This article contains spoilers for Spider-Man: Far From Home, and minor spoilers for Bob the Builder.
I remember a very long time ago I was walking through the school library and picked up one of those generic children's superhero sci-fi novels. This particular one I never read, but it was part of a series, and what struck me was that the blurb on each of the novels ended with something to the effect of ‘And can he do it without being late for tea with Nan?’, substituting varying prandial commitments each time.
I've been unable to work out what book this was, seeing as Googling ‘"save the world" "in time for dinner"’ alone brings up 2.8 million results. Indeed, this is a rather common trope in children's fiction, and it's one of the key characteristics of children's fiction in my mind. Nothing ever happens to Peppa the Pig, Bob the Builder or Postman Pat. The premise is simple, and never evolves. Perhaps it's even reflective of children's imagination itself – out fighting monsters and saving the day in the backyard, then back to the safety of home come dinner-time.
As a trope, this is, of course, not limited only to children's fiction, though – it lends itself well to episodic works of all forms. Rick and Morty, Sherlock, The Office. The killer found, the crisis averted, the status quo restored at the end of each episode. TV Tropes calls this trope the ‘Status Quo Is God’.
It's refreshing, then, that Spider-Man: Far From Home does away with this trope. While Spider-Man: Homecoming gave some indication that the Tom Holland film series might not play this trope as straight as some of its predecessors, as when Ned and Aunt May find out about Parker's identity, Spider-Man: Far From Home demonstrates a full commitment to embracing consequences.
This begins with the very first scene, exploring in a good-humoured yet practical way the consequences of Avengers: Endgame for the hoi polloi. It continues, as MJ uncovers Parker's identity as Spider-Man – a plot point shamelessly announced in the trailer itself, as if to say ‘Yes, we did it, and that's not even the best part!’ It is woven throughout the story as Parker reflects on his relationship with Tony Stark and how to move on. And it concludes no earlier than the very last second of the film, as Parker's cover is blown by Mysterio's agents.
When similar events have happened in the comics – most notably in Civil War – the consequences haven't lasted, and, possibly with the help of one or more dei ex machina, the status quo has been, predictably, restored. Given the film franchise's commitment to exploring meaningful and profound consequences, though, I am hopeful of seeing a more grounded, down-to-earth, and undoubtedly more challenging continuation to Spidey's story.