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A Guardians Holiday Special mystery was just solved – here’s what it means

Published Nov 26th, 2022 2:47PM EST
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 poster
Image: Marvel Studios

The Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special is streaming on Disney Plus. It’s a light-hearted, funny MCU adventure that delivers a perfect low-stakes end to Phase 4. The short Marvel movie also provides a big revelation that should impact the action in Guardians 3 and other MCU movies. But the Guardians Holiday Special also gives an important new update to the MCU timeline, which helps us understand the main storyline’s continuity.

Now that the mystery has been solved and we know where the movie sits on the MCU timeline, we can dive into what that means for the bigger picture. Mind you, some minor spoilers will follow below.

The big reveal in the Guardians Holiday Special

The Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special is essentially a Christmas story, the second such MCU adventure after Hawkeye. That means we get our first significant MCU timeline detail from the get-go. You don’t have to stream the special to know the action takes place around Christmas.

Mantis (Pom Klementieff) and Drax (Dave Bautista) are the main stars of this mini-adventure, two characters who have been mostly in the background so far. Especially the former. And the TV film’s big reveal concerns Mantis.

We find out early in Guardians Holiday Special that she is the half-sister of Peter Quill (Chris Pratt). She embarks on this Christmas adventure to give Peter a great Christmas, as he’s still suffering after losing Gamora (Zoe Saldana).

By the end of the special, Quill learns Mantis’s big secret and says this is the best Christmas gift ever. But which Christmas is it exactly?

(L-R): Karen Gillan as Nebula and Pom Klementieff as Mantis in Marvel Studios' The Guardians of the Galaxy: Holiday Special.
(L-R): Karen Gillan as Nebula and Pom Klementieff as Mantis in Marvel Studios’ The Guardians of the Galaxy: Holiday Special. Image source: Marvel Studios

Why the Guardians Holiday Special timeline place is important

Since Guardians Holiday Special is a Disney Plus-only release, we already know its place on the MCU timeline. It’s the very last MCU Phase 4 title in the official chronology, with the action occurring after Werewolf by Night.

This makes sense since Guardians Holiday Special should always have been a Phase 4 epilogue. The only thing missing from the MCU timeline is Wakanda Forever. That’s because Black Panther 2 won’t hit Disney Plus until some point next year.

Even so, we have no idea what Christmas we’re looking at. But based on the title’s placement in Disney Plus’s MCU timeline section, we know that the Guardians Holiday Special happens after Love and Thunder.

The last Thor story told us that the Guardians and Thor (Chris Hemsworth) parted ways. That means the Guardians must have purchased Knowhere after leaving Thor to investigate the mysterious murders of powerful gods.

Also, we know that Love and Thunder happens after Ms. Marvel, which takes place in the fall of 2025. Considering Thor’s account of his relationship with Jane (Natalie Portman) Thor 4 must take place in the fall of 2025 at the earliest. Or a couple of years after the events in Endgame.

Star-Lord (Chris Pratt) and Thor (Chris Hemsworth) in Love and Thunder trailer
Star-Lord (Chris Pratt) and Thor (Chris Hemsworth) in Love and Thunder trailer. Image source: Marvel Studios

The missing detail

In such a case, Guardians Holiday Special gives us a look at the MCU’s Christmas 2025. There’s also a chance that the action in Thor 4 happens in the summer/fall of 2026. In that case, The Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special would happen on Christmas 2026.

With all that in mind, we expect Guardians 3 to take place after the Holiday Special.

Finally, Wakanda Forever happens around the same time as Love and Thunder. We’ll have to wait for the sequel to hit Disney Plus to see precisely how Marvel arranges the final Phase 4 film on the sacred Disney Plus MCU timeline.


More Marvel coverage: For more MCU news, visit our Marvel guide.

Chris Smith
Chris Smith Senior Writer

Chris Smith has been covering consumer electronics ever since the iPhone revolutionized the industry in 2008. When he’s not writing about the most recent tech news for BGR, he closely follows the events in Marvel’s Cinematic Universe and other blockbuster franchises. Outside of work, you’ll catch him streaming almost every new movie and TV show release as soon as it's available.