On another blog I post at, I recently wrote about the joys of the filler episode, aka the hangout episode. That’s an episode of television that doesn’t have a lot of plot revelations, but instead lets you hang out with the characters you love.
With the Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special, James Gunn has given the MCU the gift of a marvelous hangout episode.
So what happens in the special? Well, the team is on Knowhere, trying to fix the place up after buying it from the Collector. Peter Quill (Chris Pratt) is sad because Gamora has left, so Mantis (Pom Klementieff) and Drax (Dave Bautisa) decide to go to Earth and bring him the best Christmas present ever. Namely, the great Earth hero Kevin Bacon (Kevin Bacon). Hijinx ensue.
And it’s awesome.
The plot is merely an excuse to hang jokes on and get the crew into some truly ugly Christmas sweaters. The trip to Earth goes about as well as you’d expect. Drax and Mantis land in Hollywood and cause chaos because no one can tell them where the great hero Kevin Bacon lives, before finally finding him and kidnapping him back to Knowhere. There’s music, jokes about Santa Claus, and some interesting reactions to Earth liquor.
I’ve complained about this before, but too often Marvel movies and shows can feel more like homework than entertainment. (Watch all of Loki and Ant Man 3 or you won’t understand the arc in Avengers: Kang Dynasty!) The Marvel one off specials – like this and Werewolf by Night – are great since they don’t care at all about fitting into the larger continuity. It’s just a chance for the cast to breathe and have a little fun.
And fun it is! Kevin Bacon gets to play a Christmas song. Drax gets mistaken for the God of War at Grauman’s Chinese and punches out a GoBot. Mantis beats up people with a giant candy cane. There’s a rotoscoped flashback to Peter’s childhood with Yondu. All this in only 44 minutes!
It’s funny, it’s sweet, and there are tender character moments. It’s just about anything you could want in both a Christmas special and a Guardians of the Galaxy special. And it’s a little bittersweet that James Gunn will soon be ending his tenure with the Guardians after the new film comes out next year and he goes off to run DC movies.
And what could be more of a holiday message than that? Hold the ones you care about close, because they won’t be here forever.
5 out of 5