A very stubbly Richard flies, narrating a recap, “The Nova Corps., its ships, my armor, even its satellites like the Kiln, are powered by the Nova Force. I’ve never understood the physics of it- the science officer explained it lost me as quantum entanglement- but the man battery is on Xandar. It was built originally to power the fleet, and later, Nova Corps. armor. But with the destruction of the fleet fighting Ronan, and later the decimation of the armor Corps. fighting Thanos, the remaining Novas were supercharged. There weren’t many of us left, but we were stronger individually than ever before, and after the snap- there was no stopping us.” Quick flashback of Richard and Sam stopping in space, as Sam dusts in front of a terrified Richard. “But when I watched my little brother turn to dust, I snapped, too.”
Quick montage, Richard destroying the few remaining of Thanos’ forces, stopping when his helmet notifies him of the Infinity Gauntlet’s energy signature- and he blasts off. Richard lands hard, prepared to fight and likely die trying to tear the Infinity Gauntlet from Thanos… only to find the Mad Titan’s head laying next to his body on the floor. He lets out a primal scream as we zoom out, off-world, out of the solar system- out of systems into blackness.
We cut to Rich, in an alien bar, with his head on the bar. The bartender puts down a drink in front of him, and floating in the drink we see the words, “5 beers later.” As the beer disappears from the glass, so too does the word beer, and we can see “years” now through the empty glass. The alien who snarfled up the beer gets ushered out for stealing drinks again, while Rich, without lifting his head, orders another one. Another Nova arrives, and tells the bartender he’s had enough. This is Rhomann Dey’s widow, Karman-Kan, and she helps Richard off his stool, then lets him lean on her on the way out. She carries him home. She lives with him, though they’re not together, with her daughter; it’s a sense of obligation, for his work saving them, for his work saving the Corps., and a recognition of his trauma, including their shared loss of Rhomann. I’m not at all against her becoming a love interest, going forward, but right now Richard is utterly broken. Not merely traumatized, but so far from human that if she wasn’t keeping him alive, essentially as the sole way to keep some small part of her husband alive, he would wither and die. Her daughter is pretty brutal towards him, in the way only a mean tween (or maybe teen) girl can be; she didn’t see Rhomann’s affection for Richard because she was so young, or understand what he represents to her mother, and just sees him as this black hole of work and affection, and would rather see her mom move on and be happy. In part, I think Richard represents the part of her mother that doesn’t want to move on, because they both feel like moving on would be betraying the memory of those they’ve lost.
I’m not sure where this information goes, but it turns out the Nova suits were built harnessing the power of the infinity stone on Xandar. They built the suits to use genetic locks, so that enemies couldn’t use the tech against them. They keep the suits tied to families, so Rich’s helmet could only be given to someone genetically related to him (though how close a match necessary remains to be seen). After the loss of the power stone, they can no longer create more suits (or maybe not at the speed and volume). Karman-Kan actually wears Rhomann’s suit; they used their daughter’s genetics as the template, so it would accept either parent- this is also how Sam can make use of Richard’s helmet.
Mostly the corps keeps Rich around as a mascot; the timely repair of the battery in Nova 1 allowed the Corps to survive. Occasionally he dries up enough to go on missions. But he’s reckless, bordering on suicidal; it means he’s been a hero a few times even after Xandar, but only because Karman-Kan has hidden his screw ups from their superiors.
I think… after a brutal dressing down from Karman-Kan, that he finally admits to her that he’s not a drunk. He doesn’t drink. But if he hangs out in bars, people stopped ragging on him to get over it, to move on. They finally let him just be crippled by depression- not because he wants to be- but because it’s all he can do. Because if he tried to do anything else, he’d fly himself into the nearest sun. But he hasn’t even been able to fly to Earth to tell his mom what happened to Sam. That is what’s really kept him alive- because until he knows she knows, he can’t just… that he can’t face her and tell her Sam is gone is the only reason he isn’t, too.
They embrace, and she breaks down, too, but she smiles- not because she’s happy they’re sad, but because finally they aren’t alone in their grief. She convinces him that he needs closure, that she’ll be with him, every step of the way, but that he needs to let his family know what happened to Sam- and she’ll be there to help him through, whatever the fallout. The pair fly to Earth, and land at his family’s home. Rich still has his key, and opens the front door, only to find a different family living in the home. They speak excitedly at him in Spanish, at least until another member of the family starts speaking excitedly in a different language- they’re a family of refugees displaced from different parts of the world. (and Rich is trying to speak English- all while the helmet tries to translate everyone’s speech, so there’s six overlapping voices). It’s when Richard tears off his helmet that he feels a hand on his shoulder, and recognizes a voice that says, “He says they’ve been here five years, after the family that lived here disappeared.” His mouth drops open as he turns, and we see Sam, confused. “What’s going on?” Sam asks. “And why do you look and smell terrible. And who is the hot blue lady?”
Richard apologizes for him, and tells Karman-Kan he doesn’t know whether Kylorian puberty is anything like human puberty, but they’re just lucky he hasn’t drooled on her yet. She reacts largely with confusion, but also a little concern, and stammers something about if drooling is a sign of arousal in his species they have important boundaries to discuss. Just then, Sam’s mother with their little sister Ubers in front of the house, which we can see because the front door is still open. She tells them that they were at the police station filing a missing persons report about Sam, when suddenly the station was a zoo, with twice as many people inside, and half the officers were telling everyone else they disappeared five years ago. Their driver said the same thing and she just wants to know: has it really been five years? Sam wants to know the same thing. And at that climactic moment, the refugee family begin chattering excitedly again, and Richard suggests they go somewhere to grab something to eat. I think we go to Dairy Queen, the same one Richard worked at, though it’s since been rebuilt and remodeled- just the surrounding area should be the same.
To save some time and space, Sam’s mother basically nutshells it for us, “So if I understand right, the Avengers failed to stop an alien jerk from wiping out half of all life, then after five years managed to put things back together again- and you two work for an intergalactic alien police force that also failed to stop the alien jerk.”
Rich tells her she’s taking it all really well. “Yeah, way to go, mom,” Sam adds. She tells them she’s basically screaming internally because she’s pretty sure either she’s lost her mind or the world has and either way she’s not really equipped to handle what’s happening, and adding to it by yelling at her boys, now knowing that she narrowly avoided losing them, would be too much to stand.
Sam asks Rich why he feels different. “Puberty,” Rich says. Then Karman-Kan tells him it’s been a rough five years for the Nova Corps. With the destruction Thanos wrought, there have been no shortage of willing recruits, but with the chaos it also unleashed, the Corps’s numbers have continued to dwindle. That even presuming half the disappeared Novas returned, they’re each among the most powerful Novas to have ever lived- they’ve lost so many. Rich heads off to the bathroom, and Sam follows.
We linger, a moment, on the awkwardness of the mom and Karman-Kan. Mrs. Alexander asks how long she’s been seeing Rich, to which Karman-Kan replies, “I’ve been seeing him since he arrived on Xandar, some eight orbital rotations of your planet around your star.” Mrs. Alexander is… alarmed at that, and asks how that’s been going. “He is interesting to look at, I suppose.” She asks if the two of them have been physical, to which a confused Karman-Kan replies that they’ve come into contact. Mrs. Alexander says she supposes that means her species must have compatible genitals. “Not genital contact,” Karman-Kan gasps, before mumbling that she is “retreating to a waste-elimination chamber.” She pauses a moment, at the bathroom doors, looking at the symbol of a man on the one door, and a symbol of a woman on the other, hesitating, before going into the opposite one Rich and Sam used.
We cut back to the Nova battery on Xandar. It pulses, and the lights inside the room dim, when in walks Nova Prime. She asks one of the scientists about the readings she requested. He tells her that their figures are promising, that energy can’t be created or destroyed. When he leaves, the energy forms into the shape of a man, specifically, Saal, and she calls him by that name, and tells him they’re trying to figure out what happened to him. The prototype armor he was wearing seemed to trap his template in the World Mind connected to the Nova Force.
We hear battle chatter overlapping for an instant before we cut to what is basically the Nova D-Day. Novas are pouring onto a planet, and just as quickly being slaughtered. Depending which big bad you want to set up for Nova 3, it could be an incursion of a small section of the annihilation wave from the Negative Zone, or Phalanx, or something else, even. Subtly, with each Nova that falls, the energy field surrounding those that remain becomes a little more bright.
We cut back to the Nova battery on Xandar, where Nova scientists are monitoring it. Prime asks about the incursion, and her latest Denarian tells her it’s going about as expected- but that with each Nova who falls, their remaining forces receive a greater share of the Nova Force- which ensures that their troop strength remains about the same- it’s just that the enemy forces seem endless- an unending wave of destruction. There’s a surge of power, and the lights dim. The new Denarian checks his figures, and goes pale. Something has drained an inordinate amount of the Nova Force. Their troops are falling exponentially faster- and with each that falls the anomaly is swallowing up the new share- leaving the remaining force underpowered. Prime orders an all points- they need all of Nova’s forces to converge on the battle.
Inside the men’s room, Richard is splashing water on his face. Sam can tell he’s having a hard time, and pats his back, and tries to tell him it’s okay. That he’s been under a lot of pressure.
“I didn’t buckle under the pressure of a galaxy on my shoulders, or even a world. I couldn’t handle the pressure of my little brother on my shoulders. I crumpled under it.”
Sam is thoughtful, for a moment, before comically slapping him. Then he sticks his tongue out so close to Richard’s face that it nearly touches him and then raspberries him. “Gah,” Rich exclaims, wiping spittle from his face, and asks, “How did you get through my shield?”
“Family always does,” Sam says. “They’re the ones who can hurt you worst. And the ones who help you heal. And the ones whose loss you feel the most. I never got to tell you how scared I was, when I heard your distress call. I thought that was the last time I’d hear your voice. I was terrified, but I had to try to help you. And I knew you’d been okay when you sent the message… but for all I knew I was never coming back. But also,”
Sam slaps him again. “Dad left when I was still in diapers. I barely remember him, but I always had you. And I remember having a really hard time, I felt like I couldn’t get through… anything. You told me, ‘When you can’t get through the next hour, the next minute, get through the next breath. And then the next. And the next. Sometimes the world can just be so much… but if you can break it down to however much you can handle, you can make it through the next breath. And then the next. Until you’ve got improbable minutes. Impossible hours. Unfathomable days. An inconceivable lifetime.’”
“You know, you turned out all right. Almost makes me feel bad about telling mom to put you up for adoption.”
“You mean that about Kaelynn.”
“No. Her, I liked. Mostly. She was cute. You had a head like a sat-on potato.”
Sam shrugs. “Just means I know you love me for me.” They hug. A kid walks into the bathroom, then ducks halfway out, and we hear him complain that there are men hugging in the bathroom again. “We should maybe stop, or at least hug someplace less weird.”
Back on Xandar, the scientist from before interrupts, to tell Prime he checked on the anomaly, and it’s gone. The Denarian is confused, and the scientist affirms that Denarian Saal’s template is no longer housed within the World Mind.
Sam and Richard return to the table. “Your girlfriend seems… nice,” their mother says.
“Girl friend?” Sam asks. “I’ve missed a lot.”
“She’s not my, she was my partner’s partner,” Rich says.
“Aren’t you your partner’s partner?” Sam asks.
“I’m not doing a Who’s on First,” Rich complains. “His wife, I guess. They had a kid. Because of that, she kept me alive.”
Rich takes her hand. “Losing Sam… it broke me, mom. I felt like… like he was the one person in the whole Universe I needed to protect most, and I failed. I couldn’t face you. I couldn’t face anything. She’s the only reason I’m still here.”
“She must be very special,” their mother says.
“She is, I,” Karman-Kan’s hand lights on his shoulder, and he looks up at her.
“We should go.” She’s all business.
“Wait,” he says. “I need to say this. You saved me. I know you did it for Rhomann, but…”
“Not just for Rhomann. You two saved my daughter. And me. You’re family.” It’s a moment… but right now we only get a moment of it, because she says, “But we need to go.”
“No. I’m tired of running from this- all of this. I need-” the all points finally reaches Rich’s helmet, then Sam’s. “Oh. We need to go.”
“I’m sorry for your loss,” Sam’s mom says as they get up to leave.
“Thank you. Rhomann was special; I’ve tried to carry on his spark.”
“Why did you get the alert so much sooner than us?” Sam asks.
“Technically, I outrank both of you.”
The three of them fly across the galaxy. We intercut with the battle, that continues to go poorly. Karman-Kan has them hold off, waiting in atmosphere. “You outrank me?” Rich asks.
“You spent five years pretending to be a drunk. And Rhomann’s helmet gave me an in to promotion. But more importantly, you feel that?”
“Nothing. I haven’t felt a surge since just before the distress call. Before that, every single Nova that fell returned their portion of the Nova Force to the rest of us. I’ve seen a dozen of us fall since we arrived, and our power levels remained static. It’s,” she stops, as she’s hit from space by a being made of pure energy.
He’s Nova Omega, and resembles someone wearing Nova power armor. The general idea that I’m leaning towards is that Saal has become the Nova Omega, that his prototype managed to fuse him with the Nova Force- it’s also an excuse to bring back Peter Serafinowicz- he’s got a great voice for this kind of CGI character.
Saal continues to attack the three of them. He thinks they’re the reason the Nova Force is ebbing, not realizing that he is the one absorbing all of the excess Nova Force from his fallen comrades. The three Novas manage to hold off Saal long enough to get him to understand that he’s the anomaly- that as their friends below die, he’s getting stronger, that he’s the one stealing the lifeblood from the Corps. “I have to stop this.”
Saal flies into the battle, directly into the heart of the enemy. “What are you waiting for?” Karman-Kan asks, and flies after him. They follow her.
Nova Omega is essentially the Nova Force incarnate, and single-handedly turns the tide. But even as he’s winning, he sees that the Corps is losing, that it’s going to be a Pyrrhic victory, that the casualties they suffer will render the Novas useless to protect the galaxy. Nova Omega decides to detonate himself- that doing so can temporarily seal the rift into the Negative Zone (or destroy some other McGuffin). The Novas protect him while he does so. When he goes, the remaining Novas are hypercharged, and mop up the remaining enemies with ease.
We wrap with a scene back on Xandar. Prime is basically holding a vigil for those lost, giving a speech both meant to honor the fallen, including Saal, while boosting morale and also making sure they’re aware of the continuing gravity of the threat. It’s a hard balance. We’re really lucky to have Glenn Close to strike it.
The last bits of the speech we pull back, and see Rich, Sam and Karman-Kan in the rear. Rich’s hand accidentally brushes Karman-Kan, and she reacts, first with confusion, but then, realizing their five year journey together, with warmth, and takes his hand. At first he’s confused, but then he’s touched. He and Sam make eye contact, Sam infinitely amused with Rich holding a girl’s hand, and Sam puts out his fist; with some hesitance, Rich bumps back. We’ll cut to credits (this moment can happen in the middle of Prime’s speech, with the audio overlayed).
Mid credits scene: Sam and Rich are on Xandar, talking to Nova Prime as an alarm goes off. “The Nova Force has been more stable since Saal’s death.”
“Then what’s the alarm-” Sam starts, before another round of it blaring shuts him up.
“Since Thanos destroyed the six infinity stones the World Mind has been scanning the known Universe for power sources that could create similar levels of devastation. It started this morning, with a single signature, on Vormir, but it’s multiplied. It’s found six so far, one here on Xandar. We want the two of you to lead the retrieval team on-world, while we scramble Novas to check out the other signatures.” This is going to lead directly into Warlock and the Infinity Watch.
End credits scene: There’s a very subtle beeping. “You hear that?” Sam’s mom asks Kaelynn, who crinkles her nose. She follows the noise, into Sam’s room. At the bottom of his hamper (she spends a lot of time being weirded out by his old dirty clothes as she digs, “Ew ew ew,” she finds a Nova helmet. “What the hell?” she picks it up, and the helmet comes to life and begins to glow. “Oh.”