What the Ending of 'Spider-Man: No Way Home' Means for Marvel's Favorite Webslinger

Oh, what an intricate web that Marvel has weaved.

Sony Pictures Entertainment

From the very first trailers, it was clear that Spider-Man: No Way Home would be a film with implications far beyond the adventures of its title character. Like Captain America: Civil War before, No Way Home seemed destined to cram as much superhero action as possible into its runtime, and with all that action came plenty of opportunities to spin a complex web of new potential stories for Spider-Man, Doctor Strange, and more.

Now, the film is here, and it is indeed jam-packed with possibilities, from its closing moments that chart Spider-Man's own future to a pair of credits sequences that set the stage for even more MCU adventures, let's break down what No Way Home's ending means for its heroes, and more.

Tom Holland and Benedict Cumberbatch
Sony Pictures Entertainment

Into the Spider-Verse

Even before the multiverse action in the film kicks off, Peter Parker is in trouble. Tom Holland's version of the kid from Queens has been publicly outed as Spider-Man, and that outing has triggered a media frenzy, earned him tons of attention from fellow New Yorkers that he doesn't want, and cut off his relationship with Stark Industries, rendering his high-tech suit courtesy of Tony Stark basically useless. Then, it gets worse.

For a brief moment, fixing the Spider-Man problem seems simple: Ask Doctor Strange to do a forgetting spell that will simply erase the public's memory of who Spider-Man is. As soon as the spell begins, though, Peter realizes it has the potential to erase literally everyone's memory of who he really is, including Aunt May (Marisa Tomei), best friend Ned (Jacob Batalon), girlfriend MJ (Zendaya), and his fellow superheroes. He tries to modify the spell mid-casting, essentially botching Strange's efforts and forcing him to put the spell into containment—but not without a few hiccups. It seems the tampered spell triggered an unwanted side effect, and suddenly everyone who's ever known Peter Parker is Spider-Man in any universe—even villains from previous Spider-Man franchises such as Doctor Octopus (Alfred Molina), Green Goblin (Willem Dafoe), Electro (Jamie Foxx), The Lizard (Rhys Ifans), and Sandman (Thomas Haden Church)—come spilling into the Marvel Cinematic Universe. In the chaos, Peter loses his Aunt May, then meets his fellow Peter Parkers from other worlds, played by Tobey Maguire and Andrew Garfield, reprising their roles from their own Spider-franchises.

With help from his fellow Spider-Men, Peter seems convinced that he can not only just send everyone back home, but also cure the villains who spilled into his universe, giving them a chance at redemption. His grand plan seems to be going smoothly until Green Goblin blows up Strange's contained memory spell, tearing open rifts between universes in the skies over New York City. As countless villains from the multiverse are about to home in on our world, Peter realizes that the only way to prevent a massive multiversal collapse is to let Doctor Strange perform an even more extreme version of his mind-wipe spell, erasing everyone's memory of Peter Parker entirely, and thereby stopping the foreign invaders from pouring into the MCU. Because he lost his Aunt May earlier in the film, and his fellow Peter Parkers have headed back to their respective universes, the forgetting spell means that Peter has absolutely no one left in his corner. But as he learned from his fellow Spider-Men, that's a perfect time for him to reinvent himself.

Sony Pictures Entertainment

Back to Basics

In the film's final scene, we see Peter moving into a tiny New York City apartment, GED preparation textbooks in hand, ready to make his own way in the world. It's a tough choice, because though he'd promised MJ and Ned that he'd find them and let them know who he is, as soon as he sees them living their lives without him, Peter realizes they're better off, and refrains from attempting to trigger total recall. It's a heartbreaking decision, but he believes it'll end up being the right one.

After this glimpse of Peter's daytime existence, we get to see Spider-Man's nightlife, featuring a new home-stitched costume for a brand-new era. It seems Peter has left his high-tech Stark suits behind in favor of a red-and-blue suit that mimics the classic look of the other Peters he met during the film, paying tribute to their determination to keep going. Just like them, the MCU version of Peter Parker will keep fighting, even if he has to do it all on his own. Because with great power comes great responsibility.

But where does that leave the rest of Peter's MCU past? Aunt May is gone, MJ and Ned have forgotten about him, and he's making his own way in the world, but there's actual footage of him fighting alongside The Avengers. There's a historical record of this massive, world-saving event that he was part of. Will any surviving Avengers or their associates eventually make the connection? Will Happy Hogan (Jon Favreau), who glimpses Peter at Aunt May's grave and has no idea who he is, finally figure it out thanks to old Stark Industries records? Will Nick Fury? Will Captain Marvel? Peter's alone for now, but the Marvel Cinematic Universe is full of perceptive minds, and one of them could make the connection soon enough.

Tom Hardy
'Venom: Let There Be Carnage' | Sony Pictures Entertainment

Will the MCU get its own Venom?

A post-credits sequence from Venom: Let There Be Carnage deposited Eddie Brock (Tom Hardy) and the Venom symbiote sharing his body into the MCU, giving them a front-row seat to Spider-Man's public outing and seemingly setting up a confrontation between the two characters. Venom fans no doubt went into No Way Home hoping Eddie and Venom would put in an appearance, and midway through the film's credits, they got their wish.

It turns out Eddie and Venom have spent the last several days just kind of hanging out in the MCU, shooting the breeze with bartenders and getting the lowdown on what this particular universe is like. It's naturally confusing for someone who hasn't lived through Ultron, Thanos, the Blip, and everything that came after, but just as Eddie's starting to get the hang of it, Doctor Strange's spell kicks in on him too, and he and Venom dissolve in golden light, seemingly headed back to their own universe. It seems Venom's journey to the MCU was little more than a vacation.

But Eddie and Venom didn't just vanish without a trace. It seems a tiny fragment of the Symbiote's black goop was left behind on the bar to crawl away and find a new host, setting the stage for some version of Venom in a future MCU adventure. Does that mean that the seemingly inevitable Spider-Man 4 will do its own riff on the character's alien costume saga like Spider-Man 3 did more than a decade ago? Or will we see the symbiote put to some other use? It's worth noting that recent Marvel Comics continuity has established that All-Black the Necrosword, the weapon used by the villain Gorr the God Butcher, is also made of Symbiote material. With that in mind, maybe this isn't a setup for a future Spider-Man film. Maybe it's a setup for Thor: Love and Thunder, in which Christian Bale will play the God-slaughtering Gorr on the big screen.

Benedict Cumberbatch
Sony Pictures Entertainment

Doctor Strange's Multiverse of Madness

After the Venom mid-credits wrap-up, No Way Home's post-credits scene turned out to not be a scene at all, but a full-blown trailer for Doctor Strange: In the Multiverse of Madness, giving us a much better idea what that film will look and feel like when it hits theaters next year.

The short version: Doctor Strange's spell to contain the multiverse rifts at the end of No Way Home didn't entirely work, and now he needs Wanda Maximoff's (Elizabeth Olsen) help to contain the problem. Wanda, who we last saw at the end of WandaVision studying the Darkhold and hearing the voices of her children seemingly crying out from beyond her plane of existence, seems to have settled into a quieter life, but she agrees to help Strange out.

What follows is a dazzling view of the film's journey into the dark heart of Marvel magic, complete with the debut of dimension-hopping superhero America Chavez (Xochitl Gomez), the return of the sorcerer known as Mordo (Chiwetel Ejiofor) and Strange battling what looks like the one-eyed Marvel tentacle monster known as Shuma-Gorath. Though we don't get too many specifics, Multiverse of Madness has all the makings of a film that will play off plot threads established through WandaVision, Loki, and No Way Home. Even the animated anthology series, What If…?, created a multiversal confrontation that could have major implications for the entire MCU going forward. If you've read this far, you're probably not the type to miss any new MCU flick, but you'll want to pay special attention to Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness when it arrives in May.

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Matthew Jackson is an Austin-based contributor for Thrillist. Follow him on Twitter at @awalrusdarkly