Warning: This post contains spoilers from “Spider-Man: Homecoming.”
We’ve long known that Iron Man Tony Stark would be the reluctant mentor to Peter Parker in Sony’s “Spider-Man: Homecoming.”
We expected the eye-rolling, some fancy upgrades to Spidey’s equipment and other luxurious perks of Parker’s “Stark Internship” — his cover for spending so much time with the wisecracking billionaire.
What we did not expect was any significant character development for Stark (Robert Downey Jr.), especially in a reboot that belongs to the webslinger. But that’s precisely what director Jon Watts provides in his contribution to the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
How, you ask? Pepper Potts.
The redhead queen of the Stark empire, played by Gwyneth Paltrow, returns in a last-minute “Homecoming” cameo that tells us some key things about Stark’s trajectory as we brace for the next Marvel superhero orgy, next May’s “Avengers: Infinity War.”
We last saw Stark and Potts, nicknamed #Pepperony by Paltrow, survive the Ben Kingsley’s villain Mandarin in “Iron Man 3,” but their romance was on the rocks by the time of “Captain America: Civil War.”
In that Disney-led blockbuster, it’s heavily implied the two are on their way to a messy breakup. Pepper will no longer tolerate his self-destruction, Tony confesses to Chris Evans’ Captain American. Paltrow didn’t even appear in the film — and her real-life assertions that she’s done with acting did not inspire confidence that Pepper would ever return to the franchise.
But there she is at the end of “Homecoming,” and not unlike Spider-Man’s suit, Pepperony get a major upgrade: a marriage proposal.
To spare you big spoilers, we’ll simply say that in the final moments of the film Stark calls a press conference for a big announcement that does not come to fruition. Pepper panics, and demands that Tony and his sidekick Happy Hogan (Jon Favreau) give her some news she can feed to the hungry reporters.
Tony asks Happy if he still has “the ring” he gave him, and Happy produces a big diamond he says he’s been keeping safe “since 2008” (when the first “Iron Man” film was released, and Marvel Studios as we now know it was born).
Pepper and Tony exit the scene and hit the press conference, where we can guess they announce their engagement.
A development like this opens up a few possibilities for Iron Man’s future — like walking off into the sunset with Pepper, as Downey has said he would eventually like to hang up his Iron Man costume and leave the franchise entirely.
It also means that Iron Man is a loner no more, raising the stakes should anything happen to his fiancee, or threaten a world where they might live out the rest of their love story.
What do you think of Pepper Potts’ return? Tell us in comments.