The following post contains mild SPOILERS for Mission: Impossible  Fallout. Honestly, it’s barely even a spoiler. You’re fine. It’s okay.

Long-running franchises tend to have extremely short memories. The more complex and convoluted the backstory, the bigger the barrier to entry for casual fans. So continuity is kept to a bare minimum. Accessibility overrides every other concern.

Throughout its history, that has certainly been true of the Mission: Impossible series. You don’t need to have a working knowledge of the old Mission: Impossible TV show, or know there was a Mission: Impossible TV show in the first place, to enjoy any of the Tom Cruise movies. In one film, Cruise’s super-spy Ethan Hunt even gets married, but that plot barely factors into the two Missions that follow. Each works as a standalone story. You could basically watch the first five films in any order, and apart from a few minor points, you’d understand everything in every movie.

The latest film, Mission: Impossible  Fallout, is a little bit different. It’s still very clear for newbies, but it also draws more on previous movies than any other Mission: Impossible. The villain of the previous film, Rogue Nation, returns for this one. His organization, the evil spy ring the Syndicate, has morphed into a new group called the Apostles. British spy Ilsa Faust (Rebecca Ferguson), who mystified Ethan Hunt in Rogue Nation, is back with new inscrutable motives. For the first time in a dozen years, Ethan’s long-absent wife Julia (Michelle Monaghan) factors into the plot as well.

Writer/director Christopher McQuarrie even includes a nod to the original Mission: Impossible movie from 1996. It’s pretty subtle; subtle enough that you need to know the original film well to catch it, and subtle enough that if you don’t know the original film you won’t notice and won’t be confused. For those in the know, though, it’s a nice little Easter egg.

It’s a callback to Max, an arms dealer who becomes Ethan Hunt’s unlikely ally in the first film. Hunt is disavowed after a mission goes south and he is framed for the death of the rest of his team. He goes on the run and then uses a complex computer tool known as an “internet link” to connect with Max, who was the intended buyer for a classified list of spies. After emailing the very-real email address “Max @ Job 3:14,” Hunt makes a meeting with Max, who turns out to be a lovely, erudite woman played by Vanessa Redgrave.

Oh, the joys of floppy disks. What the heck is the guy doing with that meter next to the floppy drive? What is he measuring? I have no idea. Anyway, that’s Max. Hunt’s a good guy, and Max is, at best, an amoral mercenary, but they know each is playing the other, and they seem to enjoy each other’s company.

Fast-forward 22 years. Max is long gone, but Ethan Hunt is still the world’s greatest spy. (I always assume that on a mission that we didn’t see, he discovered the actual Fountain of Youth, and has been doing shots from it for years.) On his latest mission he gets mixed up with another arms dealer, this one known as the “White Widow,” played by Vanessa Kirby. She supposedly moves in elite social circles, masquerading as a philanthropist. That serves as cover for where her money comes from; i.e. black market dealings.

The White Widow is introduced in the VIP room of a posh French club, where she’s giving a speech about her charitable efforts. And during that speech she mentions her mom: “Max.” Vanessa Kirby has already confirmed the connection in interviews, but fans will get the drift immediately: The White Widow is Max from the original Mission: Impossible’s daughter. Arms dealing: It’s a family business!

Mission: Impossible Fallout Vanessa Kirby

They don’t dwell on this detail; I’m pretty sure Ethan Hunt never makes the connection or comments on it. But it’s there for the hardcores paying attention (and Kirby seems to be channeling Redgrave’s performance, which makes it even more fun). Fingers crossed that Mission: Impossible 7 features the return of Jeremy Renner, at which point it’s revealed he’s actually the son of Jon Voight’s Jim Phelps. I want the real impossible mission to be trying to figure out how all the characters are secretly related.

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