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Marvel Reminds Fans Iron Man Was Also Nebula's Best Father Figure

Warning! Spoilers ahead for Marvel's What If…?

An episode of Marvel's What If...? reminds fans that Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) was Nebula's (Karen Gillan) best father figure in the MCU. Marvel Studios' animated series continues to re-examine the events of the Infinity Saga, coming up with various alternate scenarios all stemming from one simple change in the narrative. Arguably its most bizarre outing thus far, What If...? episode 7 imagined how Thor (Chris Hemsworth) would've turned out if he hadn't grown up with a brother.

Aptly titled "What If... Thor Were an Only Child?," the outing focused on introducing Party Thor — a pleasure-seeking version of the God of Thunder. Once the Odin went to Odinsleep and Frigga (Josette Eales) left for a vacation, the Asgardian Prince snuck behind Heimdall's back and traveled to Midgard, making it the newest hotspot for those who are looking to have a great time. Thor gathered a hodgepodge of Asgardians and other galactic creatures, with the What If...? episode featuring appearances from some familiar MCU faces, including several members of the Guardians of the Galaxy. 

Related: What If…? Episode 7 Cast Guide: Every New & Returning MCU Character

Nebula (Karen Gillan) was among those who joined Thor's massive party. She doesn't have a substantial role in the outing, unlike in What If...? episode 2 where she teamed up with T'Challa's Star-Lord (Chadwick Boseman). But one particular moment stood out: Nebula asking Korg to blow on her hands for luck before she rolled her dice. Admittedly, it seems like a mundane detail — after all, they were in Las Vegas — but, the imagery is reminiscent of Tony's own gambling moment from the first Iron Man; even the framing of the shot is the same. While the ongoing Disney+ series is known for featuring countless callbacks from past MCU projects, this particular one has a deeper meaning. It's meant to remind fans of the often overlooked connection between Tony and Nebula. Despite the pair only meeting in Avengers: Infinity War, their experience after Thanos' (Josh Brolin) decimation made them closer. So much so that Tony was arguably the best father figure that Nebula has ever gotten in the MCU. 

Thanos had an abusive relationship with his adopted daughters. While he favored Gamora (Zoe Saldana), he was harsh and downright dismissive of Nebula. Interestingly, What If...? already imagined what things would've been like between them if they had a healthier relationship. Back in the Sacred Timeline, she experienced briefly what it was like to have a positive father-daughter dynamic with Tony. Throughout his years in the MCU, Iron Man played a paternal role while mentoring Vision (Paul Bettany), Spider-Man (Tom Holland), and then eventually, with his own daughter, Morgan (Lexi Rabe). But oftentimes, his relationship with Nebula is overlooked. They developed an unlikely bond during the three weeks that they were in limbo. At one point, they even played a game, where Tony heartwarmingly let Nebula win. Her surprised face said a lot about how much that meant to her. 

What's interesting is that Tony had issues with Howard Stark, his own father. Granted that he was able to resolve it thanks to the time heist in Avengers: Endgame, but before that, he had already proven himself to be a capable and good father figure. As short as his interactions with Nebula were, chances are that it was meaningful for her to experience that kind of bond with him — especially given her toxic relationship with her own father-figure, Thanos. 

More: Every MCU Easter Egg In What If? Episode 7

Marvel's What If...? airs every Wednesday on Disney+.

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