It took three films and two avengers crossovers, but we know what Groot means.

At the end of Marvel Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3the most enigmatic member of the galaxy’s greatest team says something that might have surprised you.

In response to a fan theory at the time, the writer/director James Gunn confirmed on Twitter that it’s actually true, which says a lot about the secretive – and most underrated – overall theme of his trilogy.

Warning: Spoilers for Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 before.

At the end of Flight. 3after the Guardians finish dealing with the High Evolutionary, Groot (voiced by Vin Diesel, famed champion families) said in a tender moment with the group, “I love you guys.” (Instead of his more familiar signature phrase, “I am Groot.”)

After the film’s release, Gizmodo proposed a theory that not Groot changing his tune, but that we the audience understand what Groot is really saying. Gunn commented on Twitter, “Yeah that’s exactly what it means.”

It’s become canon in the Marvel Cinematic Universe that Groot only says “I am Groot”, but those closest to him can understand that. Rocket (Bradley Cooper) was the first to get Groot, with the rest of the Guardians eventually learning his language by Flight. 2.

But the end of Flight. 3 It is also the first time that the public receives Groot. As Gizmodo points out, audiences have followed these characters for so long that we’ve earned a place in their family. It’s also, perhaps, a thank you from Gunn himself, for sticking by his side, especially through troubled waters.

After nine years, Groot’s lyrics finally make sense to everyone, including us.

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The theme of reunited families, and that ties are stronger than blood, runs throughout Gunn’s trilogy. But communication is inherent in forming these bonds and how difficult it can be to be honest. Star-Lord has lived most of his life in space in fear of the emotionally abusive Yondu (Michael Rooker), who threatened to “eat” him, though Yondu later told him he wasn’t doing it. just joking. Drax (Dave Bautista) took things literally and spent all of his time in the MCU picking up on the nuances. And there’s Rocket, whose existence as a raccoon made him feel, ironically, a stranger to the rest of the universe. Now that we know his tragic story, we understand why Rocket is so abrasive.

It might come as a surprise to learn that Groot’s earliest comic book appearances made him talk complete the sentences. (He was also pretty scary!) It wasn’t until 2008, when he was included in the guardians of the galaxy comics by Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning that Groot adopted his now-iconic line, which in turn became a motif that Gunn used in his films.

Groot said something else memorably at the end of guardians of the galaxy in 2014 (“We are Groot”). But This Groot is really deadand the Groot we’ve seen grow since Flight. 2 is his offspring. It could be that “Groot Jr.” says more than just “I’m Groot” (not to mention looking pumped up), it’s because he was raised in a more loving environment full of people who care for him. That includes the Guardians on Star-Lord’s ship and the legions of MCU fans around the world.

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 now playing in theaters.