O Guardians Night

How Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special's Mantis reveal could shape Vol. 3

With the revelation that Star-Lord has a [SPOILER], next year’s Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 might be its most emotional chapter yet.

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In She-Hulk, Jennifer Walters roasted the literal Marvel Cinematic Universe machine for its preoccupation with daddy issues. The robotic K.E.V.I.N. interrupted Jennifer’s pinpoint criticism of its formulaic storytelling before she could tackle another MCU staple: the franchise’s longtime interest in adopted, found families.

From The Avengers to solo movies like Black Widow and Thor: Love and Thunder, family bonds in the MCU are typically forged in fire rather than by blood. This is best represented by the Guardians of the Galaxy, who came together in their 2014 film through the circumstances of Star-Lord’s (Chris Pratt) bounty and their prison sentencing. Watching the climax in theaters seven years ago, who among us didn’t have their heartstrings pulled by Groot’s “We are Groot”?

Now the Guardians are back, this time to celebrate the most wonderful time of year. But while at first blush, their Disney+ mini-movie, The Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special, may come off simplistic and trite — Christmas is a great excuse to be sappy and sentimental, after all — the MCU’s first Christmas special is not only faithful to Guardians tradition but brings to light a revelation that will influence the Guardians’ dynamics in the future. While there aren’t jaw-dropping Marvel cameos, The Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special still sets up something big for their final adventure in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3.

Warning: Spoilers for The Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special ahead.

Mantis’ family ties

The Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special, streaming now on Disney+, reveals that Mantis (Pom Klementieff) is the half-sister of Star-Lord (Chris Pratt), which dramatically changes things for both of them.

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In The Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special, Mantis (Pom Klementieff) reveals a secret she’s been keeping since she first joined the saga in 2017’s Guardians of the Galaxy: Vol. 2: She’s the daughter of Ego, and ergo, the sister of Star-Lord. Half-sister, anyway.

In an adventure that takes her and Drax (Dave Bautista) from Knowhere to Hollywood — and Kevin Bacon’s house — Mantis tries to cheer up Star-Lord by kidnapping Peter Quill’s hero, the iconic star of Footloose and Apollo 13. But while Kevin Bacon in a box makes a nice present, Star-Lord is more touched to learn that he still has someone to call family.

It’s interesting Marvel’s fandom at large hasn’t sought out the origins of Mantis in the MCU. She debuted in Vol. 2 with Ego. She was more servant than daughter, and even refers to him as “Master” at least once. All she says about herself in Vol. 2 was that she was raised alone, which explains her social awkwardness. (And given Ego’s name and personality, it’s unsurprising he’d treat a daughter like an assistant.)

With her unusual speech, childlike demeanor, and VFX’ed black eyes, Mantis is otherized as “alien” in almost every way. This might explain why, beyond Ego and joining the Guardians as an expansion pack add-on, her story hasn’t been a subject deemed worthy of exploring. At least not during the threat of Thanos. But the news that she’s Ego’s daughter and Star-Lord’s sister should matter a great deal.

It’s always been about family

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, released in 2017, further explored the series’ family themes with Star-Lord meeting his deadbeat father, Ego (Kurt Russell).

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Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy has always been a story about family, both the ones you’re born into and the ones you make. It mattered how the original 2014 film opens with a 12-year-old Star-Lord, then Peter Quill, alone in a Midwestern hospital and shutting down before his dying mother. The rest of the movie follows the lonesome Star-Lord learning to work with others and to see that the people (and raccoons and walking trees) who surround him can be as important to him as the mother he left behind.

The 2017 sequel, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 brought to the stage Star-Lord’s biological father, a space god named Ego (Kurt Russell). But the series’ existing themes are strengthened in Vol. 2 as Star-Lord finds that the father he spent a lifetime looking for is a selfish deadbeat who cares more about spreading his seed than his family. As his surrogate father Yondu (Michael Rooker) points out, “He might have been your father, but he wasn’t your daddy.”

Two Avengers and one Thor movie later, and the Guardians of the Galaxy’s family bonds have grown even stronger. Through the lens of Christmas (and Gunn’s homage to the utterly bizarre Star Wars Holiday Special), Holiday Special’s ending highlights the spirit of the season that is traditionally underpinned by generosity, togetherness, and yes, family. In true Christmas special fashion, Star-Lord learning that he’s been traveling with his half-sister since Vol. 2 is warmly received, with Star-Lord calling it the best gift he could have asked for. (Awww.)

What could this mean for Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3?

The Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special might not have any huge cameos to set up next year’s Vol. 3, but with Star-Lord learning he isn’t totally alone in the universe, it still matters to the ongoing story of the MCU.

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As Star-Lord’s “new” sister, Mantis represents a dramatic change for Star-Lord. For once, Star-Lord has someone to look out for. And for the first time in her life, Mantis has someone who cares for her. While both Guardians movies championed the strength of adopted families, next year’s Vol. 3 could have Star-Lord act like a protective big brother to Mantis. In turn, Mantis might try to seek out her independence. From living under Ego to having the Guardians crowding her space, Mantis might finally be ready to learn who she is on her own.

Both Mantis and Star-Lord are on the verge of having a completely new identity. Both are about to have roles neither have ever played before, and both might be very bad at it. (Star-Lord could barely raise Groot, anyway.) That the two of them are siblings may cast both in a brand new light as the Guardians of the Galaxy reach their final hours.

The special ends before either of them can interrogate the new context of the relationship any further. But with their final chapter to be told soon, Vol. 3, Star-Lord and Mantis may find they have only each other to lean on. At least they see their newfound sibling relationship as a gift than a curse.

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 will open in theaters on May 5, 2023.

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