A longstanding mystery of Marvel's Black Panther is the question of what happened to Killmonger's mom. Per The Hollywood Reporter, Black Panther director Ryan Coogler revealed what happened to Killmonger's mom in the commentary for Black Panther on Blu-ray, and the answer might not be what you were expecting. In short, it's a sad one. Spoilers ahead if you still haven't seen the film.
In Black Panther, Michael B. Jordan plays Erik "Killmonger" Stevens, a villain in a looser sense than moviegoers are used to. Killmonger had some solid points — chiefly, that isolationism is harmful, and Wakanda should share its resources with the planet. The issue is, he was violent, unpredictable, and mostly driven by vengeance. But why? As audiences know by now, Killmonger was the son of Prince N'Jobu and a local woman from Oakland. Killmonger's mother wanted N'Jobu's people to share their resources with the world. N'Jobu's love for this woman resulted in the Wakandan royalty changing his mind about their whole "living in secrecy" existence, which caused T'Chaka to kill him.
T'Chaka was preventing N'Jobu from secretly arming the world's oppressed people with vibranium. The thing is, though, he was the only parent Killmonger had left. According to THR, Coogler revealed that the unnamed Oakland woman was in jail at the time, and N'Jobu and a young Zuri had been planning on how to break her out:
The idea was when you see those guys talking over the paperwork in the beginning of the film, they're talking about a way to break her out of jail. The idea was they never got her out, and she passed away in prison, so Killmonger didn't come up with a mom either.
Pretty dark for a Marvel film, but hey, Disney technically owns the company. Offing a parent in a character-defining way is kind of Disney's whole thing.
As seen onscreen in Black Panther, after T'Chaka killed N'Jobu, Killmonger lost his father. Thanks to Coogler, fans now understand that Killmonger's mother would pass away while in prison not long after. So Jordan's character was brought up without either of his mother or his father, hell-bent on revenge against Wakanda — and determined to see his parents' vision through. So that whole "I waited my entire life for this" line that he delivers during a pivotal moment in the film is not an exaggeration.
The fate of Killmonger's mother in Black Panther isn't Coogler's only reveal in the new Blu-ray. The director also reportedly states that he showed an early cut of Black Panther to Francis Ford Coppola, the legendary director behind films such as The Godfather. "His work inspired a lot of the story," explained the director, so he wanted Coppola's input on the Marvel film. What moment stood out to The Godfather director the most? "The original sin of Wakanda, and the original sin of T'Chaka," said Coogler, otherwise known as the moment audiences find out what really happened in Killmonger's youth. According to THR, "As soon as the movie was off, [Coppola] said, 'Rewind it to the most important scene in the movie. The scene where everything changed.'"
As harsh as the character is, the more fans understand about Killmonger's history, the more he makes sense. Knowing the King of Wakanda killed his father, intentionally left him behind in Oakland, and paid no attention to him in the future makes Killmonger's mission to claim Wakanda for his own a lot more understandable. His drive to open its borders and share its resources with suffering people worldwide was already a sympathetic plan, even if his methods of getting there were barbaric, but knowing it was also a way to fulfill his murdered father and late mother's ideals? It's almost enough to have you rooting for him. And that seems to be exactly what the Black Panther team wanted.