There's no doubt that Benicio del Toro would have delivered a great performance as one of the villains of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, but instead he had a somewhat more complex role to play: that of a great big space nerd.
Taneleer Tivan, aka the Collector, made his debut in the post-credits scene for "Thor: The Dark World," where the Asgardians made the arguably unwise decision to entrust him with the red Aether, or Reality Stone. The Guardians of the Galaxy later approached him with the goal of fencing another Infinity Stone (the purple Power Stone), making you wonder just how many of the items in the Collector's collection showed up on his doorstep with very little effort on his part. Infinity Stones seem to just fall into his lap.
The Collector played a vital role in the MCU, being the first character to lay out the origins and nature of the Infinity Stones in an easy-to-follow holographic PowerPoint presentation. But his love of rare, shiny objects came back to bite him in "Avengers: Infinity War," when Thanos arrived on the mining colony of Knowhere to collect the Reality Stone. Once it was in his grasp, he used it to create an illusory trap for the Guardians of the Galaxy, showing them a version of reality where he hadn't yet obtained the stone and was still torturing the Collector for information about it. After the illusion fell away, it revealed that the Collector's collection had been utterly devastated, his home in ruins and on fire.
There was no sign of the real Collector, but things didn't look good for him. So "The Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special" has brought us a bit of Christmas cheer by confirming that Taneleer Tivan and his dramatic gestures are still alive out there, somewhere.
In addition to posing for tourist photos, checking out a club, and committing some light human trafficking, the Guardians use their Holiday Special as an opportunity for a bit of scene-setting ahead of "Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3." After Kraglin tells the story of how Yondu stole Christmas, Nebula comments, "Ever since buying Knowhere from the Collector, we don't have time for trivialities like Christmas."
Those are all the details we get (though let's not rule out the possibility of a scene showing how the sale went down in the next "Guardians" sequel), but given the state that Knowhere was in after Thanos trashed it in "Avengers: Infinity War," the Guardians may have been able to get it at a bargain price. Perhaps Thor handed over custody of Toothgrinder and Toothgnasher, and the Guardians exchanged them for a bit of Celestial real estate. Giant screaming goats would certainly make for a memorable start to the Collector's new collection.
Whether or not we'll see del Toro's colorful character again in the MCU is unconfirmed for now. Perhaps he'll attempt to retrieve Cosmo the Space Dog in "Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3," or maybe he'll stop by just to deliver some more useful exposition next time there's a cosmic bauble in play.
"The Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special" is available now on Disney+.
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