Tom Holland and Jacob Batalon as Peter Parker and Ned Leeds in Spider-Man: No Way Home

There's A Troubling Spider-Man: No Way Home Theory About Ned

Let's talk about it.

by Ani Bundel
Marvel Studios/Sony Pictures

Are fans ready to talk about the significant spoiler from Spider-Man: No Way Home? I’m not talking about the big cameo spoiler or the other big cameo spoiler. Everyone knows about those, and they’ve been discussed at length. Nor am I talking about the ending, which turned the trilogy into an elongated origin story, allowing the MCU to reboot Spider-Man from his wannabe Iron-Man teen to the original Spider-Man, clever as that was. No, the spoiler people need to talk about is what happened to Ned, and the Spider-Man theory that Ned becomes Hobgoblin in response.

Warning: Spoilers for Spider-Man: No Way Home follow. Before Spider-Man’s big twist ending that erases him from the memories of all who knew him, including all the adventures they had together, it seemed like the film was going in a very different direction. After spending two films as Peter Parker’s wide-eyed sidekick, Ned turned out not just to have a grandmother who believed in magic, but also, actual abilities himself. While in possession of Dr. Strange’s sling ring, Ned discovers he can open portals just like the wizard can. It conveniently allows MJ and Ned to locate the other two Spideys (Tobey MaGuire and Andrew Garfield) from Sony’s previous films.

It also holds the promise of more super-powered members for the up-and-coming generation of Marvel stars, which fit with Phase 4’s current arc of introducing younger characters like Yelena Balova, Kate Bishop, Elijah Bradley, Kid Loki, and Billy and Tommy Maximoff into the fold.

Following the discovery of his powers, Ned promised Peter he wouldn’t turn evil... except for one issue: Ned’s memories were erased, along with his discovery that he had abilities.

However, fans aren’t convinced this means the end of Ned’s forays into the mystical arts. Peter still remembers Ned has abilities, and, should actor Jacob Batalon return for the next trilogy, that backstory may become super relevant.

Spider-Man has faced many antagonist villains, as Sony’s Spider-Man Universe has already proven with titles like Venom and Morbius. But none is more prominent than the Green Goblin, which is why the original Spider-Man film in 2002 started there. Bringing back Willam Defoe’s unique take on the character for Spider-Man: No Way Home was a reminder of how great the actor was as the character. But it also more or less ruled out the option of bringing another version into the multiverse for future installments, since everyone will just compare the two.

Enter Hobgoblin, initially the alter-ego of Roderick Kingsley, who was the 1980s updated version of Spidey’s famous green foe. He’s pretty well known to fans, as he was voiced by Mark Hamill in Spider-Man: The Animated Series. But fans might not know that a couple of years later in the comics, after a long secret-identity run, Hobgoblin was revealed to be none other than a brainwashed Ned.

Spider-Man: No Way Home may have created a scenario with that exact outcome. Ned has forgotten his abilities, and his erased memories could make him easily susceptible to brainwashing. After all, he promised Peter he would never turn evil... but you can’t help it if you’re brainwashed.

Spider-Man: No Way Home is currently in theaters. Spider-Man 4 does not yet have a title or release date.