This week, Marvel finally gives the god of mischief the starring role he so richly deserves — or at least that he believes he does. But if you’re a Marvel Cinematic Universe fan, the Loki of Loki might not feel all the way familiar.
That’s because he’s not the same Loki who died at Thanos’ hands in Avengers: Infinity War, or ran around Sakaar with Thor and the Hulk in Thor: Ragnarok, or even the same Loki fought against the Dark Elves in Thor: The Dark World.
When the series was announced in 2019, Marvel Studios’ Kevin Feige said that Loki would pick up directly from a moment in Avengers: Endgame, when the Avengers went back in time to visit the Battle of New York and accidentally let Loki get his hands on the Tesseract — which he promptly used to escape to somewhere and somewhen else.
And that means that the Loki on Disney Plus is the one from a movie that came out almost a decade ago.
“It’s really interesting, having to unstitch the evolution of the character from The Dark World, Ragnarok, and Infinity War,” actor Tom Hiddleston told Polygon in an interview ahead of the series’ release. “It was like time travel in itself, in some strange way. Such an unusual privilege as an actor, I thought, to go back into a character you played 10 years ago, and pick up where we left off.”
But with the Time Variance Authority involved, it’s possible all of Loki’s timeline may come back into play as the Asgardian crisscrosses through history. So just so we have all of our Lokis in a row(keys), let’s do a quick recap of the best villain in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
Loki’s first appearance is as the antagonist of his brother’s cinematic debut. In the movie, he found out he wasn’t really an Asgardian at all, but an adopted frost giant, and concocted a scheme to invite a frost giant invasion of Asgard while Odin was incapacitated and Thor banished, so that he could defeat his biological father to gain his adopted father’s approval. It didn’t work, and when his scheme was uncovered, he chose to fall off the Bifrost and become lost in the cosmos rather than face justice.
Defining Loki moment: Tom Hiddleston’s instantly compelling performance rocketed Loki to “oops, we made him too sympathetic” villain status just in time for him to go full megalomaniac in his next appearance.
Somewhere in the cosmos, Loki ran into a servant of Thanos who offered him an army and the power of an Infinity Stone (the Mind Stone) to use to invade earth and seize another Infinity Stone (the Tesseract).
Loki succeeded in using the Tesseract to open a portal in spacetime so that Chitauri invaders could pour into the skies of Manhattan, but the army and Loki’s plan were stopped by the Avengers, who united in retribution for the late Phil Coulson, whom Loki murdered. In the timeline established in the main Marvel Cinematic Universe continuity, this is where Loki’s conquest ends — at the end of Avengers, SHIELD hauls him away in handcuffs.
Defining Loki moment: KNEEL.
Thor: The Dark World (2013)
Loki begins Thor: The Dark World moping in Asgardian prison after his defeat during the Battle of New York. Then, after indirectly causing his mom’s death, he’s let out of prison in order to help Thor and his allies defeat a Dark Elf invasion. Then he dies.
Or not — turns out, he faked his own death. Loki resurfaces in a The Dark World credits scene where it was revealed that he’d somehow disguised himself as Odin and taken over rule of Asgard.
Defining Loki moment: Turning a fake death into disposing of your dad and taking his place all off screen.
Thor: Ragnarok (2017)
The first thing that happened to Loki in Thor: Ragnarok is that Thor uncovers his scheme and forces Loki to take him to where he’d hidden their father. Odin chooses that moment to die, which unleashes Thor and Loki’s very scary older sister, Hela, from eons-long imprisonment, kicking off the movie’s plot in a proper way.
Hela banishes them both to the planet Sakaar, where Loki works for the tyrannical Grandmaster but eventually helps Thor and the Hulk escape Sakaar. The group evacuates Asgard before the population’s destroyed in the Ragnarok apocalypse. But before they leave, Loki pilfers the Tesseract from Asgard’s treasure vaults, where it has been held in safekeeping since Avengers.
Defining Loki moment: Get help.
Avengers: Infinity War (2018)
This brings us to Avengers: Infinity War, when Thanos finally comes for all the Infinity Stones. At that point, Loki was still hanging out with Thor and the Asgardian refugees when Thanos showed up, seizes the Tesseract, and executes Loki, apparently for good.
But that’s all water that’s yet to flow under the bridge for Disney Plus’ Loki. The character we’ll see on screen is alive, younger, eviler, and with a lot less experience under his belt.