We’re running a weekly recap of Loki on Disney+. There are spoilers, duh! You’ve been warned.
One of my favorite Owen Wilson lines comes from the mouth of his character Eli Cash in 2001’s The Royal Tenenbaums. “Everyone knows Custer died at Little Bighorn. What this book presupposes is… maybe he didn’t?” That’s an apt teaser for Marvel’s latest show Loki.
Loki, if you recall, was the handsomest, most charming scene-stealing villain in the MCU. That is, he was until Thanos crushed his neck in the opening minutes of 2018’s Avengers: Infinity War. Tossing Loki’s lifeless body aside, the Mad Titan boasted, “No resurrections this time.”
Well, you’re smart enough to know by now that dead doesn’t always mean dead in the MCU, where left is right, up is down, and No resurrections this time means A whole lot of resurrections, actually.
Half the Blipped universe came back to life with the snap of Tony Stark’s fingers. Wanda Maximoff resurrected Vision through the creative power of her grief, sadness, hope, and love. And now the 2012 version of Loki stands before us once again, having just stolen the Tesseract and zapped himself out of the original Avengers film and onto our screens in 2021.And while Loki can’t articulate why he wants to rule, he is certainly attracted to power.
So yes. Loki died in Avengers: Infinity War. What this show presupposes is… maybe he didn’t?
According to the lore of this series, Loki’s opportunistic act of space/time theft created a Nexus event that branched a new reality into being. An errant timeline, if you will. That’s against time law or something, so Loki is now a Variant prisoner in the custody of the Time Variance Authority (TVA, for short), an organization created by the godlike Time-Keepers to preserve the sacred timeline and protect existence from another Multiverse War.
Here’s the good news. Though guilty of violating the sacred timeline, the god of mischief can be of use to Agent Mobius in helping the TVA capture another Variant who’s been time hopping through history, killing the TVA’s Minutemen, and creating more Nexus events and multiverses. Apparently that Variant is yet another version of Loki.
An evil—no I mean actually evil—version of Loki. At least, that’s what the TVA would have you believe.
Which is nice and all, but why would Loki sign up for such a thing? Well, it turns out that Agent Mobius has a Disney+ subscription, just like us. He’s seen the Prince of Asgard’s bag of tricks over the course of five MCU films. And better yet, he’s got them on demand and ready to show Loki himself. Which he does. And just like that, 2012’s Loki is all caught up on his MCU watchlist, now carrying all of dead-Loki’s previous character development.
Still, just because Loki got his own clip show doesn’t explain why the rightful King of Jotunheim, fresh off his defeat in New York City, will suddenly agree to help Mobius and the TVA.
I think I know why.
Loki’s motivations have never been particularly clear, a vulnerability that Mobius is all too familiar with and happy to exploit. Loki is a man burdened with “glorious purpose” after all.
Oh yeah? Purpose for what? Mobius asks. To rule, Loki tells him.
“Why does someone with so much range just wanna rule?” comes the agent’s retort. Mobius knows that ruling is a means to an end, not an end unto itself.
Power is a different story. Power can be its own reward. And while Loki can’t articulate why he wants to rule, he is certainly attracted to power. It’s why he yearned for Odin’s acceptance and to rule Asgard. Heck, it’s why he partnered with Thanos during the Battle of New York. Thanos was one of the universe’s most powerful beings, collecting the most powerful elemental forces in extence: the Infinity Stones. Loki’s attracted to that sort of power.
But now, Loki’s paradigm has shifted. After a decade of world-building, it turns out, the Infinity Stones aren’t as powerful as he (or we, the audience, for that matter) had been led to believe. That’s because here in the bureaucratic halls of the Time Variance Authority, the Stones are purposeless and powerless. Nothing more than paperweights.
Loki stares in awe. “Is this the greatest power in the universe?”
Actually no, Loki. Our Heavenly Father and the lavish grace made incarnate by His only begotten Son, indwelled by the Holy Spirit, is the greatest power in the universe.
But way way way down that list, the TVA is pretty darn powerful too. Which means Loki can forget the Infinity Stones. Forget Thanos. The TVA is where the real power is. So Loki wants in on that action. The real action.
And it’s not just because the TVA is more powerful.
The TVA is a different kind of power altogether. How so? Well, here’s something I shared on these pages a couple years back, and it has nothing to do with Marvel:
Linear time would tell me that today I am less free than I was yesterday. My life to this point is a bell I can never unring. Whether for good or bad, I can never go back from my past, never savor the good times nor absolve myself for my errors and poor choices. Moreover, linear time says that in another 15, 20, 40 years, I’ll be less free still—more deeply shackled with each passing day with no hope of things ever being any different.
That’s the longing that nags my heart as I drift to sleep. Linear time is the problem for which only the covenantal, redemptive power of Christ can answer. To my knowledge, Loki hasn’t yet given his life to Christ. But until that day comes, the TVA and the Time-Keepers are unlike anything he’s ever seen.
We all have regrets, things we’d do differently if given the chance, different paths we would take, wrongs we would right, shames we would atone.
Loki is no exception. Loki’s life to this point is a bell he can never unring. But that’s all changed now.
Here in the TVA, it’s time to unring some bells.