How Karen Gillan’s Character Had One of the MCU’s Best Arcs

Adopted daughter of the Mad Titan Thanos, Nebula was a feared space pirate and mercenary who was once ruthless in her ways, determined to win her father’s favor despite knowing it was never hers to begin with. She was recognized as one of the most relentless and brutal assassins in the entire galaxy after being raised as a bio-weapon. Her rage drove her actions as she fought her way to achieve her own version of revenge. It was never truly determined what Nebula’s lineage was before she was taken in by Thanos, but Marvel Comics describes her past as filled with abuse that she struggles to break free from. She became a force to be feared as she made her way through the stars. His thirst for power was insatiable. She made enemies of some of Marvel’s most popular faces she would cross paths with later in the Marvel Cinematic Universe and even wear the Infinity Gauntlet as his own.


by James Gunn guardians of the galaxy became a smash hit after the once-obscure intergalactic team was introduced to mainstream audiences. The leap from comic books to live-action was timed enough to deepen the lore around the MCU, while digging into the otherworldly inspiration that would diversify the franchise’s brand. guardians of the galaxy was a pivotal moment in the Infinity Saga as it was tasked with presenting a more detailed look at Thanos and the dynamic between his children. Karen Gillan made her MCU debut as Nebula, a secondary Guardian villain. Subsequently, Nebula achieved a higher rating in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 and eventually Infinity War and End of Game. With each film, Gillan’s humanoid assassin got more screen time, building his overarching story. Now Gillan is locked up for both Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 and the next Thor: Love and Thunder as the main character, which promises to tell more of his story. Nebula has come a long way from her villainous position in guardians of the galaxy. Here’s how she had one of the best character arcs in the MCU’s Infinity Saga.

Related: Guardians of the Galaxy 3 Star Shares Image of Battered and Damaged Nebula

Nebula is presented as an injured character for a reason

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When first seen meeting Thanos for the first time, Nebula is eager to please her selfless father and constantly seeks his approval. The Mad Titan’s need to reward her with praise and the desire to be seen as an equal to Gamora were strong motivations for her character. Unlike other characters who find themselves tossed about by their underutilization, Nebula first becomes a villain due to her bewilderment. There’s a purpose behind the pain with which she’s portrayed: that raw, banished feeling acts as an incubator for Nebula’s arc through future projects, providing a narrative centerpiece for her Infinity Saga journey.

According to SlashFilmNebula was originally meant to be killed during the events of the first Guardian of the Galaxy, though she was spared by Gunn as there were other plans for her evolution. It was first noted that Nebula was devoid of a personality upon her inauguration in the MCU as she was consumed with self-mourning. Without the spiky, lamentable, bitter approach, Gillan’s performance as Nebula wouldn’t have had a chance to mature.

His bow is more than a plot device

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Nebula’s bow is both necessary for her character development and to push the guardians of the galaxy saga ahead. However, more than a plot, it symbolizes the resilience of survivors of abuse. The first film features Nebula internalizing her past and clinging to her neglect as she craves to be noticed. The relentless desire to be noticed is later let go as she embraces a new approach to who she is, freeing herself from the need for external validation, especially Thanos. She retreats from her past and receives a stronger, reformed cover. Her aggression and assertiveness are replaced with self-acceptance as she and her sister mend their broken past during Guardians of the Galaxy Vol.. 2, a film that effectively solidified Nebula’s redemption. The sequel was smart enough to include the rendition of their relationship with enough weight where it was punchy and not distracting.

Nebula choosing to join the Guardians instead of continuing to fight them may seem like a surface-level plot. Beneath this, however, is a deeper connotation. The moment she stops dwelling on her past and embraces the future is a step forward that symbolizes overcoming abuse and reclaiming her life as her own. Nebula’s On-Screen Transformation and the gradual change in his character insists that his past does not define his present or his future. This reinforces the message that those subjected to any form of abuse are not defined by the actions taken against them and are able to defend their setbacks. Gunns’ reimagining of the character demonstrates that strength and resilience are unwavering forces.

Related: James Gunn Cryptically Teases His Marvel Future

Nebula’s redemption is earned, not given

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His story remained open from Avengers: Endgame, hinting that Nebula is up for review. This open ending is written in a natural way that convinces an audience that there’s nothing forced or preserved about her on-screen transformation. What is most remarkable about Nebula’s redemption is that it is earned, not given. She’s not introduced as a villain and then redeemed by the post-credits scenes of guardians of the galaxy, she doesn’t stagnate in her antagonistic ways either. The shift from struggling to be recognized by Thanos to determining to defeat him doesn’t happen all at once – she must regain trust and deem herself worthy when she joins forces with the Avengers. Building relationships with those around her took time to fully develop, demonstrating that Nebula needed to reconsider how she was seen through the eyes of others and attempt to repair the damage done to her reputation. His shared scene with Tony “Iron Man” Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) in Avengers: Endgame could not happen without the time to control the rate of change around its arc.

Thinking about how Nebula would take a step back from her destructive behaviors and regain her humanity isn’t outright attributed to her. The balanced timing of its self-improvement is a testament to the fact that one of the MCU’s best arcs has to progress slowly to be deep. It may fall by the wayside, but Nebula’s storyline is one of Marvel Studio’s best. It states that people must want to change to reach their personal best and that there must be an effort to achieve this goal. Nothing is handed over to Nebula, which makes following up on her arc all the more interesting.


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