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Thank You for Rocket Raccoon’s Story, ‘Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3’

Rocket Raccoon flying a ship

My favorite character in Guardians of the Galaxy was Rocket Raccoon. My love for him just continued to grow with each new movie, and when I began to see the trailers for Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3, I was terrified he was going to die. He is a character I’ve just gravitated towards, maybe because he is a weapon who didn’t want to be created, and my love of animals just took over. Or maybe it’s because of Rocket’s deep-seated need to be loved despite acting otherwise. Whatever the case may be, he was the one I chose.

But we rarely got to know anything about how he came to be the talking raccoon with an often bad attitude, though we watched as he grew and changed. From the start of this franchise, he took to heart what people needed from him and tried to be better. He was still the Rocket we knew and loved, but he was more willing to show his love for his friends and found family.

Rocket may not tell you outright that he loves you, but he’d show it to those closest to him, and that growth led into one of the most heart-wrenching arcs in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3. It’s often hard to watch and had me coming home from the theater and clinging to my cat, promising to protect him always, but it’s a story that lets us know exactly who Rocket Raccoon is and why he needs the Guardians just as much as they need him.

And it has been a long time coming, but as Lylla says to Rocket, “The story was always yours. You just didn’t know it.”

Just a boy who wants to protect

Rocket Raccoon all strapped down in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3
(Marvel Entertainment)

From the start, Rocket was protective. His relationship with Groot meant a lot to him, and he didn’t want to let the other Guardians in, emotionally, both to protect himself and also to protect what he had. That eventually changed to him protecting his family and doing whatever they needed for him, which is why Vol. 3 hurts so deeply—because it’s finally the moment when everyone else has to protect Rocket.

When Rocket is first turned into an experiment by the High Evolutionary, he’s protected by Lylla. She’s an otter who also fell victim to the villain’s whims, but she’s there to help her friends cope. She takes care of Rocket, teaches him, and lets him have fun with them. It’s Lylla, Floor, Teefs, and Rocket against the world, so when Rocket thinks he’s dying, of course he looks for guidance from Lylla, the one person who protected him.

But it shows that Rocket learned from Lylla how to protect those he loves and make sure they’re taken care of, and it informs how he reacts to the Guardians, but especially with his relationship to Peter. We see them grow so close and become best friends in a way that we hadn’t before, and it’s nice to see them truly together and on the same side as partners, even if Peter has to leave him in the end to go back to Earth for a bit.

But it all leads to Rocket learning a lot about himself.

He didn’t know he was a raccoon

Young Rocket Raccoon looking sad in Marvel's Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3.
(Marvel Entertainment)

From the moment we met him, Rocket would fight people on what animal names they called him. When people would rightfully call him a raccoon, he’d say that he was not one. I always thought it was because he didn’t want to be associated with animals when he was created into something else. The reality is that he just didn’t know.

The movie starts with Rocket being “chosen” by the High Evolutionary to be one of his projects, and later in the movie, we get to see Rocket “choosing” to save baby raccoons that were there to serve the High Evolutionary’s purposes. He’s going to protect those animals that were going to be tortured in the same way he was. But while he’s doing it, he sees that they’re called raccoons, and it’s then he realizes that he is actually a raccoon.

It’s what makes him fighting the High Evolutionary so satisfying. Subject: 89P13 is the number that he gave Rocket, and that’s what he calls him throughout the movie, but when the two come face to face after all these years and the High Evolutionary goes to call him a number once again, Rocket corrects him. He says that he’s Rocket Raccoon. And that line made me cheer, because our boy knows who he is.

Thank you, James Gunn

Rocket standing on Groot's shoulder while firing a gun in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3
(Marvel Entertainment)

From the start, Guardians writer/director James Gunn has always said that it was Rocket he loved, and I always sort of had trust that Gunn would give me the Rocket arc I was looking for. Hearing Lylla say that it was Rocket’s story all along really did hit me. It was that moment that made me want to go and get a tattoo for my boy. It was the instanct that I realized just how important he was, not only to me but to the story as a whole.

Rocket has always cared. We’ve seen it in the adjustments he does for Nebula or in the way he instantly asks for her when he comes back to himself. It’s in the way he protects Peter even when Quill wants to self destruct, and knowing that it was all leading to Rocket’s story being the entire trilogy just really hit in a way I wasn’t expecting—which is foolish of me, since Rocket is my favorite one of all. I should have known. But Gunn gave me the arc I needed for Rocket.

And I do think it’s only a matter of time before I get Lylla’s quote to Rocket tattooed on me because it is something that I think I often forget about for myself. So, thank you for doing my boy justice, and thank you for clearly loving Rocket in the same way that I do.

(featured image: Marvel Entertainment)

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Rachel Leishman (She/Her) is an Assistant Editor at the Mary Sue. A writer her whole life but professionally starting back in 2016 who loves all things movies, TV, and classic rock. Resident Spider-Man expert, official Leslie Knope, actually Yelena Belova. Wanda Maximoff has never done anything wrong in her life. Star Wars makes her very happy. New York writer with a passion for all things nerdy. Yes, she has a Pedro Pascal podcast. And also a Harrison Ford one.