make a lot of sense that Thanos is trying to take it by force.