Read part 1, including Loki’s backstory and motivations established in ‘Thor’
Read part 2, covering ‘Avengers’ and ‘Thor: The Dark World’
“Thor: Ragnarok” (2017)
After finishing second to his older brother in ‘Thor‘, failing spectacularly in his bid to rule Earth in ‘The Avengers‘, and retroactively faking his death in ‘Thor: The Dark World‘, Loki returns to Asgard in Taika Waititi’s 2017’s film ‘Thor: Ragnarok‘. Posing as Odin until Thor exposes him as a fraud, Loki is recruited by Thor to help locate Odin. The brothers find Odin moments before he passes into the afterlife after bidding farewell to both as his sons.
Stranded on an alien planet after losing his adoptive father, Loki is further rattled by the potential loss of Thor, and refuses to be left behind.
Loki’s relationship with his brother undergoes a profound shift in ‘Ragnarok’ when Thor finally seems to give up on waiting for Loki’s better nature to triumph. As Tom Hiddleston observed “The idea that Thor might be indifferent to Loki is troubling for him… it’s an interesting development.”
Thor’s new indifference troubles Loki because his identity within the family as been ‘My family has rejected me; my brother doesn’t love me, I hate my brother’. But now Thor is pushing Loki away, which flips the dynamic between the brothers.
Loki is visibly disturbed by Thor’s willingness to give him up as a brother because their sibling rivalry has long defined Loki’s identity and place within the family. Loki’s deep need for his brother bubbles right to the surface in ‘Ragnarok’, resulting in Loki giving in to Thor’s request to play ‘Get Help’. When Thor seems to say goodbye to him, Loki falls right back into an old childhood game, no matter how humiliating, to maintain a connection with this brother.
The Real Black Sheep of the Family
Without Frigga and now without Odin, Loki is forced to re-think his relationship with Thor since his brother is the only real family he has left.
But Thor isn’t Loki’s only sibling. After Odin’s death, the brothers are forced to confront another scorned family member, Odin’s firstborn, Hela (Cate Blanchett).
Now the brothers have bigger problems — their sister, the enormously powerful goddess of death. With Hela’s arrival, Loki loses his claim as the most shunned member of the dysfunctional royal house of Asgard. Compared to Odin simply lying to Loki about his parentage, he’s treated Hela much worse — he’s locked her away.
Up against Hela’s indomitable powers – Hela crushes Thor’s hammer with a single hand and a smile – and wanting to return home to Asgard, Loki keeps close to Thor. He is also eventually humbled into cooperating with Hulk, his former enemy from ‘Avengers’.
Feeling insecure about Thor’s loyalty to him as a brother, relieved of the role of antagonist, and with the fate of Asgard at stake, Loki is finally forced to choose a side. As he did in ‘Dark World’, Loki decides to fight alongside his brother and the two unite against a common enemy. Loki’s refusal to be abandoned and his reluctance to let go of his brother helps him round the corner of his redemption arc.
“Avengers: Infinity War” (2018)
In Anthony Russo’s 2018 film “Avengers: Infinity War‘, Loki completes his redemption arc by dying in a failed attempt to kill Thanos in order to free Thor. With a meaningful look at Thor, Loki calls himself ‘Odinson’, affirming their bond as brothers and demonstrating his new understanding of family.
Redemption arcs usually conclude in an honorable death, which Loki achieves in ‘Infinity War’. But the 2021 TV series undoes this redemption in order to re-open Loki’s character arc to emotionally power the series. The TV series Loki is a character who is still grappling with his need for the love of his family, torn by guilt over Frigga’s death, and back to his old tricks.
Conclusion: Great Villains Are Born of Tragic Circumstances
Tom Hiddleston has said of Loki: “I had to find his smile. His innate love of anarchy and chaos. I had to make his pain real. Great villains are born from tragic circumstances. They become dangerous when their vulnerability and their pain hardens into vengeance.”
Despite all of his internal rage and resentment towards Odin and Thor, Loki can’t let go of his family, especially his mother. Loki’s enduring, agonizing love for his family is what causes his pain… and also redeems him.
Check out DarthxErik’s music video featuring the Imagine Dragon song ‘Monster’ (cover by Runaground) that inspired this blog series
What do you think about Loki’s complex relationship with his family? Let me know in the comments!