With Eternals having just been released on Disney+, everyone can now watch Chloé Zhao’s addition to the Marvel Cinematic Universe across the world. The film introduces a handful of bold new concepts, from the Celestials' history to the titular characters themselves. That's not to mention the set-up of Kit Harington’s Dane Whitman.
In fact, the movie opens more doors for the future than most have since Avengers: Endgame. For one, the second post-credits sequence teases a team-up between Harington’s Black Knight and Mahershala Ali’s Blade. Then there’s Arishem warning of his return to Earth for judgment, something that may end up leading to a new adaptation of Galactus.
Many fans might argue that the most significant piece Eternals put on the board for future use was Harry Styles’ Eros. The character can be seen debuting in the first post-credits scene as he teleports into the Domo alongside Patton Oswalt’s Pip the Troll.
Upon his arrival, the new Eternal makes an interesting announcement: he is the brother to Thanos, the very same Mad Titan who wiped out half of all life for half of a decade.
In November, Eternals co-writer Kaz Firpo sat down with The Direct and said that, according to him, there's “no way” to produce Eternals sequels without Josh Brolin's Thanos having at least some involvement:
“I believe that there is no way that you can do Eternals 2 and 3 without somehow touching on Mr. Brolin.”
This begs the question: How could Josh Brolin return as Thanos in the potential sequel?
The Humble Beginnings of a Mad Titan
The first and most obvious role that the Mad Titan could play is in Eros’ backstory. This could add new layers of information about one of the most prominent characters in the MCU, alongside his newly introduced brother, of course.
Audiences know Thanos came from Titan. They know his brief explanation of what happened from his monologue in Avengers: Infinity War. Still, what really happened? How is he connected to the Eternals?
This could all be explored as the story attempts to give more context to Eros, the new character the sequel will likely give some hefty focus to. Audiences have no idea who he is or what he wants. Whatever his motivations may be, it all must have some connection to his brother, a relationship he proclaims proudly wherever he goes.
All of those glimpses into Starfox’s backstory could also serve to flesh out Thanos’ motivations for providing balance to the universe, something the Celestials claim they were doing when birthing new beings out of planets. This leads to the next possibility: resurrection.
Resurrecting the Herald of Balance
What if the sequel to Chloé Zhao’s cosmic epic is the perfect opportunity to pave a road to Thanos’ return to the living plane?
First, the idea of whether he and his brother are a synthetic or biological being has to be explored, assuming that Thanos is an Eternal as well, like his comic origin. No matter which one it ends up being, the idea of Thanos’ return is in the name: Eternal.
Eternals' whole schtick is consistently returning to the living. If Thanos is synthetic, Arishem or someone else could have him re-created in the World Forge. If he’s organic, there’s probably something there for that as well, but a further explanation would be needed—as would the status of his memories being retained or not.
Either way, with it being the Mad Titan, his goals would likely end up circling back to the equivalent of what it was in Infinity War. But if the Celestials are balancing life, would Thanos be on their side?
On the one hand, audiences saw the Mad Titan wreaking havoc for years on his own with no mention of Celestials. Having no obvious connection to them might indicate opposing views—not to mention, he would have gotten out of the cycle that characters like Makkari and Druig were stuck in until the end of their debut film. If it is Eternals vs. Celestials, this would place this new Thanos, memories intact or not, on the side of the film’s protagonists.
Still, there’s always the chance that this new Thanos sides with the Celestials, especially if he has none of his old memories.
This could lead to Josh Brolin’s immensely powerful villain becoming a right-hand Eternal for the Celestials themselves in a very similar way to what Silver Surfer is to Galactus in the comics.
The Haunting of Harry Styles’ Eros
There’s always a chance Starfox’s proud exclamations about being related to the being who wiped out half the universe are something done out of shame and trying to control that feeling to keep it from showing. After all, people will judge someone who says they're related to Thanos. Eros is simply getting the jump on it by making his family tree known.
Being ashamed of his brother’s actions and continuing to try to keep up his act would be quite a heavy chip on his shoulder. What if that chip took the form of Josh Brolin’s character taunting Eros as an unseen vision to everyone else?
This could give us insight not only into Harry Styles’ Eternal but also into his relationship with his late brother. Maybe Thanos’ way of universal destruction has informed how Eros goes around the world now. Perhaps he is going around helping people to try and make up for his transgressions.
Either way, his familial ties will undoubtedly factor into his place in Eternals 2, so having Thanos be along for the ride in this fashion could be a fun storytelling technique.
The Future of Thanos
With how iconic Josh Brolin’s Thanos has become, it would be hard to believe that Marvel Studios hasn’t been looking for a reason to bring him back, and introducing his brother seems to be an easy pick.
After all, the writers of the first film even admitted how it would be hard to see a sequel without the infamous villain appearing in some capacity. If he were to be welcomed back to the land of the living, fans might be worried about that taking away from the impact he has had on the world.
Marvel would certainly need to take care to avoid repetition and keep Thanos from simply trying to do what he did the last time. This would mean the Mad Titan would need to find an entirely different status quo—like the aforementioned idea about him being a herald to a Celestial. That, or the villain may simply only show up in flashbacks, and fans don’t have to worry about a resurrection taking away from his previous appearances.
Either way, more Josh Brolin is never a bad thing.
Eternals is now streaming on Disney+.