This article contains Eternals spoilers.
The film’s immense runtime (2 hours and 37 minutes) makes it the second longest Marvel outing after Avengers: Endgame. The cast is huge, with the titular Eternals amounting to 10 super-powered characters, give or take a Kit Harrington, all jockeying for screen time. And, of course, the stakes are quite big – as they always seem to be in this franchise.
The ending of this Chloé Zhao-directed film takes some bold swings and asks some even bolder questions. Eternals tries to make sure its viewers are all caught up on the finer points of concepts like Celestials, Deviants, and Emergence before then. Still, it can be a lot to handle.
Here is a breakdown of how Eternals ends and why it all matters.
What Is The Emergence?
Simply put: The Emergence is the apocalyptic event that marks the birth of a new Celestial. The Celestials are enormous, incredibly powerful creatures who were some of the first life forms in existence, as per Marvel Comics mythology. We’ve actually seen them a couple of times already in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. In Guardians of the Galaxy the space colony of Knowhere is built out of a dead Celestial’s skull, and we get a glimpse of Eson the Searcher in a quick Easter egg in that film, too. The main villain of Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, Ego (Kurt Russell), is also a Celestial.
To our tiny mortal eyes, Celestials appear to be god-like – they’re as big as continents and seemingly all-powerful. But, in truth, they are not omnipotent nor immortal. They can die just like anything else and they must be born just like anything else. Due to their sheer size and power, however, their birthing process is pretty traumatic.
To begin the next Emergence, Celestials identify a potentially fruitful planet and drop a literal Celestial seed into its core. The core of the planet will help incubate the developing Celestial for a time, but it needs more energy to grow so the Celestials help develop sentient life on that planet to provide that energy. First they send the bestial Deviants to eliminate all primitive, predatorial life (R.I.P. dinosaurs). Then it sends the more refined Eternals to eliminate the Deviants and make sure the new sentient life flourishes.
When a planet’s population hits a critical point (for Earth that appears to be around 7.75 billion people, but the Earth of the Marvel universe in 2024 could be home to more or fewer folks), then the Emergence begins. The Celestial wakes up from its millennia-long development and crawls through the mantle and crust of the planet, achieving life while destroying its planetary “egg” and killing all the life on it.
According to the Celestial Arishem, this process helps propagate life throughout the universe. Like a forest fire, Emergence burns down old worlds so that new ones can flourish. From our human perspective though, that seems like a specious claim at best.
How Does Sersi Stop Tiamut’s Emergence?
Ultimately, the Eternals must decide whether new Celestial Tiamut’s Emergence destroying Earth is acceptable to them or not. Ikaris and Sprite (Lia McHugh) opt to follow through on Arishem’s wish to birth a new Celestial. Kingo (Kumail Nanjiani) doesn’t want to see Earth die but doesn’t feel he has the right to go against his creator, so he sits the coming confrontation out.
The remaining Eternals: Sersi, Phastos (Brian Tyree Henry), Makkari (Lauren Ridloff), Druig (Barry Keoghan), and Thena (Angelina Jolie), all elect to halt the Emergence and save Earth. The question then arises: how does a group of android-like creatures go about foiling the plans of their powerful creator?
The Eternals’ ultimate plan revolves around exploiting the concept of the “Uni-Mind.” The Eternals all came from the same Celestial source in Arishem. So Phastos reasons that they can all connect to one another again if provided with the proper tools. Phastos creates such a tool so that the crew can band together, divert their collective power to Druig, and have Druig use his mind control to convince Tiamut to stay asleep.
When Druig is sidelined early into the battle against Ikaris and Sprite though, Sersi and friends have to default to Plan B. Earlier in the movie, Sersi was able to turn a Deviant into a tree. Previously her transfiguration powers had never worked on organic matter. So, in the absence of a healthy Druig, she decides to try freezing Tiamut as he exits the Earth’s crust.
Surprisingly, she is able to do so! This creature that is the size of roughly 1,000 SHIELD helicarriers is able to be frozen in place by just one determined Eternal. And it’s all due to the power of the Emergence. After she pulls this feat off, Sersi realizes that Eternals play a special role in all Emergence rituals. Since the Celestials presumably put a great deal of work into creating these beings, they don’t want them destroyed along with the planet that they’re occupying during the Emergence.
To get them off-planet safely, Eternals form something akin to a Uni-Mind with the fresh Celestial itself so that they can accompany it into outer space and eventually back to their home in the World Forge. To freeze Tiamut, Sersi exploited this connection, borrowed some of his power, and used it to supercharge her existing abilities. She was likely able to channel some of these Celestial powers earlier to take down a Deviant without realizing it.
The last thing she does before those powers wear off is go full Pinnocchio and make Sprite a real girl.
What Happens to Ikaris?
Ikaris flies too close to the sun, both literally and figuratively. Early on in Eternals, Sprite reveals that she created the Icarus myth and named it after her buddy Ikaris as a prank. Unfortunately for him, it stuck.
Ikaris is not so much the villain of Eternals as he is the antagonist. From humanity’s perspective, his decision to follow through on the Celestials’ mission to destroy Earth is pure evil. But he doesn’t see it that way because he was simply not created to. His job as an Eternal is to facilitate the Emergence process and he wants to do exactly that. It’s all his Eternal friends who are behaving irrationally.
Eventually though, Ikaris comes to realize that he is defeated. Though he is a dispassionate rule-follower on all things Celestial-related, his love for Sersi is very real. After he sees that she has successfully halted Tiamut’s Emergence, he can only stare longingly at her and cry. He then flies into space and directly into the sun.
So is Ikaris dead? Probably. Eternals are very powerful beings but the sun is the freaking sun. It’s 27 million degrees Fahrenheit up there. Later on Sprite even subtly asks Sersi if “he’s gone” and she sadly confirms it. It’s wise to be skeptical of all deaths in superhero films, but in this case immolation via nuclear fusion in a 500,000 mile radius star seems like a pretty conclusive demise.
Of course, since the Eternals are synthetic beings created by Celestials, there’s no reason to believe that another version of Ikaris (or any of the other dead Eternals) couldn’t return in a future MCU outing, albeit likely without all the recent memories of the ones who dies in this film.
Where Are Makkari, Druig, and Thena Going?
Eternals’ large cast provides for some interesting interpersonal dynamics. As is befitting a family of 10, each Eternal has a differing opinion on whether or not to fulfill their role in the universe. By the end of the movie, however, pretty much only “Team Anti-Emergence” is left. Ikaris is toasted and Sprite is a human being. With Ajak and Gilgamesh (Don Lee) dead, that leaves Sersi, Phastos, Kingo, Makkari, Druig, and Thena as the surviving members of Arishem’s original team.
Within that remaining six, the Eternals split off into two groups. Sersi, Phastos, and Kingo will remain behind to keep an eye on Earth (not successfully as it turns out, but more on them in a bit) while Makkari, Druig, and Thena take off to the stars. What exactly is the latter team’s mission though? Essentially it is to find more Eternals and teach them their new enlightened ways of thinking.
Just like Arishem had his 10 Eternals, so too must every other Celestial, especially since Eternals are a crucial part of the Emergence process. Makkari, Druig, and Thena want to evangelize to these other Eternals about the destruction that Emergence brings. And based on the film’s first post-credit scene, it seems like they’ve already found at least one interested party.
How Will Arishem Judge Earth?
Here’s a not-so-fun fact: Arishem’s full name in Marvel Comics continuity is “Arishem the Judge.” As that name suggests, he is one of two Celestials (alongside Ziran) who is charged with judging the worthiness of civilizations. This aspect of Arishem is not apparent in Eternals until the very last scene of the film (before the post-credit sequences).
As Dane Whitman (Kit Harrington) prepares to tell Sersi about his family secret, the enormous, terrifying specter of Arishem appears in the sky and scoops Sersi into outer space. There he tells her and Kingo that since they’ve deemed Earth worthy of saving, he will access their memories and then return to make that judgment himself.
This is obviously ominous on several fronts. For starters, Sersi and Kingo’s memories contain over 7,000 years of human history. And while the MCU frequently likes to depict human beings as harmless nerds in a cosmic sense, there is some really dark stuff within that 7,000 years. Perhaps Sersi and Kingo’s memories convince Arishem that humanity must be wiped out? And none of this Thanos half-measure nonsense.
The other, admittedly less immediate, concern is what this means for the Eternals themselves. With Sersi and Kingo carried off (presumably back to the World Forge) that leaves Earth’s Eternals scattered into the wind. The Makkari/Druig/Thena evangelist team is on a journey, Sersi and Kingo are indisposed, and only Phastos remains behind on Earth to keep on eye on things.
Should humanity need some help from the Uni-Mind again in an Eternals sequel, it’s going to take quite a bit of logistical work to bring them back together.