To get this out of the way first, this post will have spoilers for Avengers: Infinity War. All sorts of them. Do I still need to give spoiler warnings? I don’t know. The movie came out in April. It’s been available digitally and physically for a few weeks. But people may still have yet to see it. Not everyone lives their lives on the Marvel schedule I do. Heck, last year a student was upset I “spoiled” an episode of Seinfeld from OVER TWENTY YEARS AGO. So I have no idea what the appropriate spoiler limit is anymore. But this post will spoil Avengers: Infinity War because, as the title implies, I’m going to explore how the whole thing could’ve been avoided if everyone just listened to Nebula.
From facing all sorts of timey-wimey catastrophes with the Doctor as the incomparable Amy Pond to kicking ass with her dance fighting as Martha-as-Ruby-Roundhouse in Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle, it seems like Karen Gillan can pretty much save the day under any circumstances. This is every bit as true in the Marvel Cinematic Universe where her Nebula, the less-favored daughter of Thanos, was the only character with a plan that could have legitimately stopped the Mad Titan from ever gaining one Infinity Stone, let alone all six.
Thanos, you see, is troubled by the ever-growing population in the galaxy. In a truly messed up attempt at benevolence, he wants to gather all six Infinity Stones so – with the transcendent power of God they’d grant him – he could wipe out half the universe’s population with a snap of his fingers. He’s spent years descending on planets with his Black Order and Chitauri soldiers to kill half the population so those left alive could thrive as opposed to fighting over the resources available. With the Infinity Stones he could accomplish this, creation-wide, in an instant. In Avengers: Infinity War, the superheroes of the MCU find themselves scattered throughout the cosmos trying to stop him from achieving this genocidal end.
Thor, Rocket, and Groot visit Nidavellir in hopes of procuring a weapon stronger than Mjölnir and capable of killing Thanos. Captain America, Black Panther, Okoye, and M’Baku lead the Dora Milaje, the warriors from the Jabari Lands, and a selection of Avengers – Black Widow, Falcon, War Machine, the Winter Soldier, and a Hulkbuster-wearing Bruce Banner – against Thanos’s invasion forces in Wakanda. As the battle rages, Shuri tries to remove the Mind Stone from Vision in time for Scarlet Witch to destroy it before Thanos can take it. Lastly, Iron Man, Doctor Strange, Spider-Man, Star Lord, Mantis, Drax, and (eventually) Nebula face Thanos on his homeworld of Titan, after he returns from his quest to get the Soul Stone on Vormir in an attempt to surprise him and claim the Stones.
Now, as anyone who saw the film knows, Star Lord kind of screws everything up. With Mantis calming Thanos and Drax and Doctor Strange restraining him, Tony and Peter (Parker) almost had the Infinity Gauntlet off of Thanos. But Peter (Quill) freaks out about Thanos killing Gamora and repeatedly punches him in the face until it snaps Thanos out of the meditative trance Mantis had him under (why, when Quill’s so angry, he doesn’t just shoot him in the head and end the whole threat right there is anyone’s guess (he literally punches him with his gun as opposed to shooting him (I blame the Russos’ writing))). With the fire back in his fight, Thanos handily defeats them all (even though it should never have come to this because Doctor Strange had control of time for the entire movie and could have frozen Thanos in time at any point and taken/destroyed the Gauntlet with no problems at all (I will never stop lamenting this (again, the Russos’ writing (sorry not sorry)))). Thanos then goes to Earth and claims the Mind Stone leading to the finger-snap-heard-round-the-cosmos, half of all life in existence being wiped out, and the super hilarious meme below.
So it’s kind of all Peter Quill’s fault. He freaked out and kept hitting Thanos until Thanos was good and awake enough to trounce them all in combat and go knock some heads together on Earth gaining the Mind Stone and then killing half of all life (of course Thor could also have easily stopped him long before that by chopping off his head OR ARM with his big Thanos-killing axe instead of going for a chest shot (and also what the heck was Thor doing when Thanos showed up anyway?? Thanos literally fights every Avenger on his way to Vision and Thor’s nowhere to be seen even though he was fighting with them all two seconds earlier (Thor could’ve killed Thanos long before he got the Mind Stone from Vision…but I digress (again)))). But, here’s the thing…they never needed to get to this big battle in the first place. Nebula was right. If the Guardians had listened to Nebula and followed her lead, Thanos never would’ve even had the chance to decimate Xandar and claim the Power Stone.
At the end of Guardians Of The Galaxy Vol. 2, Gamora stops Nebula as she is preparing to leave the Milano:
Gamora – “Nebula…I was a child like you. I was concerned with staying alive until the next day, every day, and I never considered what Thanos was doing to you. I’m trying to make it right. There are little girls like you across the universe who are in danger. You can stay with us and help them.”
Nebula – “I will help them by killing Thanos.”
Gamora – “I don’t know if that’s possible.”
They embrace…and they go their separate ways. BUT if Gamora and the other Guardians of the Galaxy would have followed Nebula’s lead they could’ve killed Thanos together long before the Infinity War begins. Nebula was right. They could’ve saved the entire universe without even bringing the Avengers into it.
We know this to be true because of Avengers: Infinity War. After Thanos captures Gamora on Knowhere, he brings her back to his ship, Sanctuary 2. There, in an effort to coerce her into revealing the location of the Soul Stone, he shows her Nebula being taken apart and tortured by his minions. Thanos tells Gamora, “Some time ago your sister snuck aboard this ship to kill me. She very nearly succeeded.”
Think about this for a second. She very nearly succeeded.
We could presume Thanos is lying, trying to turn one more knife in the wound he’s ripping open in Gamora. We could assume he’s playing mind games with her or taunting Nebula. But the idea of Thanos lying is completely out of character with everything we’ve seen of him in the MCU. In all the films he’s been in thus far, he hasn’t lied once. When Gamora tries to protest, saying she has no idea where the Soul Stone is, Thanos tells her, “You’re strong. Me. You’re generous. Me. But I never taught you to lie. That’s why you’re so bad at it.” He makes a point of telling Gamora (and by extension the viewer) he hasn’t taught her to lie. We’ve never seen him lie. Clearly, for Thanos and his warped sense of morality, honesty is important.
So when he tells Gamora Nebula very nearly succeeded in killing him, we have no reason to believe this isn’t the truth. If Nebula very nearly succeeded in killing Thanos by herself, imagine what would have happened if she snuck onto his ship alongside Gamora, Peter Quill, Drax, Rocket, Groot, Mantis, and Kraglin. (Alright, maybe Kraglin wouldn’t’ve been much help.) If Nebula almost killed Thanos all on her own, there is no logical reason to imagine the entire might of the Guardians of the Galaxy following her plan wouldn’t’ve succeeded in killing Thanos.
By all indications, had the rest of the Guardians of the Galaxy followed Nebula into battle against Thanos, the entire Infinity War could’ve been avoided. Thanos would’ve been dead long before he laid his eyes on one Infinity Stone.
So yes, it’s Peter Quill’s fault Thanos managed to kill half of all life in the cosmos. But within the story of the entire Marvel Cinematic Universe, he doesn’t carry that blame alone nor does he carry it for his actions on Titan. Rather, it is Peter Quill along with Gamora, Drax, Mantis, Rocket, and Groot, who carry an equal share of the blame for Thanos killing half of existence because they lacked the courage and faith to follow Nebula into battle. As someone who will proudly and consistently tell you the Guardians Of The Galaxy films are his favorite part of the MCU, it’s hard to realize how big they screwed this one up. However, it should have been obvious from the beginning. When you’re looking to save the day, you should always follow Karen Gillan.