Gotta love Kit Harington – even after leaving Westeros and Jon Snow far behind him when Game of Thrones ended, the boy still loves getting involved with a magic sword.
Or at least that’s how it appears in the new Marvel movie Eternals, which stars Harington as a supporting character to the rest of the Eternals cast and love interest Dane Whitman, who mainly exists to tease his girlfriend Sersi (Gemma Chan) without getting directly involved with her world-saving antics.
Whitman is a history professor at the British Natural History Museum and works alongside Sersi who is a museum curator.
However, the Eternals' second post-credits scene sets up Whitman as someone rather more important, based on his possession of a very special weapon - which will be something very special to fans of Marvel comics.
Watch out – we’re dealing with some fairly big Eternals spoilers in this one.
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Also, check out how to watch Eternals online as of January 2022.
**Spoiler warning for Eternals**
What is the sword in Eternals known as the Ebony Blade?
During the course of the Eternals movie, an infamous sword – The Ebony Blade – is namechecked by a couple of the team when clearing through old artefacts now held in their spaceship. The sword they’re looking at isn’t the Ebony Blade as it turns out – it’s Excalibur – but the real thing turns up in the film’s second post-credits scene, in the possession of one Mr Whitman.
Kept wrapped up in a chest stamped with his family crest, the sword is clearly a family heirloom. But Dane is reluctant to pick it up, only beginning to do so (before being stopped by another mystery man) when he believes he can use it to save Sersi from her abduction at the end of the film.
So what makes this sword so special? Well, in the original comics it’s an ancient and partially cursed blade, created by Merlin (yes, that one) and handed down through the generations of Dane’s family. It’s capable of dispelling magic and protecting the user from harm, but on the flipside it also turns whoever holds it into a vicious, bloodthirsty brute who lives for death and vengeance (hence its motto in the film – “death is my reward”).
In other words, you can see why Dane might be a bit wary of picking it up. But somehow, we think he will take hold of it, and become his Avenging comic-book alter-ego The Black Knight.
Who is the Black Knight in Marvel comics?
There have been a few Black Knights in Marvel comics over the years (including a villainous version, Dane’s uncle, who is teased in Eternals) – but the main one to focus on is Dane Whitman.
Essentially, in the comics Dane takes up his family sword and uses it to become a superhero modelled on the Knights of old, initially posing as a villain to take down his uncle’s old allies before going public and becoming a member of the Avengers.
Over the years Dane’s membership and heroism waxed and waned depending on the Ebony Blade’s influence on him. Once or twice he put it aside and fought with other weapons to protect his mind; other times he was able to fight off the curse with outside help; sometimes he did begin to lose himself, and had to step back from hero work.
It’ll be interesting to see whether the MCU version of Whitman follows this same trajectory, and where he might crop up next. Is he set to be a big part of an Eternals sequel, or could he be the Avengers’ new recruit?
Either way, one thing’s for sure – fans of Kit Harington looking a bit miserable in quasi-medieval gear are in for a good few years ahead of them.
Who needs the King of the North when you have the Black Knight anyway?
How is Black Knight connected to Sersi in Marvel Comics?
In Marvel Comics, Black Knight/Dane Whitman becomes a member of the Avengers and enjoys a romantic relationship with the Eternal sorceress Sersi who is also a member of Earth's Mightiest Heroes.
The pair are even in a love triangle as Dane also has feelings for the Inhumans character Crystal, who is also an Avenger and the estranged wife of Quicksilver/Pietro Maximoff in Marvel Comics.
When Sersi suffers from Mahd W'yry - an illness when an Eternal experiences a mental breakdown over the weight of their memories and long life - Ikaris bonds Sersi with Dane in a process called Gann Josin - which connects them psychically.
While it fails to slow Sersi's illness, it does grant Dane further strength and red eyes.
It is later revealed that Sersi's illness and subsequent madness were caused by an alternate reality version of Dane named The Proctor.
Eventually, Sersi slays The Proctor and she and Dane are able to leave for another universe for her to heal.
Years later, the pair eventually return to the central Marvel Universe (616) and their bond is severed. Despite fighting alongside each other and remaining a romantic pairing for a time, they eventually split.
When will Dane Whitman next appear in the MCU?
An Eternals sequel has yet to be confirmed by Marvel Studios, but we are not even sure if we will see Dane Whitman in this film despite his love for Sersi clearly driving his actions.
There is the possibility that Dane will return in his own film or Disney Plus series, or, of course, he could return in the upcoming Blade film starring Mahershala Ali - who has been confirmed by director Chloe Zhao to be the voice of Blade speaking to Dane in the post-credits scene.
Essentially, there are many possibilities when it comes to when and where we will see Dane Whitman next.
Eternals writer Kaz Firpo told The Hollywood Reporter in 2021: "There are a lot of opportunities. If the audiences allow us, there’s going to be a story to tell with Dane Whitman."
Given the focus on Dane, his family connections and the appearance of the Ebony Blade, we think it is a question of when and not if Harington will return as his MCU character.
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Eternals is available on Disney Plus from Wednesday 12th January 2022. You can watch most of the MCU movies now on Disney+ – sign up now for £7.99 per month or £79.90 for a full year.