Cookies help us deliver our Services. By using our Services, you agree to our use of cookies. Learn More.

Every Fake-Out Death In Guardians Of The Galaxy Vol. 3 (And Who's Gone For Good)

If you're reading this, chances are you've seen "Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3," and have some feelings and opinions about what happens (or, rather, doesn't happen) to the main characters at the end of the trilogy. For months — and in some circles, years — fans have been speculating about which of their beloved Guardians would kick the bucket. That speculation ramped up when the trailers for "Vol. 3" were noticeably more dramatic and emotional than is typical for the franchise. Based on those clips alone, it seemed plausible that Drax (Dave Bautista), Rocket (Bradley Cooper), or Star-Lord (Chris Pratt) could be done for. And that was before the press tour started and the cast and crew began to tease a tissue-worthy conclusion to the saga. 

Audiences had plenty of reasons to brace themselves for a tearjerker. In addition to all the in-film context clues, several of the actors have confirmed that "Vol. 3" is the end of the line for their characters, including Bautista's Drax and Zoe Saldaña's Gamora. Plus, the MCU hasn't been afraid to kill off major characters as of late. Of course, in the world of comic books and comic book adaptations, no one is truly ever dead, which means many superhero deaths amount to fake-outs.

But the most shocking thing about "Vol. 3" is that none of the leads meets their doom. The surprisingly happy ending is the biggest twist of all ... almost like a practical joke that James Gunn played on us. Except, to pull it off, "Vol. 3" had to have more than its fair share of fake-out deaths. This is who toyed with our emotions, and who's really gone for good.

Fake-out: Gamora

Okay, so technically, Gamora didn't die or even almost die in "Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3." The closest she comes to harm is being in the blast zone on Counter-Earth and being involved in that epic "Crazy on You" hallway fight. But it's Gamora's fake-out death in "Avengers: Infinity War" and "Avengers: Endgame" that looms large over the "Guardians of the Galaxy" sub-franchise. Whether Gamora as the Guardians know her is actually irreversibly dead is a question that drives the plot in "Vol. 3," so it's worth discussing. 

A quick refresher: In "Infinity War," Thanos threw Gamora from Quill's timeline off a cliff on Vormir so that he could claim the Soul Stone. But when the Avengers go back in time to stop him in "Endgame," they create a new timeline branch and, inadvertently, a new Gamora that gets stranded in Quill's timeline. She rejoins the Guardians long enough to knee Star-Lord in the crotch, then disappears. It's worth noting that she's missing from "The Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special" too.

Saldaña's involvement in "Vol. 3" was common knowledge, so Gamora's return isn't that much of a reveal. Who exactly this Gamora would be was the issue at hand. Would Quill be able to re-establish a romance with her, despite the fact that they no longer shared a history? The answer seems to be no, though they do come to respect each other and there is a Gamora from Quill's universe (if not his timeline) out there, should Saldaña ever decide to revisit the role. 

Fake-out: Groot

Low on the list of candidates to bite the bullet was Groot (Vin Diesel). Partly, that was because a version of Groot already sacrificed himself in the first "Guardians of the Galaxy," and because his demise wasn't foreshadowed in any of the promotional materials or interviews. But Groot is the first character to suffer what appears to be a mortal blow. 

The action in the film's present-day timeline gets off to a faster-than-expected start when Adam Warlock (Will Poulter) shows up out of nowhere on Knowhere to battle the Guardians; it's unclear at first whether he's been sent by Ayesha (Elizabeth Debicki) for revenge or by the High Evolutionary (Chukwudi Iwuji) to kidnap Rocket, but it's both. Adam's a formidable opponent, which Groot discovers when he attempts to fight him alone. He wraps his branches around the Sovereign in a shape that looks sort of like the Warlock's birthing pod, but Adam bursts upward, shattering Groot's limbs and leaving him as little more than a head with a few sprouts protruding from his neck. 

Viewers are assured within a split second that Groot's fine. Though he's been brutally decapitated, he never loses consciousness and scurries to safety on his budding legs. Groot is able to withstand this assault because, as long as there's a fresh shoot left anywhere on his body, he's able to regrow his torso and limbs and retain his memories and personality. That doesn't hold true for his noggin, which is why Baby Groot was essentially a new character. 

Fake-out: Adam Warlock

Adam Warlock has his way with Star-Lord, Groot, Rocket, Drax, and Nebula (Karen Gillan) before becoming the next character to seemingly die in "Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3." Nebula takes a particularly harsh beating; Adam lands multiple powerful punches, then sends her flying at high velocity into a building where her crumpled body lies seriously out of whack. Because Nebula can adjust and repair her own cybernetics (even though she's often in blinding pain while doing so), we can't really call her condition after her bout with Adam a fake-out death. But after Rocket suffers life-threatening injuries (which become the inciting incident for the rest of the film), Nebula pulls herself together and gives the mysterious invader a taste of his own medicine. 

Once she's back on her feet, she turns the upgraded and extremely versatile arm that Rocket's engineered for her into a comically large glowing orange energy blade. From behind, while he's distracted, she stabs him straight through the chest. It's a wound that would do in the average superhero let alone the average person, and indeed, Adam Warlock falls lifeless and remains that way for much longer than Groot or Nebula remained static. But as the Guardians are assessing the damage, to themselves and to their adopted planet, they see a golden figure fly off into space. 

How'd he shake off a gaping chest hole? The MCU's Adam Warlock is a Sovereign, but he's version 2.0. In their quest to create perfect, the High Evolutionary and Ayesha gave him extra durability and rapid healing powers that the rest of his kind do not possess.

Fake-out: Drax

Fans' best guess for who was toast in "Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3" was Drax the Destroyer and all signs seemed to be pointing in this direction. Theorizers imagined an ending for Drax in which he nobly gave up his life to save the world or one of his fellow Guardians, then reunited with his long-lost wife and daughter in the afterlife. Then, the emotionally manipulative teaser trailer provided fodder for that theory. Text warned audiences that it was time for the Guardians to face the music. Rocket's voiceover spoke of flying away together one last time into the forever and beautiful sky. Star-Lord and Mantis wailed in anguish. And Drax was shown supported by Mantis (Pom Klementieff) and Gamora with his eyes closed, having taken a shot to the heart. 

Maybe some fans gasped when, sure enough, Drax was on the receiving end of some blaster fire on the Orgoscope. But that scene happens at not quite the midpoint of the movie, and it's mostly played for laughs. Drax's burnt chest took him out of commission at the moment, but not for long. And if this popular Guardian was going to die, it was never going to be this early in the runtime in this anti-climactic of a scene. Instead, Drax lives to see another day and to become the surrogate father to the High Evolutionary's genetically-modified kids, who find his terrible monkey impressions amusing. 

Fake-out: Rocket

Rocket Racoon really does spend most of "Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3" fighting for his life on an examination table, if you don't count the flashback scenes that take place in his memories as he drifts in and out of lucidity. We learn that the High Evolutionary has protected his intellectual property with a kill switch, and the override code is kept in a guarded vault on the Orgoscope. That means, even if Quill knew how to treat his injuries medically, he's powerless to do so until they hack Rocket's system. 

As it often happens in films, Quill finally retrieves that MacGuffin of a computer chip just as Rocket is expiring. This leads to a deeply affecting reunion between Rocket and Lylla (Linda Cardellini) in a Heaven-like setting. Anyone predicting Rocket's death had good reason: that afterlife was featured in trailers, Rocket was curiously missing from most group shots, and Gamora could be seen fleeing with his limp body. 

For a second there, it really seemed like Rocket was going to get to fly off into the forever and beautiful sky with his friends. After all, he is a raccoon who has probably far outlived his anticipated lifespan. But after an extended pause, Lylla tells Rocket that it isn't his time just yet. His soul goes rocketing back to that examination table and he wakes up, Quill's efforts at saving him having succeeded. Rocket not only survives, he happily reclaims the name Raccoon and gets a well-deserved promotion to the new leader of the Guardians of the Galaxy. 

Fake-out: Star-Lord

If there was one fake-out that got the better of audiences, it was the near (and maybe actual, though temporary) death of Star-Lord. Shots from the trailers showed Nebula carrying a possibly dead Peter Quill, but savvy fans pointed out that Rocket was casually sipping at a beverage in those frames. It was unlikely that Quill's friends and colleagues would react so nonchalantly to his passing. This scene occurs early in the movie, and it becomes clear that Quill is simply drunk. 

Star-Lord wrestles with his grief over Gamora in "Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3," but as far as actual wrestling goes, he comes out of most combat situations relatively unscathed. Only when the battle against the High Evolutionary is over and the rescue mission is nearly done does Quill find himself in real danger. As the Guardians ferry humanoids and animals from the floating red pyramid that is Herbert Wyndham's ship to the floating celestial head of Knowhere, Quill notices that his Zune is drifting away from him in space. He goes after it, cavalierly assuming that, like always, he's improvised some method to get back to Knowhere.

But this time, he fails. Quill's friends are forced to watch him freeze and bloat ... until Adam Warlock (who can be killed but can't die in the comics) presumably uses his power to revive him. It turns out, Pratt's Peter Quill was the one Guardian we were never going to lose. A closing title card tells audiences that the legendary Star-Lord will return. But he and James Gunn really had us fooled there for a minute. 

Gone: High Priestess Ayesha

Superhero movies are action movies, and in these films, countless nameless characters usually get dispatched before anyone we know and care about dies. The first death that approaches significance is that of the Ravager to whom Blurp, the furry F'saki, belongs. He's pretty graphically charred to beyond well done by an overzealous Adam Warlock, and the significance is that the Sovereign and High Evolutionary are able to track the Guardians to Gamora's location (Adam also eventually takes on Blurp as his pet). But that chain of events also leads to the first featured character's death: that of High Priestess Ayesha. 

Ayesha wants to use Adam to apprehend Rocket before the folks at OrgoCorp can so that she can impress the High Evolutionary. They travel to Counter-Earth, where Adam squares off against Gamora and almost manages to snag subject 89P13. But alas, the High Evolutionary — having seen how imperfect Counter-Earth is — decides this is the moment to blow it up and start over.

It's devastating to watch the explosions kill innocent Humanimal families, but Ayesha is also caught in the detonation zone. Though the Sovereign don't reproduce "the old-fashioned way" as Star-Lord calls it, Ayesha and Adam still consider themselves mother and son. He tries to save her, but she doesn't have his resilience or regenerative power. This loss is one of the factors that contribute to Adam Warlock switching sides. After he brings Quill back to life, we see him wrapped in a blanket back on Knowhere, then suited up as one of the Guardians in the first post-credits scene.

Gone: Rocket's friends

"Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3" might be a little harder to watch than most Marvel movies for some fans. It's visually and psychologically more grotesque than anything that's come before it. In particular, the High Evolutionary's experiments on animals are harrowing, even though — mercifully — we don't have to witness many of the torturous body modifications taking place. But the mere idea of them is tough enough to stomach, and what ultimately becomes of this group of four fast friends is utterly tragic. 

Kit Rocket, recovering from his experimental surgeries, is thrown into a dark and dirty cell with three other cybernetic animals. They all have alphanumeric designations (beginning with 89 for batch 89), but they decide to name themselves Teefs (Asim Chaudhry), Lylla, and Floor (Mikaela Hoover) and the bond that they form gets them through their miserable existence. Rocket forms an especially tight bond with Lylla, who becomes his love interest (as in the comics). They're holding out hope for the day they'll get to move from their captivity to Herbert Wyndham's promised paradise, but when Rocket learns that day will never come and that they're all scheduled to be exterminated in the morning, he hatches his first plan. 

He builds a key from scrap and opens their cages, but the High Evolutionary and his guards arrive before they can make a run for it. Rocket and Lylla only get one embrace before she's shot in the back. Floor and Teefs are killed, too. The needless deaths of his first friends become the origin story for Rocket's pessimistic outlook on life. 

Gone (we think): The High Evolutionary

The High Evolutionary represents a change of pace for the MCU. For quite a while now, the majority of the franchise's villains have been misunderstood but misguided characters. Audiences could sympathize a little with Killmonger, Wanda, Gorr, Namor, Kang, and even Thanos, even if they couldn't condone their methods. But Chukwudi Iwuki's High Evolutionary is pretty difficult to identify with. His animal abuse is apt to be universally loathed by viewers, and his completely nonsensical ideas about perfection rings of cosmic eugenics. 

There's no real mystery about why he's doing what he's doing in "Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3." He doesn't necessarily want to be a god; he just wants to act as one, creating and destroying life as he alone sees fit. The biggest mystery about him: why is his face stretched out like a canvas in the present timeline? Repeated mentions of a face-off by Star-Lord foreshadow the answer. Before Rocket flew to freedom, he shredded the High Evolutionary's face in retaliation for the murders of his friends. 

But Wyndham survived that attack, as well as an attempted mutiny by his crew when he refuses to let them fall back in their battle against the Guardians. The High Evolutionary's face does (disgustingly) come off before the movie's over, and it sure seems like he goes down with his ship thanks to his hubris. But we don't see him die. Still, odds are — with the Guardians trilogy concluding and with Wyndham seemingly designed to be a one-off antagonist — the High Evolutionary is no more.