Warning: Minor SPOILERS for Guardians Of The Galaxy Vol.2 and Thor: Ragnarok.
2018 will be an important year for the Marvel Cinematic Universe with its biggest film yet, the mega-team up Avengers: Infinity War, set to be released, followed by a still untitled sequel that will hit cinemas in 2019. All MCU films to date have been slowly leading us to this point, in which all our favourite heroes unite to defeat Thanos and attempt to keep him from getting his large purple hands on the Infinity Stones.
Marvel have gone to great lengths to avoid any leaks from the set of the film, meaning little is known about it except the core conflict between the Avengers and Thanos, but fans have been fed this small tidbit of information: Nebula, adopted daughter of Thanos and sister of Guardian of the Galaxy Gamora, will find a "Brilliant and unexpected new BFF" among the characters in the film. In an interview with Fandango, Nebula actress, Karen Gillan, had this to say on the topic:
"I know who it is, and I can't tell you. But I promise you that it's brilliant, and unexpected, and just so good."
Who Is It?
Since this information came to light, fans have been speculating as to who Nebula's unlikely friend may be, with characters such as Black Widow, Spider-Man, and The Vision often brought up as possibilities. Now, the release of the latest MCU film, Thor: Ragnarok, has raised the chances of another character filling the role:
Thor's anti-heroic adopted brother, Loki. While Loki's name has been brought up as a possibility before, some discounted him, assuming that the unlikely friend would probably be an Avenger. Then came Ragnarok and the continuation of a redemption arc for Loki that had begun in Thor: The Dark World. While not an Avenger, Loki ends Ragnarok reconciled with Thor, which we can assume places him on the heroes side of the conflict in Infinity War. Nebula, despite her own chequered past, also falls on the heroes' side.
Looking at the history of both Loki and Nebula in past films, the idea of the two of them pairing up begins to make a lot of sense.
They Both Have a Complicated Relationship with Their Adoptive Sibling
The most immediately obvious similarity between Loki and Nebula is that they are both the less heroic sibling of a major MCU hero, Loki of Thor, and Nebula of Gamora. In both cases, their relationship with said heroic sibling is somewhat complicated.
At the beginning of the first Thor movie, he and Loki seem to share a close relationship, but sadly, this was not to last. Upon learning that he is adopted and not the son of Odin but of Laufey, leader of the Frost Giants, Loki's previously buried insecurities leap to the surface, finally understanding why he could never be Thor's equal. This starts a battle between the brothers that continues into the first Avengers film.
In Thor: The Dark World, the feuding brothers form a shaky alliance to avenge the death of their Mother, Frigga. By the time Loki fakes his own death near the movie's conclusion, Thor is devastated at the apparent loss of his brother. Although Loki does manipulate the situation to his own advantage by replacing Odin, his first act in his new position is to let Thor return to Earth without trouble. This was probably just to keep him out of the way, however there were many ways Loki could have accomplished this that didn't involve letting Thor be happy. When the brothers meet again in Ragnarok, they behave as a typical pair of quarrelling siblings, and seem to have a relatively friendly relationship even in the moments where one is attempting to betray the other. By the end of the film, the brothers have seemingly reconciled.
Gamora and Nebula begin their story in a different place, both knowing that they are adopted after Thanos killed their families. Nebula spends the entirety of the original Guardians Of The Galaxy wanting to kill her sister, and the first half of its sequel wanting to do the same. When she finally gets a chance at a kill-shot, however, she finds herself unable to take it. Nebula explains that she always wanted Gamora to be a real sister to her, to stand up for her as Thanos took her apart, but Gamora was never brave enough to do so. Still, she seems to realise that her real issue lies with Thanos, and manages to work together with Gamora and the Guardians as they battle Ego. While not fully reconciled, the sisters part on at mostly civil terms by the end of Guardians Of The Galaxy Vol.2, to the point that either sister could reliably call on the other for help if the need arose.
If Loki and Nebula do in fact cross paths in Infinity War, it would not be difficult to envision a scene in which they gripe to each other about their supposedly perfect sibling. Bonus points if Thor and Gamora are present for said griping.
They Have Both Previously Crossed Paths with Thanos.
The fact that they have both crossed Thanos before could also lead to bonding moments. Loki was supposed to deliver the Tesseract to Thanos in The Avengers, with his failure to do so displeasing the Mad Titan. Nebula apparently fled her brutal adoptive father's service at the end of Guardians Of The Galaxy, and there won't be any happy family reunions when they see each other again.
Aside from forming a potential link between them, Loki and Nebula's past dealings with Thanos could prove important in Infinity War. Their greater knowledge of what they are dealing with could prove them vital characters in letting the Avengers know how serious the threat actually is.
Both Have Made a Transition From Villainy To, Well, Almost Heroism.
As mentioned earlier, Loki took a detour to the dark side after learning of his adoption, but has since clawed his way back into a moral grey area. He took a big step back to the light in Ragnarok, using his newly stolen ship to return home and evacuate the Asgardians when he could have easily fled into the cosmos and escaped the conflict.
Nebula's villainy was forced upon her, since she was stuck under Thanos' control. Her continued criminal acts after escaping his influence were more a matter of survival, as crime was all she knew. Upon learning the whole Universe was in danger in Vol.2, however, she aids the Guardians for the remainder of the film without much thought... Though she still believes they are all idiots.
Audiences love a tale of redemption, so Loki and Nebula's redemption arcs will almost certainly continue through Avengers: Infinity War, and possibly its sequel. If these arcs include finding a friend in each other that they never knew they needed, all the better. We will find out for sure when Infinity War hits the big screen in May, 2018.