As Shang-Chi and The Legend of the Ten Rings opens across the globe this weekend, Marvel Studios’ fans are being introduced to an incredible roster of characters. Star Simu Liu brings charisma and a likability to a character neatly modernized for the Marvel Cinematic Universe. While Awkwafina, who seems to be making an impression on every available medium, makes a splash and commands a return appearance as Shang’s BFF Katy. And Hong Kong legend Tony Leung, the film’s true protagonist, gives a rich and unforgettable performance. Standing out among them all, however, is newcomer Meng’er Zhang.
WARNING: SPOILERS FOLLOW
Zhang plays Xialing, estranged sister and daughter to Shang-Chi and Wenwu, respectively, and a character every bit as formidable as her headlining brother despite her father’s efforts to relegate her to the background. Zhang’s performance as Xialing sets her on an ascending pathway that sort of resolves itself in the film’s post-credit stinger while also setting the stage for Zhang to reappear, potentially in the near future, as the lead in her own project.
And the best part about Zhang’s potential next appearance is that, despite her willingness to cooperate with her brother in the film’s final act, it will probably put her at odds with Shang-Chi. As the film concludes, Shang-Chi is under the impression that Xialing has set about the business of dismantling their late father’s thousand-year-old organization, the legendary Ten Rings; however, as the film’s stinger reveals, Xialing has gone her own way, reimagining the organization rather than destroying it.
Disney Plus has opened new storytelling avenues for Marvel Studios. WandaVision, The Falcon and The Winter Soldier, and Loki have all proven to be successful efforts in continuing the stories of non-lead characters. In light of this, the next chapter in Xialing’s story feels like a perfect fit for Marvel Studios’ continued dive into the streaming world. A Xialing-centric series would be a perfect addition. It would offer an opportunity to establish not only Zhang’s breakout character’s place in the MCU, but also backfill the history of the organization she now finds herself heading up, all while advancing the story for her inevitable confrontation with her brother.
All of this, of course, thrusts newcomer Zhang into the spotlight. And for that, she seems especially prepared. Zhang has remained cool and unphased during her ascendancy to stardom, handling her interviews with equal parts rookie enthusiasm and veteran smoothness. As has often been the case for the studio over the years, Marvel Studios seems to have struck gold with the casting of Zhang, allowing it to move confidently towards the future of her character in an interconnected universe that can only be made stronger. Zhang has blazed a bright trail into the future both for herself and for Xialing, and audiences should rightfully be looking forward to what’s next.
Marvel Studios’ Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings is in theaters now.