Photo: Courtesy of Marvel Studios
As an Eternals post-credits scene suggests, Kit Harington is once again going to play a tormented medieval man in a black outfit. Dane Whitman, his character in the Chloe Zhao-helmed Marvel epic, lurks mostly in the background as one of two love interests for Sersi (Gemma Chan). He’s an ordinary human in contrast with her ex, the seemingly perfect, superpowered Ikaris (played by Harington’s former Game of Thrones co-star Richard Madden, extremely tongue-in-cheek casting). But we find out at the end that there’s more to the sweet-natured professor than we thought. Let’s break down that baffling second post-credit scene.
After Sersi successfully kills the Celestial Tiamut and saves the world, Dane nervously tries to have a heart-to-heart with her about his lineage, which he was busy researching offscreen over the course of the film. (Between Ikaris’ betrayal, Gilgamesh’s death, and the giant hand rising out of the ocean, it’s easy to miss that detail, though.) Before Dane can reveal what he’s discovered, the Celestial Arishem whisks Sersi away for “judgment,” leaving it unclear if and when she’ll return.
This leads to a post-credits scene in which Dane paces around an office, psyching himself up to open an ornate wooden box. When he does, he sees a black sword wrapped in a bloody cloth and the words “all that awaits you is death” written in Latin on top. Despite the warning, he says he “has to try,” presumably to save Sersi. The sword seems to react when he puts his hand out to grab it, but before he does, a deep, mysterious voice says, “Are you sure you’re ready for that, Mr. Whitman?”
While also a brilliant scientist, Dane Whitman is best known in the comics as the hero the Black Knight. Introduced in 1967 in Roy Thomas and John Buscema’s The Avengers issue #47, Dane has long been on the Avengers roster, and has appeared on other teams like the Defenders and Heroes for Hire. He’s the direct descendant of the original Black Knight, Sir Percy of Scandia, who served directly under King Arthur (yes, the actual one). Some Avengers find his medieval schtick grating — Dane loves Middle English and saying “chivalry is dead” — but he’s generally a respected member of the team.
Dane is actually the third man to take on the Black Knight moniker. His uncle was the second, though he was a notorious villain until Iron Man defeated him. On his deathbed, he begged Dane to restore honor to the Black Knight name, and left his technology and castle — where Dane later communed with the spirit of Sir Percy — to his nephew. As promised, Dane would go on to don his uncle’s armor, ride a Pegasus (one he cloned himself, because why not), and eventually be accepted into the Avengers’ ranks. Dane’s adventures take him all over, from space to the 12th century, and he fights everyone from Kang the Conqueror to the ancient Mordred and Morgan le Fay.
That’s Sir Percy’s original Ebony Blade, which Merlin fashioned from a fallen star. It’s an unbreakable weapon that can slash through anything and makes the wielder invincible unless they’re stabbed by a weapon made from that same meteor. Like Thor’s Mjolnir, it also immediately comes to Dane when he calls it. It’s wildly powerful, but it comes with a heavy price: the sword is cursed and the more blood it sheds, the more its owner is compelled to evil. The fact that he’s always forced to use a weapon that could hurt his loved ones to save his loved ones torments Dane, which ironically only makes him more suited to wield it; as Thor notes, he can’t even lift the Ebony Blade because it deems him unworthy for being so pure-hearted (making it the exact opposite of Excalibur).
Yep, Dane became the Black Knight long before he met Sersi. In fact, the MCU significantly rewrites their romance to be a good old-fashioned teacher meet-cute. In the comics, their love story is more tragic, with their most significant plotline involving a pretty non-consensual soul-bond imposed on Dane. Long story short, Ikaris mentally connects them to try and save Sersi from “Mahd W’yry” — the condition that Thena experiences in the film — but does so just as Dane realizes he’s actually in love with another woman. (Crystal of The Inhumans, RIP that show and those wigs.) Dane eventually falls in love with Sersi for real, but it’s a whole soap opera that spans numerous comics.
While it could be Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) swooping in to stop yet another Avenger from doing something regrettable, it sounded a bit more like Blade, played by Mahershala Ali. Ali was announced as the famed vampire hunter at 2019’s San Diego Comic-Con, before the ongoing pandemic shuffled up the MCU’s plans. While a premiere date has yet to be set, a director for the film was announced in July, so we know that film is on the horizon.
Maybe! It’s not out of the question; while Blade and Black Night’s paths have seldom crossed, they’ve been on the same Avengers team and they once joined Captain Britain and M1-13 to fight the Dracula. Alternatively, both could eventually link up with other dark-sided characters like Morbius and Venom, since those guys are apparently part of the MCU now.
Another possibility: Dane could be used to introduce the X-Men. (Yes, I know they get brought up after every single MCU project, but they have to show up eventually!) In the comics, Dane builds a magnetic device in his uncle’s castle that creates a space bridge, which unwittingly brings Magneto, who was lost in space, back to Earth. With some MCU rewriting, could Dane be the literal bridge for the X-Men to appear?
Or perhaps this is all just a tease for a Dane Whitman-centric film or Disney+ show. At one point in the comics, Dane gets zapped back to Camelot, so this may just be Marvel’s way of capitalizing on Harington’s medieval fantasy fame. Call it A Kit in King Arthur’s Court.