Is Mephisto the true villain of Spider-Man: No Way Home?

Forget the failed WandaVision theories – there's something very wrong with Doctor Strange in this movie.

Spider-Man

Hey, remember when the internet was mad for Mephisto? Almost until the final moments of Marvel’s first Disney Plus show WandaVision plenty of fans were convinced that the classic comic-book villain would be behind the whole Westview thing, poring over apparent clues (and Wanda’s comic-book history) to make a castle of sand that trickled away when it turned out that it truly was just “Agatha All Along”.

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But what if fans weren’t wrong about Mephisto turning up as a surprise Marvel villain? What if instead they just made their guess too early?

That’s the question in many fans’ minds after the debut of the first Spider-Man: No Way Home trailer, which sees Tom Holland’s Peter Parker team up with Doctor Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) to cast a spell that will remove his secret identity from the minds of the world. As we see, the spell goes wrong and reality goes kablooey, apparently also drawing in Spider-Man villains from other universes (hello to you too, Otto) and causing all sorts of problems.

So what’s any of this got to do with Mephisto? Well, the rumours began when some fans questioned the motives of Doctor Strange, whose devil-may-care (sorry) approach to magic in this trailer seems at odds with how we’ve seen him portrayed in other films.

Basically, it seems a little out of character for Doctor Strange to mess with millions of minds and the nature of reality to service a teenager’s whim, no matter how many Mad Titans they battled together. Add this to scenes later in the trailer of a cloakless Strange apparently battling Peter, and some began to wonder if this was an imposter version of Cumberbatch’s Sorceror Supreme who’s unmasked later in the movie.

If that were the case, though, why Mephisto? For that answer we have to go back to the Spider-Man comics, specifically the One More Day storyline, which No Way Home seems to be drawing some inspiration from. In that story, Peter similarly has his identity removed from public knowledge by magic – but in this version, it’s a side effect of a deal he made with, you guessed it, Mephisto himself.

Mephisto
Mephisto
Marvel

A demon or mystical being who’s essentially the Marvel version of the devil, in the comics Mephisto trades the life of Spidey’s Aunt May (who was shot by a sniper) for the existence of Peter and Mary Jane’s then-marriage, with MJ adding the proviso that Peter’s other life also be wiped from memories.

Clearly there are plenty of parallels here, right down to MCU-Peter’s worry that he’ll lose MJ in this deal – is it such a strange idea (sorry again) that director Jon Watts would borrow the comic-book storyline’s villain along with the story beats?

We get it – you’re still not convinced. You’ve been burned before by “devil in the detail” lines in WandaVision, and the theories everyone had that Agatha’s bunny rabbit was the lord of hell.

Spider-Man
Tom Holland as Peter Parker in Spider-Man: Far From Home (Sony)

But even in the short two minutes or so of No Way Home’s teaser trailer there are other clues that Mephisto could be behind everything. Check out this placard in the back of a protest scene, reading “devil in disguise” – given all the other clues, it’s easy to imagine this as a cheeky wink towards Mephisto’s involvement. Some have even speculated that the icy appearance of Strange’s Sanctum Santorum is a hint, harking back to the frozen ninth circle of hell (the circle where Satan lives) in Dante’s Inferno.

It could add up to one big twist – or it could add up to nothing, as fans so painfully learned during WandaVision. Still, this time we have hope. If we learned one thing from Jonathan Majors’ surprise appearance in Loki it’s that sometimes, the unlikely comic-book baddie pulling strings behind the scenes really is the big twist, and not just a misdirection.

And like we said, Mephisto feels due for his Marvel debut at last. Fingers crossed that this time, we’ve all guessed right.

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Spider-Man: No Way Home is in cinemas from the 17th December. For more, check out our dedicated Movies page or our full TV Guide.