What makes a Loki a Loki?
Loki is called upon to be a lot of different people. He’s been raised on Asgard, and that’s formed some of the more basic aspects of his personality and values, but at the same time he has attributes that have been consistently discouraged and pushed down by that culture, and we can see them step forward as he moves into situations where they are encouraged.
Throughout the canons, there are a lot of Lokis. Siege Loki, Lady Loki, Kid Loki and his murderer, Ikol, King Loki, and the God/Goddess of Stories. The earlier aspects I know only by secondhand information, but I’m very familiar with Loki from Young Avengers and Agent of Asgard, some of my favorite comics of all time. But I know some basic facts - the way the earliest Loki was a quintessential comic book villain full of pure simple theatrical mischief and ridiculous schemes, the fact that Lady Loki was a somewhat more sinister appropriator of bodies for her own use.
In my view, MCU!Loki has, at the very least, the same capacity to shift personalities depending on the circumstances, and I haven’t yet seen anything in the Loki show that’s thrown my suspension of disbelief with regards to his characterization.
I’ve seen some people rebel at the idea of Loki gleeful over the destruction of Pompeii and the causing of chaos it allowed, but it reminds me of some meta I wrote very early on in my years of meta-writing in the MCU. The values Loki was raised with, Asgardian values, sometimes treat death very lightly, especially death in battle, especially human or otherwise non-Aesir death. In the Aesir context, at least to a certain extent and certainly in terms of what we’ve seen Odin teach his sons onscreen, violence is honorable, fighting is an adventure, lives are cheap and Valhalla is the ultimate goal.
I think a lot of the central conflict of Loki’s character is that he follows some of these principles to their logical conclusions in situations that Aesir values never meant them to cover. If life is unimportant, then it won’t be so bad if I tell Thor that Odin is dead. If the throne of Asgard has dominion over all the Nine Realms, then why shouldn’t I rule Midgard?
But he also shifts the way he acts to suit the situation. He is a shifter, it’s what he does. On Asgard, he is expected to be a warrior, a dignified prince, a companion and support for his brother. The values are bravery and dignity, and so a lot of what he projects there is bravado and elegance, which are close enough for him to get by.
When he is taken by Thanos, the only things Thanos wants and values are power and death. So Loki becomes an avatar of power and death. He carries that with him to Earth, because he is still very much under the jurisdiction of Thanos. But he very quickly learns how to use and manipulate Earth values, like wit and pathos. They seem to fit him better than the others, and he carries them through the other movies and the different frameworks he finds himself in.
He also tends to carry Asgard with him, the knowledge that he’s a prince, destined to be a king, that he needs to carry himself a certain way, with that elegance, dignity and bravado.
When I see Loki in the first episode of the show, I recognize him as some of the deepest, most quintessential parts of Loki that have only been allowed to peek out on occasion before. And that is due to manipulation on Mobius’s part - Mobius makes it very clear what he expects of Loki. To get down to the very basic levels of him and find out his motivations, what makes him fundamentally himself - “What makes Loki tick?” There’s a quiet void there, and the only thing that’s being asked of Loki, for once, is that he sit down and fill that void with words - the truest and most sincere words possible.
There’s a clear and interesting divide between that phase for Loki, and the phase we see in episode two - Mobius has stopped providing that space, and in the interim, he’s made it very clear what he expects Loki to be like, what mold he’d prefer the trickster to fit into.
The hard-working, lovable scamp.
Loki is hiding his deepest self again, which we all do most of the time. Loki can’t feel that deeply and express that freely all the time. Because of the environment he’s in - which may not be any more or less free than any of the other environments he’s experienced - he expresses himself in a particular way. He is the hard-working, mischievous scamp Mobius has been pushing him to be.
I don’t think he’s any more or less himself than he’s ever been - he’s simply responding to different pressures. And the pressures of this episode press him very hard into the Neal Caffrey mold. Which is an interesting mold in itself - when I was writing White Collar fic, I made a point to distinguish who Neal was when he was with Peter and who he was under different circumstances - prison, witness protection, with Mozzie, with Kate. (I wrote an autistic Kate, and had him most freely himself when he was with her.)
Like Neal Caffrey, the Episode 2 Loki is treading a line between behaviors that will get him things because he’s useful and compliant, behaviors that will demonstrate that he’s into minor trickery for fun now and might not be getting up to anything bigger, and those bigger tricks that are definitely still running in the background. It’s the obvious balance for a trickster on a leash with an indulgent bureaucrat.
You can see that it’s a facade in the way that he is near tears when he sees the Ragnarok paperwork, but when he brings it to Mobius’s attention and Mobius expresses his sympathies, Loki says “Yes, very sad,” and then dismisses it in favor of moving on to his mischievous enthusiasm over the resulting theory he’s had.
Like all good lies, it’s built out of truth, so when I see this Loki, I see pieces of the Loki I know, just put together a little differently, which is how Loki seems to do it.
Although he’s not free as he might hope to be, and in fact threading a narrow path between a very constricting set of pressures, I do still think he’s enjoying the dropped expectations of dignity and elegance. I think he’s enjoying being in a culture that encourages him to be a geek. To go on about the things he’s passionate about and his areas of expertise. And I think that’s a lot of what unsettles people about this Loki, because that elegance and dignity have carried everywhere else with him. And I’m not going to argue that the TVA are doing anything nice for him - quite the contrary - but I still do enjoy seeing him able to be the geek he’s always had the inclination to be, in the right circumstances.
It makes me wonder, a little, how much his mother is on his mind right now, after the first episode, because if I had a guess, the last time he’s felt free to be this enthusiastic and expressive about his interests is in magic lessons with her as a child.
So. The other variant.
We know from the Lady Loki comics arc that Loki can possess other people’s bodies over the long term, and we know from kid!Loki and his murderer interacting in YA that the original occupant of a body can sometimes hang around and talk back, if only as a figment of his imagination. We know from most incarnations that Loki can go to a lot of dark places if the circumstances push him to it.
As I’ve said before, I’m intrigued by the question the difference between the two variants poses - how much different can two Lokis be before they are no longer meaningfully the same person?
We’ve got clues on both sides, of course - our scamp on a leash saying “I wouldn’t do this to myself” on the side of them being not the same person, and the vengeful goddess he’s chasing saying “I was afraid they’d found a better version of me” on the side of them being the same person.
The more I think about it, the more I’m willing to predict that this vengeful goddess is, in some way, an incarnation of Loki. But (be warned, I’m going to reference Stephenie Meyer now) it could be in as small a way as something out of The Host - a stolen body’s original personality fighting dirty against the invading spirit.
If this is something based on the character of Sylvie from the comics, it could still be anything from a person - human or Asgardian - chosen and manipulated by Loki to do his bidding, to a full-on possession, or even a body constructed for a specific purpose but developing its own personality traits.
We know this variant is a body hopper, and Mobius’s briefing mentioned that it’s an inherent ability of most Lokis to shapeshift, so there are a lot of potential explanations for this unfamiliar shape.
But the differences between the variants could also stem mostly from different experiences.
The only thing I’m at all sure of is that this variant has also been tortured by Thanos. It’s possible that she branched earlier - that the wild desperation of having freshly escaped Thanos translated into being dragged into the TVA like a cornered wildcat, on the raggedy edge and desperate enough to go all-out to get out of the collar while still in the custody of the minute men. Then, as she became familiar with the TVA in concept and execution, developed opinions and built a personality around taking them down, taking them apart the way she wished she could do to Thanos, the way Thanos did to her.
But she could also have branched later - after the destruction of Asgard, or when Thanos appeared on the refugee ship. After the worst has happened to her people. With some preexisting notion that time could have gone differently, that some things that had happened should not be allowed to happen.
I have a weak spot for interactions between incarnations of Loki in the comics, so I am incredibly eager to see the MCU’s take on this.
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And here we are for episode two. Couldn't watch it last night cz my kid woke up xD anywho, first thoughts, Im kinda digging this green and gold marvel logo a lot more than the boring red one xD
Mind control? Evil Loki Variant does mind control. I wonder if this Variant ever faced Thanos. Also! They used the song! Its one of my favourite songs!!! Now i wanna sing along but unfortunately I can't because my kid is asleep and I dont want to wake her up in the middle of the night. I do wonder why the variant kept the hot commander alive unlike all the other attacks
Why does the TVA have such a retro vibe?
Loki definitely wants everyone to know how awesome he is.
There used to be a HULK LOKI??? Also the look on Loki's face 🤣
The one after the hulk is just... I honestly don't have words to describe that one.. just wut???
I love the geeky Loki telling them about the nuances of magic (Im already creating a headcanon that this is an act and he's only showing them what they want to see i.e. an eager to please, slightly duplicitous version of Loki who wants them to know he's super useful to keep around)
Professor Loki. I do like the sound of that even if I suddenly flashed back to all of the harry potter crossover fics i used to read where Loki became a teacher at Hogwarts.
Mobius just gave Loki an answer from Doctor Who!!! Well sorta like that, not the same one but its all wibbly wobbly timey whimey stuff!
Loki is making his attempts at manipulation very very obvious and somewhat desperate. I'm really really reallllllly hoping this is an act. Come on writer people dont make me regret my decision to watch this show. I really wanna love it but I'm in that once bitten twice shy boat regarding the handling of his character so I'm either gonna come out of this series absolutely loving it orrrrrr I'm gonna hate it FOREVER and happily live in my headcanons.
It was an act! We finally see the real Loki! There is hope for this show yet!
Also the way his voice goes from the higher pitched eager to please tone to that deeper, slightly sinister yet 'i know I'm powerful and you should fear me' tone was fun to see.
This had better still be an act. He's supposed to be awesome at playing the long game.
He got shushed! So he shushed her back!
So wait... The total population on Asgard less than 10,000? Really?
Yeah Loki. Stabbing people in the back is boring. Stab them in the face! Much more fun that way.
Total Doctor Who vibes! They went to Pompeii! Ohhh imagine how fun it would be to see Doctor and Donna strolling somewhere in the background. Not that that would happen but now its my new headcanon and you'll have to stab me in the face to pry this headcanon from my claws xD
Loki, I'm loving your enthusiasm but the word Volcano was coined AFTER Pompeii's destruction. I doubt they know what you're talking about 😂 also, there's a volcano 'splodin! In the background, where the hell are the earthquakes?
Magic lizards. Loki really has a way with naming things doesn't he
Existence is chaos. Loki is the god of chaos. Since in algebra if a=b and b=c then a=c=a SO Loki is the god of existence and the variant Loki has already reached that conclusion so now the magic space lizards are feeling threatened by variant loki's potential and they want the variant dead to keep being the most powerful magic space lizards inside and outside of existence! Guys! I've just solved this season's plotline. If I don't live react to the remaining series episodes, know that I was found by you know who and taken for giving out spoilers.
Mobius: You're very clever!
Loki: and that surprises you? O_o
Asgard getting destroyed was a class seven apocalypse but the thin in 2050 is a level ten? I wonder how these classifications work.
The grin! The grin! They're both doing the grin!
You guys mean to tell me that NONE of the product packagings or designs have been altered or upgraded in thirty years? Dove, Axe, Vaseline, Tresseme, its all literally the same as the stuff I saw on the shelves at the grocers this week 🤣 i know it's a minor thing but I find that kinda hilarious.
Whyyyyyyy does Loki keep getting knocked around so much. Also, why isn't he using any magic. Grrrr... I find this most displeasing
She blond?!? Why is she blond??
Poor Mobius. I feel kinda sorry for him tbh.
And that's wrap on this episode. Still having mixed feelings about the series. There are parts that I like and then there are parts which keep bugging me. I'm not familiar with the various plotlines in the comics so I dunno whatever happened in those to the Loki though I find it interesting that Lady Loki (why is she blonddddd??? Why not make her a redhead instead? Loki was a redhead in most of the depictions pre-avengers, wasn't he?) has that broken horn on her headpiece like that one version from the comics.
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