Ghostbusters: Afterlife Ending Explained: Nostalgia Makes Us Feel Good

After literal decades of waiting, "Ghostbusters: Afterlife" has arrived in theaters, serving as a proper sequel (though also kind of a reboot) to the original horror/comedy classics from the '80s. While 2016's "Ghostbusters" opted for a full-on reboot, this latest installment is more akin to a proper "Ghostbusters 3," taking the same route as "Star Wars: The Force Awakens" or "Creed," introducing new characters to bring in a new generation of fans, while marrying the past to the present. That being the case, there is much to dissect and much to consider with this one, and we're here to break down the movie's hugely consequential ending, as well as what it might mean for the future. Let's dig in, shall we?

Warning: massive spoilers ahead for "Ghostbusters: Afterlife." Proceed with caution.

A Brief Recap

The events of the movie are set into motion when Callie (Carrie Coon) is forced to move herself and her children, Trevor (Finn Wolfhard) and Phoebe (McKenna Grace), to a rundown farmhouse in the middle of a nowhere town in Oklahoma following the passing of her long-estranged father. Rather importantly, her father just so happened to be Egon Spengler, played originally by the late Harold Ramis. Callie has no nostalgic feelings about her father and is mostly there to collect any inheritance left behind. Unfortunately to her chagrin, Egon didn't have much in the way of valuable goods, and instead had quite a bit of debt.

While Callie struggles to adjust, Phoebe quickly discovers a lot of her late grandfather's ghost-busting gadgetry, and Trevor finds a girl named Lucky (Celeste O'Connor) to fawn over, keeping them both occupied. But as Phoebe and her summer school teacher Mr. Grooberson (Paul Rudd), as well as her newfound friend Podcast (Logan Kim) soon discover in fiddling with Egon's old gadgets, ghosts are very real, and they are a looming threat to this sleepy town. Mr. Grooberson is also the one who lets Phoebe in on her lineage, which leads to some friction between her and her mom.

They come to find out the ghost they accidentally released was either the Gatekeeper or the Keymaster, which made its way to the old mine on the edge of town, which just so happens to be a selenium mine. As fans may recall, this is the same material that the building featured in the original movie's climax was made out of. And there is also a shrine dedicated to none other than Gozer. It all comes back around.

A Phone Call to the Past

After taking the newly-repaired Ecto-1 out for a destructive joyride around town to try and capture Muncher, the Slimer-esque new ghost we meet earlier in the movie, the kids find themselves in jail. Phoebe then pushes to use her one and only phone call to phone the number she found in her grandfather's secret workshop earlier, and it just so happens to reach Ray Stantz (Dan Aykroyd), who reluctantly hears Phoebe out, especially once he finds out who she is. This serves as a way to fill in some gaps, with Ray explaining that the Ghostbusters broke up once business slowed down, as there simply weren't too many ghosts around anymore.

Egon claimed that the end of the world was coming, and that Summerville, Oklahoma was where it was going to begin. Ray and his pals didn't believe him, leaving Egon to clean the Ghostbusters out and make his way to the town himself in order to try and prevent this spooky catastrophe. Ray felt betrayed, while Peter Venkman (Bill Murray) had returned to teaching, and Winston Zeddemore (Ernie Hudson) had actually done quite well for himself as a businessman.

As one might expect, Callie is pissed off when she comes to bail out her kids. Unfortunately, the proton pack and ghost trap remain in the police impound locker. But those items are sorely needed before long, as the Gatekeeper and Keymaster possess Callie and Mr. Grooberson, paving the way for the return of Gozer.

It's a Trap

The kids take it upon themselves to go about bustin' these ghosts and freeing the town from the grip of Gozer. They suit up using the equipment in Egon's basement, giving us our first proper Ghostbusters team moment of the movie, with Phoebe, Lucky, Podcast, and Trevor filling those shoes. They release Muncher at the police station to eat through the bars so they can get the equipment back, enabling them to free Callie from Terror Dog possessing her. Callie is now fully on board as they haul ass in Ecto-1 back to Egon's farm. This is where everything starts to come together.

It turns out that Egon, known around town as the "dirt farmer," actually wasn't crazy. He had been keeping the ghosts at bay in the mine for years using the proton packs, while laying out his grand plan to stop Gozer once and for all. The capacitors and carefully laid traps underneath the dirt on the farm served as one big trap capable of taking down Gozer. Phoebe luckily is able to figure this out and, with the help of the team, they lure Gozer back to the farm to try and successfully deploy the trap which, unfortunately, Egon could not do in the opening moments of the movie, leading to his death.

As one might expect, despite an admirable effort, this does not go according to plan and the power fails yet again at a key moment. Also, the mini marshmallow men decide to make things extra tricky for Podcast and Trevor, disabling one of the proton packs. For a moment, all seems lost. But then a trio of guys who have danced with this devil before show up to save the day. Yes, Peter, Ray, and Winston show up in full Ghostbusters gear, proton packs in hand, ready to help vanquish Gozer once again.

A Sweet Trip On the Nostalgia Train

We get some in-character moments from all three of the original members as they pair with Phoebe and the gang to do away with Gozer. At a crucial moment, the final piece of the puzzle comes into play, as we see a ghostly hand guiding Phoebe's proton pack alongside the three original Ghostbusters. It is, indeed, the hand of Egon's ghost, which reunites the original gang, with one member visiting from the afterlife, to finish what they started all those years ago. Egon had uncovered the prophecy that foretold the years Gozer could return. One of those years was 1984 and the next was 2021. He wasn't crazy, and Ray realized that, which prompted him to round up the gang for one last ride. Little did they know they would be reuniting with Egon as well.

Trevor manages to get his proton pack in gear, using it to fire up the capacitors. With the trap functioning, they trap Gozer and the day is won. Callie, the original trio, and his grandkids all get to have a nice moment or two with Egon before he disappears back into the ether of the afterlife. While many questions remain regarding Egon's abandoning of his family, it seems Callie gets some much-needed resolution here, as do his original ghost-busting pals.

Who Ya Gonna Call Next Time?

The final moments of "Ghostbusters: Afterlife" firmly place some pieces in place for a continuation. For one, Phoebe, Trevor, Podcast, and Lucky have discovered a knack for this line of work, and they could easily pick up where Egon and the gang left off. But Winston, seeing the sad state of Ecto-1, takes the car back to New York City to presumably fix her up and get her back in proper ghost-fighting shape.

This movie manages to deliver a complete story all on its own, while setting the table for things that could be in the future. Unlike "Dune" however, if we never got another "Ghostbusters" movie, this would still feel whole enough that it wouldn't leave fans feeling cheated out of a full story. Beyond that, it gave longtime fans a reunion they may not have thought was possible. People will surely have mixed feelings about resurrecting Egon in ghost form. All I can say is, in my theater, people seemed truly happy to have that moment.

What director Jason Reitman, following in his father Ivan Reitman's footsteps, manages to do here is pretty impressive, all things considered. He provides a new generation of characters for fans to embrace, while still connecting this latest entry to the past. More than that, he gives us what the "Star Wars" sequel trilogy wouldn't/couldn't with that reunion of the original characters. Han, Luke, and Leia never got to share a moment together in Episode VII and beyond. Peter, Ray, Winston, and Egon did. Again, while certain people will process that nostalgia-motivated move differently, this may have been our last chance to make that happen. That is not to be dismissed.

"Ghostbusters: Afterlife" is in theaters now.