Of all the MCU villains, none have had a shelf life quite like Loki Odinson (and the actor who plays him, Tom Hiddleston). Since Loki debuted in Thor in 2011, his effect on the Marvel Cinematic Universe has been rivaled only by Iron Man, Captain America, and Thor. From a misunderstood little brother to an outright villain to basically a hero, Loki has been an intrinsic part of the Marvel story—and now, he’s finally getting his own, much-deserved spotlight. The new Disney+ series Loki will continue the God of Mischief’s adventures, picking up where he was last left in Avengers: Endgame and spiraling out with a story that’ll change both the character and the entire MCU. But before Loki gets to fixing the universe’s timelines, let’s take a look back on how they got messed up in the first place, as well as everything else you need to remember about Marvel’s most charismatic trickster.
The story of Loki starts as most stories between brothers do: with jealousy. As Thor is set to be crowned king, the longtime enemies of Asgard, the Frost Giants, sneak in and attack Odin’s vault. Enraged, Thor takes Loki, Asgardian warrior Sif, and the Warriors Three to the Frost Giants’ home of Jotunheim to take revenge, but it goes rather poorly. Thor is banished, while Loki discovers that he was born a Frost Giant and is indeed adopted. As Odin naps (it’s a thing), Loki sneaks back down to Earth to tell Thor he can never return to Asgard. The God of Mischief then sneaks into Jotunheim to broker a deal with the leader of the Frost Giants to kill Odin, but when they arrive at Odin’s bedside, Loki kills the Frost Giant leader instead. As it turns out, Loki was behind everything: ridden with jealousy, he orchestrated the break-in that ruined Thor’s big day, and orchestrated the slaying of the leader of the Frost Giants behind Odin’s back, all under the impression that it’d make him worthy of the crown in Odin’s eyes. As Loki goes to deal a final blow to the Frost Giants by destroying their realm, Thor comes back to Earth to stop him. They fight and, in order to save Earth, Thor destroys the Bifrost (the bridge in and out of Asgard), sending Loki flying over the edge. He’s caught by Thor and Odin, but as they try to save him, Loki decides to let go of Odin’s staff and fall into the abyss.
We’re probably going to need to keep track of Loki’s deaths. Can we do that?
Loki “Death” Count: 1
I put death in quotation marks, you see, because in a post-credits scene, we find out that Loki is still very much alive—in this particular scene, he’s keenly snooping on Erik Selvig and Nick Fury as they discuss one of Odin’s oldest treasures and a powerful energy source, the Tesseract.
Sometime after falling into the openness of space, Loki meets Thanos and his steward the Other. With his eyes set on revenge, he strikes a deal with them and they give him a staff he can use to take over Earth in exchange for the Tesseract, a vessel containing the Space Stone. Loki arrives at a S.H.I.E.L.D. facility, mind controls Hawkeye, and walks away with S.H.I.E.L.D.’s prize. Nick Fury, out of options, assembles a team—the Avengers, maybe you’ve heard of them?—to try and save the world. While creating a distraction for Hawkeye in Germany, Loki delivers an evil speech for the ages and is captured suspiciously easily after a superhero spat. Then, following a conversation with Natasha, she realizes Loki is only there to unleash the Hulk and distract them, but it’s too late. He succeeds in splitting the Avengers up and escapes to Stark Tower to unleash the alien Chitauri army upon New York. As it turns out, though, a demigod, a supersoldier, a man with breathtaking anger management issues, a genius billionaire playboy philanthropist, and a couple of master assassins are up to the challenge and stop the invasion. After getting slammed around like a rag doll by the Hulk, Loki is captured and sent back to Asgard to stand trial.
Thor: The Dark World
After failing to capture Earth, Loki is sentenced by Odin to spend the rest of his life in Asgard’s dungeon. Frigga, Loki’s mom, visits him in prison and tries to reason with him, while Malekith, the leader of the Dark Elves, looks to destroy Asgard and take control over all Nine Realms. Malekith sends his right-hand man Algrim to be captured by Asgardian soldiers; while incarcerated, Algrim starts a riot to put Malekith’s plan in motion. As he makes his way out of the prison, he passes by Loki, who suggests that he “take the stairs on the left.” Algrim obliges and soon leads Malekith directly to Frigga, whom he eventually kills. After finding out his mother’s fate, Loki is in shambles. It isn’t until Thor hatches a plan to defeat Malekith and breaks Loki out of jail that he returns to being himself. After being threatened numerous times by Sif and the Warriors Three, Loki helps Thor escape Asgard. As they arrive in Svartalfheim, Thor and Loki discuss how their relationship is filled with mistrust and deceit. They enact their plan and in a noble—or is it?—act, Loki sacrifices himself to save Thor.
Add another one to the list.
Loki “Death” Count: 2
At the end of the film, Thor goes to Odin and tells him he doesn’t want to be king of Asgard. Odin slightly rebuffs him but ultimately grants Thor’s wish to live among the humans. It’s a really sweet moment—or at least it would have been except for the part when it’s revealed that Odin is actually Loki in disguise.
With Thor offworld defeating Ultron and searching for the Infinity Stones, Loki as Fauxdin has remade Asgard in his image. Huge statues of Loki adorn the streets, while the local theater troupe has apparently been tasked to act out plays honoring him. Upon his return to Asgard, Thor quickly deduces that Loki is cosplaying as Odin and forces him to get their father back. After falling for 30 minutes, Loki and Thor find Odin, but he’s on his way to the great beyond. With his death, Hela, their older sister and the Goddess of Death, is unleashed. In an attempt to escape, Loki calls for the Bifrost but he and Thor get kicked off the bridge before they reach Asgard. Landing in Sakaar, Loki makes quick work of getting into the good graces of the trash planet’s founder, the Grandmaster; Thor, on the other hand, is conscripted to fight for entertainment. Loki tries to pitch Thor on playing the waiting game in order to eventually steal control of Sakkar from the Grandmaster, but after what Loki did to their father, the God of Thunder isn’t hearing it. When Thor, Hulk, and their new pal Valkyrie team up to finally leave Sakaar, they conscript Loki into their plans. However, even after a serious, emotional talk between the brothers about how they are on diverging paths, Loki once again tries to betray Thor. (He’s nothing if not on brand.) This time though, Thor sees it coming and sidesteps Loki. Knowing his place in Sakaar is ruined and unable to resist playing the hero, Loki rides with Korg to help save Asgard from Hela’s clutches. The battle is a losing one, but Thor knows there is only one way to defeat Hela—by bringing about Ragnarok. Thor sends Loki to resurrect Surtur, a giant flame demon and the self-proclaimed bringer of Asgard’s doom, back from the dead. Loki goes to the vault, puts the crown in the Eternal Flame—and takes a really long look at the Tesseract—before fleeing Asgard as Surtur blows it to smithereens. Despite everything, Loki and Thor find an understanding between each other. With Hela defeated and Asgard in ruins, Loki is on his way to live a new life on Earth, that is until ...
Avengers: Infinity War
… Thanos shows up and ruins everything. Loki plays coy about the location of the Tesseract and even invokes the “We have a Hulk” line from the first Avengers film, but Thanos still ends up with the Space Stone. Trying to protect his brother in a true act of growth and selflessness, Loki proposes a partnership with Thanos as a guise to get close enough to the Mad Titan to kill him, but Thanos snuffs that out immediately. With his final breaths, Loki tells Thanos that he “will never be a God,” which, shocker, only makes Thanos angrier. In an unintended bit of foreshadowing, Thanos—ahem—snaps Loki’s neck, killing him. He then practically speaks directly to the audience when he says: “No resurrections this time.”
Ring it up on the counter one last time.
Loki “Death” Count: 3
This is likely the most important part of Loki’s journey, as it sets the stage for the upcoming Disney+ series. Five years after their defeat at the hands of Thanos, the Avengers devise a plan that includes inventing a time machine to go back in time and steal the Infinity Stones from various points in their history, because why not? For our purposes, the most important of these “points” is the Battle of New York, which Tony Stark, Steve Rogers, and Scott Lang travel back to in order to retrieve the Space Stone. They make their move during an argument between 2012 Tony Stark, 2012 Thor, the World Security Council secretary, and undercover HYDRA agent Alexander Pierce about the stone and their new prisoner Loki, who in the timeline has just been apprehended for starting a Chitauri war outside of Grand Central Station. They eventually do swipe the stone and are on their merry way until the Hulk, who isn’t a fan of stairs, smacks Tony Stark in the face with a door, sending the Tesseract flying right to the feet of the Asgardian trickster. Loki, once again finding a way to wriggle out of a situation, calmly picks up the Space Stone and vanishes.
Where did he vanish to? We’ll find out when Loki drops.