With Spider-Man: Far From Home off in its own little Sony corner and Black Widow set in the past, it’s been up to Marvel’s Disney Plus shows to shoulder the trek forward. But Shang-Chi has one up on them all.
After years of all roads pointing to Avengers: Endgame, Shang-Chi points a tantalizing finger in no direction in particular.
[Ed. note: This piece contains spoilers for Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings.]
The first of Shang-Chi’s two end credits scenes is essentially all about the Avengers standing around being stumped, as we get to see what happened after Wong, an ally of Doctor Strange, interrupted Shang-Chi and Katy’s dinner.
He and other members of the Avengers have been monitoring a signal beacon emanating from the Ten Rings, which are like nothing in the Avengers archives. Bruce Banner can’t figure out what they’re made of, and Captain Marvel doesn’t recognize their design from any of her space adventures.
Mid-conversation, both senior Avengers are called away, and Wong tells Shang-Chi and Katy to get used to this kind of thing. They’re in the world of Big Weird Superhero Stuff now.
And then they go do karaoke, which is extremely relatable.
Maybe the most interesting thing about Shang-Chi’s first credits scene is that it has no conclusion: The Ten Rings are weird, and if you want to find out why, tough luck. This leaves a lot of room for speculation.
What are the Ten Rings and what is their origin story?
We shouldn’t expect the MCU’s Ten Rings to have the same origin as they do in the comics, if Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings is anything to go by. The movie makes significant changes to the mythology of the Marvel character, and for good reason. But just for context, here’s where the Ten Rings come from in Marvel Comics.
In the comics, the Ten Rings are small enough to go on your fingers, not your arms, and each has a separate power. They were the favored weapons of the Iron Man villain known as the Mandarin, who inspired the Mandarin in Iron Man 3, and thus the character of Shang-Chi’s father Wenwu. In the comics, Mandarin got his rings from, bear with me here, an ancient, crashed starship that used to belong to a dragon.
The dragon was a Makluan, a race of advanced dragon-like alien shapeshifters from the planet Kakaranthara. If you’ve ever heard of Fin Fang Foom, well, he’s probably the most famous Makluan in Marvel Comics. (He’s also a giant green dragon who wears purple pants.)
So! It is possible that the MCU’s Ten Rings are also alien in origin, and Captain Marvel simply didn’t recognize Makluan designs.
The Ten Rings could be an Eternal artifact
To point a little more specifically toward the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s upcoming releases, the next MCU movie to hit theaters will be Eternals, a movie that promises to unpack a loose family of immortal aliens who have been living secretly on Earth for millennia.
The Eternals were created by some of the most powerful cosmic forces in the Marvel Comics universe, and the Avengers have never grappled with them before. Shang-Chi says the Ten Rings were discovered centuries ago under murky circumstances, and if they’re Eternal technology, that could explain why Banner and Danvers found nothing familiar about them.
The Ten Rings could be something we’ve never heard of before
But these are still shots in the dark. With no clear Thanos-like threat on the release-calendar horizon, the possibilities of the Marvel Cinematic Universe are wide open with potential. Maybe the rings are an artifact from another part of the multiverse! Maybe they’re divine, and they’ll link up with Moon Knight and the god Khonshu! Maybe they’re home-grown but just very weird! Anything is possible!
Oh, and Xialing took over the Ten Rings empire
Lest we forget, there’s one other credits scene to see in Shang-Chi, and it’s far more straightforward.
Shang-Chi’s sister Xialing made good on her dream to create a criminal empire to rival her father’s — by taking control of his after his death during the climax of the movie. Though she told her brother that she was dismantling their father’s work, a final scene shows us that the reality is anything but. She’s rebuilding that army in her own image, allowing women to train alongside men for the first time in its history, and covering her father’s compound in colorful graffiti.
Where the origin of the Ten Rings as an artifact seems destined to connect to the wider Marvel Cinematic Universe, Xialing organization, also called the Ten Rings, will undoubtedly return in any follow up to Shang-Chi — though whether that will come in the form of a sequel or a Disney Plus TV continuation remains to be seen. Marvel has not yet announced a Shang-Chi sequel.