Marvel fans walked out in shock after the Avengers: Infinity War post-credits scenes ended more than three years ago. We knew Thanos (Josh Brolin) was a villain unlike anything else the Avengers had to face, but we didn’t expect to witness the deaths of half of our beloved heroes. At the time, we explained who lived and died after Infinity War and why the deaths might not matter. Fast-forward to early November 2021, the Eternals premiere delivered another massive confrontation between an impressive group of heroes and an incredibly powerful antagonist. Unsurprisingly, some of them died, and that’s not a spoiler. We knew from the trailers that humanity was about to face a threat even more prominent than Thanos. A danger that made the Eternals intervene in a very public way, for the first time in 7,000 years.
Such a threat would put everyone in danger, Eternals included. But before I tell you what Eternals died in the movie and why it might not matter, I’ll have to warn you that massive spoilers follow ahead. You’d better watch the movie before going forward with this post.
Why Eternals isn’t like Infinity War
Infinity War arrived after a decade of story building. We got attached to all the heroes, their entourages, and even anti-heroes (you know who you are, Loki). So when Thanos killed Heimdall (Idris Elba) and Loki early in the movie, we were gutted. Marvel took us by surprise, although we still hoped that Loki faked his death. Then Gamora (Zoe Saldana) died halfway through the movie, and we were in disbelief. Marvel was really doing it. It was killing off major characters to prove a point. And then the finale muted theaters. That brilliant cliffhanger also happened to be great news for fans. We knew the heroes that Thanos dusted were not dead for good.
But with Eternals, we don’t have the same connection with the characters. This is the origin story movie for this group of superheroes, so we get to meet the characters throughout the film, just as some of them die. Their deaths are just as heartbreaking as the ones in Infinity War. But not for us, the audience. That’s because we didn’t have time to fall in love with these characters.
As I explained before, Eternals changes everything in the MCU, delivering a massive twist when it comes to the balance of power in the universe. We get to see the Celestials and learn of their importance in the universe. And that’s precisely why Eternals has to be an origin story for ten characters. The heroes have always played in the shadows, protecting the humans from the Deviants. They’re coming out to fight because there’s a new threat that will destroy the entire planet.
All the Eternals deaths explained
That’s why Marvel had no other way to tell this story. We get to meet the Eternals over events spanning a few millennia. We see them fight the Deviants and themselves. And we see them grow and fall apart. And we see them die all inside a single movie. There would be little appeal for a different sort of origin story for the Eternals, one where Marvel would introduce fewer members at a time, so the audience grows to love them. At best, they’d fight Deviants along the way, which would be hardly as satisfying.
When I told you that the Infinity War deaths from the cliffhanger didn’t matter, I reminded you that the superheroes that Thanos’s Snap turned to dust were due to appear in other Marvel movies. These actors had ongoing contracts with Marvel, which implied that their characters be resurrected. We might apply the same logic to the Eternals deaths that we’ve just witnessed.
Unlike those Avengers deaths, there’s a different reason why these Eternal deaths aren’t final. And Marvel built that explanation right into the movie. But first, let’s recap the deaths in Eternals.
The leader and healer of the group, Ajak (Salma Hayek) is the only person who talks to Arishem about their missions. She’s also the one who finally steps up against the greater plan, choosing to defend the humans rather than see them die to feed Tiamut’s emergence. And that’s why Ikaris (Richard Madden) kills her. He might not pull the trigger, but he gives her a push in that direction.
Much to the audience’s dismay, we don’t get to see Ajak in battle in the present. We get to meet the character via flashbacks. But Hayek did say she signed a multi-picture contract with Marvel. So she’ll probably be back.
One of the strongest Eternals out there is Gilgamesh (Don Lee), making his death all the more surprising. He kept Thena (Angelina Jolie) in check for some 500 years, protecting the world of herself. And Gilgamesh had a massive influence on Thena’s motivation to protect humans. After all, he died to save her and the others during the movie. We have no idea whether Don Lee will appear in other Marvel movies, but he certainly could be resurrected.
If you didn’t follow the leaks, you might have fallen for Marvel’s brilliant sleight of hand from the trailers. We thought initially that the Superman-like Ikaris (Richard Madden) will be the Eternals leader who will battle the Deviants to help save humanity. But it’s Ikaris who is responsible for Ajak’s death. And he was ready to kill everyone else out of loyalty to the Celestials. As much as he loved his family, he was more determined to complete the mission than everyone else. Ultimately, he wasn’t ready to kill the one he loved most. And he ended up playing a role in neutralizing Tiamut instead. Ridden with guilt, Madden’s character flew into the sun in the end, seemingly killing himself in the process.
Why the Eternals deaths don’t matter
One of the post-credits scenes teases that we’ll see more Eternals down the road, and Marvel also notes that the Eternals will be back. It doesn’t have to be an Eternals sequel, as these heroes can now play in public with the other Avengers. The ones who just died can continue to pup up in flashbacks that might be relevant for portions of the story. But they can also appear in upcoming MCU movies.
The easiest way out is the multiverse. There must be other Eternals variants in alternate realities, so we can always get Ajak, Gilgamesh, and Ikaris variants from there.
But let’s not forget that Marvel practically told us that the Eternals can’t really die. When Arishem explains to Sersi (Gemma Chan) what her role is, he also tells her how he created the Deviants and Eternals. He shows her what appears to be Eternals copies ready to be completed. He could make more Ajak, Gilgamesh, and Ikaris versions if he needs to. And, best of all, he has all the past memories of these Eternals. The memories are reset every time a planet is destroyed.
So Arishem could revive Ajak, Gilgamesh, and Ikaris and give them a set of older memories. It’s like getting a new iPhone that looks just like the old model. But instead of restoring from the most recent backup, you go back to an older one. You miss out on the most recent memories, but you still get a snapshot of your older iPhone at a certain point in time. Then again, Arishem would just wipe the slate clean. He wouldn’t want these Eternals to ruin another emergence.
Whether Marvel needs Arishem to undo those Eternals deaths? That’s yet to be decided.