Xialing’s Post-Credits Turn Was Foreshadowed Earlier In Shang-Chi
Warning: This article contains SPOILERS for Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings.
Xialing’s post-credits turn in Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings was actually well-signposted throughout the film. Marvel movies may be celebrated for their spectacle, but all the best stories are driven by characters – and Marvel tends to focus a lot on family drama in particular. Like so many other Marvel superheroes, Shang-Chi has what could be called “daddy issues.” But, while the focus is on Shang-Chi himself, the film makes it abundantly clear his sister Xialing suffered after the death of their mother Ying Li as well.
Although their mother had loved her two children equally, their father Wenwu – an ancient warrior who had been rendered almost immortal due to the power of the Ten Rings – was still influenced by the Chinese chengyu of zhong nan qing nü (“heavy male, light female”), which refers to the unequal treatment of the two genders. After Ying Li’s death, he focused his attention entirely on Shang-Chi, and frankly neglected his daughter. This seems to have given Xialing a deep-rooted desire to prove herself, and she eventually left the Ten Rings to build an empire of her own. In what many viewed as a shocking twist, Shang-Chi‘s post-credits scene revealed she had ultimately decided to claim Wenwu’s empire, taking command of the terrorist group called the Ten Rings – and transforming them by treating men and women as equals there for the first time.
Most viewers had assumed Xialing was as much a heroic figure as Shang-Chi, but the post-credits scene suggested that is not the case; after all, rather than disband an international terrorist organization she has instead taken it over. But her heel-turn is actually subtly signposted throughout the film, most notably in her office in Macao – which featured a mural of the Red Skull on one wall. This, disturbingly, indicates she may well share his philosophy – intending to weaponize the mystical, superhuman elements she is aware exist in the world. Certainly it wouldn’t be a surprise to see someone influenced by the Red Skull’s philosophy seek power.
In reality, everything about Xialing’s base in Macao was a subtle hint she has a dark agenda. She has established the Golden Daggers fight club – an Easter egg that points to Xialing’s true motives. The character is a composite of several sisters of Shang-Chi from the comics, and one of them – Leiko – formed the Golden Daggers in an attempt to overthrow her father’s empire. It’s possible the entire purpose of the fight club was to build connections among the superhuman community so Xialing could try to do just that; if so, Shang-Chi‘s post-credits scene reveals she has fulfilled her ambition.
Xialing is one of the most fascinating characters in Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings. Her emotional core is clear – the anger and bitterness she feels over her father’s neglect and her brother’s abandonment, her desire to prove herself an equal to any man – but she is careful to conceal her true motives. The Red Skull mural, and the Golden Daggers fight club, are the biggest hints she is not a hero but rather a villain – setting up Shang-Chi‘s post-credits, and her heel-turn, perfectly.