‘Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3’ Ending Explained: All Good Things Must Come to an End

The Big Picture

  • Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 concludes story arcs left open by previous movies and serves as a farewell to James Gunn’s iteration of the Guardians.
  • The Guardians are attacked on Knowhere by Adam Warlock, who is sent by the High Priestess to retrieve Rocket, the only one capable of creative thought.
  • The Guardians go on a mission to save Rocket, discovering the gruesome details of the High Evolutionary’s experiments and ultimately defeating him with the help of new allies.

Editor’s note: The following contains spoilers for Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3.

The waiting was excruciatingly long, but Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 is finally available on Disney+. It’s been six years since the last Guardians of the Galaxy movie, and a lot has happened in between as the group of heroes played a major part in Avengers: Infinity War and Avengers: Endgame. So, James Gunn‘s latest – and likely last – MCU movie has many moving parts. In addition, since the movie serves as a farewell to Gunn and his iteration of the Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 3 is also responsible for closing every story arc left open by previous movies. There’s a lot to unpack in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3, so we’ll break down the threequel’s ending and explain what happened to each Guardian.

The Attack on Knowhere

A shot of builds in Knowhere, home of the Guardians of the Galaxy
Image via Disney+

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 begins as we left things in The Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special, as the Guardians have turned Knowhere into their headquarters. While the team has established themselves as protectors of the universe, Captain Peter Quill (Chris Pratt) is still in shambles after the death of Gamora (Zoe Saldaña). Sure, there is a Gamora alive in the universe, coming from a different timeline, but she leads a different life and wants nothing to do with the Guardians or Peter.

The hard work of rebuilding Knowhere and turning it into a safe haven for those in need is suddenly interrupted when the Guardians are attacked by Adam Warlock (Will Poulter). Adam is the perfect being created by the High Priestess of the Sovereign civilization (Elizabeth Debicki) and teased on an end-credit scene of Vol. 2. However, as Vol. 3 reveals, the Sovereigns themselves are creations of the High Evolutionary (Chukwudi Iwuji), a scientist so obsessed with creating the perfect species he doesn’t mind how many lives he destroys in the process.

The High Evolutionary wants to retrieve Rocket, the only one of his creations that showed to be capable of creative thought beyond their original programming. And since the Sovereigns serve the High Evolutionary, the High Priestess sends Adam to do the kidnapping job. Things don’t go as planned, though, and before he retreats, all Adam manages to do is badly hurt Rocket. Unfortunately, the High Evolutionary installed a fail-safe on Rocket’s heart to prevent anyone from stealing his scientific secrets. So, any attempt to cure Rocket brings him closer to his death. That’s why the Guardians decide to risk everything to save their companion.

We Must Save Rocket

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 Rocket Raccoon flying
Image via Marvel

Since the Guardians don’t know anything about Rocket’s past, they just follow the clues they have and break into Orgo-Corp, a planet-sized corporation entirely made from organic tissues. Orgocorp is the legitimate business kept by the High Evolutionary to fund his cruel experiments and is the official entity from where Rocket’s enhancements theoretically came. So, Orgocorp possesses the files the Guardians need to bypass Rocket’s failsafe.

The Guardians leave Cosmo (Maria Bakalova) and Kraglin (Sean Gunn) to defend Knowhere while Nebula (Karen Gillan) calls Gamora for help. After the events of Endgame, Gamora is working with the Ravagers, so she convinces the space pirates to help the Guardians for an immense amount of money.

The Guardians’ adventures on Orgo-Corp don’t give them the key to shutting Rocket’s failsafe. Even so, it reveals the gruesome details of the High Evolutionary’s experiments. Still motivated to save Rocket’s life, the Guardians follow the coordinates to the High Evolutionary’s base in Counter-Earth, a strange planet populated by anthropomorphic animals. Gamora wants to return to the Ravagers by then, but since there’s no time to lose, she gets stuck with the Guardians until the final showdown. Meanwhile, the High Priestess and Adam are still following the Guardians, hoping to get the High Evolutionary’s prize before their master and win their favor back after the previous defeat. There are a lot of players on Gunn’s board, but things get even more complicated before the third arc.

Rocket Is Not the Only One Who Needs Saving

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 Pom Klementieff Chris Pratt Dave Bautista
Image via Marvel

When the Guardians get to Counter-Earth, they split up. Mantis (Pom Klementieff) and Drax (Dave Bautista) are charged with staying on the ship to protect Rocket. Meanwhile, Nebula, Star-Lord, and Groot (voiced by Vin Diesel) go to the High Evolutionary’s headquarters. Unfortunately, Nebula has to wait outside since the High Evolutionary doesn’t allow her to come in due to her cybernetic implanted weapons. In addition, Drax decides to ignore Quill and takes Mantis to the High Evolutionary base.

Star-Lord and Groot confront the High Evolutionary, who reveals he’s done with Counter-Earth as this civilization proved imperfect. Peter and Groot blast their way out of the High Evolutionary tower just as the villain decides to leave the world he created behind, destroying everything and killing the billions of people that inhabit Counter-Earth. Fortunately, Peter and Groot take the key to save Rocket with them. Meanwhile, due to their lack of organization, Gamora is alone on the ship when the High Evolutionary sends War Pig (voiced by Judy Greer) to kidnap Rocket on the ship. Adam also comes after the same prize, killing War Pig. Gamora is saved from Adam’s wrath due to the planetary explosion because the Warlock abandons the Guardians ship to try to save his mother. Adam doesn’t get to the Sovereign vessel in time, and the High Priestess dies. Finally, Mantis and Drax meet Nebula at the bottom of the High Evolutionary base, breaking into the spaceship to save Peter and Groot, who they believe is still inside.

Star-Lord and Groot reunite with Gamora, using the key they retrieve to bypass Rocket’s fail-safe and heal their friend. For a moment, it looks like Rocket is gone as he visits the afterlife and talks with his former cellmates, who were tortured and killed by the High Evolutionary. However, after Rocket’s first love, Lylla (voiced by Linda Cardellini), tells him his time has not yet come, Rocket returns to life. In the meantime, Drax, Mantis, and Nebula find hundreds of children trapped inside the High Evolutionary’s ship. These children represent the new species created by the villain, but it’s clear they also need saving before they are slaughtered as the population of Counter-Earth. To make matters worse, the High Evolutionary captures Drax, Mantis and Nebula, using them as bait for Rocket and the rest of the Guardians. The stakes are higher than ever during the final showdown, but at least they saved Rocket.

The Final Showdown

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3’ (2023) (1)

In the final showdown, Star-Lord asks Cosmo and Kraglin to fly Knowhere to their coordinates, using the giant space station to shoot down the High Evolutionary’s ship. The arrival of the Knowhere station tips the odds in the Guardians’ favor, as Rocket, Peter, Groot and Gamora get the firepower they need to break into the ship. Adam reemerges again to attack the Guardians, but Peter manages to program a self-destruct sequence on the Bowie to explode the Warlock again, taking him out of combat. Meanwhile, Drax, Mantis and Nebula face three powerful Abilisks inside the ship, creatures the High Evolutionary keeps to destroy his enemies. Mantis uses her empathy powers to gain the creatures’ favor, and soon all the Guardians are reunited again.

It’s not over yet, though. As soon as everyone knows the High Evolutionary keeps children in the basement, the Guardians join forces to release all the prisoners. At the same time, the High Evolutionary unleashes an army of creatures in Knowhere, forcing Kraglin to overcome his doubts and master the flying arrow left to him by Yondu (Michael Rooker). Together, Kraglin and Cosmo fight off the invaders and protect the people of Knowhere. Inside the ship, the Guardians mow down the High Evolutionary’s forces to get to the prisoners. After the fighting is done, the Guardians push the High Evolutionary ship close to Knowhere to create a way for everyone to escape safely. The children escape, and even Adam gets rescued by Groot, who tells the Warlock everyone deserves a second chance.

During all the action, the High Evolutionary crew stages a mutiny since they feel their leader has lost sight of his mission and is too focused on revenge. The High Evolutionary kills his crew and destroys the ship’s controls, which later forces Cosmo to use telekinesis to keep the ship close to Knowhere while the prisoners escape. The High Evolutionary appears again while Rocket investigates the crates filled with animals in the ship’s lab. He realizes he was once a raccoon, as Peter always told him, and decides that every life is worth saving, not only humanoid-like. It’s then that the High Evolutionary attacks Rocket. The two fight until the Guardians come to Rocket’s rescue. Once the villain is subdued, Rocket decides not to execute him, as he feels that wouldn’t be the proper way for a Guardian to act. Even so, Rocket convinces his teammates that every animal must be saved, leading them all in a race against the clock to get everyone out of the High Evolutionary’s ship before it explodes.

By the time the main villain is defeated, we are all surprised to see all the Guardians survived the ordeal. However, Gunn has crafted one final scare. While everyone is running away, Peter drops his Zune. Peter returns to catch it but doesn’t have the time to escape to safety. It looks like that might be the end of Star-Lord, but Adam saves him at the last moment, moved by Groot’s words. And so, the Guardians emerge victorious, even though the team will never be the same.

The Guardians of the Galaxy Live On

Nebula with her new arm in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3.

After all is said and done, each Guardian feels they should decide what to do next. Peter thinks it’s time to return to Earth and face the human family he left behind, so he leaves the command of the Guardians and his Zune to Rocket. Mantis realizes she also needs to figure out who she wants to be and decides to go alone on a self-discovery journey, accompanied by her new Abilisk friends. Nebula retires from the Guardians, determined to care for the children they rescued with Drax, whose father instincts are essential for raising a new generation of people. Finally, Gamora rejoins the Ravagers, even though now she has an amicable relationship with the Guardians.

The only members of the Guardians of the Galaxy still working to protect the universe are Rocket and Groot. However, as an end-credit scene shows, they soon find a backup. Cosmo and Kraglin become official team members after their heroic actions in Knowhere. Adam Warlock also joins the ranks, determined to become a better person. Finally, the new Guardians team also counts Phylla, one of the children rescued from the High Evolutionary ship. And just like that, Gunn gave all the characters he brought into the MCU a fitting ending while also letting enough loose threads for Marvel Studios to follow in the future.

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