Warning: This post contains big spoilers for Spider-Man: Far From Home.
If Avengers: Endgame provided the final chapter in Marvel Studios’s 22-movie Infinity Saga, Spider-Man: Far From Home serves as the epilogue. Marvel Studios has yet to officially unveil what their plans are for the next phase of their sprawling cinematic universe. But Far From Home is filled with cleverly-placed Easter eggs that point their way to the MCU’s future. Here’s a guide to the references, in-jokes and hints you may have missed.
In case you somehow didn’t get around to seeing Avengers: Endgame, Far From Home opens with a handy summary of events as created by Midtown’s A/V club for the daily show co-anchored by Betty Brant (Angourie Rice) and Jason Ionello (Jorge Lendeborg jr.). Hilariously scored to Whitney Houston’s “I Will Always Love You,” the video pays tribute to those who lost their lives in the fight against Thanos, a roll call that starts with Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.) and then goes on to cite Captain America (Chris Evans), Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) and Vision (Paul Bettany).
What’s interesting is that only one of those four — Iron Man — is definitely gone for good. After all, Cap has reached retirement age, but isn’t six feet under — a secret that the Avengers have apparently kept from the world. His presence allows Marvel to potentially persuade Evans to return for present-day cameos as an older Cap or sideways sequels depicting Steve’s adventures in the past. Black Widow, meanwhile, will be seen again in a currently-shooting standalone movie that’s presumably a prequel. And Vision is one of the titular stars of the upcoming Disney+ series, WandaVision, alongside Elizabeth Olsen’s Scarlet Witch. As they say on the Iron Islands, what is dead may never die.
Wither the Avengers?
Later on in that same video, Jason asks the question those of us in the theater want to know as well: “Are the Avengers a thing anymore?” Certainly, the original line-up is no more — and Avengers HQ is still a crater — but there are plenty of heroes who could serve as the next generation, including Spider-Man himself. Peter Parker (Tom Holland) remains reluctant to commit to joining a super-team, especially one previously lead by his mentor and friend. The only Avenger-adjacent veteran who does think he has the right stuff is Happy Hogan (Jon Favreau), who tries to provide Peter with some guidance… when he’s not casually dating Aunt May (Marisa Tomei), of course. While the film ends without a new team line-up being announced, Spider-Man seems more confident in his status as Tony Stark’s superhero heir. It’s safe to assume that when the next Avengers-level threat arrives on Earth, he’ll be ready to enlist again.
Betty and Ned, sitting in a tree
The “only in Europe” summertime fling between Ned (Jacob Batalon) and Betty is one of the surprise delights in Far From Home. But comic book fans knew that relationship was inevitable. In Marvel Comics continuity, Betty was Peter’s first girlfriend, but they broke up after he developed feelings for Liz Allan — who was the main love interest in Homecoming. Once their relationship hit the rocks, the Daily Bugle secretary moved on to reporter Ned Leeds who, funnily enough, moved to Europe. They did the long distance thing until he returned, whereupon they tied the knot. But while honeymooning in Paris, Ned underwent a personality transformation that culminated in him being framed as the murderous Hobgoblin. All things considered, it’s just as well that the movie version of Ned and Betty called it quits as soon as they touched down in New York.
Mastering the elements
So far, the MCU version of Spider-Man has avoided revisiting any villains that previously appeared in the Tobey Maguire trilogy or the Andrew Garfield pictures. That changes, slightly, in Far From Home as the first enemy we see is a new version of Sandman—the sand-based creature played by Thomas Haden Church in 2007’s Spider-Man 3. Granted, he’s not addressed as “Sandman,” but he belongs to the elemental monsters that dimension-hopping hero Mysterio (Jake Gyllenhaal) claims to have fought before. In fact, he blames them for being the reason why his Earth perished. Besides the sand giant, there’s also a water-type bad guy modeled after Hydro-Man and the lava-based Molten Man, both of whom have tangled with Spidey in the comic books. In the end, it turns out that these monsters are just elaborate holograms created with next-gen Stark Industries tech. That means that Holland could presumably meet them again for the first time in future adventures.
Which earth is it anyway?
Considering that the terrestrial residents of the MCU have recently learned about reality-altering gauntlets and time travel, the concept of a multiverse isn’t too much of a stretch. That’s exactly how Mysterio is able to sell himself as the genuine article to Nick Fury and Maria Hill, who buy into his explanation that the Avengers’ recent shenanigans have opened up doorways to other realms, each with their own number. Mysterio’s own reality, for example, was Earth-833, where Spider-Man UK fought the Master Weaver in the comic books. After the elementals’ rampage left it a burned-out husk, he made his way to their dimension, Earth-616 aka Marvel Comics’s Prime Universe. Noticeably not mentioned is Earth-67, which we glimpsed at the end Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse. Beck’s multiverse may be a lie, but thanks to that Oscar-winning animated hit, we know that there’s a Spider-Verse out there just waiting to be discovered.
Everything’s coming up Edith
First there was J.A.R.V.I.S. Then came F.R.I.D.A.Y. Next up was K.A.R.E.N. And now Far From Home introduces another member of Tony Stark’s A.I. menagerie: E.D.I.T.H., the voice that Peter hears when he puts on the glasses that his mentor bequeathed him. As we come to learn, the name is an acronym for one last Stark boast: “Even Dead I’m the Hero.” But it’s worth noting that there are a few actual Edith’s in the MCU that Tony could be name-checking. His fellow Avenger, Clint Barton, is a “son of Edith” as the Vormir-exiled Red Skull revealed in Endgame. And his own dad, Howard, once romanced an Edith — Edith Oberon, to be specific — years before he married Maria. Granted, that character only appeared in Marvel TV’s Agent Carter rather than any of the films. But don’t forget that Endgame essentially canonized that series with its cameo appearance by the actual Jarvis, James D’Arcy. It’s a little weird to name an A.I. after one of your dad’s former flames, but hey, Tony’s a weird guy. That’s one of the reasons his former employees didn’t love him as much as the rest of the world did. (More on that below.)
Hey, it’s that guy!
In what could potentially be the deepest cut in any Marvel movie, Far From Home brings back a character we haven’t seen since the very first Iron Man adventure. No, it’s not Terrence Howard’s Rhodey. We’re talking about William Ginter Riva, played by Peter Billingsley… yes, that Peter Billingsley. Don’t remember Riva? Director Jon Watts and Marvel head honcho Kevin Feige sure do. In 2008, he was tasked by Obadiah Stane (Jeff Bridges) with figuring out a way to make another version of Tony’s iron suit, as well as another Arc reactor. He failed on both counts and has clearly been nursing a grudge against Stark ever since. That’s why he joined forces with another disgruntled Stark Industries employee, Quentin Beck, the man who would be Mysterio and the inventor of the hologram technology that Tony unveiled to the world at the beginning of Captain America: Civil War. (Stark added insult to injury by rechristening Beck’s creation as Binarily Augmented Retro-Framing… or B.A.R.F.)
Now that their boss is dead, Beck, Riva and other Stark Industries rejects are out to reclaim his technology as their own. Mysterio is the illusionary product of B.A.R.F. and his primary function is to lure Peter into handing over E.D.I.T.H., thus giving Beck and Riva’s rogue operation access to the Stark mainframe. Because superhero movies never end with the heroes losing (well… apart from Infinity War), Spider-Man bounces back and saves the day. But there’s no reason to suspect that there aren’t more ex-Stark employees out there nursing their own evil intentions. With Riva as precedent, don’t be surprised if a background extra from Iron Man 2 suddenly becomes one of the main bad guys in Marvel’s next phase.
Tingle all the way
Spider-Man can do whatever a spider can, as well as several things that a spider can’t. Arachnids, for instance, don’t have a special sense that warms them of impending danger. Maybe because it’s so un-spider like, it’s taken the MCU version of Peter a little bit of time to discover this particular ability. Where Maguire’s Spider-Man used his spidey sense in his first-ever super-villain battle (Flash Thompson totally counts as a super-villain in our book), Holland’s wall-crawler rarely employed it during Homecoming. But it becomes a key part of his arsenal during Far From Home, helping him tell reality apart from illusion while battling Mysterio. Don’t you dare call it “spidey sense,” though. It’s now the “Peter tingle,” which is arguably more scientifically accurate… and easier to ridicule.
Get your phase on
Webslinging through Manhattan is more fun when you’re the slinger rather than the passenger, as MJ (Zendaya) discovers at the end of Far From Home. After a rough ride, Peter sets his girlfriend down outside of Grand Central Station. If you look at the background as they’re conversing, you’ll spot a construction site with a banner in front of it. That banner reads “1—2—3—? We’re so excited to show you what’s next.” Consider it a personal message from Marvel Studios to all the true believers that have followed along through the three-phase Infinity Saga. Interestingly, that sign also suggests that whatever comes next won’t necessarily be known as Phase 4. Consider our spider sense, er, Peter tingle, activated.
That’s no illusion: J.K. Simmons officially returns as J. Jonah Jameson in the mid-credits sequence of Far From Home. Only this time, Jameson announces his Spider-Man hatred live on the Internet instead of via next-day news headlines. Reflecting the changing media landscape, Jonah is now the Alex Jones-like proprietor of DailyBugle.net, which exclusively reveals to the world that Spider-Man is, indeed, a menace. And he’s got the video to prove it — images that seem to show the wall-crawler executing Mysterio with his enemy’s own drones. We in the audience know that the video is Beck’s last illusion, which he created before shuffling off this mortal coil. As far as the general public can tell, though, their friendly neighborhood Spider-Man is a stone-cold killer.
But Jameson saves his biggest bombshell for last, unmasking Peter for the world to see. It’s a nightmare scenario that Peter has confronted in comic book continuity before (just check out this cover for The Amazing Spider-Man #169) and usually found a way to keep his identity secret. It’s also a clever inversion of the way the world discovered that Tony Stark was Iron Man. Where Tony unmasked himself, Peter has his mask forcibly ripped off by a new foe. And that’s a fascinating place to begin a new chapter in Spider-Man’s life, as well as the MCU as a whole.
Meet the real masters of illusion
If you thought the mid-credits reveal was mind-blowing, just wait for the post-credits sequence. At the same time that Peter’s face is revealed to the public, we discover that Nick Fury and Maria Hill have other faces as well. It turns out that Captain Marvel’s resident shape-shifter Talos (Ben Mendelsohn) has been impersonating Fury throughout the entire film, with his wife Soren (Sharon Blynn) taking on Hill’s form. Talos’s colleague teases him for falling for Mysterio’s claptrap in the first place, before the two of them decide it’s time to reach out to the real McCoy. Dialing his digits, Talos is sent directly to Fury’s voicemail. “Hope your trip is going well,” he says. Cut to Nick apparently relaxing on a Tahiti-like beach. Before you can say, “It’s a magical place,” the camera pulls back to reveal he’s just relaxing in a Holodeck-like simulation. With a sigh, he gets up and enters the main deck of a spaceship. “Everybody back to work!” he calls out, as other Skrull scurry about, building… something. Is it a new galaxy-exploring vessel? A dimensional portal? A bigger time machine? Stay tuned for Phase 4 — or whatever’s coming next.