The Woman King Plot Synopsis
Gina Prince-Bythewood’s action film is based on the very real kingdom of Dahomey in West Africa and its female soldiers, the Aogjie during the decline of the slave trade. The Woman King follows this group of elite female soldiers in the kingdom of Dahomey where they are revered.
But when their old enemy Oyo teams up with several other tribes and the European slavers, they stand less chance of winning as their people are kidnapped and sold. In the meantime, Nawi (Thuso Mbedu), a young brash girl hopes to become a part of Agojie after her family tries to get her married.
Why does Nawi join the Agojie?
After her first match falls through, Nawi’s family sets her up with a much older man who is physically abusive in their first meeting. After she rejects him, her father gives her to the Agojie, the female soldiers in the King’s Guard in hopes of teaching her a lesson as they can never marry or have a family.
While she is welcomed by them, they keep her on her toes as their leader, Nanisca (Viola Davis) sees her as arrogant, while her right hand, Izogie (Lashana Lynch) mocks but guides Nawi. But with Nawi always in awe of the Agojie, she sees it as a blessing as she hopes to be a soldier.
Why does Dahomey go to war with the Oyo?
The Oyo keep encroaching on Dahomey’s land for 90 years because they are a bigger nation, kidnapping the Dahomey people and selling them to European slavers. The last straw is when General Oba Ade (Jimmy Odukoya) asks for 40 Agojie as a tribute and if the Dahomey refuse, the Oyo will not let them use the port that they have taken control of. King Ghezo (John Boyega) negotiates and selects 20 Agojie to be sent.
At the port, instead of sending the Agojie to the Oyo, Nanisca goads them as she brings the heads of the Oyo guards that had been left at Dahomey to oversee the tribute. Enraged, Oba’s guards try to shoot at the Agojie but they escape.
Following the incident, Oba teams up with the European slavers and tells them that even the Igbo and Mahi are with them which will make their next attack successful and provide the slavers with more ‘cargo’.
Why does Nanisca have a personal vendetta against the Oyo’s general?
The new general, Oba Ade who leads the war against Dahomey was the man who had tied up and raped Nanisca in the past. At the port, she sends all the Agojie away as she singlehandedly attacks Oba. Despite Nawi helping her, they are outnumbered and they run. Nanisca’s friend, Amenza (Sheila Atim) wonders why she attacked Oba all alone and she explains that all she wanted was his head even if it meant that she would have been killed.
How does Nawi find out about her parentage?
After the final Agojie trainee test, Nanisca visits Nawi in the infirmary. While cheering her for her battle scars, she sees a mark on Nawi’s arm. The young girl says that her father used to call it the Devil’s Mark and he first saw it when he picked her up from an orphanage. When Nanisca realises that Nawi’s birth family is a mystery, she has a feeling that she is the daughter she gave away. Amenza wonders why Nanisca would think Nawi would be her daughter and convinces her to let it go.
After Nanisca had escaped the Oyo, she had given birth to a girl born out of rape. Before Amenza had taken the child away, Nanisca had embedded a shark’s tooth in the baby’s arm. After Nawi tells her about meeting Malik, the General confronts her and cuts her Devil’s Mark open which reveals the shark’s tooth.
While they don’t address it anymore, there is a sense of awkwardness between them. When they return from burning down the port at the end of The Woman King, Nanisca apologizes for leaving Nawi and tells her that she belongs in the Agojie.
How do the Agojie figure out how to use bombs?
During one of the practices, Nawi plays a prank by exploding one of the dummy heads. When Nanisca calls her out, she apologizes. But the General is interested in knowing how she made the explosion happen. She explains that she realised that gunpowder can be used without guns.
When the Oyo reach Dahomey with their army, the Agojie decide to fight back using a new strategy. In the middle of the night, the Dahomey plant bombs and set them off early the next morning. In the chaos, all of the King’s Guard including the Agojie attack the Oyo. After a fierce battle, the Oyo retreat but not before taking Izogie, Nawi and Fumbe and killing Ode.
How do Nawi and Izogie try to escape the slavers?
After Nawi sees a disheartened Izogie with her arm broken, she encourages her to fight and escape. In the morning, the slavers take the 3 Agojie including Nawi and Igozie to the block. They plan to run when they are unshackled while being sold to Captain Ferreira (Hero Fiennes Tiffin). But their plan is interrupted when Malik (Jordan Bolger) sees Nawi and tries to stop Ferreira. However, they use the distraction when the guards try to stop Malik and run.
Nawi and the third Agojie are caught but when Izogie runs to save Nawi, she is killed. Oba makes a deal with Malik and sells Nawi to him. She is upset with Malik but he tells her that she is not his slave and he asks her to come with him to England.
What happens at the port when Nanisca arrives?
Fumbe who had escaped during the ride to the port runs and tells Nanisca about Nawi. The General hopes to go after her and the other captured Agojie but Ghezo appoints her as Woman King and tells her to celebrate. When she insists, he orders her to stay.
Amenza tries to stop Nanisca as she could get expelled, but the latter leaves anyway. As she runs, she sees Migan, Amenza and the rest of the Agojie following her. When they reach the port, she frees the slaves and gives them weapons. The slavers try to attack but they burn the port which gets the attention of Nawi.
Malik sees Ferreira calling him and leaving with some slaves at the beach. But Malik frees them and they kill Ferreira. Meanwhile, Nanisca finds Oba and attacks him. As she kills him, she is held at gunpoint by a soldier but Nawi shows up and kills him. As they leave, Nawi sees Malik at the beach and wishes him farewell.
Who becomes the Woman King?
King Ghezo hoped to bring back the tradition of a Woman King as it saw man and woman as equal. The Woman King would be someone who would share the same mindset as the King and rule the empire justly. While the rank usually belonged to a King’s wife or consort, many believed it would go to Nanisca as she had helped Ghezo usurp and take the throne.
Ghezo does announce Nanisca as the Kpojito aka Woman King after the first battle with the Oyo. He sees that she has the same wishes as he does like stopping the slave trade. But when she tries to go after the captured Agojie, Ghezo stops her. She defies his wishes and goes anyway. Shante, one of the wives tells him that he cannot postpone the Kpojito ceremony as it would make him look weak.
The next day, while Shante gets ready to be announced as the Woman King instead, Nanisca returns with the freed slaves. She resigns as the leader of Agojie for disobeying Ghezo. But he declares Nanisca as Woman King for being brave and following his vision of a warrior empire.