Warning: SPOILERS for Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 are ahead!
While the first Guardians of the Galaxy movie ended on an upbeat note, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 went in a different direction by giving audiences a more melancholic and reflective ending. Sure the mid-credits scenes brightened moods afterwards, but Yondu's death still hung heavy as we bid adieu to the MCU cosmic heroes when they were watching his funeral. However, Sean Gunn, a.k.a. Kraglin, Yondu's former second-in-command, says that Marvel fans shouldn't view Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2's ending as entirely sad, but instead as uplifting considering how the protagonists all came together when the sequel concluded. As he put it:
Well, it's interesting. I think that while it may have seemed melancholic, it's certainly sad with how it ends from Yondu's perspective, but I think that the principal arc of the movie as a whole is the idea that the Guardians are a family, and they're a family that's trying to learn how to stay together and to be a family. And from that perspective, it's actually a very happy ending because they are all together at the end of the movie. Yes it's Yondu's death that brings them together, but they're all there, and Rocket in particular has to learn that he's not alone. I think that even though he finds the friends in the first movie, it's pretty clear that Rocket still feels alone for most of the second movie, and that's why end on his face, is that I think that he's learned to be more of a family member to everyone. So from that point of view, I think there's an uplifting element of it, even though it's sad because of the death.
I spoke with Sean Gunn this past weekend at the Portland Heroes & Villains Fan Fest, and when I brought up how Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2's ending compared to its 2014 predecessor, Gunn, who also plays Rocket during principal photography, gave the above explanation for why the sequel's ending should be looked at as more of a happy one. Yondu sacrificing himself to save Peter Quill as they were escaping Ego's destruction was certainly sad, especially considering that it was then that Peter understood that the blue-skinned pirate was his "true daddy." But even as Yondu's funeral unfolded and the other Ravager factions come to honor him, there was an air of hopefulness among the Guardians because at that moment, they had finally come together to become a true family.
Rocket, in particular, went through remarkable character growth in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2. Despite him joining Star-Lord, Gamora and Drax with Groot at the end of Guardians of the Galaxy, the sequel showed that he kept himself emotionally distanced from his friends because he was afraid to grow too close to them. Yondu called Rocket out on that, and when the movie ended, you can tell by the look on the genetically-enhanced raccoon's face that he was ready to stop pushing his loved ones away. Following Youndu's demise, the Guardians are closer than ever, and with Mantis now part of the team and Nebula on good terms with them, they're ready to continue their adventures across the MCU.
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 is still playing in theaters, and the Guardians will return on May 4, 2018 for Avengers: Infinity War.