Spider-Man: No Way Home -- That Ending Explained and All Your Questions Answered

Let's dive into all the big questions and spectacular moments in the Marvel Cinematic Universe bonanza, which comes out digitally this week.

Jennifer Bisset Former Senior Editor / Culture
Jennifer Bisset was a senior editor for CNET. She covered film and TV news and reviews. The movie that inspired her to want a career in film is Lost in Translation. She won Best New Journalist in 2019 at the Australian IT Journalism Awards.
Expertise Film and TV Credentials
  • Best New Journalist 2019 Australian IT Journalism Awards
Sean Keane Former Senior Writer
Sean knows far too much about Marvel, DC and Star Wars, and poured this knowledge into recaps and explainers on CNET. He also worked on breaking news, with a passion for tech, video game and culture.
Expertise Culture | Video Games | Breaking News
Richard Trenholm Former Movie and TV Senior Editor
Richard Trenholm was CNET's film and TV editor, covering the big screen, small screen and streaming. A member of the Film Critic's Circle, he's covered technology and culture from London's tech scene to Europe's refugee camps to the Sundance film festival.
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Jennifer Bisset
Sean Keane
Richard Trenholm
10 min read

Spider-Man: No Way Home has a lot going on.


If you've watched all the previous Spider-Man movies recently, well done. You're going to understand everything that happens in the latest escapade, Spider-Man: No Way Home, which is being released digitally this week. If you haven't partaken in a Spider-Man marathon, there might be a few details that need solidifying to help you fully understand the latest Spider-Man bonanza.

Here are the answers to every major question you might have after watching Spider-Man: No Way Home.

spoiler alert

The "Scooby gang."


Why does Ned have powers?

When Ned (Jacob Batalon) joins Peter in Doctor Strange's Sanctum Sanctorum, he (half) jokingly reveals that he too has felt like he can sense magical tingles in his fingers. Cut to: Ned picks up Strange's portal-opening Sling Ring and discovers he can work its magic. 


Meet Hobgoblin (right).

Marvel Database

Rumors have circled around on-screen Ned later transforming into the Hobgoblin. In the comics, Hobgoblin is a criminal and enemy of Spider-Man with abilities such as super-strength, healing and Green Goblin-esque gadgets. Ned's comic book counterpart was brainwashed into being a stand-in for the real Hobgoblin.

Will movie Ned go down a dark path? He sincerely informs Peter that he has no plans to take the route of previous Spider-Man besties in turning against him (looking at you, two versions of Harry Osborn), but who knows what the future holds?

How did Spidey escape the Astral Plane?

Doctor Strange is surprised to discover Peter can evade his control in the Astral Plane. This is probably because Peter's Spidey Senses still function in the Astral Plane, a parallel dimension where the soul exists outside the body, allowing his pure energy form to swim through the air, back to his physical body.

Who's J. Jonah Jameson? And where's he from?

That angry-sounding man making the toothbrush mustache cool again? That's John Jonah Jameson, played by J.K. Simmons (who you'll know from his Oscar-winning performance in Whiplash). Jameson first appeared on screen in 2002's Spider-Man as the publisher of the Daily Bugle newspaper. He hires Peter (Tobey Maguire) as a freelance photographer. In No Way Home's universe, he (hilariously) hosts TheDailyBugle.net. 

He might have the same face as the one from Tobey Maguire Spidey's reality, but the MCU version appears to be a separate character rather than some kind of interdimensional tabloid news monster/supplement salesman. 


Thanks for the help, Matt!

David Lee/Netflix

Who is that lawyer at the beginning?

That excellent lawyer, who can catch bricks faster than Spidey, is Matt Murdock, aka Daredevil. Marvel chief Kevin Feige recently made headlines for confirming Charlie Cox would continue to be the MCU's Daredevil now and in the future, after his Netflix TV show was canceled following its third season. Many wanted the actor to appear in the MCU as the blind superhero once more and that wish was granted.

Matt isn't the only character from Netflix's Marvel shows to make a comeback this week either.

Explain the multiverse in one line?

Basically, when it comes to Marvel, the multiverse is a collection of alternate universes with a similar nature and a universal hierarchy.


Say hello once more to Electro, Sandman and the Lizard.


What are the backstories of all the villains?

Glad you asked. Let me redirect you to our helpful explainer, right here.

How old are the Spider-Men now?

Maguire's Peter certainly looks a little more grizzled around the edges (he's still incredibly buff, obviously), and he talks of "making it work" with his MJ and dealing with back and shoulder pain from all that swinging. This alludes to the Spider-Man 2 scene where he injures his back, as well as Maguire's real-life back problems (which almost resulted in him being replaced as Spidey in 2004).

Spider-Man 2 train scene

Tobey Maguire's Spidey is around 37 by the time he shows up in No Way Home.

Sony Pictures

Clearly, this is a much older Spider-Man. When we first met Maguire's iteration, he went to high school in his senior year as a 17-year-old. If we add 20 years to that, Maguire's Peter is about 37 now. (The actor is 46.)

As for Andrew Garfield's Peter Parker, his Peter was also 17 years old in 2012's The Amazing Spider-Man. Add 10 and Garfield's Peter is 27 years old. (The actor is 38.)


Andrew Garfield's Peter Parker is around 27 when No Way Home happens.


How does Spider-Man defeat Doctor Strange?

Peter Parker inspires the nation with his web slinging abilities, massive heart -- and math skills. To stop Strange in his tracks and capture "the Box" that will return the "visitors" back to their universes, Peter uses the Fibonacci sequence to calculate where to sling his webs and trap Strange in a strong hold. Peter realizes that, being in the parallel Mirror Dimension (yes, there are other universes and parallel dimensions), the world also contains golden ratios, a "unique mathematical relationship" that's "easy to spot in the natural world," according to National Geographic. The golden ratio or divine proportion is "best approximated" by the Fibonacci numbers, a never-ending sequence. The number of petals on a flower, for example, will often be a Fibonacci number. In other words, stay in school, kids.

Is No Way Home a Christmas movie?

A bittersweet one maybe? It does take place around Christmas, but that ending (with vibes of Wonder Woman 1984, anyone?) is as melancholy as it is hopeful.

What happens in the ending?

In the movie, the three Peters adopt numbers, but for the sake of clarity, I'm just going to use the actors' names. Tom Holland is joined by Tobey Maguire, who faced Willem Dafoe as Norman Osborn (the Green Goblin) in 2002's Spider-Man, Alfred Molina as Dr. Otto Octavius (Doctor Octopus) in 2004's Spider-Man 2 and Thomas Haden Church as Flint Marko (The Sandman) in 2007's Spider-Man 3. The third member of the web slinging trio is Andrew Garfield, who faced Rhys Ifans as the Lizard in 2012's The Amazing Spider-Man followed by Jamie Foxx as Electro in 2014's Amazing Spider-Man 2.

With Aunt May dead and the sinister five on the loose, the Peter Parkers develop a series of serums that'll revert the bad guys to their old human selves. They challenge Green Goblin, Doc Ock, Electro, Lizard and Sandman to a showdown on the Statue of Liberty -- and if you're not grinning your face off when the three Spider-Mans swing into action together, then I don't know what to tell you.

It's fitting that the final fight between Holland and Osborn takes place in a smashed model of Captain America's shield, which was in the process of being fitted to the statue. The shield falling is a symbol for Cap's principles of justice and decency brought low and Peter comes close to betraying those principals as he prepares to kill Osborn. Luckily, Maguire literally steps in. He doesn't even have to say anything for Holland to realize this isn't what Aunt May would've wanted. 

Maguire also gets stabbed in the back by Osborn. Thankfully, the wound isn't fatal -- losing our beloved 2002 cinematic Spidey would have been too much.

During the final fight, Holland, Maguire and Garfield figure out how to coordinate and use the serums to cure the bad guys (though that throws up some big questions about consent and the ethics of "fixing" people who don't want to be fixed). It helps that Doctor Octopus deals with Electro for them, in one of Doc Ock's various heel turns. Incidentally, Electro is powered by Tony Stark's arc reactor in the finale, but it's still funny that even the electricity in the MCU is somehow "better" than in past films. How does that work?

Why does Andrew Garfield catch MJ?

Even though this is an MCU film and Holland is Peter-1 -- and the electricity is better -- the other Spider-stars still get their share of the limelight. Maguire and Garfield get a whole scene to themselves before meeting Holland. And in the finale they face their own villains, with Garfield having time to reconcile with Electro. "There's gotta be a black Spider-Man somewhere," Electro jokes, and of course there is: Miles Morales, seen in the comics, acclaimed animated movie Into the Spider-Verse and the PlayStation games.

The most cathartic moment sees MJ hurled from the statue and falling to her doom -- until Garfield leaps out and catches her. He tearfully lowers her to the ground, gaining some sort of closure for a similar moment when his beloved Gwen Stacy fell to her death in Amazing Spider-Man 2 (which in turn mirrored an iconic moment in the comics).

Unlike Maguire and Holland, Garfield never got a third movie, so it's nice to see him get a fitting send-off here. His films aren't all that well remembered, so it's a nice moment when Tobey Maguire tells him he's amazing. "I needed to hear that," says Garfield. Awww.


Say hello once more to the Green Goblin.


What happens when the bad guys become human again?

If you're wondering who plays Lizard, it's Welsh actor Rhys Ifans. Unlike the other stars who reprise their villainous roles, you don't see much of Ifans in this film and he doesn't have any lines once he's human again. This makes me wonder if he was stuck in lockdown or busy filming The King's Man or something and the brief shots of his face are lifted from the previous film rather than filmed specially.  

Oh, and it's nice to see that the serum somehow reconstitutes Flint Marko's infamous green striped T-shirt. Stylish. 

What happens when the villains go back?

The villains' return to their own timeline is treated as a happy ending, but what if they're just returned to the moment from which they came -- their deaths? Fingers crossed a serum that makes them human also saves them from being blown up or electrocuted or whatever happened to them at the end of their respective movies.

Things get even more complicated when you factor in the fact that time moved on in some of those earlier films. Osborn died years ago, which affected the events that came later -- his death even contributed to Octavius' origin story as Doctor Octopus.

It's possible their survival creates alternate timelines, separate from the familiar Maguire and Garfield universes. Which sounds like a job for the Time Variance Authority, the cosmic cops established as the guardians of time/totalitarian controllers of time in Disney Plus show Loki. Except they're probably busy, seeing as the multiverses have been unleashed. (See the post-credits scene and forthcoming movie Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness for more on that.)


Doctor Strange playing with fire.


How does the forgetting spell work?

Once the action is over, Peter visits the coffee shop where MJ works and Ned hangs out. Neither recognizes him. Dr Strange's spell has worked, and everybody has forgotten poor Peter Parker. He's fighting crime anonymously and dropped the fancy Stark costumes in favor of a homemade one.

The forgetting spell throws up a bunch of questions, however. Happy and MJ don't know Peter, which means they've forgotten the connection between Peter and Spider-Man. But Spider-Man still exists, which means that time hasn't been affected. So what about the events of this and previous Spider-movies? Does MJ remember being in the Statue of Liberty battle, where she cut her head? Why does she think she was there? How does Happy think he met Aunt May? What do they see in their minds when they think about Spider-Man?

And if those events still happened, what about the news reports naming Parker? Have all those news reports and tweets just been wiped?

And if no one knows Peter Parker, or ever knew him, what does that mean for his life? Is he making money by selling pictures of Spider-Man? (Please let this be the case.) Does he have a Social Security number? Hopefully this'll be cleared up in the next film, Spider-Man Tries to Get a Driver's License.

Of course, that isn't quite the end, check out our explainer for the scoop on the mid-credits and post-credits scenes.

One More Day (Spider-Man)

Mentioning One More Day to comic readers will result in strong opinions.

Marvel Comics

Did the forgetting thing ever happen in the comics?

Kinda, in the controversial 2007 storyline One More Day. With his identity revealed to the world and Aunt May fatally wounded by the Kingpin's assassin, Peter makes a deal with the demon Mephisto to regain his secret identity and heal his aunt.

The price is his marriage to Mary Jane Watson: History was rewritten so that they never tied the knot and Marvel had a free-wheelin' single Spidey again -- much like the movies have now.

MJ and Peter have since gotten back together -- satisfying fans of their relationship -- but haven't gotten married (even though Peter has a ring, just pop the question Parker).

In a storyline earlier this year, Mephisto revealed that he made the deal with Peter because he was haunted by visions of his future reign over Earth being ended by either the webslinger or his daughter. Stopping Peter and MJ's relationship would have prevented the latter from happening.


Paul Giamatti as Aleksei Sytsevich/Rhino in The Amazing Spider-Man 2 (2014)

Sony Pictures

Who are those figures coming through the rift?

It's difficult to tell who these obscured figures are, but at least one of them is clearly the Rhino, who was played by Paul Giamatti in The Amazing Spider-Man 2. Given that Strange explains the people who come through the rift all know Peter Parker, the other figures are likely alternative versions of Spider-Man characters from the movies or new ones that reference the comics. Other identified figures include Spider-Man adversaries Kraven the Hunter and Black Cat, aka Felicia Hardy, who was played by Felicity Jones in 2014's The Amazing Spider-Man 2.

Will there be a Spider-Man 4?

Although No Way Home brings Holland's trilogy to a spectacular end -- yes, another chapter is in the works.

"[Sony producer] Amy Pascal and I, and Disney and Sony are actively beginning to develop where the story goes next," Marvel chief Kevin Feige said in an interview with the New York Times, published Dec. 16.

There was already talk of a trio of future movies starring Holland as Spidey, but for now the focus appears to be on the immediate follow-up to No Way Home.

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