Warning - This article contains spoilers for Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings.
With Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings officially released in theaters, fans are now left to dissect and discuss all the big reveals and revelations from the latest MCU flick.
The film sought to shed some light on the mysterious Ten Rings, the organization introduced all the way back in the first Iron Man. Shang-Chi delved deep into how Wenwu rose to power alongside his criminal operations, as well as revealing how the Ten Rings seen in Iron Man 3 was an appropriation of the real group during Wenwu’s hiatus period.
While the mid-credits scene teases connections to the wider Marvel Cinematic Universe, the post-credits stinger welcomes a threat to Shang-Chi that’s a lot closer to home…
The State of Shang-Chi’s Sister
The post-credits opens with Xialing sat in her old bedroom, clearing away what once was. Ronny Chieng’s Jon Jon tells Xialing that “they’re ready,” prompting her to follow. Xialing takes her seat on a throne before the camera zooms out to reveal that she is the new figurehead of the Ten Rings.
As the camera pans out, it’s clear that the Ten Rings have gone under a major overhaul. The logo is now painted over with a red accent, signaling the group’s new management. More changes are made apparent as the shot continues to widen, showing that female warriors are now allowed to train in the organization’s army alongside their male colleagues. Very progressive indeed.
This may lead some to wonder what other new policies have been instated, beyond the company car that Razorfist was able to get a hold of under Wenwu. Healthcare and dental benefits? Paid-time off? Profit-sharing schemes? One can only hope that Xialing is doing all that she can to ensure her employees are treated fairly.
The changes aren't over though, as her father’s former palace is now covered in graffitied artwork of female fighters. Xialing has turned the organization upside down, but does this mean that the refurbished form of the Ten Rings is now a force for good?
Xialing: Leader of the Ten Rings
Willing to leave her brother for dead one minute only to decide to help him the next, Xialing is a complicated character. She clearly wants no ill-will to befall Shang-Chi, but that won’t stop her from pursuing her own agenda. The two may have fought side-by-side to defeat Shang-Chi’s big third act CGI monster, but they both have different goals moving forward. Whereas Shang wants to use his skills to help others, Xialing is still clearly hungry for power as her father was.
So will Shang-Chi take the Ten Rings down for good, or will Xialing use the Ten Rings for good? The answer may lie in whether he actually knows about his sister’s antics. The film seems to suggest that he doesn’t, as the hero is confident that Xialing is hard at work dismantling and disbanding the Ten Rings.
This may be teeing up another brother-sister confrontation, with the central conflict of the Shang-Chi sequel being Shang’s feelings of betrayal due to his sibling’s deception.
“Did America make you soft?”
The familial core at the center of Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings will likely mean that the second installment would culminate in the siblings making up by the end though, not wanting to become corrupted like their father and hoping to honor their mother’s legacy.
But really, it could go either way. Shang-Chi’s willingness to stay by his sister’s side in spite of the soul-sucking chaos may have changed her heart. The Ten Rings may come into Shang-Chi 2 as a group of do-gooders, paving the way for another Shang-Chi and Xialing team-up against a greater threat.
Xialing’s underground fight club in Macao was a shady operation, to say the least, but it couldn’t have been that bad if Wong was willing to participate...right? Regardless of these past actions, Xialing’s reformed Ten Rings still has a chance to be a benevolent force.
But would the world allow that to even happen? It is mentioned multiple times that the group was able to cripple the American government, so the return of its iconography may not be too well-received in the eyes of the public. The damage done by Wenwu, Trevor Slattery, and Aldrich Killian under the Ten Rings banner may simply be too much to get past. If the organization does want to go straight, it will have to either continue working in the shadows or prove to the world that it is on the road to atonement.
The Ten Rings Will Return...But Where?
The sequence ends with a staple of MCU story-teasing, closing on a frame of text stating that "The Ten Rings will return." While this post-credits stinger seems to be directly tied into Shang-Chi's solo future, there is a chance that the group could crop up in other corners of the MCU.
Boom, You Lookin' For This?
Given the Ten Rings connection to Iron Man, perhaps the organization could join James Rhodes as friend or foe in Armor Wars, a series that will explore what would happen if Tony Stark's technology fell into the wrong hands. Xialing and her forces may come into possession of some old Stark weaponry, forcing War Machine to take back the creations of his old friends.
The Ten Rings is a multi-faceted group though, with offshoots and splinter cells across the globe. Xialing may not have been lying to her brother, instead simply using her reformed Ten Rings to wipe out the remnants of the organization that still operates under Wenwu's warped ways. Rhodey may need to enlist Xialing's help to take down a rogue faction of the Ten Rings who are mishandling Stark Tech, with Shang-Chi's sister having the knowledge necessary to effectively deal with the threat.
A Deal With the Devil
A character that has their toes dipped in a few MCU projects is Contessa Valentina Allegra de Fontaine, who has slowly been recruiting Marvel characters to carry out her dirty work. So far, Val has enlisted individuals that, for one reason or another, aren't able to go through the normal channels of superhero-ing.
John Walker's reputation plummeted after his international offenses, forcing him to give up the Captain America mantle and take on the US Agent moniker by the end of The Falcon and the Winter Soldier. Yelena Belova is seemingly unable to lead a normal life as a result of her mind-controlled misdeeds under the Black Widow program, leading her to use her skills elsewhere for Val.
Val may hold the path to redemption that Xialing is looking for, with Contessa's possible connections to the US Government or access to other higher powers potentially giving her the ability to absolve the Ten Rings of past wrongdoings. Or so she thinks. While John Walker excitedly exclaimed "I'm back" after getting a new lease on life with his US Agent persona, it still felt as though he was just another pawn in Val's game. Valentina seemed more concerned with making Walker feel like he was being redeemed as opposed to actually redeeming him, which may be the dynamic that would carry over if Val and Xialing crossed paths.
A false promise could be made by Val to repair the reputation of the Ten Rings, allowing her to manipulate Xialing and give her a one-ticket to an obedient and efficient army. The Ten Rings may be the perfect militia for Val, giving her a task force to perform even more hitjobs and illegal actions across the globe.
The Future of the Ten Rings
The Ten Rings have been with the MCU since it began, and it doesn't look like it's going anywhere anytime soon.
Meng'er Zhang seems poised to have a long future ahead of her following her MCU debut as Xialing. Whether it will follow the lighter path or descend into darkness is up for her to decide.
Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings is out now exclusively in theaters.