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Breaking Down the Cliffhanger Ending of Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse

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Warning: This post contains spoilers for Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse.

After nearly two and a half hours of web slinging, villain battling, and multiverse jumping, Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse delivers a climactic final scene that seems designed to leave audiences reeling. Directed by Joaquim Dos Santos, Kemp Powers, and Justin K. Thompson from a screenplay by Phil Lord, Christopher Miller, and David Callaham, the highly-anticipated sequel to 2018’s Oscar-winning Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse ends on a massive cliffhanger.

“Our contract with the audience is to bring them something they’ve never seen before,” Miller told Empire ahead of Across the Spider-Verse‘s June 2 release. “The first film was about bringing characters into Miles’ dimension. This is about Miles heading off into others.”

The movie’s conclusion sets up a forthcoming third installment, Spider-Man: Beyond the Spider-Verse, in the hit animated film series. But before we get into what’s next, let’s break down what leads to those tense closing moments.

How does Across the Spider-Verse expand the multiverse?

Spider-Man (Shameik Moore) fights the Spot (Jason Schwartzman) in 'Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse'
Spider-Man (Shameik Moore) fights the Spot (Jason Schwartzman) in Spider-Man: Across the Spider-VerseSony Pictures Animation

Across the Spider-Verse picks up around a year after the events of Into the Spider-Verse, with Gwen Stacy (Hailee Steinfeld) staying busy on her home world of Earth-65 trying to keep her dad, Captain George Stacy (Shea Wigham), and the rest of the New York police force from figuring out that she’s Spider-Woman.

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When an anachronistic version of the Vulture (Jorma Taccone) is suddenly transported to Earth-65 from an alternate dimension, the villain’s mysterious appearance is quickly followed by the arrival of Spider-Man 99, Miguel O’Hara (Oscar Isaac), and another Spider-Woman, Jessica Drew (Issa Rae). The pair joins forces with Gwen to capture the Vulture, and ultimately ends up taking Gwen back with them to another universe after she’s forced to reveal her secret identity to her father. We later learn that Miguel is the leader of the Spider-Society, a task force of Spider-People charged with wrangling “anomalies” across the Spider-Verse who have ended up in universes other than their own.

Meanwhile, on Earth-1610, Miles Morales (Shameik Moore) is fighting crime as Brooklyn’s full–time, friendly neighborhood Spider–Man when he finds himself facing off with a seemingly silly but actually formidable new foe, the Spot (Jason Schwartzman). Originally introduced in Into the Spider-Verse as Dr. Jonathan Ohnn, a research scientist who worked for Wilson Fisk (Liev Schreiber), a.k.a. Kingpin, Ohnn’s body was transformed into a jumble of portals when Miles destroyed Kingpin’s super collider. Prior to this, Ohnn conducted an experiment on the super collider that transported the radioactive spider that bit Miles and turned him into Spider-Man from Earth-42 to Earth-1610.

When the Spot begins using his portals to travel to other universes and enhance his powers by recreating the super collider explosion, Gwen is sent to Earth-1610 to check on the situation and Miles is drawn into the Spider-Society’s multiverse fray.

What are canon events?

Spider-Man 2099 (Oscar Isaac) and Miles Morales (Shameik Moore) in 'Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse'Courtesy of Sony Pictures Animation

After Miles follows Gwen to the alternate universe of Earth-50101 and they arrive in the Mumbai-Manhattan hybrid of Mumbattan, Miles ends up disrupting what is known as a “canon event” by rescuing the city’s police captain from near-certain death. Back at Spider-Society headquarters, Miguel informs Miles that canon events are key experiences that happen to every Spider-Person in every universe and maintain the stability of the multiverse.

One of these events is a loved one—like Miles’ Uncle Aaron (Mahershala Ali), a.k.a. the Prowler—dying in a way that pushes them to become a hero. Another is a police captain who’s close to them sacrificing their life to save a child during a big fight between the Spider-Person and a supervillain. With his dad days away from becoming police captain in his own universe, Miles realizes that the Spot is planning to bring about Miles’ dad’s death in order to claim his place as Miles’ nemesis. Miguel tells him that he needs to let his dad’s death happen or risk catastrophic consequences.

Unable to accept his dad’s fate, Miles slips the Spider-Society’s clutches and a high-speed chase ensues during which Miguel informs Miles that because the spider that bit him wasn’t from his universe, he is the “original anomaly” that set in motion all the multiverse madness. This disruption resulted in the death of Earth-1610’s Peter Parker and Earth-42 spiraling into disarray without a Spider-Person of their own. Miles was never meant to be Spider-Man, a secret that Gwen and Miles’ old mentor, Peter B. Parker (Jake Johnson), knew.

How does Across the Spider-Verse end?

Miguel O’ Hara (voiced by Oscar Isaac) clashes with Vulture (Jorma Taccone)Courtesy of Sony Pictures Animation

Miles escapes Spider-Society headquarters by sneaking into their interdimensional teleporter after programming it to send him back to his home universe. Once there, he ends up confessing his identity as Spider-Man to his mother—only for his Uncle Aaron to walk in the door movements later. We realize at the same time Miles does that the Spider-Society’s teleportation device, which operates based on the origin of a Spider-Person’s spider DNA, sent him to Earth-42 rather than his home world of Earth-1610.

On Earth-42, Miles’ father is dead rather than his uncle, and it doesn’t take long for his uncle to realize something is off about this Miles. He knocks him out and Miles wakes up tied to a punching bag in what appears to be a villain’s lair. Believing his uncle became the Prowler in this universe as well, Miles tries to convince him that he doesn’t have to be evil. That’s when the real Prowler walks in, Earth-42’s Miles.

Luckily for captive Miles, Gwen is busy gathering his remaining allies to help him in the fight against both the Spider-Society and the Spot—and realizes Miles ended up in the wrong universe in the process.

What’s next for the Spider-Verse saga?

As confirmed by a closing title card, Miles’ story will continue in a third chapter in the series titled Spider-Man: Beyond the Spider-Verse that’s currently set to be released March 29, 2024. Spider-Verse producers have also said that there is a live-action Miles Morales movie in the works in addition to a stand-alone animated Spider-Woman movie.

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Write to Megan McCluskey at megan.mccluskey@time.com