Loki Is a Meta-Meditation on What It Means to Be a Comic Book Villain

Dept. of Mischief and Mayhem


Spoilers for M. Night Shyamalan’s Unbreakable. At the end of that movie, once Samuel L. Jackson’s Elijah Price is revealed to be a criminal mastermind and the villain of the piece, he says to Bruce Willis’ David Dunn what remains the most insightful line in all of superhero cinema: “Now that we know who you are, I know who I am.” It is, at once, an explanation of that character’s motivations, as well as a deeper reflection on the role of the comic book supervillain. In that they exist to serve the hero’s journey. They are defined purely in relation to their more heroic counterparts. Lex Luthor is to Superman what the Joker is to Batman, as the Red Skull is to Captain America, and the Kingpin to Daredevil. Their individual stories all but meaningless without the all powerful superhero for them to rail against. At its core, Marvel’s Loki seems built around a very similar idea.

Can a supervillain exist without the superhero? What about if he has his own TV show? Does being the hero of your own story automatically make you heroic?

There is a point in the first episode when Loki (Tom Hiddleston) has a rare moment of deep self-reflection. He is a prisoner of the Time Variance Authority and is subjected to a video montage of his greatest sins when Owen Wilson’s Mobius drops a sobering truth about his reason for being. Like all supervillains, he exists so “that others can achieve their best versions of themselves.” The “glorious purpose” that he is burdened with isn’t to rule over the nine realms but to be the B-plot to a superhero story. It is quite the mic drop.

Marvel’s Loki is many, many things – a spy caper, a crime thriller, a sci-fi noir, a complex time travel romp – but beyond those genre trappings, the series is also a meta-meditation on what it means to be the villain of a comic book story.

This series doesn’t make the same mistakes as Gotham, or even Joker. It doesn’t try to detach itself from the greater comic book context. It doesn’t try to deny the influence that Thor and the Avengers have had on who Loki is. Instead, it works within those boundaries as it sets out to redefine one of the MCU’s most complex characters.

When We Last Left Our Villain…


The series picks up right after what happens in Avengers: Endgame, when a fleeing Loki is immediately apprehended by agents from the Time Variance Authority and put on trial for threatening to disrupt the sacred timeline. Don’t worry If none of that makes sense right now. The first episode does a very good job of explaining the jargon and filling in all the blanks.

Remember that the version of Loki we meet in this series is the one from 2012. He has just lead an attack on New York City and lost to the newly formed team of “Earth’s Mightiest Heroes” (The Avengers), when he steals the Tesseract and vanishes into time and space (Avengers: Endgame). This Loki isn’t carrying the guilt of having inadvertently killed his mother (Thor: The Dark World), he hasn’t yet lost his father (Thor: Ragnarok), and he hasn’t witnessed the destruction of Asgard and the displacement of his people (also Thor: Ragnarok). He also hasn’t died at the hands of Thanos (Avengers: Infinity War).

This rewind is pulled off with tremendous skill and used to great effect, allowing the writers to revisit the core elements of Loki’s personality and his motivations. Loki has always had layers, and figuring out what makes him tick provides a lot of fun fodder for this series to explore.

It also helps that Tom Hiddleston remains really invested in this character. You can tell just how much fun he’s still having. And is an absolute delight to watch.

Well, Loki What We Have Here


I’ve only seen the first two episodes and already this series stands apart from both WandaVision and The Falcon and the Winter Soldier. Where both those shows sought to address a variety of very real, very human problems, Loki, much like the character himself, feels like more of a lark. Which doesn’t make it any less important. In fact, these first two episodes already have some of the strongest character work to come out of the MCU since Captain America: Civil War, with the Loki/Mobius relationship already shaping up to be the next big Marvel bromance.

Everything here is new. Besides Loki, these are all characters and concepts that we haven’t encountered before in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. From Time-Keepers to sacred timelines, from the multiverse to philosophizing about predetermination, this series feels like a real expansion of their narrative universe, and quite the fresh experience.

There is also the same storytelling confidence here that we witnessed in those opening episodes of WandaVision. There is faith in the audience. One that strays ever so slightly from the tried and tested Marvel formula in order to give us a show that’s more theatrical in its execution. Every one of these episodes is built around these long dialogues. Extended sequences in which Mobius and Loki just sit and talk to each other. Like the best thrillers, all of the tension and conflict in this series is built around conversations. It’s a bold decision. And one that really pays off.

It’s Kirbyesque!

There is so much about Loki that I already absolutely adore: the show’s Get Smart meets The Jetsons aesthetic, the spiff and charm of both Tom Hiddleston and Owen Wilson, as well as its unflinching push into the more zanier aspects of comic book lore.

Like WandaVision and The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, Loki is a series that can only exist now. This is a story that can be told in this way only because we’ve had more than a decade’s worth of world building and myth making in cinema. Only because of all the effort and hard work that Marvel Studios has done to ease a mass moviegoing audience into accepting comics and graphic novels as part of our mainstream cultural conversation.

God, it really is a glorious time to be a geek.

Loki premieres on Disney Plus Hotstar on Wednesday, 9 June, at 3:00PM. New episodes then drop every consecutive Wednesday for five weeks.

Uma has been reviewing things for most of his life: movies, television shows, books, video games, his mum's cooking, Bahir's fashion sense. He is a firm believer that the answer to most questions can be found within the cinematic canon. In fact, most of what he knows about life he learned from Ace Ventura: Pet Detective. He still hasn't forgiven Christopher Nolan for the travesties that are Interstellar and The Dark Knight Rises.

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