Spider-Man: No Way Home‘s second trailer wasn’t what we expected. Not because of who was missing from it though. It revealed Doctor Strange’s disastrous spell will do more than just pull in villains from other dimensions. Those baddies are either already dead or fated to die soon. A fact they seem to know. Their very presence in the MCU universe indicates they might therefore be able to escape their destiny. But if they can do it, so can others. And that means No Way Home might offer every Spider-Man a second chance to right the wrongs of his own past.
Alfred Molina’s Doc Ock nearly gets a full character arc in Spider-Man: No Way Home‘s latest trailer. He goes from attacking Peter Parker to giving him advice. The how and why that happens remain to be seen. (We’re guessing the Iron Spider Suit’s nanobots fix Otto’s busted inhibitor chip.) But a warning he gives to Tom Holland’s Peter already tells us so much. “You’re flying out into the darkness to fight ghosts,” Dr. Octavius tells Spider-Man.
That comment takes on a whole new meaning later in the trailer when Doctor Strange explains what must happen to these multidimensional villains. “They all die fighting Spider-Man,” Strange says. “It’s their fate.”
They aren’t the only two who know what awaits these Spider-Man villains back in their own universe. “You’re not gonna take this away from me,” says Jamie Foxx’s Electro. When taken as a whole, all three comments point to Electro’s “this” referring to a second chance at life. These foes aren’t just destined to die at the hands of other Peter Parkers. They seemingly already have and are aware of their demise. Strange didn’t pull them out of their timelines before they died in Spider-Man: No Way Home. His disastrous spell broke time itself. The “ghosts” already lived and died.
The movie will surely explain how Strange pulled dead people out of their own pasts, all while they retained full knowledge of their own deaths. But the specifics of how are not nearly as important as what this all means. The Sorcerer Supreme has made it possible to escape your fate. To change your entire existence. (Which makes sense. The original point of his spell was to undo the world’s knowledge of Peter’s real identity.) Strange made it possible to rewrite the ending of your already finished story. And if this is true for these other dimensions’ villains, it’s also true for their heroes.
Marvel and Sony have thus far elected not to confirm No Way Home‘s big “secret.” One almost everyone who cares about Spider-Man: No Way Home already knows: Tobey Maguire and Andrew Garfield will (likely) once again don their Spider-Man suits to join this multiverse/multi-movie crossover. And it’s easy to imagine what their characters would like to change about their own stories if given another chance.
Maguire’s Peter Parker tried to save Norman Osborn from the madness that overtook him. A failure that ultimately resulted in the death of his best friend Harry. He also failed to rescue his professor, Otto Octavius, a good man with his own tragic story. No reasonable person would fault Peter for any of their deaths. But more than great responsibility comes with great power. It also comes with great guilt for all the people you tried to save but couldn’t. And guilt and remorse are never bound by reason. Some feelings you can’t think your way out of.
For every person Maguire’s Spider-Man couldn’t save, he at least managed to protect the love of his life from falling to her death. Twice. He always caught MJ before she hit the ground. Just like he caught a falling Gwen Stacy. However, Garfield’s Peter Parker could not do the same for the person he cared for the most. He watched his world’s Gwen die. He was a fraction too late to stop her from hitting the ground. The second member of the Stacy family Peter couldn’t rescue. The Spider-Man: No Way Home even seems to allude to this moment.
And of course, both inevitably blame themselves for the death of their Uncle Ben. Each chose not to act when doing so was clearly the right thing to do. No, they didn’t kill their uncles. But they know that had they made another decision on those fateful nights he might very well have lived.
Now that Doctor Strange will likely pull them out of their timelines, into a world where fate can be erased like a chalkboard and potentially everything can be changed, what will they do? Will they alter their past? Make a different choice on those tragic nights? Protect Uncle Ben or Gwen before they die? Even sacrifice someone else to do so? Steve Rogers, one of the MCU’s greatest heroes, went back in time and changed his own history for love. Why wouldn’t Peter Parker—every Peter Parker—do the same to save someone from dying? Friend or foe. Whether it be a beloved professor or a Mysterio, a Gwen Stacy, or a Green Goblin.
But the difference between heroes and villains is often nothing more than a choice. Choosing between doing what we want versus what we should. Especially when the selfless choice brings so much personal pain. And it’s that unavoidable truth that has always defined what it means to be Spider-Man. Far more than any name or mask. Because, as Into the Spider-Verse so beautifully explored, the one defining trait of every Spider-hero is great loss. They all lose someone close to them. But with grief, regret, and remorse comes hard lessons each needed to become the hero their world needed. Their pain ultimately saved so many others.
This trailer might have already given us the answer to what each Spider-Man will do when given a second chance. “I can’t save everyone,” says Tom Holland’s Peter. Spider-Man has never been able to do that. Spider-Man: No Way Home will show us whether or not any of them can truly accept that sad truth. And their answer is likely to show us once again why Spider-Man is a great hero no matter the film or universe he’s in.
Mikey Walsh is a staff writer at Nerdist. You can follow him on Twitter at @burgermike, and also anywhere someone is ranking the Targaryen kings.