Few villains have ever been as complex and easy to love as Tom Hiddleston’s adaption of Loki. For all that he lied and betrayed his way across the universe, tried to murder his own brother (on multiple occasions), attempted to seize control of our planet at the expense of anyone who stood in his path, and displayed not a shred of remorse for any of it, it’s still difficult to not want to see Loki at least try to redeem himself.
For a moment, it seemed he was on the path of redemption in Thor The Dark World. Despite still having a complete lack of regret for any of his past actions, Loki seemed willing to put his own life and chance of escape on the line to save his brother. The atrocities he had committed, along with a blank frowning refusal to admit any fault, may have denied his redemption for most of us, but at least he was granted the villain’s dying grace, right?
Wrong. He fooled us all and returned at the end; a grinning False King upon Asgard’s throne. Again.
Nearly three years on, and the same questions continue to arise, both within the fandom and upon my search engine keyword stats, regarding Loki’s authenticity in that dying scene. Was Loki looking for redemption? Did he mean it when he told Thor he was sorry, and which royal screw up was he sorry for? Did Loki fake his death? Did he kill Odin? Will Loki be a villain in Thor 3…?
Okay, waay too many questions to try and answer here and now. But let’s have a shot at that redemption thing, and Loki’s sincerity (or lack of.)
Loki’s Redemption Arc
In the original script for Thor The Dark World, Loki was supposed to have a genuine redemption arc/ death by sacrificing himself to save his brother.
Although a last-minute decision was made by The Powers That Be to bring Loki back, debate still stands as to how genuine that redemption really could have been. Loki had, after all, done a god-awful load of dumbass things. And both his opening scene with Odin1)which was another last-minute addition that served as an important bridge between The Avengers and Thor 2 and that touchingly-tender cell scene he shared with Frigga2)in which she appeared to him as a projection – a fact many fans missed according to search engine queries, as another scene which explained this was removed from final cut certainly showed us that Loki Liarsmith held sweet bugger all remorse for any of his past ill-deeds.
So it was rather fortunate in Thor 2 that we were given the Skiff Scene. This – one of the few angsty-moments-that-we-love between the two brothers – was an important piece of character development. So much so that Whedon was brought in to help get it right.
Up until the skiff scene, the two brothers had been stuck in an unwelcome alliance where Thor was being forced to endure Loki bouncing around him like a yapping puppy who’d just discovered life outside of a pet store window.
The whole purpose of the skiff scene was to bring back the emotional depth that had been lacking between them (in this movie) up until that point. I assume TPTB realised that in order for the audience to believe Loki would really be willing to sacrifice himself for a brother he’d shown little more than bitterness and contempt towards for so long, they needed a scene that would be emotionally powerful enough to shift the brothers’ dynamics back towards some semblance of what it once was3)You know, back in the ‘good old days’ when Loki was only trying to get his brother banished, rather than outright deadified at every twist and turn.
Following a bit of heartfelt yelling and fisty-cuffs, Thor’s reminder that Frigga “wouldn’t want us to fight” followed by Loki’s reply of “well she wouldn’t exactly be shocked” was something of an icebreaker. The nostalgic reminder of better times where you could almost see them thinking back on those days and wondering how they had come to this.
But the real shift took place in that moment where Thor broke out the “I wish I could trust you” line and Loki returned with a softly-uttered suggestion to “trust my rage”. This served to show us that although Loki still refused to shoulder any responsibility for his actions, he had also reached a potential turning point – a crucial piece of character growth – where he realised having Thor’s trust & friendship was actually important to him.
Overall, the skiff scene didn’t actually resolve anything, but it proved that there was still a bond of sorts between the brothers – that it hadn’t been as entirely severed as it first appeared when Thor confronted Loki in his cell. And it was this shift in dynamic that served as a bridge between the Loki who had made multiple attempts to end his brother’s life, to the Loki who was now suddenly willing to risk his life to save Thor’s own. (And not only Thor’s life – let’s not forget that he was almost sucked into one of those grenade-powered black holes to save Jane Foster!)
You know, the thing I kinda liked about Loki’s redemption arc was that it wasn’t a full redemption. He wasn’t forgiven for his crimes against Earth and Jotunheim, nor did he ask to be forgiven. He wasn’t suddenly trying to be the good guy. He was simply redeeming himself for the sake of his family – Thor and Frigga (the bond between Loki and Odin was of course irrevocably severed already.) It really wasn’t such a bad way for him to go…
…Followed by Loki’s Lack-of-Redemption Arc
But of course, as it turned out, Loki didn’t die at all. Kevin Feige and co realised that due to the set up of Avengers 2, they couldn’t have Thor sitting on the throne of Asgard at the end of Thor 2, and yet it was obvious frail old Odin couldn’t retain his seat of power for much longer. So what were they to do? Well, fortunately, they twigged during the San Diego Comic Con that Tom Hiddleston‘s Loki was an extremely popular character. So they brought Hiddles back to film a few more scenes, including that final one where he sits on Asgard’s throne. Made for a more dramatic ‘oooh what will happen next’ ending too. Good choices lads, good choices.
As a result, it seems Loki’s redemption was nullified by his return. Though perhaps that’s not such a bad thing. After all, Loki is loved best for his tendency to walk the line between good and evil depending on which direction his whims and schemings take him. So, maybe Loki is not a character who should ever be fully redeemed?
But does this mean Loki will always be tarred with the Bad Guy brush? Wouldn’t it be nice to see him try to fix his mistakes and do the right thing for someone other than himself… some day?
Loki is arrogant, smarmy, cunning and as manipulative as they get. He’s also layered and complex. Like an onion4)and the award for Cliché Comment of the Year goes to…. He spurns his family and is forever plotting against them, and yet he craves their love and acceptance. Basically, Loki is forever cutting off his nose to spite his face. But as a result, this helps to flesh him out as a far richer character than just a cardboard cut-out villain
Therefore I’m fairly sure that most fans the world over would agree with me here at least to some extent when I say yes. Yes, it would be nice to see Loki show some remorse and try to fix his mistakes and… Possibly die trying for realz this time (But only til Infinity War, at which time it’d be super awesome to see him play his final Joker Immunity card in order to fight Thanos alongside the Avengers. I wanna see that awkward alliance so bad!)
After all, Loki trying to fix the things he’s broke is one of the character quirks that makes both the comic and movie version of him so interesting. Even in the first Thor film, much of MCU Loki’s actions seemed to be a result of him bounding from one bad decision to another in an attempt to fix his mistakes, until the severity of events and newfound thirst for power snowballed beyond his control.
I’d like to see Loki still scheming and manipulative and working first and foremost for himself, but I hope Ragnarok keeps him walking the line between good and evil.
While it was fitting to see Loki trick his way onto the throne at the end of Thor The Dark World, I still have hope that the semi-redemptive sacrifice he made for Thor back on the barren plains of Svartalfheim was at least partially sincere. I hope that when Ragnarok finally comes along, the matter of his sudden-but-inevitable-revival can be explained without having to completely invalidate all those sincere-sounding apologies he uttered to his brother before his skin turned all blue-vein cheese-like.
So what do you think? Will Loki’s character arc in Thor Ragnarok conclude with him reverting back to villainous little shit? Or will he rise up as an unlikely (anti)hero to save the realm he’s longed to rule for so long?
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Footnotes [ + ]
|1.||↑||which was another last-minute addition that served as an important bridge between The Avengers and Thor 2|
|2.||↑||in which she appeared to him as a projection – a fact many fans missed according to search engine queries, as another scene which explained this was removed from final cut|
|3.||↑||You know, back in the ‘good old days’ when Loki was only trying to get his brother banished, rather than outright deadified at every twist and turn|
|4.||↑||and the award for Cliché Comment of the Year goes to…|