One of the biggest things about the MCU is that it moves its characters forward with twists and revelations that remain in place by the movie’s conclusion. Thor that fans see at the beginning of the first movie is so different from the man he is by the end of Ragnarok. With the loss of the hammer, his eye and the destruction of Asgard, Thor’s status quo has been shaken up.
The movie also does a great job in setting up great changes in Loki’s life. The changes are so massive that they may have repercussions for future movies and even a possible movie of his own.
When Thor returns to Asgard and finds his brother impersonating his father, he makes a point of saying that Loki has been doing this for their lives. Thor then gives Loki a chance at redemption and Loki stabs him in the back. Thor thought that his brother had died on Svartleheim after the clash with Malekith and Dark Elves, but was sad to discover that he had led to the events of his father’s death and the return of Hela. When they meet again, sits back and exploits the Grandmaster instead of helping his brother escape.
Loki ends up helping Thor, Hulk and Valkyrie escape Sakaar when he realizes that they will leave him behind if he does not help and attempts to betray Thor at the last minute.
For the first time in this relationship, Thor had to outthink his brother and had slipped one of the Sakaarian control disks onto Loki, and that immobilized him. What Thor says next to his brother is perhaps the most important conversation in the film, if you’re considering Loki’s growth as a character. He points out that throughout their lives, Thor has matured and changed; he used to be brash, headstrong and reckless, whereas now he’s more level-headed and mature. Loki on the other hand has always been Loki, and if he wants to survive, he, too, needs to change.
Agent of Asgard
This small but important conversation recalls the past decade of Loki stories in Thor comics, which saw the character go from the vicious schemer to someone nobler before ultimately landing somewhere in between. In the comics, Loki set loose a plan to remove his brother and return Asgard to what he viewed as its rightful place in the cosmos. His scheming did eventually lead to the exile of Thor and saw Loki join The Cabal, an anti-Illuminati of villains led by Norman Osborn, whose Dark Reign fell over the Marvel Universe. Loki manipulated Osborn by appearing to him in the form of the voice inside his head, the Green Goblin. He convinced Osborn to concoct a reason to invade Asgard to force his people to abandon Earth, but at the same time, recognized that it might backfire on him. And, so, he arranged a back-up plan for the future.
A conversation with Doctor Doom led to Loki realizing that while Asgard had escaped the cycle of Ragnarok, he, himself, remained stuck in a cycle. In Doom’s words “You remain Loki, Loki.” The thought of not being in control of his destiny and not being able to change offended Loki deeply and so he sought to rewrite his destiny by making deals with Hela and Mephisto that would remove his name from the books of Hel. Shortly afterward, Loki was killed by The Void though mourned by his brother; he wasn’t gone for long. Eventually, he reappeared as a child, a more innocent but still as precocious Loki that sought to help his brother despite the judgement he faced from the people of Asgard. Unfortunately, Kid Loki was just part of his deceased self’s longer plan which resulted in Kid Loki sacrificing himself to allow his former self to return in his place.
This new Loki, however, wasn’t the old Loki — and he wasn’t Kid Loki, either. He was something entirely new, who felt remorse for the death of his previous self and described his role in Kid Loki’s death as the murder weapon, but not the murderer. This new Loki forged his path in the Marvel Universe by saving all reality from the Mother parasite alongside the Young Avengers and aging up to something around the equivalent of early-twenties in appearance. This Loki was a Loki unbound by prophecy and unbound by the future that Asgard expected of him, and that frustrated some very important people including the All-Mother and his future self.
The Hero Within
That’s a lot to take in; a lot of moving parts involving a lot of Lokis. No-one expects the movies to do much if any of that, but it certainly feels like the MCU is poised to follow the spirit of it. Loki is one of the breakout characters of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. People like him, and, more importantly, they want to like him. A face turn just makes sense for him right now, and by tapping into the well of stories set up by the likes of J. Michael Straczynski, Kieron, and Al Ewing, Marvel Studios has a deep well of Loki-as-hero stories from the last decade to pull from.
Tom Hiddleston obviously adores playing the character and his performance is more than enough to carry a feature film, so why not give Loki a heroic moment in Avengers: Infinity War and spin him off into his own franchise come Phase 4?