Spoilers for all of Wonder Woman 1984 ahead!
The long-awaited sequel to Wonder Woman has finally arrived, and it takes audiences all the way back to the neon-tinted 1980s.
After an opening that reminds audiences of important lessons from Diana Prince’s (Gal Gadot) childhood and the hurdles she overcame to become Wonder Woman, we learn that in 1984, Diana is living a comfortable life of solitude in Washington, D.C., secretly stopping local crimes in her Amazonian regalia whenever she can. When she’s not moonlighting as a mysterious hero, Diana works at the Smithsonian’s anthropology department inspecting ancient relics; one day, she and her new coworker, meek gemologist Barbara Minerva (Kristen Wiig), make a discovery that changes everything.
From the flashback to Diana’s childhood to a romantic reunion, a mystical stone, and a nuclear conflict that threatens the entire world, Wonder Woman 1984 is packed full of surprises, action, and emotion, serving as a solid sequel to its blockbuster predecessor. Here’s the full story — and ending — of Wonder Woman 1984 explained.
A young Diana learns a vital life lesson
With a voiceover from Diana about her childhood on the idyllic island of Themyscira — which secretly houses the Amazon fighters and their people, cutting them off from the outside world — we see a much younger Diana (Lilly Aspell, who also played young Diana in the first movie) competing in a hyper-athletic set of games and obstacles. Though Diana is definitely the youngest competitor in these Amazonian Olympic-style contests, she immediately takes first place — but when she’s knocked off her horse at a crucial moment, all seems lost.
When Diana finds a tunnel, she ends up discovering a secret shortcut, putting her firmly back in first place… but when she returns to the arena, her aunt Antiope (Robin Wright), the general of the Amazonian army, disqualifies her immediately, saying that she cheated by using a shortcut. Diana protests through tears, but Antiope tells her that victory can’t be achieved by dishonesty, stressing that truth is of the utmost importance. "No true hero is born from lies," Antiope tells Diana, also instructing her that "greatness is not what you think" and "you can’t see what you’re learning until you come out the other side." Diana is disappointed in the moment, but as the audience has already clearly seen, she takes those lessons about truth and honesty with her.
Diana’s D.C. life in 1984
Years later — and decades after the events of Wonder Woman, which takes place during World War I — Diana lives in a luxurious condo in Washington D.C., choosing to spend time alone after losing her one true love, Steve Trevor (Chris Pine), in the war. In an apartment decorated with pictures and artifacts related to Steve, it’s clear that Diana has accepted her single status, eating dinner by herself and avoiding human connection while working at the Smithsonian by day.
With that said, Diana still dons her armor and stands up for what’s right, even if it’s only by going after small-time crooks. During a robbery at a D.C. mall, four would-be robbers are mystified when a stunning woman clad in red, blue, and gold swings from the ceiling with her golden Lasso of Truth, apprehending all four criminals and dumping them onto a police cruiser before vanishing. However, she does allow one person a few glimpses — a little girl who watches Diana vanquish the robbers in adoration, with Diana giving the girl a quick wink before disappearing to keep her identity a secret.
Barbara Minerva joins the Smithsonian and makes a friend
Diana might prefer to be alone, but she ends up making a friend when the meek, awkward Barbara Minerva joins the institute’s staff as a gemologist and archaeologist. Constantly tripping over her own feet and too soft-spoken to stand up for herself, Barbara immediately idealizes everything about Diana, who comes off as strong, confident, and basically flawless.
After Barbara shows Diana some of the artifacts she’s studying, including a mysterious citrine stone, Diana agrees to socialize after work. Over drinks, the two end up bonding, with Diana praising Barbara’s sweet personality and open nature, admitting that she prefers to close herself off from the world. Later that evening, alone in a park, Barbara is assaulted by a drunk, lecherous man, but Diana comes to her rescue… and rather than raising questions about Diana’s apparent super-strength, the incident only makes Barbara aspire to be like Diana even more.
Maxwell Lord’s dream of returning to power
Audiences are introduced to down-on-his-luck oil tycoon and businessman Maxwell Lord (Pedro Pascal) through a television screen in the mall where Diana stops a robbery, as he tries to convince the general population that they can improve their lives with the help of his company, Black Gold Collective. However, despite the glossy feel of his infomercials, slimy Maxwell is broke, and his investor Simon Stagg (Oliver Cotton) is getting angry.
Desperate to make money — and support as well as impress his young son Alistair (Lucian Perez) — Maxwell seeks out a rather unorthodox fix, and when he hears about the stone that Barbara and Diana have discovered, now known as the Dreamstone, he sees a way out of his predicament. From there, he comes up with a plan to use the Dreamstone for his own gains, seducing Barbara to gain access to the artifact for himself.
Three wishes change the course of the world
Before Maxwell takes possession of the stone, both Diana and Barbara wish upon it, though neither of them quite understand what they’re doing. Diana goes first while the two are discussing her lost love Steve; inadvertently, she wishes that Steve could still be with her. The next day, at a Smithsonian gala, she’s taken aback when she discovers that Steve, housed in someone else’s body (Mad Men alum Kristoffer Polaha), has returned to her, ready to discover the new world of 1984.
Meanwhile, Barbara wishes for the confidence, strength, and power of her new friend Diana, and begins to see a change almost immediately, suddenly striding around the Smithsonian in slinky outfits and heels and attracting attention from everyone around her. During the Gala, Maxwell, seemingly drawn to her newfound confidence, brings her into a room alone, but it’s all a ruse so he can steal the Dreamstone.
Diana and Barbara wish on the Dreamstone, but Maxwell takes it one huge step further, absorbing the stone into his person so he can grant anybody’s wishes as well as his own. With this power, Maxwell is able to manipulate the entire world, making deals with international figures and causing utter chaos while Diana and Steve try to clean up the mess he leaves behind.
The downside of the Dreamstone
Meanwhile, all three wishers eventually realize there’s a huge downside to the Dreamstone: it steals your life essence when you make a wish. Diana might be happy with Steve by her side, but her powers are fading, and she finds herself weaker than normal, unable to harness her strength or even wield the Lasso of Truth. As for Barbara, she completely loses the humanity that drew Diana to her in the first place, driven only by pure vengeance and a thirst for more strength, power, and influence. To make matters worse, Barbara makes more wishes on the stone through Maxwell, turning herself into an animalistic, hyper-strong creature known as the Cheetah.
However, Maxwell, who has absorbed the stone, is faring worst of all. As he continues to grant wishes and emotionally manipulate the world so he has power over everybody, even the President of the United States (Stuart Milligan), his body begins to break down, leaving his nose and ears streaming blood, his eyes red, and his system visibly wrecked. Despite these negative effects, everyone, even Diana, is loath to let go of their wishes, even when they discover that the stone was created by the God of Treachery and Mischief himself, and that the only way to return to normal is to recant.
Diana figures out how to save the day
Despite her love for Steve and her overwhelming joy at having him back, Diana and Steve realize there’s only one thing she can do to regain her power and bring down Maxwell and Barbara: recant her wish. After yet another emotional goodbye, a sobbing Diana takes her wish back, and Steve shuffles off this mortal coil for a second time.
With her full powers returned to her, Diana discovers Maxwell’s plan, which is to use a broadcast system developed by the White House to speak to the entire world so he can grant wishes en masse. Diana, in full splendor in the ancient golden Amazonian armor of Asteria, heads to the White House, defeating the Cheetah and electrocuting her to turn her back into Barbara before confronting Maxwell. Armed with the Lasso of Truth, Diana wraps her weapon around Maxwell, speaking through him to the world over the broadcast system and begging everyone to recant their wishes, bringing the world back to normal and stopping a nuclear war as a result. Though Maxwell puts up a fight, Diana also uses the Lasso to show him a vision of his young son Alistair, convincing him to give up and return to his family.
Antiope’s words in the beginning of the film reveal the ending
As it turns out, Antiope’s message of honesty proves incredibly important when it comes to the ending of Wonder Woman 1984. Through all three characters and their Dreamstone wishes, we can see that Diana, Barbara, and Maxwell are all pretending to be somebody they’re not, and the Stone exposes their greatest flaws — even as it gives them their heart’s desire.
Though it seems — especially to people like Barbara — that Diana has zero problems in her perfect life, Diana’s unwillingness to engage with anybody in the wake of losing Steve is a front for her loneliness and a craving for human connection. Barbara, rather than finding confidence within herself and proving herself with her own intelligence and beauty, tries to steal Diana’s. Meanwhile, Maxwell wants to appear all powerful at any cost, despite the fact that he’s broke and his business is failing. In the end, whether they’re giving up true love, finding their own confidence, or reuniting with family, Diana, Barbara, and Maxwell understand that the stone, despite its seductive wish-granting abilities, can’t actually help them at all; only honesty and clarity can lead to true greatness.
Diana learns to survive on her own
In the aftermath of Maxwell’s hostile takeover and a narrowly averted nuclear war, the world seems to return to normal by the holiday season. Back in D.C. and alone once more, Diana watches families spend time together at a Christmas village in the capital, and even without Steve in her life, she seems at peace.
However, the clearest example of Diana’s personal progress comes when she finds herself face to face with the man whose body Steve inhabited during his recent turn on Earth. Rather than closing herself off, Diana lets herself open up to this stranger, complimenting his outfit and granting him a warm smile before they part ways. Whether they’ll meet again isn’t clear, but what’s important is that Diana, who was once so committed to being alone, is willing to make human connections once again, letting Steve go once and for all and living life on her own terms. She also harnesses some impressive superpowers, mastering flying through the clouds with ease, showing that in the aftermath of her experience with the Stone, she’s even more powerful.
A post-credits sequence reveals another Amazonian amongst us
Throughout the film, the audience — and Diana — learns about Asteria, an ancient Amazonian who sacrificed herself and her strength to protect Themyscira from the prying eyes of men. Early in the film, during the flashback to Diana’s childhood, her mother, Queen Hippolyta (Connie Nielsen) soothes her distraught daughter by showing her the golden statue of Asteria and telling the story of the brave warrior who saved the island.
When the audience gets a brief glimpse of Asteria herself, the actor playing her looks familiar… and for good reason, as she’s played by Lynda Carter, who played Wonder Woman on the small screen throughout the 1970s. However, that’s not the last we see of Carter’s Asteria; in a post-credits sequence, it’s revealed that Asteria, like Diana, secretly lives among humankind. Whether Carter appears in a future Wonder Woman installment remains to be seen, but no matter what, it’s fascinating to learn that Diana isn’t alone, and potentially has an incredibly powerful ally nearby.