Even after all these many years, movies, and TV shows, my favorite scene in the MCU is still when the Guardians of the Galaxy became a group. That’s when Peter Quill convinced his fellow “losers” to stand up to Ronan, in a sequence that is equal parts hilarious and beautiful. That one scene perfectly encapsulates everything I love about those characters. But with their time together coming to an end in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 3., a “bunch of jackasses standing in a circle” is taking on new meaning. Because the Guardians’ “first” scene paved the way for an emotional farewell that will see some members make good on their promise to fight to the death for their friends.
There are lots of reasons to think Drax and Rocket will die in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3. Writer-director James Gunn has essentially promised not every member will live. We also know Dave Bautista is moving on from the MCU. And the film’s trailers continue to tease a poignant conclusion for Rocket’s own sad story, as the movie will explore his painful past and his ultimate search for peace. But we don’t need to know any of that to know how this iteration of the Guardians tale would end. They’ve always known and they told us how.
Fittingly, the Guardians only unified after a lot of bickering. It began on Yondu’s ship with Quill pleading with his fellow “folks who have lost stuff” to help him stop Ronan. He told them life was finally giving them something instead of taking from them. They had a chance “to give a shit.” But Rocket, who believed stopping Ronan was impossible, told Quill what he was really asking of them. “You’re asking us to die,” he said.
“Yeah, I guess I am,” said a suddenly muted Star-Lord because Rocket was right. They all knew he was, and for a brief moment Quill seemed to give up on trying to convince them. But rather than run from annihilation and responsibility to others, each member found strength in one another and embraced their fate. It began with Gamora, who said, “I have lived most my life surrounded by my enemies. I will be grateful to die among my friends.”
Drax rose next, telling the “honorable” Quill, “I will fight beside you. And in the end, I will see my wife and daughter again.” Groot was next to pledge himself to his new friends.
Then, with all eyes turned toward him, Rocket stood up, too. “What the hell,” he said, “I don’t got that long a lifespan, anyway.’
Every one of them accepted what it would mean to truly give a shit for the first time in their life. They simply didn’t care. It was more important to stand with their friends, and in doing so, protect others, than it was to protect themselves.
That’s how a bunch of individual misfit losers who had never served anyone besides themselves became great heroes. They found strength they didn’t know they had by finding strength in one another.
It didn’t take long for their fears to come true, though. They paid the ultimate price to be a part of something bigger than themselves. The original Groot happily sacrificed himself to save his friends, because as he so beautifully said, “We are Groot.”
Death has followed the Guardians ever since. Yondu gave up his life in Vol. 2 to save Peter. They then lost the original Gamora in Infinity War because they wouldn’t run away from an even more dangerous enemy. And now Drax and Rocket’s acknowledgement of their imminent death during the group’s founding hang over their final film.
That’s why their likely deaths will be even more emotional than if they (and us) never saw them coming. They went into this friendship with their eyes wide open. They knew the price from the very beginning, they have always just been happy to pay it. And with good reason.
Drax found a new family in his fellow Guardians. It’s not sad he’s always known it would all end with him seeing his wife and daughter again. That makes it more beautiful. Just as Rocket’s eventual death will have more resonance because he has always seen it coming. What mattered was that his friends gave him a reason to live in the first place, a reason much bigger than himself. The Guardians gave him love where he had only known pain. And with their love he has done incredible things.
Not every member of the Guardians of the Galaxy will survive their third and final installment. Just like they knew what fate always awaited them, we have as well, even if we didn’t realize it. No matter if its Drax, Rocket, or any other Guardian who dies in Vol 3., their death will be a sacrifice. They’ve always been ready to sacrifice their life for their friends. And that’s what will make the end of their story even more powerful. It will have a greater meaning, one that began at the start of their friendship.
But don’t only cry tears of sadness because they’re gone. Cry tears of joy they had a reason to live in the first place. That reason was a love in one another powerful enough to save the entire galaxy.
Featured Image: Marvel Studios
Mikey Walsh is a staff writer at Nerdist. You can follow him on Twitter at @burgermike, and also anywhere someone is ranking the Targaryen kings.