By Zach Johnson
It should come as no surprise that a trickster like Loki has a tricky backstory.
Nearly 50 years after Loki was introduced in the pages of Marvel Comics, Tom Hiddleston brought the iconic character to life onscreen in 2011’s Thor. As Prince of Asgard, Odinson, rightful heir of Jotunheim, and God of Mischief, Loki has long felt “burdened with glorious purpose.” After multiple appearances in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU), that purpose will be further explored in a new series, Marvel Studios’ Loki, debuting June 9 on Disney+. The series, from director Kate Herron and head writer Michael Waldron, is set after the events of 2019’s Avengers: Endgame and finds Loki stepping out of his brother’s shadow. But before the first episode begins streaming, let’s first revisit Loki’s MCU origins.
Thor, directed by Kenneth Branagh, sowed the seeds for Loki’s never-ending quest for power. The film opened with a young Loki (Ted Allpress) and a young Thor (Dakota Goyo) telling their father, Odin (Anthony Hopkins), they were ready to rule the Nine Realms. Odin replied, “Only one of you can ascend to the throne, but both of you were born to be kings.” Years later, Odin’s firstborn son, Thor (Chris Hemsworth), was chosen to become King… that is, until Loki schemed in private to ensure that Thor’s ascension didn’t happen.
Loki had secretly helped the Frost Giants, legendary adversaries of the Asgardians, to infiltrate Asgard just before Thor’s coronation. He then manipulated Thor, who refused to be seen as weak, into attacking the Frost Giants at Jotunheim. To teach his son humility, Odin stripped Thor of his magic hammer, Mjolnir, then cast him out to Midgard aka Earth.
As Thor tried to prove his worth on Earth—all while developing a relationship with renowned astrophysicist Jane Foster (Natalie Portman)—Loki continued to deceive those closest to Thor, beginning with Lady Sif (Jaimie Alexander) and The Warriors Three. “I saved our lives. And Thor’s. I had no idea Father would banish him for what he did,” he lied. “I love Thor more dearly than any of you, but you know what he is: He’s arrogant, he’s reckless, he’s dangerous.” Unconvinced, Sif pointed out that Loki had “always been jealous” of Thor, and Hogun (Tadanobu Asano) claimed the House of Odin had a traitor in its midst.
A little later, Loki questioned his heritage. “Am I cursed?” he asked Odin. “What am I?” Odin explained that ages ago, he fought and defeated Laufey (Colm Feore), King of the Frost Giants. That’s where he found the child Loki, who, abandoned and left for dead, was taken to Asgard and raised as Odin’s son in the hopes that he would one day unite the Frost Giants and the Asgardians. “So am I no more than another stolen relic, locked up here until you might have use of me?” Loki asked, furious. “You could have told me what I was from the beginning. Why didn’t you?”
“You’re my son,” Odin replied. “I wanted only to protect you from the truth.”
Enraged that he was used as a pawn to establish peace between two realms, Loki lashed out as his adoptive father. Comparing himself to “the monster parents tell their children about at night,” he said, “It all makes sense now why you favored Thor all these years! Because no matter how much you claim to love me, you could never have a Frost Giant sitting on the throne of Asgard!” Worn out, Odin collapsed and fell into the Odin Sleep.
With Odin unconscious and Thor unable to return home to Asgard, Loki assumed the throne. His first rule was denying Sif and The Warriors Three’s request to end Thor’s banishment. “My first command cannot be to undo the All-Father’s last,” Loki explained. “We’re on the brink of war with Jotunheim. Our people need a sense of continuity in order to feel safe in these difficult times. All of us must stand together—for the good of Asgard.”
Later, while visiting Odin’s bedside, Loki’s mother, Frigga (Rene Russo), shed new light surrounding the circumstances of his adoption. “He kept the truth from you so that you would never feel different,” she said. “You are our son, Loki, and we, your family. We mustn’t lose hope that your father will return to us—and your brother.” Realizing that Thor might one day return, Loki further manipulated the situation in his favor by appearing to his brother on Earth. “Father is dead. Your banishment, the threat of a new war… it was too much for him to bear,” he lied to Thor. “You mustn’t blame yourself. I know that you loved him. I tried to tell him so, but he wouldn’t listen. It was so cruel to put the hammer within your reach, knowing that you could never lift it. The burden of the throne has fallen to me now.” After Thor pleaded to be repatriated, Loki issued one final blow: “The truce with the Jotunheim is conditional upon your exile,” he said, “and Mother has forbidden your return.”
Before returning to Asgard, Loki tried to prove his worth by lifting Mjolnir… and failed.
Loki then made a pitstop on Jotunheim to make a deal with Laufey. “I will conceal you and a handful of your soldiers, lead you into Odin’s chambers, and you can slay him where he lies,” Loki offered. He then explained that he couldn’t murder his own father because, he surmised, Asgardians “would not take kindly to a king who had murdered his predecessor.”
Mad with power, Loki had few—if any—friends left in Asgard. Heimdall (Idris Elba), guardian of the Bifröst Bridge, suspected Loki did something nefarious, so he enlisted Sif and The Warriors Three to “commit treason and bring Thor back.” Loki sent the Destroyer to Midgard with a simple instruction: “Make sure my brother does not return.” But, back on Midgard, Thor spoke directly to Loki through the Destroyer: “Brother, whatever I have done to wrong you, whatever I have done to lead you to do this, I am truly sorry. But these people are innocent. Taking their lives will gain you nothing. So, take mine and end this.” By willing to sacrifice himself, Thor proved his worth and regained Mjolnir and his powers.
Meanwhile, on Asgard, Loki had another trick up his sleeve. Just as Laufey was about to stab Odin, Loki saved his father’s life—making it look as if he was a hero and not a villain. What he didn’t expect was that Thor would arrive a moment later to reveal the truth. “It’s good to have you back,” Loki told Thor. “Now if you excuse me, I have to destroy Jodunheim.” Loki aimed the Bifrost’s full power at the realm where he was born. “I only ever wanted to be your equal,” Loki told Thor, adding, “I’m not your brother. I never was!”
Realizing Jane had played a part in Thor’s maturation, Loki then threatened to “pay her a visit.” To stop the blast, Thor smashed the Rainbow Bridge with Mjolnir, waking Odin from his slumber. Odin appeared in time to save both sons from falling off the battered bridge. “I could have done it, Father! I could have done it!” Loki cried. “For you! For all of us!” Realizing his father would never look at him the same, Loki let go, tumbling into the void. Presumed dead, Loki reappeared in a post-credits scene, plotting his dominion over Earth.
Still licking his wounds, Loki next appeared in 2012’s The Avengers. Using a scepter with mind control capabilities—a gift from Thanos (Josh Brolin)—Loki staged his takeover of Thor’s favorite realm: Midgard. With the help of the Chitauri, Loki opened a portal to Earth and arrived at an underground S.H.I.E.L.D. facility where Thor’s friend, Dr. Erik Selvig (Stellan Skarsgård), was studying the Tesseract—aka HYDRA’s secret weapon. Trying to diffuse the situation, S.H.I.E.L.D. director Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) vowed, “We have no quarrel with your people,” to which Loki fired back, “An ant has no quarrel with a boot.” Using the scepter, Loki took control of both Selvig and Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner) and escaped with the Tesseract. His actions led Fury to form a response team: The Avengers.
One by one, Fury assembled Earth’s Mightiest Heroes—which, at this point, included Iron Man (Disney Legend Robert Downey Jr.), Captain America (Chris Evans), Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson), and The Hulk (Mark Ruffalo)—to put an end to Loki’s madness. They traveled to Stuttgart, Germany, where Loki had caused a commotion at a fancy gala—all while Hawkeye secretly stole the iridium needed to stabilize the Tesseract’s power. As the gala’s patrons dispersed, Loki instructed them to kneel before him. “Is not this simpler? Is this not your natural state?” he monologued. “It’s the unspoken truth of humanity that you crave subjugation. The bright lure of freedom diminishes your life’s joy in a mad scramble for power, for identity. You were made to be ruled. In the end, you will always kneel.” As one brave man stood up to Loki (and nearly paid his life for it), the Avengers arrived on the scene, saving him and capturing Loki. But as Captain America later said, it was all too easy…
It wasn’t long before Thor burst into the Avengers’ Quinjet, mid-flight, to bring Loki into Asgardian custody. Away from the Avengers, the brothers’ reunion was fraught with tension. “I thought you dead,” Thor told Loki, who asked, “Did you mourn?” Even as Loki brought up his “true parentage,” Thor tried to reason with him, saying, “We were raised together. We played together. We fought together. Do you remember none of that?” But what Loki remembered was living in his brother’s shadow and being tossed “into an abyss.” Thor implored Loki to “give up this poisonous dream” and “come home,” but it was no use.
After being returned to S.H.I.E.L.D.’s supervision, Loki bided his time. Thor, meanwhile, informed the Avengers that Loki had the Chitahuri army at his disposal. “They will win him the Earth in return, I suspect, for the Tesseract,” he said. Later, Thor said Loki not only craved power—he also craved vengeance: “There’s no pain would prise his need from him.”
With Loki still caged, Black Widow decided to interrogate him. During their chat, Loki thought he had the upper hand… that is, until she deftly outsmarted him and discovered why he’d let himself get caught: He was planning to use The Hulk against them. As the Avengers debated their next move, Hawkeye and his team infiltrated S.H.I.E.L.D.’s Helicarrier to set Loki free—and unleashed Ol’ Greenskin, aka The Hulk, in the process. After Loki lured Thor into his cage, S.H.I.E.L.D. agent Phil Coulson (Clark Gregg) aimed a massive gun in Loki’s direction. “You like this? We started working on the prototype after you sent the Destroyer,” Coulson said. “Even I don’t know what it does. Do you want to find out?” But before Coulson could pull the trigger, Loki magically appeared behind him, stabbing him with his scepter. Loki then ejected Thor’s cage, which plunged 30,000 feet.
“You’re going to lose,” Coulson told Loki. “It’s in your nature.” Curious, Loki said, “Your heroes are scattered. Your floating fortress falls from the sky. Where is my disadvantage?” Cutting Loki to the core, he replied, “You lack conviction.” Before Loki could protest, he blasted his gun, sending Loki through a wall. “Huh,” Coulson said. “So, that’s what it does.”
After Loki fled the ship—and with Hawkeye no longer under his control—the Avengers plotted their next move. “He wants to beat us. He wants to be seen doing it. He wants an audience,” Iron Man told Captain America. “Loki, he’s a full-tilt diva, right? He wants flowers. He wants parades. He wants a monument built to the skies with his name plastered—” That’s when it clicked: Loki planned to open a wormhole above Stark Tower.
Later, while at Stark Tower, Loki confronted Iron Man. “Please tell me you’re going to appeal to my humanity,” the God of Mischief said. “The Chitahuri are coming. Nothing will change that. What have I to fear?” Pouring himself a drink, Iron Man said, “The Avengers.” As the Chitahuri invasion quickly overwhelmed New York City, Loki watched over the destruction he’d wrought. “There is no stopping it,” he told Thor. “There is only… the war!”
Through teamwork, the Avengers managed to isolate Loki in Stark Tower. Facing The Hulk, a losing Loki shouted, “Enough! You are, all of you, beneath me! I am a god, you dull creature. And I will not be bullied by—” But before Loki could finish his sentence, The Hulk thrashed him around like a rag doll. As he walked away, The Hulk sniffed, “Puny god.” The Avengers managed to close the wormhole, with Iron Man nearly sacrificing himself in the process. Afterward, Thor escorted Loki back to Asgard, where he was to be imprisoned.
In 2013’s Thor: The Dark World, a shackled Loki faced his father. “Do you not truly feel the gravity of your crimes?” Odin asked Loki. “Wherever you go there is war, ruin, and death.” After debating his birthright, Loki told his father, “If I am for the axe, then for mercy’s sake, just swing it. It’s not that I don’t love our little talk, it’s just… I don’t love them.” Odin then revealed that, thanks to Frigga, Loki’s life would be spared—although he’d be spending the rest of it confined in a dungeon. “Thor must strive to undo the damage you have done,” Odin told his son. “He will bring order to the Nine Realms and then, yes, he will be king.”
Of course, Odin’s proclamation only made Loki more jealous and resentful of his brother. Later, while toiling away in his cell, Frigga appeared to him hoping he’d show remorse. Instead, he grew angry at the mention of Odin’s name. “He’s not my father!” Loki shouted. Hurt, Frigga asked, “Then am I not your mother?” Loki said she was not, though neither really believed that. Said Frigga, “You’re always so perceptive about everyone but yourself.”
Meanwhile, the ruler of the Dark Elves, Malekith (Christopher Eccleston), waged war on Asgard. Resentful, Loki pointed them in the direction of Jane, who’d recently arrived on Asgard after coming into contact with a mysterious weapon known as the Aether. Sadly, Frigga was slain while protecting Jane, and the Dark Elves fled to Svartalfheim without her.
Despite Odin’s orders not to leave Asgard, Thor reluctantly enlisted the help of Loki, who knew of a secret portal to Svartalfheim. “You must be truly desperate to come to me for help,” Loki said. “What makes you think you can trust me?” Thor said he didn’t, but Frigga did. “You should know that when we fought each other in the past, I did so with a glimmer of hope that my brother was still in there somewhere,” Thor told Loki. “That hope no longer exists to protect you. You betray me, and I will kill you.” As if on cue, Loki again tried to betray his brother. Thor had anticipated this, of course, and thwarted his attempt.
On Svartalfheim, Loki and Thor plotted to use Jane to lure and confront Malekith. “You know,” Loki said, “this plan of yours is going to get us killed.” Feigning a betrayal, Loki then stabbed Thor and said, “You really think I cared about Frigga? About any of you? All I ever wanted was you and Odin dead at my feet!” As Thor reached for Mjolnir, Loki sliced off his brother’s hand, then offered Jane to Malekith. “I bring you a gift,” he said. “I ask only one thing in return: a good seat from which to watch Asgard burn.” It was all an illusion, as Loki tricked Malekith into drawing the Aether out of Jane. After Thor failed to destroy the Aether, Malekith merged with it and escaped in his ship. Loki was then fatally wounded in combat. “I’m a fool,” Loki said, gasping for breath. “I’m a fool. I’m sorry. I’m sorry. I’m sorry.”
“It’s all right,” Thor replied. “I’ll tell Father what you did here today.”
Before taking his last breath, Loki looked into Thor’s eyes and said, “I didn’t do it for him.” Later, after defeating Malekith, Thor did as promised and told Odin that Loki “died with honor.” Except he wasn’t talking to Odin… it was Loki, alive and well, disguised as the king!
Loki maintained his ruse, masquerading as Odin, through 2017’s Thor: Ragnarok. After learning that Odin was no longer on Asgard, Thor returned home to expose his brother’s treachery. “You just couldn’t stay away, could you?” Loki complained. “Everything was fine without you. Asgard was prospering. You’ve ruined everything.” When the brothers journeyed to Earth to reunite with the real Odin, he was gone. Thanks to Doctor Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch), they found their father in Norway. There, Odin explained that he was dying, that Ragnarök was imminent—in spite of Thor’s best efforts to prevent it—and that his passing will free his firstborn, Hela (Cate Blanchett), from her imprisonment in Hel.
After Odin passed, Thor blamed Loki: “This was your doing!”
Before they could continue their conversation, however, Hela materialized. The brothers refused to kneel before their sister, and Thor threw Mjolnir at her—and in horror she caught it, crushed it, and didn’t even bat an eye. Fearful of her power, Loki called to Heimdall to open the Bifröst Bridge. Hela followed them and forced them into outer space, where they landed on Sakaar, a garbage planet surrounded by wormholes. Whereas Thor was captured and sold as a gladiator, Loki found himself in the good graces of Sakaar’s ruler, the Grandmaster (Jeff Goldblum). Not wanting to fall out of favor with the Grandmaster by acknowledging he knew Thor, he lied, “I’ve never met this man in my life.”
Loki later visited his brother to explain himself. “Look, I couldn’t jeopardize my position with the Grandmaster,” he told Thor. “It took me time to win his trust. He’s a lunatic, but he can be amenable. What I’m telling you is: you could join me at the Grandmaster’s side. Perhaps, in time, an accident befalls the Grandmaster, and then…” Realizing Thor didn’t share his vision of ruling Sakaar, he continued, “You’re not seriously thinking of going back, are you? Our sister destroyed your hammer like a piece of glass. She’s stronger than both of us. She’s stronger than you. You don’t stand a chance. Do you understand what I’m saying to you?” Eliciting no response from Thor, he continued, “Fine. I guess I’ll just have to go it alone, like I’ve always done.” Eventually, Thor addressed the elephant in the room: “What would you like me to say? You faked your own death, you stole the throne, stripped Odin of his power, stranded him on Earth to die, releasing the Goddess of Death,” Thor said. “Have I said enough, or would you like me to go back further than the past two days?”
Loki left, and Thor prepared to face the mysterious champion inside the Grandmaster’s arena. He was elated to discover he’d be fighting The Hulk, a “friend from work.” Loki, in contrast, had a flashback to their last confrontation and said, “I have to get off this planet!”
Eventually, Thor managed to bring The Hulk to his senses. Together, they planned their grand escape—which didn’t sit well with the Grandmaster, who in response tasked Loki and Valkyrie (Tessa Thompson) with finding his missing champions… or else! Loki and Valkyrie sparred, and that’s when Loki realized she’d been running from her past with Hela.
Valkyrie decided to team up with Thor and The Hulk, and they devised a plan to steal one of the Grandmaster’s ships and return to Asgard. Loki then offered to provide the security access codes in exchange for safe passage. As Loki and Thor blasted their way towards the nearest ship, Loki told his big brother, “Odin brought us together. It’s almost poetic that his death should split us apart. We might as well be strangers now. Two sons of the crown, set adrift.” Try as he might to push Thor away, Loki was surprised when his brother revealed how he truly felt. “Loki, I thought the world of you. I thought we were going to fight side by side forever,” Thor said. “But at the end of the day, you’re you and I’m me. I don’t know. Maybe there’s still good in you. But let’s be honest: Our paths diverged a long time ago.”
Loki tried to betray Thor yet again but was foiled. In turn, Thor decided to leave his brother behind on Sakaar. “Oh, dear brother: You’re becoming predictable. I trust you. You betray me. Round and round in circles we go,” Thor said, smug but weary. “See, Loki, life is about growth. It’s about change. But you seem to just want to stay the same. I guess what I’m trying to say is that you’ll always be the God of Mischief… but you could be more.” Ever resourceful, Loki managed to make it back to Asgard with a group of gladiators. Upon his return, Loki addressed his fellow Asgardians, saying, “Your savior is here. Did you miss me?”
As dozens of people were shepherded onto his stolen ship, Loki joined Thor and the others in their fight against Hela and her army. Realizing only Ragnarok could stop Hela, Thor sent Loki to Odin’s vault to retrieve Surtur’s crown and place it in the Eternal Flame. While there, Loki also swiped the Tesseract cube but kept it hidden from the others. After Asgard—and, along with it, Hela—was destroyed, the Asgardians then headed to Earth. “Maybe you’re not so bad after all, brother,” Thor said, to which Loki replied, “Maybe not.”
In a post-credits scene, Loki expressed concern over returning to Earth. “I wouldn’t worry, brother,” Thor reassured him. “I feel like everything’s going to work out fine.” That scene led directly into the opening of 2018’s Avengers: Infinity War. After acquiring the first of six Infinity Stones, Thanos had intercepted the spaceship carrying the survivors of Asgard. He then demanded Loki turn over the Tesseract so that he could extract the Space Stone. Before giving it up, Loki told Thor, “I assure you brother, the sun will shine on us again.” The Hulk then charged at Thanos, which did little, so Heimdall summoned the Bïfrost Bridge one last time to transport him to Earth and warn the Avengers of Thanos’ plans.
Hoping to trick him, Loki then pledged his allegiance to Thanos. “If you’re going to Earth, you might want a guide. I do have a bit of experience in that arena,” Loki said, inching closer to the Mad Titan. “Almighty Thanos, I, Loki, Prince of Asgard, Odinson, the rightful king of thee Jotunheim, God of Mischief, do hereby pledge to you my undying fidelity.” Loki then tried to stab Thanos, who stopped him using the Infinity Gauntlet. “Undying? You should choose your words more carefully,” Thanos told him, grabbing Loki by the neck. As Loki struggled to free himself from Thanos’ grasp, he muttered, “You… will never be… a god.” Thanos then snapped his bones, leaving Thor alone in the universe… or so he thought.
In 2019’s Avengers: Endgame, the superheroes who’d survived Thanos’ snap traveled back in time to retrieve the Infinity Stones and undo his galactic genocide. This brought Ant-Man (Paul Rudd), Captain America, The Hulk, and Iron Man to 2012, where Loki had just been apprehended after the Battle of New York. Their plan to retrieve the Tesseract went awry, though, and it landed at Loki’s feet. Seizing the moment, Loki snatched it and disappeared.
That brings us directly into the series premiere of Loki, in which the Time Variance Authority (TVA)—an organization charged with protecting the timeline—captures him. Realizing Loki might be a valuable asset, agent Mobius M. Mobius (Owen Wilson) offers him a shot at redemption. Whether Loki accepts his offer, well… you’ll have to wait and see.
You can stream Thor, The Avengers, Thor: The Dark World, Thor: Ragnarok, Avengers: Infinity War, Avengers: Endgame and other Marvel Studios films and series now on Disney+. Loki will debut Wednesday, June 9, with a new episode streaming each week.