Avengers: Endgame is finally out it in theaters and the film marks the end of the storyline concerning Thanos. Having been revealed as the MCU’s main villain in 2012, Thanos will now be departing his antagonistic role as we’ve seen all he has to offer us as far as character analysis is considered. His main characterization came from being the father of the Black Order, a faction that once included his daughters Gamora and Nebula. Gamora is more well-known as part of the Guardians of the Galaxy, leaving Nebula as the odd one out.
She was once seen as the dastardly little sister of Gamora, and a constant foil during Guardians of the Galaxy. The sequel film gave her more of a character for us to understand and, since then, Nebula has become a tragic figure whose constant abuse at the hands of Thanos has been seen as the reason why she became who she is. While the Guardians of the Galaxy films like to focus more on Star-Lord and his family, there’s a lot of nuances set between Gamora and Nebula that reveal a lot about how Thanos is as a person.
With three films for us to dive into in order to understand the relationship between Thanos and Nebula, there are many revelations we’ve found out about them. These were either seen onscreen, or were apparent when digging into the dialogue. So, now that Thanos has said goodbye in Avengers: Endgame, let’s take one more look at the relationship between him and his youngest daughter.
25 He Destroyed Her Homeworld
Unlike with Gamora – where it is known that half of her people survived Thanos’ invasion – Nebula’s people, the Luphomoids, are for all intents and purpose extinct by now. The only being from her species is Nebula herself and she was only kept around because Thanos adopted her.
It doesn’t align with Thanos’ M.O. of leaving half of the people alive, but it seems he had a particular disdain for Nebula’s kind as none of them were spared. We don’t know if Nebula’s lucky or unfortunate to be the only one to survive.
24 He Slaughtered Her Parents
This goes without saying seeing as he decimated her home world, but it goes deeper still as Thanos personally finished off Nebula’s family. Every child he took from a conquered planet was taken away after taking the life of their parents.
Thanos stood face to face with Nebula’s biological parents, and then proceeded to either finish them himself or directed his other children to carry out the deed. Either way, his manner of becoming Nebula’s father was by first making her an orphan by his own hands.
23 He Raised Her To Despise Her Siblings
You’d think the one plus point of becoming an orphan and losing your home world would be having different species children to become your siblings, but Thanos saw to it that Nebula never had a happy family life as he made all his children despise one another.
Nebula makes it clear that she hates her siblings when she states in Guardians of the Galaxy that she always hated Gamora least out her other brothers and sisters. And the one to thank for this supreme dislike is Thanos, who never wanted these siblings to create a bond between each other.
22 His Main Intent Was To Make Her Gamora's Rival
While the entire Black Order are related to Nebula, her main interaction had always been with Gamora, who was the youngest daughter along with Nebula herself. The age difference between these two and the rest of their siblings wasn’t a coincidence as Thanos only adopted Nebula to be a rival for Gamora.
Being the youngest of his children, Nebula was forced to fight her elder sister in order to survive as both of them were threatened with dire consequences if they couldn’t beat the other. This prompted an intense rivalry, although it was one-sided on Nebula’s part.
21 He Failed In Making Her Hate Gamora
The reason the rivalry was one-sided was because Gamora, for all the times she’d bested Nebula, still had a deep love for her younger adoptive sister. Gamora was never outright malicious toward Nebula and only beat her in combat, never abusing her.
Due to this, Nebula never really hated Gamora, despite claiming to do so in Guardians of the Galaxy. By Vol. 2, she’d figured out she only resented Gamora for following Thanos’ orders as she’d only wanted a sister. Thanos’ intense manipulation of Gamora and Nebula still couldn’t make either of them hate each other.
20 He Never Loved Her
Even though he held Gamora essentially captive all her life and threatened her with severe consequences should she fail, Thanos still genuinely loved Gamora as his daughter. This love never extended towards Nebula as the Titan never had any true feelings of affection for her.
He only kept her around due to it being convenient for him, and never felt any loss when Nebula abandoned him. While Thanos wept for Gamora’s passing, he couldn’t care less about what happened to Nebula.
19 He Called Gamora His Favorite In Order To Drive Nebula
As part of Thanos’ manipulation, he would constantly berate Nebula at every turn in order to get a rise out of her. This intensity was what he wanted as it made Nebula more ferocious and drove her further towards whatever job Thanos had for her.
While it was true that Gamora was his favorite daughter, Thanos brought up this fact for seemingly no reason other than to rub it in Nebula’s face. You can see this in dialogue during Guardians of the Galaxy as Thanos mentions it to Ronan, who didn’t give two hoots about it; but Nebula sure did judging by the look on her face.
18 He’s Responsible For Her Insanity
You might have grown to like Nebula in the last five years, but there’s no denying that she’s completely cuckoo as far as her mental state is considered. Her psyche has been permanently fractured due to the repeated attacks Thanos has made on her.
She’s become so used to being attacked, that her first response to when Gamora grabbed her elbow was to go for a punch, thereby showing just how badly Thanos would treat her. Then there’s pretty much all of her personality, which mainly consists of her rambling about how she will have her revenge.
17 She Became An Assassin To Please Thanos
Gamora might be officially known as the most dangerous assassin alive, but she grew soft after joining the Guardians. As a result, it was left to Nebula to fill her sister's shoes. Nebula’s reputation had grown to her being acknowledged as someone who took immense pleasure out of inflicting pain on others, more or less usurping her sister's role.
Which is exactly what Thanos wanted from his two daughters, Nebula and Gamora. His intention was to make the perfect assassin out of either one of these sisters, and he eventually succeeded as Gamora first assumed that title before abandoning it for Nebula to take over.
16 Unlike Gamora, She Has No Love For Thanos
The lack of love between father and daughter goes both ways with Thanos and Nebula. In Avengers: Infinity War, we saw Gamora in what she thought was her taking the life of Thanos – she then promptly broke down crying as she did harbor some love for him.
Meanwhile, Nebula knows none of this sort of affection as she has no room for love for Thanos. She made this very clear in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 when she told Kraglin that she despises Thanos for the seething pain she feels everyday squarely due to him.
15 He Took Pleasure In Hurting Her
Well, you wouldn’t love your father either if he not only attacked you on a regular basis, but derived pleasure from it. Thanos already subjected Nebula to this treatment all her youth, but he didn’t just do it to punish her.
You can see him smirk in satisfaction as he causes her terrible pain through the infinity stones in Avengers: Infinity War; it wasn’t just for interrogation, as he was clearly enjoying the process. Before that, he’d held her captive for a long time and needlessly kept her apart in pieces.
14 He Altered Her Appearance
By altering, we don’t mean giving her a makeover she wasn’t very fond of; we’re talking literally changing everything that constituted of her original self. You see, Luphomoids aren’t supposed to look how Nebula does.
She looks all cybernetic-like because Thanos took out her organic parts in order to fit her with technological implants so she’d be able to beat Gamora. So, poor Nebula has never been allowed to enjoy her own appearance as Thanos has been tinkering around with her physiology for his own cruel intentions.
13 She Was Jealous Of Gamora's Relationship With Him
The relationship between these two might be one of hate, but it’s still a lot more complex than just that. As Nebula never knew any other parent, she was still jealous of Gamora’s relationship with Thanos.
The Black Order seems to have accepted their role to be purely to conquer planets for the Titan, but Nebula and Gamora did vie for Thanos’ approval to some degree. As mentioned earlier, when Thanos tells Ronan his favorite daughter is Gamora, you can see Nebula wretch in clear jealousy over what he says.
12 She Worked For Him Because She Had No Other Option
You might be wondering what the point was for Nebula to work for Thanos during Guardians of the Galaxy if she despised him. The simple way to understand that is by putting yourself in Nebula’s shoes: she just didn’t have any other option.
Gamora’s only way out had been to trade the Orb to gain billions of riches to ensure she had a life away from Thanos, but Nebula had no such deal or plan. In Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, she further proves this by stating she’s hurting for money since “Daddy" wasn’t paying the bills” anymore.
11 She Was Willing To Destroy Thousands Of Planets To End Him
For those who argue that Nebula’s a good guy... well, she really isn’t. At the moment, her sole intention is to end Thanos, which aligns with the Avengers and the Guardians.
But, as seen in Guardians of the Galaxy, she’s willing to do whatever it takes to take Thanos out. When Ronan made it clear that he would go after Thanos once he had destroyed Xandar, Nebula willingly helped him, and was willing to help destroy a thousand more planets if it meant Ronan – and her by extension – would end Thanos’ life.
10 Deep Down, She Still Wanted To Prove Herself To Him
The rivalry between Gamora and Nebula wouldn’t have come about if they each didn’t have something to prove. In a deleted scene from Avengers: Infinity War, you can see a past Gamora happily informing Thanos of them conquering another planet. This brought her the approval of her father.
Likewise, Nebula genuinely did want to prove herself to Thanos, whether it was for his seal of approval or for him to at least show her some respect as a person in her own right. When she attacks him on Titan, she first tells him that he should’ve ended her, hoping he’d have seen her as a legitimate threat by then.
9 She Turned On Him The First Opportunity She Got
Despite serving Thanos seemingly loyally for years, Nebula really didn’t have much devotion toward him as she took the very first chance she got to turn on him. When Ronan discovered the Orb was an infinity stone, he announced his intention to finish off Thanos. Nebula, seizing the opportunity, instantly claimed allegiance to Ronan.
This showed that she had been waiting for similar opportunities all her life and was prepared to jump ship if it meant that Thanos would pay for what he did to her.
8 She Understands How Powerful He Is More Than Anyone Else
Being subjected to the ill treatment he laid out on her, Nebula knew firsthand how cruel Thanos could be. She also knew just how powerful the Titan was, better than anybody else.
Ronan took his frustrations out on Thanos in Guardians of the Galaxy, only for Thanos to grow impatient with Ronan and threaten to bathe the galaxies with Ronan’s blood. Rather than sensing the tension, Nebula casually told Ronan there was no way he would win against Thanos, as she knew the powers Thanos possessed.
7 Thanos Was Impressed By Her Just Once
Of all the times Nebula tried to win the seal of approval of her father, there was just the one time he actually did get impressed by her. Unfortunately, it was when Nebula snuck aboard Thanos’ ship and tried to take his life.
Thanos admitted to Gamora that he thought it was remarkable how her sister could come so close to defeating him, and this was the only instance he ever admitted Nebula was good at something. Maybe she should’ve tried ending his life before; he could’ve been impressed much earlier.
6 Her Life Purpose Was Ending Thanos
By now, you really should’ve understood this point, but we’ll elaborate on it nonetheless. It’ll be interesting to see what Nebula’s role will be in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 – given she survived Avengers: Endgame – as her entire storyline has been to punish Thanos.
It might even spell the end of Nebula’s role in the MCU now that Thanos has been defeated as she really just doesn’t have any purpose to fulfill once he’s gone. She spent the whole time from Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 to Avengers: Infinity War just to hunt down Thanos – that’s a total of three years nonstop.
5 He Only Kept Her Alive As A Bargaining Chip
Thanos isn’t a foolish person, and he can make the best out of a bad situation to turn things around for himself. Case in point was him letting Nebula live after he’d caught her trying to assassinate him.
Knowing that Gamora and Nebula now loved each other fully as sisters, Thanos used Nebula as a bargaining chip for when he apprehended Gamora. He only kept Nebula alive because she was of some use to him, not because of some lingering fatherly love – he was counting on sisterly love to work his way.
4 He Thinks She's A Waste Of Time And Spare Parts
Of course, using her as a bargaining chip wasn’t the only reason he kept Nebula alive as he voiced the exact reason why he didn’t leave her for the grave: he just didn’t think it was worth it. On Titan in Avengers: Infinity War, Thanos admitted to Nebula that taking her life would’ve been a “waste of parts.”
What this means is that he thinks by taking her life, he would’ve been wasting the cybernetic implants he’d invested in Nebula’s body. So, it appears Thanos wants his money’s worth and didn’t want to finish Nebula’s life because it would’ve been a waste of time and resources he’d spent his money on.
3 He Wanted To Make Gamora Stronger Through Nebula
We’ve all been told that Thanos wanted Nebula and Gamora to be rivals to see which one of them would be stronger, but that was just a lie Thanos fed to Nebula. The reality of the matter is that Thanos only ever wanted Gamora to win, and never wanted Nebula to come out on top.
By enhancing Nebula’s cybernetic parts, he wanted Gamora to become a more dangerous assassin than she was, and Nebula’s upgrades ensured Gamora remained at the top of her game. Even this way, Nebula only served as a tool for Thanos.
2 She Always Knew His Endgame
None of the people who opposed Thanos or knew of him learned what his ultimate objective was. He was known as a warlord and invader of worlds, but the true case was that Thanos wanted the infinity stones for “the greater good.”
Only the Black Order knew what his endgame was. Despite never really caring for Nebula, he did let her into his secret. When everyone disintegrated, Nebula muttered, “he did it,” thereby proving she was aware of what he planned to do once he acquired all the infinity stones.
1 Despite It All, She Still Considers Him Her Father
The sad reality is that, no matter just how much Thanos victimized her, Nebula still sees him as her father. Gamora at least acknowledged Thanos took her away from her real parents, but Nebula has only ever called Thanos her father.
She’s never known any other parent, and her hatred is still directed toward being ill-treated as Thanos’ daughter, not as his unwilling victim. Thanos' demise in Endgame isn't just Nebula being finally free from his clutches, it's Nebula losing her one and only father.