In an extremely insightful video essay, filmmaker Michael Tucker of Lessons from the Screenplay addressed the contradictory antagonist of Black Panther. After losing his father to the supposed violence of East Oakland (really hitmen ordered by the king), Erik “Killmonger” Stevens makes his way back to his father’s family in Wakanda. Killmonger learns about the childhood he was wrongly denied and figures out that the world needs Wakanda, therefore Wakanda must help the world. For the new king T’Challa, Killmonger is a threat to his throne, to Wakanda and a reminder of his father’s failings, yet he is also a part of T’Challa’s family who was denied his home. After Killmonger’s death, it’s from that place that T’Challah learns that Killmonger’s mission of sharing the wealth of Wakanda with the world makes him want to be a better king.
The writers let us see the young boy inside of Killmonger. A child who had everything unfairly taken from him and for whom the world of Wakanda was merely a fantasy. After battling with and learning from the antagonist T’Challa decides what kind of a king he wants to be.