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5 big questions about Spider-Man: No Way Home’s game-changing ending

Where does Peter Parker go from here? 

Tom Holland, Zendaya, and Jacob Batalon in the “Spider-Man: No Way Home” movie.
Aww, friendship!!!!
Spider-Man: No Way Home/Sony
Alex Abad-Santos is a senior correspondent who explains what society obsesses over, from Marvel and movies to fitness and skin care. He came to Vox in 2014. Prior to that, he worked at the Atlantic.

This post extensively discusses the plot and twists of Spider-Man: No Way Home. There are spoilers here!

Spider-Man: No Way Home is impossible to talk about without giving too much away. The movie is so jam-packed with spoilers that I’m afraid to spill a word until after your requisite warning. When [redacted] shows up? When [redacted] and [redacted] go [redacted] on [redacted]? And let’s not even talk about how [redacted][redacted].

What happens in No Way Home doesn’t just happen in a vacuum. It not only resets the table for Peter Parker (Tom Holland) and the next few Spider-Man adventures, but it also shifts the entire future of the MCU. “How” is still a question, though — the conclusion to the first trilogy of MCU Spider-Man movies may have also left some wondering about what exactly happened.

That in mind, here’s my take on the five biggest revelations in Spider-Man: No Way Home, and why they’re so significant to the hero and the Marvel universe as we know it. Needless to say, spoilers follow!

Image reads “spoilers below,” with a triangular sign bearing an exclamation point.

What exactly happened with that ending?

In plain English, everything is sort of Peter Parker’s fault (which is the point of the movie, and he really feels bad about it). Faced with his identity being revealed, he sets into motion a series of events that ultimately ends with the death of his Aunt May (Marisa Tomei) and all his friends and loved ones forgetting about him (which includes his lawyer Matt Murdock, a.k.a. Daredevil, as played by Charlie Cox and originated on the Netflix series of the same name).

The conduit to these events is Doctor Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) who, in trying to help Peter, casts a spell intended to erase the knowledge that Peter Parker is Spider-Man from everyone’s memory. Peter interrupts that original spell multiple times, makes it go sideways, and the spell ultimately brings in characters — Electro (Jamie Foxx), Doc Ock (Alfred Molina), Green Goblin (Willem Defoe), Sandman (Thomas Haden Church), and The Lizard (Rhys Ifans) — from other timelines, i.e. past Spider-Man movies, the ones where he was played by Tobey Maguire and Andrew Garfield, who also appear.

Spider-Man is held in the air by Doc Ock’s mechanical tentacles.
Not Doc Ock!
Spider-Man: No Way Home/Sony

To fix the mess, Doctor Strange casts two spells: one sends everyone he pulled into Peter Parker’s world back to their own timelines or universes; the other makes everyone in the MCU who knew Peter forget they ever knew him. And the latter is much more complicated once you start thinking about its implications!

Like, what went so wrong with the original spell Strange cast, which was supposed to make people forget that Peter Parker was Spider-Man? Couldn’t he do that spell again? How was that spell powerful enough to break the multiverse? And if said spell was powerful enough, why didn’t other magic-users like Wong (Benedict Wong) step in when it first went sideways?

No Way Home doesn’t really provide solid answers to any of those questions. A global threat with a lack of hero response happens in other movies too, most recently Eternals. At the same time, Marvel’s rules of spells and magic aren’t concrete. Marvel could, of course, make those rules more solid or provide a better explanation in the upcoming Doctor Strange and the Multiverse of Madness.

But for now, to save the multiverse from collapsing onto itself and spilling into the main MCU timeline, everyone — including Strange himself — had to have MCU Peter Parker wiped from their brains. Spider-Man and his acts of heroism still exist independently of Peter, however. Depending on the breadth of Strange’s spell, there may also be no records of Peter going to school, no SATs, no driver’s license or other forms of identification. I’m not even sure how he’s renting an apartment unless he’s paying cash.

What happens to the villains and alternative-universe Spider-Mans Strange sent home?

Namely, will they change for the better? I hope so!

Aunt May can’t die in vain, right? For me, Aunt May’s death was the movie’s saddest moment — much sadder than Peter saying goodbye to his friends who will forget ever knowing him.

After Bruce Banner and Tony Stark’s Snaps brought everyone back from The Snap, May created a homeless shelter. They finally gave the character more to do than just be “hot Aunt May” or “young Aunt May” by really leaning into how she wanted to help people. We got to see more of that in No Way Home than we did previously. She also gives Peter the unforgettable “great power, great responsibility” speech and brings him to a clearer understanding of what it means to be a hero.

It’s the Avengers’ duty to save the world, and goodness is intertwined in said duty. For Peter Parker, though, his goodness is tethered to responsibility and remembering his love for Uncle Ben (in previous iterations) and now Aunt May. His heroism isn’t “avenging” but rather a continuation of their legacies of wanting to protect and help innocent people.

By the end of the movie, the Peter Parkers have helped the entire rogues’ gallery and “cured” them of the madness. When they get back to their timelines, the movie tells us, they probably won’t have to die now that they don’t have to be villains. They also have the opportunity to be good and change lives for the better in their own timelines, especially since more than a few of them are geniuses. With that second chance, they could make their universes exponentially better places. And for Aunt May’s sake, let’s hope they did.

What happens to Peter Parker now?

So apparently Peter Parker will just start from zero, which is a peculiar spot for this iteration of Peter Parker.

Aside from his first brief introduction in Captain America: Civil War, Peter has always had Tony Stark’s treasure trove of gadgets — new suits, nanotechnology, drone stuff, etc. Tony played the role of reluctant benefactor and even more reluctant teacher, and a lot of Peter’s adventures featured moments where he gets to try out new stuff that Tony’s built for him. The Spidey saying goes “with great power, comes great responsibility,” and a lot of that great power in the past couple Spider-Man movies, including No Way Home, has been Peter learning how to harness what Tony has given him.

Spider-Man on a freeway where cars have crashed, wearing a suit that has skeletal knives coming out of his back.
Spider-Man with a nifty suit!
Spider-Man: No Way Home/Sony

Now, with Tony’s death in Endgame, May’s death in No Way Home, and Strange’s spell that made everyone Peter Parker has ever known forget about Peter Parker, our hero has nothing and no one. He’s facing a world with little security and copious amounts of unknown. That uncertainty feels more aligned with Peter Parker’s comic book origins. As in the Marvel source material, he’s now a teenager who’s clear-eyed about being Spider-Man but harbors anxiety, loneliness, and grief in his life as Peter Parker. This shift sets the table for some rich storytelling and an opportunity to explore different facets of the character. Starting from zero isn’t a bad thing.

What does this mean for Doctor Strange’s future?

In a passing exchange, Doctor Strange tells Peter Parker that Wong is now Sorcerer Supreme after Strange was snapped out of existence for five years. It’s a small detail but actually has big implications. The Sorcerer Supreme is the Marvel magic-user that’s tasked with protecting the Earth from mystical threats. Wong is now in charge of surveilling Earth for any wayward or potentially harmful magic.

Considering Doctor Strange not only brought beings from alternate timelines into the main MCU but also wrecked the fabric of the multiverse in trying to fix his mistake, it seems as though Wong and other sorcerers will, at the very least, give Strange a stern talking to. Can the Sorcerer Supreme ground someone from using multiverse-disrupting magic? Seems likely.

It sure looks like Doctor Strange’s impending fall from grace will become the plot to Multiverse of Madness — the trailer-as-credits-scene nearly confirms as much. His reparative spell at the end of No Way Home, while saving the world, probably has wide-ranging effects that he feels responsible for. He’ll need to repair the multiverse he broke, and he may go rogue — and seek out Wanda Maximoff (Elizabeth Olsen) — without the blessing of Wong and other sorcerers.

What does this all mean for the Avengers?

To be honest, I’m not quite sure how this works.

Technically, following the spell, none of the Avengers will know who Peter Parker is. Roughly all the Avengers knew Peter Parker as Spider-Man. Everyone who fought the last battle in Endgame attended Tony Stark’s funeral, where Peter quite publicly said goodbye. It’s sad, because there were some budding friendships there, between Peter and Strange, Captain Marvel, and more.

But, in this new world, Spider-Man and all of his heroics do still exist — as we know from J. Jonah Jameson’s last dispatch. So it seems like Spider-Man is still an Avenger, it’s just that the Avengers won’t know who Spider-Man really is. They’ll have to re-forge their bonds with Peter Parker. They might also need to find him, since Peter Parker doesn’t seem to have any Stark technology left.

With the losses in Endgame, the Avengers are now down Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.), Steve Rogers (Chris Evans), Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson), and half a Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner’s Clint Barton desperately wants to retire). Wanda Maximoff is off-grid after what happened in Westview (as depicted in WandaVision).

Meanwhile, Thor (Chris Hemsworth), Captain Marvel (Brie Larson), the Guardians of the Galaxy (Chris Pratt, et al.), and Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) are off-planet. Black Panther (the late Chadwick Boseman) is in Wakanda (in spite of production delays). Hulk (Mark Ruffalo) seems semi-retired. Ant-Man (Paul Rudd) and the Wasp (Evangeline Lilly) are off fiddling with quantum things, probably, but we haven’t checked in with them for a while. Captain America, a.k.a. Sam Wilson (Anthony Mackie), and the Winter Soldier (Sebastian Stan) are on Earth, still dealing with repercussions from the snap.

Peter Parker watches while Doctor Strange whirls glowing symbols around their heads.
Magic via Doctor Strange!
Spider-Man: No Way Home/Sony

In terms of new members, Avengers gained Shang Chi (Simu Liu), recruited by Wong. They’re also seemingly gaining the Black Knight, as the Eternals credits scene hints at. And I’d be surprised if the new Black Widow (Florence Pugh) and the new Hawkeye (Hailee Steinfeld) don’t join the team soon.

It sure seems as though the Avengers are spread far and thin at the moment, and you could make the very strong argument that they don’t even exist as a team anymore (Wong’s meeting with Captain Marvel and Hulk in the Shang Chi post-credits scene is the only on-screen confirmation that they’re all still in contact with one another). Assembling them in one place would require space travel and maybe even some multiverse-jumping. But that’s nothing one big villain and one more movie can’t fix.