So I finally realized what the main problem is with the show right now (out of many problems, sure, but there’s one that’s really sticking out). At the individual level, the show has finally gotten a handle on the characters. At the team level, it’s still very much suspect. I’ve mentioned this before, but the film never really quite established the broken codependency that the Guardians would need to stick together despite not quite liking each other or working towards a similar goal. The show could have done more in that regard–and in some ways they have–but not enough to really establish that the group are in any ways “friends”. Teammates? Sure. Awkward acquaintances? Alright. Hostile co-workers? I’ll buy it. Friends? That’s a bit too much.

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Part of this is because “friendship” is an awkwardly broad term, since there’s a really a large spectrum in which we can consider who are friends are. A “friend you can trust with your life” is different than a “friend you just like to hang out with.” The show wants to the Guardians to be both, but it just doesn’t click. Take the opening, in which Quill inadvertently starts an intergalactic brawl–again. Drax and Gamora immediately jump in to defend their “friend,” which feels disingenuous to their character (especially when Drax straight up says this). Rocket, who waits on the side to watch the disaster unfold (up until he’s forced into the fight), feels a lot more appropriate. Like, it’s one thing if the Guardians were just jonesing for a battle and used the “protecting Quill as a friend” as an excuse. But it feels like the writers want the friendship concept to stand out and it’s not really working, especially with the faux-breakups, when Quill pretends to abandon the team to stay with his father and new royal family.

Any “mature” conflicts between Quill and the Guardians are dramatically false. The “mature” conflict between Quill and his father is stronger, primarily because Peter shuts up for once. He doesn’t crack-wise once while listening to his father tell the story of what happened when found, then subsequently lost, the Cosmic Seed, and crash-landed onto Earth, where he met Quill’s mother. It’s a nice, vulnerable moment for both characters, allowing them to connect in a way that’s a lot more personal than being Spartax royalty. But it’s also clear that the moment is used for J’Son to lull Quill into a false sense of security to do his dirty work for him–namely, to run to Asgard and steal back the Cosmic Seed for him and his master, Thanos. It’s a clever bit of subtly from a show not exactly known for it, and Quill buys it one hundred percent, not even questioning the conveniently-placed bag of gear right near him.

That being said: is it me, or has the Cosmic Seed storyline become needlessly complicated? Before, it was a boring means to an end; follow the trail of the Cosmic Seed to various places, all while getting involved in insane situations. Now this Seed is the key to a maybe-war between Spartax and Asgard, instigated by Loki, but also Thanos and Ronin want it. And for this episode in particular, Quill has to steal the Seed from Asgard to prove his father didn’t steal it, but he finds that it’s not there, but then, when they’re captured, they manage to talk Thor and his sister into not going to war (it was all a big misunderstanding!), despite Loki’s attempts. It’s a plot that manages to be both confusing and simple at the same time, and I feel like if you really were to chart the plot points in detail, the whole thing falls apart. Still, I did like that the problem was solved via talking and cooler heads. While it mostly just seems like it’s delaying what could be an epic Spartax/Asgard fight (with the Guardians and a whole bunch of characters in the midst of it), it’s cool to see smart diplomacy winning out, in contrast to the quick-to-fight behavior at the beginning of the episode.

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Stray observations

  • Before grabbing the gear, Quill looks at a picture of his mother before taking it. It’s a wonderful, small moment. I don’t mind silly Quill, but seeing brief dramatic beats from the character are greatly needed to bolster up his more ridiculous antics.
  • I loved how Quill claimed victory over taking out Heimdall with an object he had no idea would work. It was just a funny comic beat they couldn’t mess up, even if they tried.
  • I like that Thor was a voice of reason at the end. We know from his movies that he, too, was once a brat like Peter, so showing him be mature was a nice foil to utilize. In fact, watching them both reason through the situation to avoid war was a smart way to show a bit of development of their characters.
  • That being said, Thor’s sister, Angela, is in this episode, but is effectively worthless.
  • I’m not sure what to say of Quill winning back over his teammates with, uh, furniture accessories. Why would Gamora of Drax give a shit about blankets and throw pillows? This is an example of the show forcing a joke at the expense of characterization.
  • Kind of sucks they dismissed Gamora’s explanation of Yggdrasil, the world tree, as it’s an interesting story, but I think that’s the writers tacitly acknowledging that adding yet another layer of complication to the Cosmic Seed storyline is too much.
  • “If being a thief makes you a bad guy, then none of us would be heroes.” This is a way more complicated line than the episode, and the show itself, can handle.
  • Peter standing up to his father at the end and rejoining his “family,” which is to say, the Guardians, feels false, because there never was any real tension in the idea of him and the Guardians really separating. This is the core theme that Mairghread Scott’s script completely fails to nail down.

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