‘What If?’ Season 2 Episode 1 Recap & Ending Explained: How Does Nebula Save Xandar?

By the looks of the first episode, MCU’s anthology of alternative narratives doesn’t come back empty-handed right around Christmas. The episode is of wish fulfillment in strange, tumultuous ways, as this version of Nebula’s path replaces absolute loss with the warmth of something she’s secretly craved all her life. The only thing that would make the deal even sweeter is if the classic crime thriller vibes of Nebula’s time in Xandar continued through the rest of the season.

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Spoilers Ahead


Why Is Nebula In Xandar?

Nebula and loneliness have always been sort of synonymous. But the Nebula that the Watcher gets us acquainted with is now truly alone—lost in the vast cold of space in its literal sense. Ronan, the accuser, has taken her problematic family away from her. And, in the absence of her sister and her Infinity Stones-obsessed father, Nebula has a new shot at picking the kind of life she’s going to live. Nova Prime yanks her away from this sure fate of death and brings her to Xandar, a planet bustling with inhabitants of the universe she either knows or doesn’t. Xandar is hope to Nebula, a reliable shot at never having to look back at a past marred by her father’s toxic ambitions. Her soldier spirit pairs well with the Nova Corps job she takes up—to protect and serve. But bad luck hasn’t left her side, even on Xandar. Like everyone and everything else on the planet, Nebula is caught inside the protective shield Nova Prime wraps around Xandar. Ronan has a score to settle. And what he’s now aiming for is a complete takeover of Xandar.

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Why Does Nebula Investigate Yondu’s Murder?

Once friends and partners in crime and loyalty, it isn’t easy on Nebula to have to face Yondu’s corpse with a stoic face. But she’s got her image to maintain before her Nova Corps superior, Saal, and his men. How Saal sees people like Yondu is evident from the fact that the tragedy brings him an appalling sense of joy. It’s less the kind of relief a man obsessively passionate about law and order gets from the death of a criminal and more the ghoulish pleasure an evil man draws from other people’s losses. The death, however, is clearly not random. At least that much is evident from the weird schematic hologram that pops out of Yondu’s Yoko Arrow, only for the eyes of Nebula. If that isn’t enough to pique her curiosity, the woman she has the utmost respect for assigns her the exclusive task of conducting the investigation herself. The planet’s apparently running low on time, and complete destruction is what it will wake up to at dawn.


Is Nova Prime On Ronan’s Side?

It’s not exactly classy, but Howard the Duck’s nightclub is certainly the hippest dive in Xandar. As sarcastic as ever, Howard doesn’t need to have the information that Nebula is after to be cool. That’s not to say that Korg’s turning out to be the one with the answer doesn’t make him way cooler. Yondu’s arrow somehow got hold of the location of the city’s mainframe core. And considering that’s where the source code for the shield generator is, Nebula has to find a way to erase it before it falls into the wrong hands and deprives the planet of its protective bubble. She’s not the type to harbor any narcissistic warrior ego and isn’t in two minds about asking for help when she needs it. A rabid riot and a prison break later, Nebula seems to have found the cunning brain she needs in the prisoner who was once a Kree commander, Yon-Rogg. Together, through heat and flooding, they do get dangerously close to the ominous-looking orb holding the source code. But the plugged-in cyborg is unsurprisingly stabbed with a data drive of betrayal. Nebula does escape the explosion Yon-Rogg planned in hopes of sending her off to wherever cyborgs go after death, but the heartbreak that awaits at the end of the tunnel is something she didn’t expect. Nebula must’ve felt wretched at the cold-hearted show of absolute disrespect from the person whom she thought was her savior. The woman she’s always looked up to, the one whom she believed to be the embodiment of righteousness, was a sell-out. Nova Prime exchanged her values for a seat at the top when she shook hands with Ronan.

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How Does Nebula Save Xandar?

Is Nova Prime all bad? Not if you look beyond her more glaring, immediately noticeable moral decline. It was a tough decision to seal off the planet, knowing how stir-crazy everyone would go being stuck inside the shield. Chaos followed the claustrophobic depression of the masses. How’s anyone to spend 50 long years in such a state? Locking themselves away to avoid Ronan’s invasion, the Xandarians embraced the dreadful isolation just to ensure their survival. Yet, this cold loneliness has made the likes of Howard seek the warmth of camaraderie. Korg, Groot, and Howard’s inherent goodness have survived the wretched ordeal that life on Xandar must be. So it’s no surprise that the remaining parts of Nebula, having just escaped the overconfident Saal and co., arrive at the nightclub to look for comfort and convalescence.

Howard and his friends truly go above and beyond to cater to the cyborgs in need. Not just by piecing her together but also by offering their support in Nebula’s quest. It’s not entirely selfless on Howard’s part, though. That liquor license seems to be the only thing keeping his spirits up. When Nova Prime hired Yon-Rogg to trick Nebula, she was so blinded by her discrimination against beings who are part machine that she failed to account for how smart her opponent was. Ronan’s approaching warship and the crack in the shield showing Xandar a hint of the sky for the first time in a long time are sort of an oxymoron in terms of emotions.

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There’s nothing sweeter than seeing the look on one’s enemy’s face when they realize what a terrible mistake underestimation can prove to be. And that’s the exact look, sprinkled with a hint of denial, that Nebula sees on Nova Prime’s face when her defeat becomes apparent. In her hasty move to rid the planet of the fear that’s been keeping it isolated, Nova Prime didn’t see the “triple game” coming. Nebula has dealt with people like Yon-Rogg all her life. She’d modified the source code just enough in her cybernetic mind to beat Nova Prime at her own game. Nebula made sure that the shield would open just enough for Ronan to take it as a sign of safe entrance—just enough so he’d be caught in between when it closed back up again. She has already grieved the loss of the woman she’s always looked up to. The moment Nova Prime approved a mission that entailed breaking the sacred oath Nebula took when she entered Xandar, she knew that the keeper of Xandar had strayed from her path. So even though Nebula lends her hand to save Nova Prime from the brink of a fall that’d kill her, only to be met with her self-harming prejudice, she won’t spend sleepless nights over the death of her idol. It’s a win at the end of the day, and that’s all that matters. Nebula’s practically been taken in by Howard and his friends. And with Ronan gone, the Xandarians can finally take off the shield of protection that’s been suffocating them. They’ve somehow survived years of being stuck within Xandar’s atmosphere. And if Nebula hadn’t eliminated the threat, the shield would’ve been on for far longer. Whether Nebula opts for permanent residence on Xandar with the new friends she’s made or takes off in search of what else the universe has to offer, she’ll always have a home on this planet. She is, after all, the one who’s freed all Xandarians from the kind of anxious existence which was slowly poisoning their lives.


Lopamudra Mukherjee
Lopamudra Mukherjeehttps://muckrack.com/lopamudra-mukherjee
Lopamudra nerds out about baking whenever she’s not busy looking for new additions to the horror genre. Nothing makes her happier than finding a long-running show with characters that embrace her as their own. Writing has become the perfect mode of communicating all that she feels for the loving world of motion pictures.

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