One of the exciting things about a new Marvel movie is the possibility that pretty much any of the franchise's famous heroes could show up. T'Challa has previously worked with the rest of the Avengers (well, with half of them and against the other half) in Captain America: Civil War, and he will team up with Marvel's biggest heroes yet again in the upcoming Avengers: Infinity War. But for Black Panther, the Wakandan warrior stands alone. That is, until another one of Marvel's most famous movie characters shows up at the end of Black Panther: Bucky Barnes. Let's talk about what the return of the Marvel hero in Black Panther really means.
SPOILER ALERT: Don't continue reading until you have seen Black Panther. Keeping true to the isolation of his homeland Wakanda, Black Panther's standalone movie notably does not bring in any of the other Marvel Cinematic Universe characters... until right at the end, that is. Yes, as always, Marvel saved the most shocking moment of the movie for the post-credits scene, which revealed the fate of Bucky Barnes (aka the Winter Soldier) after the events of Captain America: Civil War.
Black Panther includes two scenes that air during the movie's end credits. The first shows T'Challa appearing in front of the United Nations in Vienna, promising that as Wakanda's new king, he will break the country's long tradition of isolation and share Wakanda's incredible secrets with the rest of the world. Of course, since Wakanda has been pretending to be a struggling Third-World country for so long now, none of the U.N. delegates realize that it is secretly that most advanced nation in the world thanks to its hidden reserves of Vibranium. This scene could possibly be setting up a Black Panther sequel (although one has not been officially announced yet), which could revolve around the backlash of the rest of the world finally learning about Wakanda's supply of Vibranium.
But the second post-credits scene is the more pressing one — that's the scene that is most telling about Avengers: Infinity War. In the very last scene, we see Bucky Barnes wake up in Wakanda as a group of children watch on. Shuri then tells Bucky that he still has much more to learn now that he is conscious again. The brief scene resolves the post-credits scene from Captain America: Civil War, which showed Bucky in Wakanda voluntarily returning to cryogenic sleep until the country's scientists were able to get Hydra's brainwashing out of his mind for good. Since we see him up and about at the end of Black Panther, it looks like Shuri was able to de-Winter-Soldier-ize Bucky.
Not only did this scene resolve Captain America: Civil War's big lingering question, but it also sets up Avengers: Infinity War, which is set to come out in less than three months on May 4, 2018. The Infinity War trailer showed Bucky Barnes fighting alongside the Avengers, so we already knew that he had to wake up prior to or during the upcoming movie, but now we know that he will be awake and learning about Wakanda for a while before the Avengers arrive there. This extra time in Wakanda could prove to be crucial for Bucky in Infinity War, since the trailer seems to suggest that a large part of the new movie will be set there, plus all the Vibranium in the country could result in an upgraded new arm for him.
In case you need a refresher on Bucky Barnes, he was Steve Rogers' childhood best friend before Rogers became Captain America. The two fought side-by-side against Hydra during World War II, until Barnes disappeared during one of their attacks and was presumed dead. Actually, Hydra had captured Barnes, given him a cybernetic arm, and brainwashed him to become one of their assassins. He was referred to as the Winter Soldier, a reference to the cryogenic sleep Hydra would place him in between missions in order to keep him around longer. In Civil War, Captain America learns about Bucky's brainwashing and sets out to take down the man exploiting him, finally ending with Bucky giving himself over to Wakandan scientists in hopes that they can finally deprogram him.
Bucky Barnes will return (hopefully no longer brainwashed) in Avengers: Infinity War on May 4, 2018.