One of the things that makes the Marvel Cinematic Universe one of the greatest cinematic feats thus far is the same thing that drives some folks far away from it, and that is the unbelievable scope of the story it tells. As of right now, the MCU has gone through “three phases,” and currently has 23 interconnected films, as well as a handful of supplemental series. There is frankly a staggering amount to parse through in the MCU, so it’s only natural we need some kind of refresher before we dive into the “next big thing” which, in this case, is Loki.
The upcoming Disney+ mini-series follows Thor’s mischievous baby brother Loki (Tom Hiddleston) as he decides to “play” hero himself — “play” being a keyword here because we hardly presume his intentions are entirely pure. So, if you’re wondering how we got here and what we should expect, we’re here to help you with that “glorious burden.” Fair warning though, we will be spoiling all Loki-related events in the MCU, so read at your own risk.
What we know so far:
Though Loki grew up in Asgard, it is important to remember one piece of information before we go further: Loki is not as Asgardian. Loki was born a Frost Giant in the Norse land of Jotunheim, and was abandoned by his father Laufey only to be found by Odin during the Asgardian invasion. However, rather than let him die, Odin decided to raise the child, and used his magic to disguise Loki as an Asgardian before bringing him back home to his wife Frigga and son Thor. However, at least in Loki’s eyes, Odin always treated him… differently, and seeing as he was never told of his heritage, it made no sense to him (not that him knowing would justify the cruelty). As a result, Loki grew to resent Odin and Thor –whom his father treated nicely and named heir to Asgard — whilst turning to his adoptive mother, Frigga, for comfort.
This tension caused Loki to play the villain in his first few movies, stirring up trouble in both Asgard (Thor) and on Earth (Avengers). Prior to his attempt to conquer the Earth in Avengers, it’s important to note Loki met with none other than Thanos, who gave him the means to take over the realm in exchange for the Tesseract (aka the Space Infinity Stone). As bad guys do, Loki ultimately fails and is imprisoned in Asgard, marking the start of Thor: The Dark World. In The Dark World, we see a new side of Loki as he actually helps his brother Thor out when Asgard falls under attack — though much of this is due to selfish reasons as well as intense agony at Frigga’s murder. At the end of the film, Loki seemingly sacrifices himself to save Thor. However, after Thor speaks with his father Odin and relinquishes his title as heir to Asgard to live among humans, we find out Loki is alive and has taken on the form of their father, and would use that form for years to effectively rule Asgard while Thor was away.
In Thor: Ragnarok, Thor busts Loki’s scheme and forces him to take a trip to visit their father on Earth, where he warns them about their sister Hela’s incoming invasion before his death. Loki and Thor then work together (mostly) to stop Hela’s invasion, though ultimately have to destroy their homeland in the process. At the end of the film, the brothers have reached an understanding and are loading the Asgardians into ships to establish a settlement on Earth. However, this plan is ruined in Avengers: Infinity War, when Thanos attacks the ships and kills Loki in his final and most sincere act of self-sacrifice. Despite his death, Loki does make an appearance in Avengers: Endgame, when the Avengers travel back in time to attempt to steal the Tesseract from him. However, things don’t go quite as planned — which brings us to Loki.
Wait, so if he’s dead, when does Loki take place?
While “when” is certainly a factor, it’s a lot more so about… where. Loki takes place in an alternate universe created by the trickster god during the aforementioned ‘time heist’ scene in Avengers: Endgame. Turns out, when Loki used the Space Stone within the Tesseract to create a cosmic portal and escape New York, he kinda sorta ruptured the timeline. Therefore, the Loki we see in Loki is not at all the man (or god) we’ve come to know and love. During 2019’s San Diego Comic Con, Hiddleston explained it best — and got us pumped to see what’s next for his character — when he said:
“You guys saw Avengers, right? He’s still that guy. And just about the last thing that happened to him was that he got Hulk-smashed, so there’s a lot of psychological evolution that hasn’t happened yet, but Kevin Feige has generously showed me what his plans are—I can’t tell you any of them—but it is one of the most exciting creative opportunities I think I’ve ever come across.”
For those of you who might be heartbroken by the idea of all that growth vanishing as suddenly as Loki himself did, there’s a real silver lining to the situation: Loki is all about, well, Loki, meaning we won’t just see the gradual change over time, we’ll be invited to delve into how he views himself and the world. We already know he has the capacity for love and self-sacrifice, and now we get to see how it emerges.
Okay, makes sense. What is the show going to be about?
Loki follows the trickster as he faces the consequences for disrupting the timeline, which primarily consists of the wrath of the all-powerful and boringly bureaucratic Time Variance Authority, or TVA for short. The TVA is the organization in the Marvel universe responsible for disciplining the heroes and villains who tamper with time, which, in this case, includes Loki. Based on the trailers we’ve seen, it looks like Loki will be working with Owen Wilson’s Mobius M. Mobius — a high-ranking TVA agent — to repair and undo the damage he has done by going back in time to both famous events and correcting their course, kind of like a strange Doctor Who. Thanks to the trailers, we’ve already gotten a glimpse at one event — the infamous D.B. Cooper heist — but it goes without saying we’ll most likely be seeing Loki revisit famous Marvel events as well.
Oh no. So does this mean we have to watch him die at the end again?
I mean, at this point who could say! He’s already been “killed off” three times, yet in some way, shape, or form, he always seems to return to grace our television screens. While we can’t say for sure if we’ll see Loki sacrifice himself once more as he rights the events of Endgame, there is one piece of interesting news you should know: according to a leak, a second season is already in the works. It looks like Loki can’t get enough of us as much as we can’t get enough of him.
Sweet! So will Loki impact the rest of the Marvel Cinematic Universe?
Based on what we know about Marvel’s slate of upcoming films? Absolutely. While we got a taste of time and space in the previous phases of the MCU, be prepared for things to get weird and multi-dimensional in phase four. In the comics, the idea of infinite universes with infinitely different timelines is frequently used to tell larger-than-life stories, and we can see that start to come into play in WandaVision, the upcoming Spider-Man film, Spider-Man: No Way Home, and Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness. It seems impossible that Loki’s meddling with timelines and alternate realities will not lead into these films in a major way.
Of course, everything above is speculation. Find out what’s next for yourself when Loki hits Disney+ on June 9.