This story includes spoilers from No Time to Die.
After being delayed for more than a year due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, No Time to Die has finally hit theaters. The film marks the end of Daniel Craig's turn as the beloved James Bond, and thus, has re-sparked the never-ending debate over the future of the franchise — namely, who should replace Craig. The franchise should already have its answer since No Time To Die opens up a whole new world of possibilities for its next 007: Lashana Lynch.
No Time to Die opens with Bond (Craig), now retired from the dangerous career that made him a household name, enjoying time with his lover Madeleine Swann (Léa Seydoux) in the Italian countryside when a familiar threat forces him back into the game. As Bond embarks on one last high stakes mission, he reluctantly joins forces with the new 007, an ambitious operative named Nomi (Lynch) who doesn't quite play well with others. Though she's only been in MI6 service for a short amount of time, Nomi's undeniable skill and success in the field has earned her her stripes and Bond's agent number, but she's not pleased to have to share the same stage as him. However, the more that they work together to stop a masked terrorist's (Rami Malek) frightening plot to destroy the world, the more respect and friendship grows between the unlikely duo, ultimately proving that both agents are deserving of the sacred 007 title.
The end of No Time to Die leaves the world Bond-less after our protagonist sacrifices his life for the people that he loves in a devastating final scene. (There's only one way for a Bond to stop being a Bond — one does not simply retire.) With the secret agent no longer among the living in this universe, it would appear that the story is obviously setting Nomi up to be his heir-apparent... right?
In a perfect world, the next Bond story would do a deep dive into Nomi's past, exploring the unique circumstances that led her to becoming a secret agent for the UK's Secret Intelligence Service. From the little that we do know about the character from No Time to Die, Nomi is a wunderkind of sorts, effortlessly rising through the ranks of the MI6 despite her age and the many obstacles that undoubtedly came her way. In a field dominated by men — white men at that — there is something powerful about this young Black woman being so capable at her job that she is able to inherit the hallowed title of 007. But beyond her aptitude at work, we know essentially nothing about the character. Does she, like every 007 before her, have a traumatic past that propels her forward? Is there a torrid relationship or two complicating her work/life balance? How was she affected by the death of James Bond? Who is this Nomi, and what's her story?
Unfortunately, the possibility of learning more about Nomi in a substantial way is slim to none given the franchise's track record. In its almost 60 years of existence, white men have been the face of the popular film series. The tried and true formula for the eponymous secret agent is fairly standard: tall, "dark" (but not too dark), and handsome. When Craig made his debut in the 2006 film Casino Royale, he was the series' first aberration from the Bond prototype, and the casting of the stocky blond with piercing blue eyes initially caused a stir within the fandom because he didn't fit the prototype. Years later, director Cary Joji Fukunaga would shake the table once more by straying even further from the strict framework of the Bond universe, handpicking a Black woman to be 007's successor.
Although this iteration of the story could be considered the most progressive installment yet (an achievement that can be accredited in part to Phoebe Waller-Bridge's intentional writing on the film), it looks like Bond is going back to its old ways and leaving its would-be 007 in the dust. Eon Productions will officially begin its search for the next Bond in 2022, and the next slate of Bond movies will continue the franchise's rule of rebooting itself with every new leading man. Of the dream castings already being shared by fans, men like Dev Patel, Regé-Jean Page, and Idris Elba have been thrown into the mix — though the creator of the Bond stories once disgracefully dismissed the latter as "too street" to play the secret agent. As more names are brought up in the ongoing conversation about the series' future, the only running stipulation is that any future Bonds must be men, meaning that Nomi's intriguing character and promising storyline will likely be left by the wayside.
"[Bond] can be of any color, but he is male,” stressed Bond producer Barbara Broccoli in a 2020 conversation with Variety about future films. “I believe we should be creating new characters for women — strong female characters. I’m not particularly interested in taking a male character and having a woman play it. I think women are far more interesting than that.”
Broccoli isn't necessarily wrong in that; remixing characters doesn't always lend to the best version of a story, and women do deserve their own original narratives. However, in the post-Craig Bondverse, there would be no need to gender-bend the protagonist because his replacement is already so close by. Lynch's Nomi presents a perfect opportunity for the franchise to take a step into the reality that we're currently living in today, in which Black women are literally saving the world from certain destruction in almost every possible way. The success of No Time to Die lies in Fukunaga's ability to elegantly thread together the themes and storylines of the Craig's Bond films, but there's still so much more to pull from. Although the people behind the Bondverse are adamant that there will be no spinoffs, this character has too much potential to abandon. Whether it’s through a Lynch-led movie or a spinoff à la Fast & Furious' Hobbs & Shaw or Bad Boys-related show L.A.'s Finest, the rules surrounding this action series can definitely be bent to continue this story somehow.
In the wake of Bond's death, a brand new hero doesn't have to emerge from the ashes in the form of another perfectly-coiffed white man when Nomi is right there, already hard at work on the next assignment to protect the world as 007. They've already found the right woman for the job.
No Time to Die is now available in theaters.