He is Loki of Asgard, and – despite what has become his catchphrase – he wasn’t always burdened with glorious purpose.
After a decade of hovering at the edges of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Tom Hiddleston’s character is finally taking centre stage. While the camera has until now remained firmly trained on the MCU’s ever-expandable cohort of Avengers, Loki, one of the franchise’s most infamous villains, is the subject of the new, eponymous Disney+ series.
The show, also starring Owen Wilson, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, and Wunmi Mosaku, is an offshoot of a brief scene in Avengers: Endgame, during which Loki steals the Tesseract (a powerful cube that enables inter-dimensional travel) and escapes from custody. In Loki, the God of Mischief is once again captured, this time by the Time Variance Authority, a shockingly bureaucratic organisation in charge of monitoring the multiverse’s timelines. Having messed with reality, Loki is offered a choice: he can risk having his entire existence deleted, or he can help the TVA catch a greater threat.
It’s pretty perfect for Loki, the show, to have grown out of a storytelling anomaly. Because Loki, the character, is in many ways a beautiful accident too. Since he was first introduced in the 2011 Thor, Loki has survived several on-screen deaths, rising from secondary character to MCU darling. Despite having always been confined to subplot, he has spawned an endless stream of gifs, Tumblrs, fan art, cosplays, and YouTube montages of his best scenes. The antihero has become one of the most compelling characters in the Marvel franchise – edgier than a Captain America, far less self-righteous than an Iron Man. He is the itch that every Marvel fan, on some level, wants to scratch.
“Everybody loves a villain,” says Gugu Mbatha-Raw, who portrays the authoritative Ravonna Renslayer in Loki. “Everybody enjoys an antihero. And people love to live vicariously through mischievous characters and think, ‘Gosh, I wish I could be like that and get away with it. I wish I could have that charm and those magical powers.’ And underneath it all, [Loki] is quite an insecure guy. He lived in the shadow of his brother for so long, so there is that relatable family dynamic as well.”