The 10 Coolest Moments From The Guardians Of The Galaxy Holiday Special

Warning: The article below contains spoilers for Marvel Studios' "The Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special."

For over a decade, the Marvel Cinematic Universe has painstakingly interwoven interconnected superhero storylines. But after 30 films, nine television shows, and countless mid-credit scenes, it's a welcomed relief that James Gunn's "The Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special" refreshingly feels like a zany one-shot comic about Drax (Dave Bautista) and Mantis (Pom Klementieff) came to life. Gunn hangs up some shields and steers the Bowie away from the typical MCU epic to gift us silly pit stops as Mantis pulls Drax and Kevin Bacon into holiday hijinks.

What's most enjoyable about this special is how it opens the doorway for future MCU properties to embrace the idea that a side-quest adventure can be enough to entertain viewers. Not everything has to be connected or a jumping-off point for another film. Yes, some threads emerge that will appear in "Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3" — like Mantis being Peter Quill's (Chris Pratt) sister or Cosmo living on Knowhere. But there are beats that might only live in this special, and that's delightful! 

Part of the joy of reading a one-shot comic is the feeling that you're gaining a hidden insight into a character (or their relationships) that challenges your prior notions. You feel like you're a part of the inside joke or tender backstory; Gunn lands that vibe well. Here, I'll explore the beats that made us feel like cool, honorary Guardian family members this merry season.

Soviet Cosmo And Rocket's Friendship

Cosmo returns! At the start of "The Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special," Cosmo (Maria Bakalova) and Rocket Raccoon (Bradley Cooper) are rebuilding Knowhere. What follows is a delightful exchange of sass. Of course, Raccoon criticizes how well Cosmo uses her telekinesis. But Cosmo is not one to take that lying down. She tells him to give her "one of those delicious treats in the bag," as she continues to mend the Guardians' new base of operations.

Previously in the MCU, Rocket hadn't really encountered someone who has been through what he has. In Cosmo, he has a fellow animal companion that knows what it's like to be underestimated based on your appearance. The duo has lived through the same tragic experience of being a specimen thanks to someone else's thirst for power. However, they use their altered abilities and sarcasm to conquer what life throws their way. Considering their similarities, it's not hard to imagine the duo's future adventures together.

Will we see the duo on-screen again? Who knows! But there's enough here to suggest a deeper, off-screen friendship, which can be just as fruitful for fans to experience as it inspires us to imagine more. (Rocket wouldn't trust just anyone to help him build things!)

Yondu Returns ... Sort Of

Seeing Yondu (Michael Rooker) return to the world of the Guardians was nothing less than a surprise treat. Harkening back to the early days of animation, "The Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special" uses rotoscope-animated vignettes to tell a Christmas memory that happened once upon a time when Quill was a young boy traveling through space. 

MCU projects don't play as much as they could with non-linear storytelling — not counting the Blip years or the reality-bending shenanigans of Phase 4's multiverse. Yes, timeline shifts do happen but that's often used to utilize a plot choice rather than expand a character's mythos. Once Yondu gifted away his whistling arrows and sacrificed himself for Quill, it didn't seem likely Yondu would reappear. However, having Yondu return in a voiceover role and within a memory changes that precedent for the better. This move paves the way for future filmmakers to bring in canonically dead MCU characters in inventive ways that can alter (or in this case, deepen our unending love for daddy Yondu!) our feelings about them.

Quill feels like a space-age Bobby Hill here, learning how to connect to his new father figure that — like Hank Hill — struggles to see when his son needs kinder parenting tactics. Watching the pair resolve this misunderstanding gives us added depth to the love these two shared: Quill taught Yondu how to have some fun whereas Yondu taught Quill self-reliance.

Drax And Mantis Go To A Gay Bar

Since "Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2," Drax and Mantis have had an antagonistic friendship. But that's what works for them! Drax is hyper-literal and struggles to understand concepts outside his brutish worldview. Mantis is an empath with the superpower to alter others' feelings. When paired up, the two almost make one responsible adult. Both are so stubborn that they often lead the other into mayhem, though they'll then point fingers at each other for whose to blame. Despite their caddy dynamic, we know these two lovable mischief agents care for one another. However, we seldom see that play out on-screen.

Finally, Drax and Mantis stop bickering and enter a gay bar in "The Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special." Mantis discovers she likes shots. Drax is every guy's eye candy. The two dance and own the floor. While Drax is the kind of character who finds no trouble amusing himself with his own jokes, it's more than time that we see he's learned enough about humans to let loose around them. Additionally, we don't see him relentlessly poke fun at Mantis here, as a previous iteration might. She's a part of his chosen family, and we feel how special their connection is — especially as Mantis screams with unabashed glee.

Kevin Bacon Chase Scene

Despite knowing that Kevin Bacon would appear in "The Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special," I never expected him to be chased out of his own house by Drax and Mantis as Fountains of Wayne's "I Want An Alien for Christmas" needle-drop hits. Bacon leans into the mayhem with pitch-perfect slapstick comedy. What starts as a Christmas wish setup quickly escalates into a kidnapping attempt that crescendos with a surprise trashing of cop cars. 

The madcap action is hysterical, as the situation dominos into so much destruction. But what works best here is how this sequence expands Mantis' character. She's no longer meek nor overly willing to please others. She came to get Kevin Bacon, and by god, will she get him, even if it means parkouring off the walls or jumping over fences. Her desire to give Quill a Christmas he won't forget overrides social pleasantries, and fans get a taste of her unending and powerful compassion — an unleashed force that's as terrifying as Drax's rage issues.

The Funny Lil' Guys

Oh, the funny lil' guys! Here is a perfect example of where the bickering between Drax and Mantis works, as it's heated but not as cruel as earlier fights. He's not calling her ugly, nor is she calling him dumb. They are aliens on Earth, trying to make sense of the world's customs. Do they? Nope! But do they think they understand it better than one another? Yes, and that's what makes the moment's situational humor work. Their bantering of what counts as a lil' guy or not reminds viewers of the kinds of nonsensical fights siblings get into about trivial things, especially when they're younger. Although they've been a found family for some time, they're still learning how to function together and have their fair share of childish skirmishes.

Drax wants to be the only one with a lil' guy, so he tells Mantis that hers counts, knowing it doesn't but not wanting to share his. However, she loves her candy cane and becomes annoyed when one of the police officers (still in the crashed, upside-down cop car) tells her it's not a lil' guy. Of course, Drax loses his elf. Still, by the end of the special, Mantis gifts him an elf and the two embrace, proving their connection overrides any argument.

Kevin Bacon Being The Bestest Sport

One of the best lines in the holiday special is when Mantis tells Kevin Bacon, "Be Kevin Bacon but if he didn't suck." Of course, this moment arrives post-kidnapping the star. As they soar somewhere in the vast galaxy, Drax and Mantis realize that Bacon isn't a hero in the way they initially thought. He didn't save a town through dance, despite Quill telling them he did. When they realize he's an actor — a seemingly Earth concept that the aliens immediately understand — they're disgusted! Mantis and Drax agree that actors are the worst and make puking noises. Thankfully, Bacon is still under Mantis' power spell, so he doesn't mind them calling his vast body of work and pursuit in life dumb.

However, kudos go to Bacon for being a good sport! Some actors might shy away from starring in a film that so directly pokes fun at their craft. But Bacon plays the straight man here with aplomb, so the joke lands without cringe-worthy rebuttals. Older audiences will laugh at the star's tongue-in-cheek delivery whereas younger viewers will love the puke gag.

Mantis' Reveal To Peter Quill

Right before "The Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special" hit Disney+, James Gunn tweeted, "This is Mantis' true debut as her full-fledged self in the MCU, out of the background & out of the shadow of Ego." Throughout its runtime, it's clear that this is Pom Klementieff's show. 

On the surface, her motivation to give Quill a Christmas he'll remember comes from her believing Yondu ruined the holiday for him. However, what truly pushes her to kidnap a celebrity is something altogether. Until the last frame, Quill has no idea that Mantis is his sister. She casually mentions this to Drax at the start of the special, suggesting that Mantis has just been waiting for a non-universe-ending time to tell Quill this news. 

Her desire to please Quill — and to go to such extreme lengths — showcases how deeply she wants to be loved by her brother. While the Guardians have always been about found family, it's touching that its core group also includes blended families as well. When Mantis tells him the news, he embraces her, giving Mantis the gift she wanted this holiday season. For anyone who has an unconventional family, this moment will strike a lot of joy in their hearts.

Rocket's Gift

While Mantis' acceptance from Peter is the sweetest gift of the holiday special, it's hard to top Rocket's Christmas gift. Somehow (and I don't even want to know how in order to keep this zany mystery alive) Nebula gifted Rocket Bucky's (Sebastian Stan) bionic arm. In "Avengers: Infinity War," Rocket asked if he could buy Bucky's gun. After Bucky turns him down, Rocket asks him how much for his arm, a question that definitely made the Winter Soldier uncomfortable even if Bradley Cooper's deadpan delivery made MCU fans chuckle.

Sure, this bionic arm could be a replica. However, this is again one of those "one-shot comic-like" moments where it lands so funnily because we don't know how it happened. The lack of exposition and reasoning here makes Nebula even more terrifying while also maintaining the empathetic-leaning arc she's been on since she debuted in the MCU. She used to call Rocket a rodent and threaten to rip him into shreds, and now she went to — what we can only delightfully imagine were extreme odds — to give him the weapon his heart truly desires.

Groot Being The Worst Christmas Tree

In "The Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special," Groot (Vin Diesel) has entered his swole stage — a strong uncanny valley contender if I ever saw one! (I was half expecting Groot's head to come off and to have Diesel wishing us happy holidays at the end of the Disney+ special.) We've seen baby-dancing Groot, and whiny teenager Groot, so I guess this might be 20-something-himbo-Groot time? (I DO NOT LIKE.) Though, James Gunn has stressed that this "swole" version of Groot works to illustrate how his physique is stockier than his father's.

Thankfully, it seems like Cosmo and Rocket are on the same page as me. In a mid-credits scene, the duo decides to force Groot — and all his bulky limbs — to be their Christmas tree. While it's unclear how long himbo Groot had to stand there, it seems like they spent a ton of time dressing him. Much to Cosmos' dismay, Groot drops his arms and the ornaments fall. Similarly to their opening scene together, this moment works as it's a small glimpse into the misadventures of Cosmo and Rocket, suggesting that the pair have a lot of unseen fun on Knowhere. Small but memorable moments like this give richness to these characters' relationships that tease a potential for more stories without overpowering the narrative.

Here It Is Christmastime Singalong

Since 2014's "Guardians of the Galaxy" film, music has been a central part of its story. Songs connect Peter to his late mother, and as he's found a new family in outer space, he has spread his love of tunes to them, too. Heck, he once danced his way to save the universe! However, this is the first time where the Guardians have actively gathered around in a singalong that takes place in-world — starring Quill's favorite actor, Kevin Bacon — during their first official (or at least televised) Christmastime together. And, yes, it's magical.

Old 97's members become intergalactic musicians, teaming up with Bacon to sing "Here It Is Christmastime" as the special comes to a close. The coolest aspect of this finale song is that James Gunn risks ending on a heartfelt — not sardonic — note. Earlier in the film, the Old 97's sing a sillier version of the song as their confused alien counterparts. But the reprise brings the holiday special home in a way that dares viewers to root themselves in the here and now. Previously, Gunn has stated that "Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3" will be a "heavier" and "emotional" story, so this sweet reprieve feels like a wonderful way to celebrate these weirdos' growth. Anyone who has experienced grief knows that, in time, these good memories will become precious. No matter what happens to them next, their joy has become immortalized for us.

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