Whether it feels necessary or not, superhero movies are now flat-out expected to wrap up with a clever credits sequence or two. Deadpool 2 took those expectations and blew them sky high, and the result is what might be the best credits sequence any superhero film has ever produced.
**MAJOR SPOILERS for Deadpool 2 ahead!**
Post-credits and mid-credits sequences are not new, nor are they unique to superhero films (just ask Ferris Bueller), but ever since Marvel Studios made their post-credits sequences into a tradition rather than an occasional treat, it's felt like a near-obligatory element for every superhero film from every studio. It's so ingrained in the fandom for these films now that even though Avengers: Infinity War featured a mid-credits sequence that actually served a purpose, fans still groaned when the credits finally did end with nothing else to show us. In that way, it's grown from expectation to obligation to flat-out demand, and that demand isn't always good.
Take, for example, the mid-credits sequence from Avengers: Age of Ultron, which featured Thanos retrieving the empty Infinity Gauntlet from a compartment and declaring "I'll do it myself." Now, that could be just a brief little setup for Infinity War, and it is, but it was also unnecessary. Thanos' debut at the end of The Avengers meant that comic book fans were talking about his implications for the Marvel Cinematic Universe constantly, and he'd already been established as a character in Guardians of the Galaxy. Plus, that appearance of the Gauntlet seemingly contradicts certain events in Infinity War. It didn't really tell us anything about the overall MCU story that we absolutely had to know, or didn't already know.
That sense of redundancy also brings up another concern with credits sequences that, although it's arguably been manufactured by fans, is nonetheless an issue. Unless it's just a funny tag (see Tony Stark telling his story to a snoozing Bruce Banner at the end of Iron Man 3) we expect the credits sequence to mean something. The device is used so often and has been used to such stunning effect ("I'm here to talk to you about the Avenger initiative.") that we expect something big to happen, even if it's only big to comic book fans who've been paying close attention. We want Thanos grinning or Adam Warlock's cocoon, and when we don't get it, we tend to be a bit annoyed. Again, it may be a self-made cycle of expectation and disappointment (something Spider-Man: Homecoming trolled us for beautifully), but it's there all the same.
Which brings us back around to Deadpool 2, a movie that thrives on turning to the camera, winking, and just saying, "This is all ridiculous, right?" in a thousand different ways for two hours. The Deadpool team knew a credits sequence was expected of them, and they also likely knew they could get away with just a quick comedic curtain call at the end of the movie. Maybe Deadpool and Cable are roommates now or something. Easy, charming, and onto the next movie, right? Wrong.
Because if there's one thing that Deadpool 2 has throughout its runtime, it's this invigorating sense of "Damn, they really let us make a sequel to this thing? Let's go nuts!" running through every frame. That means we get a movie that is at times too much of everything for its own good, but it also means we get moments of ambition and gleeful audacity, like the credits sequence.
To recap, in case for some insane reason you got up as soon as the credits started, here's what we got: Negasonic Teenage Warhead managed to fix Cable's time travel device, which he claimed only had two uses left in it. That's ridiculous all by itself, but it's just the starting point. Newly equipped with time travel, Deadpool moves through his own timestream. He saves Vanessa from an assassin's bullet, saves his Sugar Bear Peter from the awful X-Force debacle, and then moves from saving to killing. First he steps into X-Men Origins: Wolverine (which included its own post-credits scene of the Weapon XI version of Deadpool surviving) to kill the much-maligned version of himself from that film, then — in what was possibly the biggest crowd-pleaser in the theater where I saw the film — he shoots Ryan Reynolds himself right before the actor can go into production on the disaster that was Green Lantern. That all takes maybe two minutes, and it doesn't even use up every idea the filmmakers had for this bold and ridiculous credits sequence.
In just a few shots, Deadpool undoes the inciting incident for his entire sequel (Vanessa's murder), saves only one member of X-Force when he could have conceivably saved them all, shoots a previous version of himself, and shoots the actor playing him before he can make a movie that the first Deadpool film already roundly mocked. If this were any other franchise, we would be picking apart those events absolutely to death. He saves Vanessa and then tells her to wait. Does that mean he never attempts suicide and thus is never brought to the X-Mansion and therefore never tries to save Russell? If he never meets Russell does Cable succeed in killing him, and therefore do Cable and Deadpool ever even meet? Is the other Deadpool he just murdered now meant to be from an alternate dimension? After killing his Origins self, Deadpool turns to Wolverine and tells him that he's just "cleaning up the timeline." How does Negasonic Teenage Warhead know how to fix a portable time machine, anyway?
The answer to these and many other questions is a resounding "Who the hell cares?!" And that's exactly why it works.
The events flash by so quickly and drum up so many laughs that by the end, the audience isn't even worried about potential inconsistencies, or if they are, they're not thinking about them until the drive home. In another film, it might just register as a series of increasingly lazy plot holes, but because it's Deadpool, it registers as a trickster mutant gleefully bending his own little universe until its almost breaks for our amusement.
And that's not even the best part. The best part of Deadpool 2's uproarious coda is its willingness to do funny and affecting at the same time. Almost everything the film throws at us in that sequence is something the sequel will then have to contend with, if only in an "Okay, how do we top that?" sense.
In its own way, Deadpool 2's ending is as big as Thanos grinning into the camera at the end of The Avengers, but it's also mocking the sense of importance we've placed on credits sequences overall. Even after two full hours of jokes, Deadpool 2 hit us with one last "I got your big important credits sequence right here!" and then dropped the mic as only it could. The format's been blown wide open. Now we get to see how other superhero films respond.