Shang-Chi's Red Skull Easter Egg Sets Up Hydra's Return – Theory Explained

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Shang-Chi's Red Skull Easter Egg Sets Up Hydra's Return – Theory Explained

Shang-Chi & the Legend of the Ten Rings featured a Red Skull Easter egg that could set up the return of Nazi offshoots Hydra in the MCU’s Phase 4.

Warning: This article contains SPOILERS for Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings.

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Marvel’s latest release, Shang-Chi & the Legend of the Ten Rings, could set up the return of Hydra – with Xialing as the new Madame Hydra. Everybody likes to believe the best of their siblings, but Shang-Chi’s trust in Xialing seems to have been misplaced. With their father Wenwu dead, Shang-Chi believed his sister had returned to Hunan Province to shut the Ten Rings down. But Shang-Chi‘s post-credits scene revealed she had a completely different agenda; instead, she had taken charge of them.

Marvel has always rooted its superhero stories in family issues, with many prominent heroes in the MCU are characterized by difficult relationships. But Shang-Chi’s family is more tortured than most, in part because of Wenwu’s neglect of his daughter. Influenced by the Chinese idiom chengyu of zhong nan qing nü (“heavy male, light female”), Wenwu essentially ignored Xialing after his wife’s death, focusing his attention entirely upon his son. Xialing resented this, her anger building all the more after Shang-Chi abandoned the family and left for San Francisco. She seems to have dedicated herself to proving her worth – to herself, not to her father – by training in martial arts and building an empire of her own, centered around the Golden Daggers fight club. The true purpose of the Golden Daggers is still unrevealed, but in the comics, this was a group Shang-Chi’s sister built to overthrow their father’s empire.

Xialing’s purpose in taking over the Ten Rings is unknown at this point, but it’s reasonable to assume she believes Shang-Chi would object to her true agenda – since otherwise, there would be no need to keep it a secret. But a subtle Easter egg suggests her plan could have a profound impact on the MCU moving forwards, because she seems to be an adherent to Hydra’s philosophy.

Shang-Chi avoids directly commenting on Xialing’s plans and purposes, with the titular hero viewing them in a relatively positive light simply because he still loves his sister. But, while Xialing’s fight club is frequented by recognizable superheroes such as Wong from the Masters of the Mystic Arts, there are still subtle hints that philosophically she has come under some pretty dangerous influences. The most notable is a mural of the Red Skull on the wall of her office in Macao; given the Red Skull was a Nazi who the world believes died in the Second World War, it’s the MCU equivalent of Xialing spraypainting a swastika on her wall, suggesting she’s an adherent to Nazi-adjacent beliefs.

But the Red Skull’s philosophy goes deeper than that, because he was fascinated by the idea of weaponizing ancient legends. As seen in Captain America: The First Avenger, the Red Skull believed the Norse gods were real, and that they had left behind powerful artifacts that could be used to establish his rule over the Earth. This led the Red Skull to uncover the Tesseract, and he used its power to create weapons that threatened to bring the Allies to their knees. But it’s worth remembering the Red Skull’s beliefs have been validated on a far greater scale in the MCU since then, with Thor Odinson becoming one of the Avengers and Asgardian refugees fleeing to Earth after the destruction of Asgard in Thor: Ragnarok. A subtle Easter egg in Spider-Man: Homecoming also suggested the Norse religion has seen something of a resurgence, with the presence of a “Korean Church of Asgard” in Queens. No doubt this has led to renewed interest in the Red Skull’s views. Xialing’s veneration of the Red Skull may well suggest she views myths and legends as hints of deeper truths, and the creatures, beings, and artifacts associated with these tales as potential tools in a quest for dominance. If that is the case, she would surely interpret her experience as further confirmation of the Red Skull’s general beliefs.

Although Shang-Chi focuses on the martial arts, it’s crucial to remember that the Ten Rings traditionally embrace advanced technology as well. After all, the Ten Rings made their MCU debut in the first Iron Man film when one cell in Afghanistan attempted to force Tony Stark to make weapons for them. That means Xialing’s empire is a lot more complex than it initially seems, embracing science and sorcery, acknowledging the reality of myths and legends while appropriating the sci-fi super-science of the MCU as well. This suggests that Xialing could either settle for simply reforming the Ten Rings, succeeding her father as head of this ancient organization, or may instead reform it in order to pursue her own agenda. Shang-Chi‘s post-credits scene certainly supports the view Xialing should be seen as a reformer first and foremost because she has swiftly broadened the pool of potential recruits by abandoning Wenwu’s prejudices and training both men and women.

Given Xialing is influenced by the views and beliefs of the Red Skull, it’s entirely possible she shares his agenda – and that her true goal is world domination. If this is the case, she could well use the Ten Rings as a power base to create something even greater and more dangerous, transforming them into the foundation for a new Hydra. The character of Xialing is already unique to the MCU, a composite of several figures from the comics, and this would essentially mean she becomes the new Madame Hydra – or else an equivalent to Sin, the Red Skull’s daughter in the comics, but his spiritual successor rather than his biological one. This would set up Xialing’s new Hydra as a true force to be reckoned with in the MCU, led by someone whose Golden Daggers fight club had acquainted her with everything from Black Widows to Extremis soldiers, from Masters of the Mystic Arts to Gamma-powered super-soldiers. Even worse for Shang-Chi, this new Madame Hydra figure would have an incredibly personal connection to one of the MCU’s “New Avengers,” making it much more difficult for the world’s heroes to deal with her. Shang-Chi & the Legend of the Ten Rings may well have set up a new Hydra in the MCU, one more dangerous than ever before.

More: Why Marvel Said The Ten Rings Would Return, Not Shang-Chi

Tom Bacon is one of Screen Rant’s staff writers, as well as a Peer Mentor for new writers and a member of the Care Team, offering support and a listening ear to members of the Comics group. A lifelong fan of major franchises including Star Wars, Doctor Who, and Marvel, Tom is delighted his childhood is back – and this time it’s cool. You can find him on Twitter @TomABacon.

A graduate of Edge Hill University, Tom remains strongly connected with his alma mater as a volunteer chaplain. He’s heavily involved with his local church, and anyone who checks him out on Twitter will swiftly learn he’s into British politics too.

Marvel’s latest release, Shang-Chi & the Legend of the Ten Rings, could set up the return of Hydra – with Xialing as the new Madame Hydra. Everybody likes to believe the best of their siblings, but Shang-Chi’s trust in Xialing seems to have been misplaced. With their father Wenwu dead, Shang-Chi believed his sister had returned to Hunan Province to shut the Ten Rings down. But Shang-Chi‘s post-credits scene revealed she had a completely different agenda; instead, she had taken charge of them.

Marvel has always rooted its superhero stories in family issues, with many prominent heroes in the MCU are characterized by difficult relationships. But Shang-Chi’s family is more tortured than most, in part because of Wenwu’s neglect of his daughter. Influenced by the Chinese idiom chengyu of zhong nan qing nü (“heavy male, light female”), Wenwu essentially ignored Xialing after his wife’s death, focusing his attention entirely upon his son. Xialing resented this, her anger building all the more after Shang-Chi abandoned the family and left for San Francisco. She seems to have dedicated herself to proving her worth – to herself, not to her father – by training in martial arts and building an empire of her own, centered around the Golden Daggers fight club. The true purpose of the Golden Daggers is still unrevealed, but in the comics, this was a group Shang-Chi’s sister built to overthrow their father’s empire.

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