Guardians of the Galaxy 3 Spoilers: Deaths, Ending, and What’s Next
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 is the last ride for the MCU's premiere cosmic team as we know them.
This post contains full spoilers for Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3
The trailers for Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 have included everything you’d expect from a James Gunn movie, including unlikely but perfectly-chosen rock songs and plenty of antagonistic banter between its heroes. But all of the Guardians 3 trailers have included another, perhaps troubling, aspect: a dour tone. It’s not just that Peter Quill (Chris Pratt) is still recovering from the death of his beloved Gamora (Zoe Saldana), who has returned as a younger and decidedly more impatient person. It’s also that this is the final go-around for Gunn and this version of the Guardians of the Galaxy.
Now, longtime superhero fans will tell you that death means nothing to superheroes. All of the Guardians have died in the comics at one time or another, and they’ve all come back to life. But things are a bit more tricky in live-action, which has already seen MCU mainstays Tony Stark die and Steve Rogers retire – for good so far. It’s reasonable for fans to have wondered who would make it out of Guardians 3 alive and what would be left of the survivors.
Would the secret origin of Rocket Racoon (Bradley Cooper) also be his final story? Would Peter go the way of his daddy Yondu (Michael Rooker)? Would Groot (Vin Diesel) say “I am dead?” Read on, if you don’t mind massive spoilers.
Who Dies in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3?
None of the Guardians die! Instead, they have a big dance party! Sure, they get their butts beat hard right from the beginning, and it briefly appears that Groot has been beheaded by Adam Warlock, but they all make it.
Granted, two of the heroes do get close to death, most notably Rocket, who spends most of the movie in critical condition. He even starts to head into the afterlife to reunite with his otter girlfriend Lylla (voiced by Linda Cardellini, who also plays Laura Barton, wife of Hawkeye). But he’s pulled away at the last second after his fellow Guardians find a way to heal the wounds he received from Warlock.
The other is Peter Quill, who seems to repeat the mistake he made in the first movie and gets caught in space to rescue his music device, this time a Zune. Quill goes through a surprisingly gnarly transition, with his face bloating to a grotesque degree. But even he gets pulled back to the team and makes it.
But this does not mean that Guardians 3 is a movie without death. The most tragic of these deaths involve the aforementioned Lylla, one of four animals mutated by the megalomaniacal geneticist, the High Evolutionary (Chukwuidi Iwuji of Peacemaker). In a series of flashbacks woven throughout the movie, we watch as Lylla, Rocket, Teefs the Walrus (Asim Chaudhry), and Floor the Rabbit (Mikaela Hoover), overcome the painful experimentation they’ve experienced at the hands of the High Evolutionary to form a loving friendship. When Rocket realizes that the High Evolutionary plans on eradicating them instead of letting them live on Counter-Earth, he helps his friends escape. But just when they’ve almost made it out, High Evolutionary kills them, forcing Rocket to leave alone.
An equally surprising death involves a character we met in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, Ayesha of the Sovereign, played by Elizabeth Debicki. The previous movie established Ayesha as the regal and pompous leader of a race of golden people, but here she’s at the behest of High Evolutionary, who wants the power of her son, Adam Warlock (Will Poulter). The dim-witted Warlock happily does the High Evolutionary’s bidding, but when the latter destroys Counter-Earth with Ayesha still on it, he turns against his maker.
Equally surprising is not another death, but the opposite. After seeing his friends get killed, the young Rocket attacks High Evolutionary, brutally clawing his face. When we catch up with him in the present, the High Evolutionary shows no signs of damage — that is, until the final battle, when his face gets ripped off. There, Rocket reveals that he’s been wearing a mask to cover the gnarly damage he received when the Raccoon attacked him. For Rocket, that’s a punishment worse than death, forcing the High Evolutionary to recognize that he is fundamentally imperfect.
How Does Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 End?
So if none of the Guardians die, then the team is still together and they can have more adventures, right? Well, not exactly. Just as Gunn promised, this is the last go-around for this version of the team as they all take on different roles.
Despite Quill’s attempts to win back this new, time-displaced Gamora, she refuses his interludes and leaves to rejoin the Ravagers. Likewise, Mantis (Pom Klementieff) realizes that she’s spent her entire life serving men and has no identity of her own, choosing to travel the universe alone for a while to find herself (a plot point with huge implications for those who know the comics). Perhaps most surprisingly, Nebula (Karen Gillan) decides to stay on Knowhere with Cosmo the Space Dog (Maria Bakalova) and Drax (Dave Bautista), working to build a better society among the many refugees who need a home. Those refugees include the children kidnapped by High Evolutionary, who Drax stays with to become a father once again.
Does that mean that the Guardians are done? No, not at all! Not only do Rocket, Kraglin (Sean Gunn), and Groot stay on the team, but they are joined by new members Adam Warlock and a young girl called Phyla. Comic book readers will recognize that name as referring to Phyla-Vell, daughter of the original Captain Marvel Mar-Vell (a variation of whom was played by Annette Benning in Captain Marvel). Here, she doesn’t get too much to do, just powering up as she and the team run into action, alongside their furry new mascot Blurp.
But what of Peter Quill, Star-Lord himself? After realizing how much his found family means to him, Peter finally decides to find his grandfather, whom he has not seen since leaving Earth as a child. Returning to his home planet, Peter reunites with Jason Quill (a name that nods to the father of comic book Peter Quill, J’Son of Spartax) and commits to spending some time on Earth.
What’s Next for the Guardians of the Galaxy?
Based on that ending, along with comments by Gunn and members of the cast, one might think that we’ve seen the last of these heroes. The first post-credits scene gives us our first glimpse of the new Guardians in action, as Rocket leads the team into action on an unnamed alien planet. That seems to suggest that they’ll show up again at some point, maybe in their own movie, maybe in spacefaring movies like The Marvels, and maybe in the Phase Six closers Avengers: The Kang Dynasty and Avengers: Secret Wars.
But we probably won’t see Quill again, right? Wrong! While the second post-credits scene does find Peter trying and failing to convince his grandfather to let Peter, and not his elderly wife, mow the lawn, we know we won’t be stuck on Earth forever. In the movie’s final title card, bold text declares, “The Legendary Star-Lord Will Return.”
The fact that it doesn’t tell us when Star-Lord will return should be heartening for viewers. It means that Marvel knows that Quill is a popular character, and they’re going to keep him around for later stories. In fact, the same is true of all the one-time Guardians, all of whom are off the board now, but may come back again.