I did one of these for The Falcon and the Winter Soldier and I thought it'd be fun to try it again for Loki. However, unlike FAWS, I actually have some knowledge about Loki that's going to influence my thoughts. So I can't say that these are totally baseless predictions formed around unrealistic expectations.
Well, some of my expectations are unrealistic. "I'd like MCU Fandom to remember that Loki in MCU canon bears little to no resemblance to the guy they worship far more than they ever will a cure for cancer" would be one. But that's more an unrealistic hope than it is an expectation so maybe that doesn't count. I mean I am in denial about many things but fandom's ability to create whole cloth narratives about skinny white boys who look like they haven't washed their hair since at, bare minimum, the Truman administration is not one of them.
(Side note: If I am ever going to commit death by fandom it'll be with an essay called "Wakanda Doesn't Like Bucky As Much As You Keep Thinking it Does" and it'll be nice having known you all.)
I kid. I kid because I love and also because I am very grateful to be a bi/pansexual woman who has greater options for my internal fantasies. Characters who use both shampoo and conditioner, for example.
ANYHOO, point being that unlike the vaguely spy-ish political thriller-esque thing that FAWS was, I actually know both Norse mythology and a fair amount of Loki's arcs in the comics. So I'm not making vague gestures towards my computer screen and going "No seriously can we have an entire show about Sarah Wilson giving Sam shit for every single outfit he ever thought was cool from his teenage years through to his college graduation" as though this might manifest into the world like my own Disney+ version of The Secret. Though I am, for the record, still doing that. Six seasons and a movie of the Sarah Wilson show, please and thank you, it's been a hard year for all of us and we've earned it.
Instead it's me saying okay, I know what toys are in the box when we're talking about Loki and here's the ones I'd like the show to be playing with.
Now one catch is that when you know comics it does mean a higher than average ability to guess what an MCU plotline might be. If you knew Tony's big comic moments you knew Extremis was probably going to show up at some point, for example. So I'm going to try to thread the needle here where I reference comics things without referencing comics spoilers just in case the show decides to do a one for one version of events. To keep using the Tony comparison, I'll do things like say "In the comics there's a storyline about a thing called Extremis" but I won't then go on to say "Here's what Extremis is, here's all the characters involved in that plotline, here's what happens, and also here's how that plot concludes."
That being said I know there are some people for whom even suggestions of comic ideas are too much of a spoiler. In which case I totally respect that and if you want to bail now there are no hard feelings. I'll see you when the episodes start airing.
But for the rest of us....
The Norse Things
Let's get the nerdy things out of the way first because if you're not here for my passionate love of things that very few people outside of maybe one YouTuber care about why did you even subscribe and/or click on this article?
Which is to say Norse mythology! From which our boy Loki hails!
Look, I know Marvel properties aren't the place to go for accuracy on anything from history to myth to just where in New York City is the best place to get a slice of pizza (they're like Andrew Yang that way, HEYOO). But the concept of Loki and everybody else in Thor's orbit comes from known myths and as somebody who actually digs these myths and gods specifically, I'd love for more of the source material influence to show up.
For starters, you should be aware right now that a phrase I am probably going to be repeating as often as I do "The five year time jump in Endgame was the DUMBEST FUCKING IDEA" is "Trickster God." As in Loki is a TRICKSTER GOD. Which means he is neither good nor evil by definition.
In the realm of religious pantheons Trickster Gods hold a very specific role. The trick is the point. The inability to know when, how, or if they're going to screw you over is why they exist in the narrative. In D&D terms they are the definition of chaotic neutral (warning for a TVTropes link because Wikipedia has a horrible entry on what Chaotic Neutral means and whoever wrote that should be ashamed of themselves.)
The problem comes when, as also often happens at a D&D table, people confuse "chaotic neutral" with "chaotic asshole." Which, to be fair, Marvel comics canon has a problem with as well and we'll get to that. But point being a Trickster God isn't there to specifically be a jerk. If they were jerks 100% of the time they wouldn't be known as Trickster Gods they'd be known as That Douchebag God Who Keeps Fucking us Over And Who Also Still Owes Me Ten Bucks For Lunch Last Week.
With a Trickster you should be in a situation where you never know what you're going to get. Now in different pantheons Tricksters can take different forms, sure. Some of them can be like monkey's paw wishes, some of them might say they're going to help then lead you on a decades long quest that doesn't actually do anything. But in general Loki falls along the lines of "I did it for the lulz." Which is to say yes, he will sometimes stab people in the back because betrayal is funny, but he's also sometimes helpful because, unlike the guys behind Game of Thrones, he actually understands the good kind of "subverting expectations."
Now the plus side is that the various trailers for the show seem to indicate that both the show and the characters around Loki are both aware of this dynamic and are counting on it. So fingers crossed it goes in that direction and stays there.
If we're getting into other Norse myths I'd personally love to either see or have be referenced on the show, honestly it's a crime that we've only seen Sleipnir briefly in the first Thor movie and then only as a cameo. I'm not saying it has to be a whole plotline but if we got a scene of Loki bumping into Svaðilfari during one of his timeline shenanigans and recreating this scene with Constantine and King Shark I am going to be the exact opposite of sad about it.
(Side note: Today I Learned that the ship name for that is "ConstantShark" and you know sometimes internet fandom actually is a force for good, I'll admit it.)
It is also a crime that to date we have gotten zero MCU canonical mention of the time Loki helped Thor dress up like a woman so he could have sex with a frost giant to get his hammer back but I'll understand if Taika might be holding that one in his back pocket for Love and Thunder. It would be thematic after all.
So let's talk comics.
The Comic Things
In the comics there are multiple forms of Loki. This page has a good rundown but bear in mind it also comes with spoilers for all of them. I tried to find a site that just gave a brief overview and no luck. So I guess that's on me now? Yay?
Basically Marvel comics has always had a problem with the Trickster God thing. One side is people who have written about Loki who are really into the trickster part (which is not uncommonly hand in hand with "Hey we make more money if we draw Loki to look like Tom Hiddleston" side). Others are of the No Fuck You He's Evil And Always Will Be side which often comes with "Also both he AND his costume are ugly so suck it. But not because again shame on you for having the hots for him, you fake comic fans who have the audacity to have been born after 1962."
The way this has shaken out in the comics is by (again being vague) having stories with different forms of Loki. So for a while you have Hot Trickster Loki and then the writers change so it's Ugly Evil Loki and all kinds of variations in between.
Of the forms of Loki people have written about, the big ones are:
- Kid Loki. Exactly what it says on the tin. He's Loki as a child.
- Lady Loki: Sort of what it says on the tin. She started out as being Loki having stolen Sif's body so a bit problematic. Later this was redone to connect to the Norse myths about how Loki is genderfluid and can shapeshift to reflect that as desired.
- Agent of Asgard Loki: Also known as the "Oh no, he's hot" Loki. Named after the comic series he appeared in, this version of Loki had many noteworthy features but the big one was asking the artists "Hey what if we could combine the Hiddleston thing with making him look like he's maybe just a year or two over the legal age where people are allowed to want to bone him?"
- Classic Loki: Aka the original Marvel comics Loki and these days the Loki drawn and written by and for the people who hate the concept of Loki as anything but evil, in any way related to Hiddleston, and seriously in any way appealing to modern comics fans.
Comics being what they are, it's not a spoiler to say that there are storylines not only about Loki but about every Marvel character having different versions of themselves based on multiverses, timeline shenanigans, the Flash deciding to have a very special DC to Marvel crossover that day, or whatever. So in a show that's, per its own trailers, about a version of Loki engaging in wacky timeline fun, hopefully some of the toys they take out of the chest are the various Lokis that they could play with.
Of my own particular preferences and/or where I'd put my money, I'd say Kid Loki is a solid bet. In the comics he's most known for being part of the Young Avengers and between Wanda's kids and the upcoming introductions of Kate Bishop and America Chavez (also members of Young Avengers) it'd frankly be weird not to bring Kid Loki in.
Of the rest, my guess is we'll at least see a glimpse of Classic Loki because at bare minimum it lets a not insignificant portion of the audience recreate the Leonardo DiCaprio pointing meme. Lady Loki probably also has good odds because the concept of her is interesting but, again, if I'm placing wagers I'd put her as a "This is Loki from a different universe" rather than an acknowledgement of Loki being gender fluid because we all know how well Disney properties handle gay characters. (Related: I'm not even going to waste any of my pretend money on whether they'll acknowledge that Loki's sexuality is as fluid as his gender.)
Agent of Asgard Loki is, if I had to guess, going to be limited to a costume reference on Hiddles and that's it. Narratively there's not enough to distinguish that version that you need him specifically as opposed to folding his plot points into the other Lokis. At which point all that's left is his age and meh. Enough people are happy to drool over Hiddles as he is right now, they don't need a younger ringer to fill that need. Save it for if Kid Loki hangs around and ages up, yanno?
I'm going to be interested to see how the show handles the problem of how, in general, the character who gains audience love for being the interesting supporting character is now thrust into the spotlight. This is no shade on Hiddles, who is a wonderful actor. It's just that in any format typically charismatic and flamboyant side characters work better in small doses. They're meant as seasoning, not the meal.
Now the Disney+ Marvel shows have so far done a great job of handling side characters taking a main role, but the flip side is that Wanda, Vision, Sam, and Bucky don't hit high peaks on an energy scale. Some of them are colorful looking but they are not colorful characters.
What helps characters like Loki is contrast. Thor is not a wacky character. He can be funny but in general he's the solid one the story is built around, which allows for things like Loki to bounce off him and hit notes that Thor can't. It's clear that Owen Wilson is being set up to be the straight man here (or at least the dry humor man which is again contrast) so we'll see how that goes.
The other thing I'm hoping is that the show at least touches on the problem that, since there's a Gamora running around at the end of Endgame and now a Loki (if not multiple Lokis) running around in this show.... why the fuck have we lost anyone in the MCU? Why can't we have a Tony? Why can't we have a Nat? (I'm not adding Steve to this list because regardless of whether or not he's dead in the MCU he is dead to me and thus I do not care.)
I'm not saying you can't kill characters off. By all means kill characters off if it makes sense for the story. But if characters are going to die and stay dead then you can't bring other characters back willy nilly and not talk about why that's allowed for some but not all. Tony's got a five year old currently growing up without her father. Why can't they grab a Tony from another timeline and bring him over to read Morgan bedtime stories? Why can't there be a Nat from 2014 the same way there is a Gamora?
(And I don't want to hear the "Um, ACTUALLY..." replies about how time travel worked when the Russos can't even agree amongst themselves what the rules were. That and Strange's "Shut the Hell up everyone" scene can go in the same trash pile of bad writing excuses as the five year time jump, yes I'm still bitter thanks for asking.)
So yeah. That's about where I am. Trickster God, multiple forms of Loki, good writing. Insert your own joke here about which ones are the reasonable expectations I suppose.
I will be writing about the series as it comes out. Unless it pulls a Nevers on us and turns out to really suck but that, at least, isn't likely to happen.
See you after episode 1!