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The Ending Of Hocus Pocus 2 Explained

This post contains spoilers for "Hocus Pocus 2."

In 1993, the Sanderson sisters (Bette Midler, Sarah Jessica Parker, and Kathy Najimy) were hanged by the citizens of Salem, Massachusetts, for witchcraft and stealing the souls of children. 300 years later, on Halloween, a teenager named Max Dennison lit the magical black flame candle and brought the Sanderson sisters back to life for one night. While Salem celebrated the world's spookiest holiday, Max, his little sister Dani, his crush Allison, and a 300-year-old talking cat named Thackery battled the Sandersons until the sun rose and turned them to stone. 29 years later, the Sanderson sisters are back and are intent on becoming the most powerful witches of all time in order to rule over Salem!

"Hocus Pocus 2" isn't one of those reboots disguised as a sequel. It is a genuinely new installment that honors the original, expands the mythology, and manages to stand on its own. While it's probably helpful to have seen the original "Hocus Pocus" prior to watching the sequel, it isn't 100% necessary as it does a solid job of recapping everything you need to know while telling a new story. However, with at least three different storylines happening, we're going to take a look at the story beats and character arcs to make sure you didn't miss a thing, and to hopefully provide a little insight into the themes at work in this Halloween spectacle.

Salem, 1653

"Hocus Pocus 2" is structured in such a way that the opening and the ending mirror each other. Almost everything that happens in the climax of the film is meticulously set up in the opening prologue of the film, set in the Salem of 1653 on young Winifred Sanderson's (Taylor Henderson) 16th birthday. We will be referring back to it often.

Winifred stomps through the muddy streets of Salem after finding out that she is now of marrying age and the Reverend Traske (played by Tony Hale) has found her a husband, a young man named John Pritchett. This is a problem because Winifred loves Billie Butcherson, and she doesn't want to get married anyway. Her sisters Mary (Nina Kitchen) and Sarah (Juju Journey Brener) put things right by giving her a spider for her birthday. Right away, we see that these two are her rock.

When Traske takes them away from her, Winifred sics her spider on him, and the three sisters flee into the forbidden woods. This is where they meet the Witch Mother (Hannah Waddingham), who senses Winifred's power. She gives her the book and says, "Magic has a way of uniting what ought to be together." This establishes that a witch's powers manifest on their 16th birthday, the Sandersons belong together as a unified coven, and that the woods around Salem makes magic more powerful — all things that will come back later.

The power of three

We jump ahead a few hundred years to meet a broken coven that doesn't know they're a coven in the form of Becca (Whitney Peak), Izzy (Belissa Escobedo), and Cassie (Lilia Buckingham). The three of them used to be the best of friends before Cassie started dating a boy named Mike (Froy Gutierrez) who never misses an opportunity to make fun of Becca and Izzy. Through some dialogue we learn that they used to do everything together, but now that Cassie's with Mike, she never goes anywhere without him.

Every year on Becca's birthday, this trio would venture into the woods to perform a birthday ritual. Now that Cassie's not around, Becca wants to act like she's perfectly capable of living her life without her, so she and Izzy head out to perform the ritual alone. However, Izzy brought a picture of Cassie with her just in case. The whole movie is about getting these friends back together.

The most likely reason the film begins with the Sanderson sisters solidifying themselves as a force to be reckoned with followed by three friends who have become fractured is that the arc of the plot hinges on these six characters realizing that they're stronger together. Winifred just isn't herself without her sisters, and Becca needs both her friends to save Salem.

The sins of the ancestor

We learn in the prologue to the film that Salem is special because of the woods. Magic is amplified there, which is why witches are drawn to it. The Mother Witch tells Winifred that the only reason Salem is such a terrible place is that it's run by fools. The fool in question, at the time of their conversation, is Reverend Traske. Following the deaths of the Sanderson sisters' father, Traske took it upon himself to oversee their upbringing, and he delights in making them (or specifically Winifred) angry. When he tries to split them up, he has a smug grin on his face.

This is why Winifred hates him and sees him as her enemy. Therefore, when she returns in 2022 and decides to perform a forbidden power spell that requires the blood of her enemy, the first person she thinks of is the Reverend. Lucky for her, Traske's descendent is now the mayor of Salem (and also played by Tony Hale). The difference this time around is that Traske is a harmless man. When she fails to capture him, she goes for his next of kin: Cassie.

Both Cassie and her father are paying for their ancestor's sins. Cassie does so by being kidnapped by three witches and having her blood used in a dangerous spell, while poor Mayor Traske loses his beloved candy apple when a hypnotized mob tracks him down and steals it from him.

Happy birthday, you're a witch

The original "Hocus Pocus" made it seem like the Sandersons were always evil troublemakers, but "Hocus Pocus 2" proves that this isn't the whole story. When Winifred tells her sisters that she got so angry at the Reverend that she took the lord's name in vain, this signified a change in her behavior. It's safe to say that she and her sisters were never the most conventional people on the planet, but they apparently weren't going around blaspheming. This change is occurring because she's becoming a witch.

Likewise, Becca is going through a change as well. Throughout the film, powers begin to manifest in progressively more intense ways. Her hands begin to glow, she manages to lift the curse when she and Izzy are locked in the basement, and she eventually gains the ability to blast lightning from her palms. This is an entirely new experience for her, and she can't really control it.

Where she differs from Winifred is that she doesn't see these powers as something that makes her better than anyone else. While Winifred lords her superiority over her sisters, the only thing Becca truly cares about is protecting people. So, when the time comes, she knows to share her powers, and that's why she's able to defeat Winifred.

Yes, Mike's that much of a goober

If there's one element to the third act of "Hocus Pocus 2" that seems a little farfetched at first, it's the idea that Mike leads the Sanderson sisters directly to Cassie's home. We know he's something of a dolt thanks to everything he's done and said up to this point: He covered someone's car in foil because it's funny, he is terrified by Becca repeating vegan food out loud, and he has this general air of inanity that permeates every scene he's in. Still, is he so vapid that he brought them to his girlfriend's house? Well, yeah.

Winifred mentions they got lucky by coming across the village idiot, presumably meaning he was simple to bewitch. This is easy to believe a few scenes later when Mike admits to Becca he has no idea that he's been mean to her. She points out that he always calls her weird, and he doesn't get it. He thought he was just making conversation by pointing out that being into witchcraft is weird and legitimately had no idea this could be considered bullying.

If he is dense enough to not realize he's hurting someone's feelings by pointing out things that make them different and insulting them for it, then it is totally believable that the Sandersons had absolutely no trouble getting him to do what they wanted.

What you hold most dear

When the Mother Witch introduces Winifred to the spell book, the girl almost immediately sees a spell so dangerous that the book never wants her to perform it. She is warned that any witch who performs it is doomed, so Winifred lets it go. She moves on with her life. However, upon returning to Salem, she is determined to make sure she doesn't expire when the sun comes up, she wants to live forever and get back at Salem for her terrible childhood. So, she's going to perform the spell.

There's a part of the spell she didn't pay attention to, though. It says that if one witch claims the power for herself, then she will have to trade what she holds most dear. Blinded by her rage and drunk on her own power, Winifred ignores the warning, assuming it's something she can handle. Becca, on the other hand, used some critical thinking skills to figure out what the spell meant.

Something else Winifred ignored: the Witch Mother telling her that a witch is nothing without her coven. Winifred allowed herself to believe that her sisters were parasites and that she was the only one who mattered. The truth is that she needs them in more ways than one, and she has to learn that lesson the hard way.

Uniting things that ought to be together

As previously mentioned, the Mother Witch told Winifred that magic had "a way of uniting things that ought to be together." At the time, she was talking about the Sanderson sisters being allowed to stay together as a family now that they can overpower Traske and the rest of Salem. Three centuries later, it still holds the same meaning but the context has changed.

Thanks to Winifred ignoring the warning and completing the spell, she loses Mary and Sarah. They begin to fade from existence like a second Thanos snap, as their bodies turn to dust and they dissolve. The very second they're gone, Winifred realizes her mistake. Not only the mistake of ignoring the warnings, but also ignoring her sisters. She had been taking them for granted for so long that she probably never imagined there would be a time when they weren't around.

She begs Becca to use a spell in the book that will bring them back. Becca finds something, but it doesn't quite have the effect Winifred was hoping for. Instead of bringing her sisters back, the spell sends Winifred to them — uniting what ought to be together. In her hubris, Winifred failed to get what she wanted (unlimited power) but was rewarded with what she needed: her sisters.

Gilbert learned his lesson

In the first "Hocus Pocus," the Sanderson household had been turned into a museum. In "Hocus Pocus 2," it's become a magic shop owned and operated by Gilbert (played by Sam Richardson), who had become obsessed with the Sandersons after seeing them fly through the air on Halloween night in 1993 before turning to stone. He found the book and kept it, studying certain spells over the years until he was finally able to get an unsuspecting virgin to light a new black flame candle that he crafted himself.

You can't exactly call him the puppet master of the film, because he had no idea that the Sandersons would immediately seek to become all-powerful, immortal beings with the potential to take over the world. Once they return, they assume control over him and force him to do their bidding by binding his life to an hourglass. If he doesn't retrieve the ingredients they need within the hour, he's dead.

This is how he meets Billie Butcherson, as he was tasked with digging up Sarah's deceased lover and retrieving his head. He tricks Billie into thinking he's trying to kill Winifred, thus ensuring Butcherson's cooperation. When the truth comes out, he steals Billie's head and takes it to the woods. In the end, though, when he sees all the trouble he caused, he gives discounts at the store and promises Billie he will make sure people know his story.

Billie Butcherson's final rest

The first time we meet Billie Butcherson, it's when Winifred brings him back from the dead to track down her book for her. Since his lips were sewn shut, we don't get to know much about him until the end, when he cuts his stitches and is finally able to tell Winifred exactly what he thinks of her. At the end of that film, he goes back to his grave to sleep. Unfortunately, no one was actually able to undo the spell Winifred cast on him, so he spent the next 29 years alive in his coffin.

He agrees to help Gilbert because he would like nothing more than to rid the world of Winifred Sanderson. Not only is he justifiably upset over what she did to him, but he's also still holding a grudge against her telling everyone they were lovers when they only shared one kiss. We get the feeling that this injustice is like pouring salt into Billie's undead wound since he paid for the crime of not loving someone who was fixated on him, and everyone seems to think he was in the wrong.

After his head is stolen and lips are sewn up again, he can't do much but watch the events of the final act unfold. Gilbert shows up late to save the day, and he brings Billie's body with him. With Winifred truly dead (or so it seems), all of her spells are undone, meaning Billie can finally get some rest — and thanks to Gilbert promising to tell everyone the truth about Billie and Winifred, he can finally have peace.

A new coven is born

To quote the Mother Witch again, "A witch is nothing without her coven." Winifred learns that when she magics away her sisters in search of unlimited power, and Becca learns that when she, Izzy, and Cassie stand against the Sandersons. The only reason they're able to defend themselves against them is that Becca shares her power. These three friends who were split in two were finally brought together (just as they were always meant to be), and they were strong enough to deflect Winifred's magic.

As they leave the woods, they walk in unison, just like the Sandersons used to do, further demonstrating that they are, indeed, a coven. Further proof of this comes in the form of a very colorful bird following them home. We saw in the prologue that this bird is one of the forms taken by the Mother Witch When Becca rides her bike to school in the morning, a bird flies high overhead.

It could have just been a random bird, but the fact that we see the same bird who opened the film closing the film tells us that this mysterious character has likely been watching Becca and her friends the entire time. We'll just have to wait for "Hocus Pocus 3" to find out what her interest in them is all about.

That darn cat

How could there possibly be a third "Hocus Pocus" movie if the Sandersons are honestly, truly, genuinely dead this time? Well, it all goes back to the original spell from 1693. Winifred said as long as the black flame candle is lit, they will return. "Hocus Pocus 2" shows us that it doesn't have to be the same black flame candle. Gilbert made a new one all by himself and gave it to Becca to light.

Then there's his cat Cobweb. The trailers sort of teased us with shots of this black cat, almost getting our hopes up that Thacker Binx would be making a return appearance (even though that would make no sense). The Sandersons themselves even confuse Cobweb for Thackery. Based on what we've seen in the movie, though, there's nothing special about Cobweb. Or is there?

During a post-credits scene, we see Cobweb jumping around the Magic Shoppe. We're not sure what he's up to, but he ends up landing next to a box with the words "Black Flame Candle #2" written on it. So, Gilbert made more than one candle. Was Cobweb trying to stop someone from finding it, or was he trying to get someone's attention to show it to them? Maybe neither. Hopefully, all will be revealed in a hypothetical "Hocus Pocus 3."