November 10, 2022 9:00 PM EST

Warning: This post contains spoilers for Black Panther: Wakanda Forever.

The late Chadwick Boseman’s absence in Black Panther: Wakanda Forever can be felt. Without the heart Boseman brought to the role, the Black Panther character is just not the same. People fell in love with Boseman’s charisma and attitude. He made movie history playing the first Black superhero to get a stand-alone movie in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. His death in August 2020, following a private battle with colon cancer, came as a shock to many people. Boseman died as Black Panther director Ryan Coogler was working on the script for the sequel. Coogler made adjustments to the script to address the loss of Boseman in the new film.

The movie begins with Shuri in her lab, scrambling to figure out a way to help her dying brother, when her mother, Queen Ramonda, arrives. With tears in her eyes, Queen Ramonda, played by Angela Bassett, tells Shuri that T’Challa is gone. The Wakandans mourn the loss of their king, and what’s left of the royal family walks the streets of the city with his helmet. They gather in a circle around his casket in the woods and send his spirit off to rest with the ancestors. The anniversary of T’Challa’s death sets the movie in motion when Queen Ramonda takes Shuri to a cove and they have a conversation about death, grief, and mourning. Towards the end of the conversation, they are interrupted by Namor.

Coogler, who used T'Challa's conflict with Killmonger to make the character more relatable, with Boseman on set (Marvel/Disney—Kobal/Shutterstock)
Coogler, who used T'Challa's conflict with Killmonger to make the character more relatable, with Boseman on set
Marvel/Disney—Kobal/Shutterstock

After Boseman died, arguments and theories flew over whether his role would be recast. A popular theory among the Black Panther fandom—that Shuri would take over as the Black Panther, as she did in the comic books—became the plot of the sequel.

Coogler has been open about how Boseman’s death affected him, telling Entertainment Weekly he was close to stepping away from Hollywood altogether. “I was at a point when I was like, ‘I’m walking away from this business,’” he said. “I didn’t know if I could make another movie period, [let alone] another Black Panther movie, because it hurt a lot. I was like, ‘Man, how could I open myself up to feeling like this again?’” Coogler said he thought a lot about the last conversation he had with Boseman and decided it was best to “keep going.”

Boseman’s widow, Simone Ledward Boseman, recently appeared on Good Morning America in her first interview since his passing. “It has been the most challenging two years I’ve ever had in my life,” she told Whoopi Goldberg. She said she was happy that for the time she had with her husband before he passed. “I can’t believe that I was so lucky. I can’t believe that I got to love this person. And I also got them to love me too.”

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Write to Moises Mendez II at moises.mendez@time.com.

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