Why Nebula has one of the best character arcs in Endgame

Warning: this article contains HEAPS of spoilers!    To say that Avengers: Endgame is one of the cinematic greats of our generation would be an understatement. It had it all, with a plethora of different Marvel franchises colliding to create […]

Warning: this article contains HEAPS of spoilers! 


To say that Avengers: Endgame is one of the cinematic greats of our generation would be an understatement. It had it all, with a plethora of different Marvel franchises colliding to create the clusterfuck of greatness that was 3 painful hours of holding in the urge to piss all over myself. While this pain was consuming me whole, Black Widow flung herself off a cliff. I also kind of feel like Hawk-Eye living and Black Widow dying left a whole metaphorical sublayer of meaning left untouched. If Hawk-Eye died and Black Widow lived, would that not mean she technically would have killed him as the spiders do in real life? Or is it more meaningful because she died for the one she loved, therefore, breaking down the assumption that all black widows eat their mates? Okay, I’m analysing way to much into the superhero’s name here, but you get the gist by the title I’m hoping. This is about Nebula. She is badass female character who deserves her own spin-off.


I love Guardians of the Galaxy for it’s cheeky, comedic involvement in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. It has a special space (get it) in my heart (mainly) because Chris Pratt is everything I could ever want in a man, but also due to its extremely strong supporting cast of females which are more badass than Starlord will ever be. Gamora and Nebula’s feud is an arc fuelled by Thanos’ malevolent and cruel personality which altered her physical and mental state completely, contorting Nebula into a soulless, killing machine hell-bent on destroying her father and anything that gets in her way. Nebula’s blue cyborg assassin aesthetic matches her cold, dry, and somewhat wooden-style personality in the first Guardians of the Galaxy film in 2014. However, throughout the years and instalments, we have witnessed the evolution of Nebula’s character with her internal conflict coming to a climax in both Infinity War and Endgame as she takes her fate into her own robotic hands. With each appearance in the MCU, Nebula’s role and character evolve with her shift from villain to antihero to Guardian, making her one of the most infatuating female characters to ever walk onto the scene.


Nebula Guardians of the Galaxy


Her grumpy, direct, unhesitant and dry approach to her (by association) comrades of this film, for some reason, make her loveable and human, with her reactions being some of my favourite in the entire film. She still harbours her belligerent personality, however in a calmer, less bloodthirsty way allowing for her quick retorts to be witty, sassy and hilarious in the context of her character. Nebula in this way becomes a character we hope to root for. Nebula’s starvation of emotion made some particular moments a lot more impactful – like giving the last of her rations to Tony, and taking Rocket’s hand as they remember their fallen Guardians. As a cyborg with little emotional intelligence due to her abusive father, we see Nebula begin to embrace empathy that she was denied and learned to interact with others beyond fighting. She becomes a representation of the change that drives characters to evolve beyond their constrained labels of who they are as people. However, Nebula’s change is unique because it isn’t forced on her by her situation, or by an act of science like The Hulk, Ironman or Spiderman. Rather, it’s a result of her own reconsideration of what she deserves out of life and how she has crafted her own identity with what she has.


Her grumpy nature remains as one of my favourite aspects of her overall character with her dry and sarcastic humour being the highlights. When she turns her head as if to say, ‘what the fuck’ to someone’s idiotic question (I lose it every time), it allows her to show emotion with her actions and not her words without having to slice someones head off. Her actions are the most important part of this film, wherein the past Nebula would act on her belligerent killer instinct without hesitation for the consequences of others. She relies on her emotions to convince her past self that she can change as she has in the future. We see a clear juxtaposition of Nebula’s erratic, emotionally-starved nature in the past, to then seeing her future self where she is confused by even the concept of siding with the Avengers over the power that she so desperately craves to please the man that tortured her.


Nebula Avengers


Nebula’s past of being torn apart and rebuilt by Thanos as a form of punishment for her failures, and the mental and physical torture we see her suffer throughout the series are more than just reflections of the hardships in her life. They are calculated actions which aim to devalue her existence and worth in the world, wrapping her constructed body around the very fingers that caused her suffering. In Avengers: Endgame, Nebula was able to confront her own feelings of self-worth by interacting with a past version of herself, pleading with herself that she can be a hero. Her offer is rejected with this past Nebula still being tightly woven into Thanos’ grasp. In a scene of poetic justice, Nebula murders her old self to cement her place in her current reality, creating a new Nebula in the galaxy. Nebula’s actions solidify her position as an enemy of Thanos, as he no longer has ownership over her, she has become her own driver of her future through an examination of her own free will. Nebula’s rise as an Avenger wasn’t simply the result of chance or offer to be a hero, and it was not circumstantial, but it was an act of her personal free will which she has been so cruelly rejected.


I believe we have an affinity with a cyborg character like Nebula as she humanises herself. She is the most human part about this film which is slightly ironic as she’s a cyborg. Her evolution as a character from the first Guardians of the Galaxy film transcends her role as a third tier villain. The thing that transfixed me the most is Nebula’s transition; she went from a seemingly one-dimensional bad guy to a hero that I feel for and wanted to succeed throughout Endgame.


Nebula Guardians Galaxy


Throughout Endgame, Nebula challenges her own assumptions of herself and triumphs Thanos’ attempt to keep her in his grasp. In the final battle, we see this clearly with Nebula as she’s getting the Infinity Gauntlet to safety and without the hesitation or struggle with her past erratic impulses. She commits to her new role wholeheartedly with humanity being the defining feature for what drives her decisions. Nebula is not defined by her appearance or victimhood but instead empowered by it as she uses her strength as a cyborg against her father in various circumstances – like when she obtained the power stone. Nebula shows an outpour of the human spirit from her cold body as she does not only act because she must, but because she desires to assist humanity’s fight.


Nebula has taken the place of one of my favourite characters in the MCU. Seeing her play ‘paper-football’ with Tony and getting excited about winning was funny at first, then a bit heartbreaking when you realise she NEVER gets to win. My next big wish for the MCU film is to see her smile. Nebula’s story of hardship to hardship and little moments of emotion coming from deep within her soul speaks volumes of how the story of the cyborg who became a Guardian and Avenger is one of the most empowering parts of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. I can’t wait to see where Nebula goes from here.


Feature image used from