The Guardians Of The Galaxy Holiday Special Reveals Marvel’s Most Underrated Character Is Back

By Michileen Martin | Published

guardians collector

WARNING! Spoilers follow for The Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special

As far as big reveals go in The Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special most fans are talking about learning that Mantis (Pom Klementieff) is Star-Lord’s (Chris Pratt) half-sister, or Nebula’s (Karen Gillan) disturbing gift of Bucky’s cybernetic arm to Rocket (Bradley Cooper/Sean Gunn). But the reveal that I was the most excited about arrived with much less fanfare: that Marvel‘s most underrated and under-utilized character–Benicio del Toro’s Taneleer Tivan, aka the Collector–is still alive. Early in the special we learn from Nebula that the Guardians paid the Collector for Knowhere, which they couldn’t do if Thanos (Josh Brolin) had killed him.

It seems like so long ago now so you’d be forgiven if you forget, but the fate of Taneleer Tivan was one of the many questions we were left with after 2018’s Avengers: Infinity War. Del Toro does appear in the film, but technically not as the Collector, but as an illusion of the Collector that Thanos creates with the Reality Stone to fool the Guardians. By the time they arrive at Knowhere, Thanos already has the Aether and Tivan’s collection is ablaze.

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Benicio del Toro as the illusory Collector in Avengers: Infinity War

Until The Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special, there was no way to know whether the Collector was alive or not. Sure, his collection was on fire in Infinity War and the Guardians don’t find any life signs on Knowhere, but if the Collector had somehow found out Thanos was on the way he probably would’ve headed for the proverbial hills as quickly as he could. And while the Mad Titan would certainly have no qualms about murdering him, as long as Tivan left the Reality Stone behind, Thanos would have nothing to gain by pursuing him.

Not even Benicio del Toro knew whether or not his Marvel character had survived. Speaking to CinemaBlend in June 2018, Del Toro said “I think he’s alive,” but couldn’t say for sure.

Introduced in a mid-credits scene of 2013’s Thor: The Dark World and given a bit more time on the screen in the following year’s Guardians of the Galaxy, the Collector remains the character with the most unrealized potential in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. While it’s made perfectly clear that he’s a bad guy in the sense that he is literally a slave owner, with the exception of a variant of the character in an episode of What If…?, we’ve never seen him in the MCU as an actual antagonist.

In case you don’t know, in the comics the Collector is a member of a group called the Elders of the Universe including some of the most powerful beings in Marvel’s cosmic pantheon. We’ve met two other Elders in the MCU so far: The Grandmaster who Jeff Goldblum played in 2017’s Thor: Ragnarok, and Ego who Kurt Russell played that same year in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2.

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The Elders of the Universe in Marvel Comics

In fact, in the source material, Thanos has to deal with the Elders very directly in order to get the Infinity Gems (in the comics they’re usually referred to as gems instead of stones). Infinity War is largely based on the 1991 mini-series Infinity Gauntlet, and that comic is preceded by Thanos Quest which chronicles the titular Titan’s capturing of the gems. With the sole exception of the Soul Gem–which he takes from the cosmic entity the In-Betweener–all of the Infinity Gems are in the possession of Elders before Thanos takes them; including Collector and Grandmaster.

What does all this have to do with anything? Well I have a theory Benicio del Toro’s Collector originally had a much bigger role to play in the Infinity Saga than just as a buyer of stolen goods in Guardians of the Galaxy.

The key is to remember that when we first meet the Collector–not in Guardians but in The Dark World–it isn’t actually Odin (Anthony Hopkins) who sends Sif (Jaimie Alexander) and Volstagg (Ray Stevenson) to Knowhere, because by that point the All-Father had been replaced by a mystically disguised Loki (Tom Hiddleston). So it was Loki who sent the Reality Stone to Knowhere, and why in Hulk’s name would the god of lies do something like that?

Tom Hiddleston with the Tesseract in Avengers: Infinity War (2018)

Volstagg’s stated reason for giving the Aether to the Collector is so that two Infinity Stones–the other being the Tesseract, which was kept in Asgard’s vault–wouldn’t be in the same place, which would make sense if it was the real Odin who sent him. But why would the power-hungry Loki, if he had access to two Infinity Stones, send one of them away?

Sure, Loki knew Thanos would be coming for them sooner or later, but with the Tesseract still in Asgard the Titan was sure to pay him a visit regardless; sending the Aether away wouldn’t stop that. No, the only way the mid-credits scene of The Dark World makes sense is if the Collector was in contact with Loki long before the events of Guardians of the Galaxy, and they had some kind of plan to get the Stones before Thanos could.

Thor: Ragnarok offers us more proof. By the time Thor (Chris Hemsworth) arrives on Sakaar, Loki has already managed to win a spot in Grandmaster’s personal entourage. Sure, there are plenty of ways he could’ve managed that, and one way is that he already knew Grandmaster through the Collector of Guardians fame.

There’s also the simple fact that the Collector is played in Guardians by Benicio del Toro, an Oscar-winning actor, and why in Hulk’s sweet, green name would you hire the guy if you’re not going to make more use of him?

Benicio del Toro as The Collector in Guardians of the Galaxy (2014)

Whether or not I’m anywhere near the mark in my theory about the original plans for the Collector, I’m thrilled The Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special has confirmed he’s still with us. Hopefully, we’ll eventually get to see his character in his full, villainous, collection-obsessed glory sooner or later.