Loki is only a few weeks away from debuting on Disney+, and there have been several trailers and sneak peeks to give Marvel fans a taste of what the series has in store. However, there are still a lot of questions that have yet to be answered about the show — namely, what is Loki even about?
Yes, it has been made abundantly clear that Loki focuses on the variant of the God of Mischief who escaped with the Tesseract in Avengers: Endgame, as well as that he will be time-traveling in order to fix the mess he made.
However, the series has no clear MCU purpose (glorious or otherwise) at the moment akin to The Falcon and the Winter Soldier setting up Sam Wilson as the next Captain America and seeing Bucky Barnes heal tremendously from his time as the Winter Soldier, or WandaVision showing Wanda dealing with her grief from losing Vision in Avengers: Infinity War and coming into her own as the Scarlet Witch. These shows also took the opportunity to flesh out other characters in the MCU, like setting up Sharon Carter’s villainous role or establishing the adult version of Monica Rambeau and telling her superhero origin story.
WHAT WILL LOKI'S SHOW BRING TO THE MCU?
So far, Loki doesn’t seem particularly poised to do this the way the aforementioned series did. For one thing, the version of the title character being featured here isn’t the one fans have followed throughout the MCU, at least not in the later films. As mentioned in the trailers, this Loki is a “variant” who has experienced everything that the Loki from the main timeline (or "sacred timeline," as the series will deem it) did up until the end of The Avengers, meaning he is at his most villainous point and hasn’t had the redemption arc that fans saw in his later appearances in the franchise.
Also, the other characters in Loki (at least, the ones that are known to the public) are all new to the MCU. Fans may have been a bit thrown off by WandaVision’s premise, but at least that project mostly centered on characters that audiences were familiar with. With Loki, the variant of the title character is the closest thing fans will have to a familiar face for most (if not all) of the Disney+ series.
Then, of course, there’s the time travel element. It’s not entirely clear whether the time periods visited in the series are meant to be part of the main MCU’s timeline or otherwise, but regardless most of the ones being visited appear to be ones that haven’t been seen in the MCU before. In other words, fans shouldn’t expect an Avengers: Endgame-style walkthrough of past Marvel moments to bring them up to speed.
The question here is, given all of this, how is Loki going to further advance the character or the MCU in general? It just seems so disconnected to everything else at the moment. Not every project has to strongly tie in with the greater narrative, but why bring a “variant” of a past character on board instead of bringing the original version back, or just having a different character altogether star in the TVA storyline?
POSSIBLE CONNECTION BETWEEN LOKI & INFINITY WAR
Thinking about the first option, many fans have theorized about the possibility that the original MCU Loki (who will henceforth be referred to as Loki Prime) somehow didn’t actually die in Avengers: Infinity War. The attempted knife attack on Thanos, in particular, has been hotly debated as to whether this was a case of Loki acting out of character or knowing he was going to die regardless and only pretending to try to kill Thanos.
Some who believe this theory believe Loki was possibly attempting to get into Valhalla, a sort of Norse lore equivalent to Heaven in which wielding a weapon at the time of one’s death is a possible requirement of entry.
Conversely, many of those who don’t buy into that particular theory have been hoping for a reveal of Loki Prime having a trick up his sleeve and somehow not actually dying in that moment. A lot of this has to do with his “the sun will shine on us again” line, which was spoken with so much gravitas only to never be referenced again (yet).
WHICH LOKI DID THANOS KILL?
One theory that has been circling amongst fans is the possibility of the Loki variant being followed in the upcoming series, traveling to the beginning of Infinity War in the main MCU timeline and being the one to die instead of Loki Prime. Within this theory, Loki's brief disappearance in the film’s opening sequence would likely be the time when the switch between the two Lokis would occur.
There would have to be a very legitimate reason for this swap to happen; it would need to make narrative sense and its execution would need to be expertly handled to avoid confusion among fans. One possibility could be that the Loki variant realizes the TVA will not allow him to exist beyond his missions, so he may choose to die in place of the one in the main timeline so at least another version of himself can live on.
Another possibility is that a rift in the timeline is preventing Loki from dying in that confrontation with Thanos and causing later events to be thrown out of whack, creating circumstances even worse than what was to occur. Therefore, the variant dies in the main Loki's place, resulting in the latter somehow remaining alive in the MCU (albeit secretly, since the events of Infinity War and Endgame would remain the same).
Promotional footage from Loki has revealed the variant will be shown parts of Loki Prime's life, but it is not known whether he will be made aware of his death at the hands of Thanos.
This would provide both a key connection between Loki and the rest of the MCU as well as a tie-in with the series’ theme of Loki discovering more about himself. The phrase “What makes a Loki, a Loki?” has started appearing on merchandise and is sure to be important to the show. This would ultimately allow both versions of the character to grow, with the variant applying it at the end of the series and passing it onto Loki Prime before dying in his place.
Many fans have been anxiously awaiting a payoff to the aforementioned line in Infinity War, and this scenario would also open the door for a reunion between Loki Prime and his brother Thor, who will soon be continuing his own adventures in the main MCU timeline.
This plot point would carry a few potential issues. Viewers who were satisfied with the way Loki went out in Infinity War may not appreciate Marvel pulling a switcheroo like this, and there is the matter of logistics to consider. The Loki variant is supposed to be fixing the timeline, so unless the switch was part of a closed time loop (which probably wouldn’t work given how time travel has been shown to work in the MCU thus far) this sort of act would probably only make things worse and go directly against what the TVA wants this Loki variant to do.
Whether serving as a cliffhanger or lead-in to the all-but-confirmed second season of the God of Mischief's solo series (which would then pick up with Loki Prime as the main character of this theory pans out), this storyline would more than likely result in the return of Loki Prime to the franchise, either being switched with the variant and having to work with the TVA in his place, or existing somewhere else in the universe.
Tune into the season premiere of Loki on Disney+ June 9 to find out if Loki Prime will ever make his way back into the mainline MCU — if he hasn't already.