WARNING: This article contains SPOILERS for Avengers: Infinity War
The final moments of Avengers: Infinity War were hard for any Marvel fan to endure, but the cruelest twist of fate has Spider-Man's famous "Spidey Sense" to thank.
And in keeping with the tragic tone and events of Infinity War - which saw Loki killed not long after finally deciding to be a hero like his brother - Peter Parker's Spidey Sense helps him sense danger... and eventually make him the only Marvel hero who knows his death is imminent, once Thanos achieves his mission.
That's the assumption made by many fans online, citing the fact that Peter's death is especially hard to watch... since he alone seems to know he only has seconds left to live. So, is this the MCU's version of Spidey Sense in action?
Does Spidey Sense Tell Peter He's About To Die?
While other heroes turn to dust either confused or completely oblivious to the fact they've been Infinity Stone-d out of existence in Infinity War's climax, Peter panics. Even before he has started to dissolve alongside his fellow Avengers, he grabs onto Tony Stark, insisting that he doesn't "want to go." It's just one heartbreaking moment in a sequence filled with them (as half of the Avengers are killed of the MCU's heroes are killed), but Peter seems to be the only one who sensed his fate coming.
The answer, pointed to by anyone familiar with Spidey's powers, is his sixth "Spider Sense," able to clue him in to coming danger with a sensory "tingle." The version of the hero played by Tom Holland didn't have Spidey Sense in his Spider-Man: Homecoming movie, but Infinity War sees it in action - raising Peter's hairs on end when a spaceship comes to New York City. And, some have presumed, alerts Peter to the fact that he is going to die in the final act.
Oddly enough, the comic books don't shed much light on this theory. Spider-Man has died more than once in his comics history, but his ability to sense it coming isn't the plot point some might expect. Typically the Spider Sense is closer to an intuition - he can sense that something bad is transpiring, but not specifically what, where, or from which direction. In the movies, he's exhibited minor, internalized uses, like sensing a coming projectile in Captain America: Civil War. But those are better explained by a biological sensitivity, or heightened sensitivity to actual input - not premonitions.
The answer is still pulled from the comics, but it isn't the usual "Spidey Sense" most fans will know.
Spider-Man's Spidey Sense Isn't Technically a Superpower
Most of Spidey's use of a sixth sense in combat like Civil War can be chalked up to Trichobothria - tiny hairs on a spider's body that sense movement. Each hair is connected to its own dedicated nerve ending, meaning even the slightest change to air pressure or direction is sense and interpreted. In Infinity War, this seems to be explicitly what is occurring, as Peter senses the air movement caused by the spaceship at the same time Tony Stark does, despite Peter being miles away. Presumably, his spider mutations led to nerve endings forming at the base of each of his hairs, like a spider's own trichobothria.
But that doesn't explain being able to literally "sense" reality changing. For that, we have to look elsewhere, but still in the modern Spider-Man comics. Specifically, the grand saga of The Web of Life and Destiny, and Spider Totems, a narrative thread spun by writer J. Michael Straczynski. It was a story meant to address the same questions fans are now asking: how can Spider-Man sense things that have no physical explanation, and are nothing like a spider's hypersensitivity? The answer is Peter's connection to a supernatural force beyond our understanding, as one of countless Spider Totems spread throughout Marvel's history and multiverse.
His hairs aren't interpreting changes in the air. His powers are telling him that changes are coming fast, and he won't be able to stop it. From Peter's reaction in the film, we can assume his gut tells him what that change is going to mean for his life.
The movie likely leaves it ambiguous on purpose, since the Web of Life and Destiny is a dense mythological story. But it explains why Peter can sense things he couldn't possibly know or feel, which has finally been introduced to the MCU's version of the character. Marvel may come up with another explanation for Peter's gifts of premonition - a similar supernatural connection, or just a most fantastical sense - but until then, fans still have the comics to inform their speculation.
- Avengers: Infinity War / The Avengers 3 (2018) release date: Apr 27, 2018