In defense and celebration of Loki, the best character in the MCU

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Jul 19, 2019, 5:01 PM EDT (Updated)

Loki, Loki, Loki, Loki. Loki of Asgard. Odinson (sort of). God of Mischief. Secret Frost Giant. Rightful King of Jotunheim? It's no secret that many (most) (definitely me) fans of the MCU are huge fans of Loki. It would be hard to argue that any other MCU villain is more popular, to the extent that some heroes (most notably his brother Thor) have been said to lag behind him in fan love, a phenomenon that can be easily understood by watching this 2013 clip in which Chris Hemsworth pulls a total Thor and talks over Tom Hiddleston when Tom is asked about his own character's popularity. Classic Thor.

**Spoiler warning: The below contains spoilers for Avengers: Infinity War**

And consider this: Without Loki there would be no Avengers in the MCU. If Loki had never tesser-acted up, would they have even gotten their acts together in time to save the world? We'll never know, because Loki brought them together. As Nick Fury said of the Avengers at the time, "They may be isolated, they may be unbalanced, but with the right push, they can be just what we need." And that push, my fellow Midgardians, was Loki.

You, God of Mischief, were the blue cube-loving glue that brought everyone together. And now you're dead.

Loki died within the first scene of Infinity War, within the first 10 minutes of Infinity War, before the title card had even washed across the screen. For die-hard Loki fans, this was akin to going to see Return of the Jedi and having Darth Vader die in the first five minutes. The stakes for a film are much lower after one of your favorite characters in the entire MCU dies before you even have a chance to shift in your seat. (When other characters died, much later in the film, I found myself wishing Loki's death had been treated as operatically.)

It was a strange choice to make with such a fan favorite, and though Kevin Feige has said that it was merely Tom Hiddleston's performance that led to the persistence of Loki in the MCU to begin with (more than hinting that his previous two deaths could have originally been meant to be permanent too), when Thanos specifically said, "No resurrections this time," it sent a small dagger into our Frost Giant hearts.

The most comforting thing Tom Hiddleston has said on the subject was the following, recently to Cinema Blend: "Loki is the God of Mischief, the Lord of Misrule, an Agent of Chaos. Chaos isn't something that's threatening to Loki. And... everything's fine."

Which is so vague and, indeed, Loki-esque in its evasiveness as to be not comforting at all. (Though hey, since next year's Captain Marvel is to be set in the 1990s, we'd love to see a timeline in which "Lord of Misrule" was the name of Loki's hardcore band.) And of course there's always Daily Loki and many other fan sites and costumes to remember him by, but still, in lieu of the overly emotional death scene we wish he'd had, allow me to go full Meredith Quill and make a mixtape about it. On behalf of the Loki-verse: the Loki Awesome Mix: Volume 1...

The Beatles - Come Together

"Come Together," The Beatles

This, for the obvious reason of how Loki's lowest point, as the main villain of Avengers, brought the team together.

Creedence Clearwater Revival: Fortunate Son

"Fortunate Son," Creedence Clearwater Revival

Loki was not a fortunate son, and it was indeed his fraught relationship with his ever more problematic and amoral father Odin that propelled him into darkness and made him a character that audiences couldn't help but feel for. His numerous attempts to gain his father's love, and to grapple with having been adopted from an enemy he'd been raised to hate, which are so clear especially when we first meet him in the original Thor film, are heartbreaking in their relatability and pathos. Kenneth Branagh did well to imbue the royal family of Asgard with all the storm and strife and depth of character of a family in a Shakespearean tragedy. Tony Stark even takes note of these undertones in The Avengers when he meets up with Thor and Loki fighting on Earth.

Thor: You have no idea what you're dealing with.
Stark: Uh... Shakespeare in the Park?

The Hollies - He Ain't Heavy, He's My Brother

"He Ain't Heavy, He's My Brother," The Hollies 

Loki's other complex relationship is with his brother Thor, who, let's be honest, comes off as a real jerk in the first Thor film, and it's hard not to see Loki as the voice of reason trying to hold Thor back from provoking an unnecessary, bloody war, yet attempting to maintain his filial bond to his brother, despite Thor's many flaws. Soon, however, the fact that the dangerously foolhardy Thor is still in line before him for the throne, despite having as much sense in his head as if his brain was itself a hammer (and not Mjolnir, just a regular hammer) coupled with the revelation that he was adopted by the father he'd always felt favored his brother, sends Loki over the edge and splits the two brothers.

One of the many things Loki fans love to see, however, is when this filial bond sneaks back out, as in the "Let's do 'Get Help'" sequence of Thor: Ragnarok. Hiddleston has revealed that that sequence was originally called "Dead Fish" and was envisioned by director Taiki Waititi as a game that Thor and Loki would have played as children, with the brothers both pretending Loki to be a dead fish. (Who knows what kids get up to on Asgard.) The actors improvised it on set at Waititi's suggestion, and the playfulness between the two characters (and the two actors) is rather unlike any other interplay in the current MCU.

Changes (2015 Remastered Version)

"Changes," David Bowie 

No one in the MCU changes like Loki. And we're not just talking about his ability to astral project and appear to change location. True to Hiddleston's description of him as an agent of chaos, Loki is a standout in the MCU for being a character who very consistently over time is unpredictable. Furthermore, he's gone from being neutral good to chaotic evil back to chaotic good over the course of seven years of films, an extremely long arc of redemption also quite unlike any character development we've seen. (The Winter Soldier's story arc doesn't even come close, imho.) And fans such as myself who'd always hoped that kid we saw in the first Thor movie would overcome his disappointments and bitterness and turn away from the Dark Side were at least comforted to see that, if he must go, he came to a good end.

David Bowie - Heroes

"Heroes," David Bowie 

Which brings us to this. (Yes, Loki gets two David Bowie songs. Of course he does. He can be a hero. Just for one day.) And while he didn't get the kind of death scene we'd want to see for a favorite character, the lack of pomp and circumstance does give us a tiny kernel (smaller than an Infinity Stone) of hope that he'll be back in next year's Avengers 4. In the meantime, there's always that play...



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