Loki: A Character Study
So I just rewatched Thor and I’ve been thinking about Loki’s character as it changes throughout the film. Spoilers below.
From the very beginning, we see that Loki is always second to Thor. Even as children, Thor receives their father’s favor and, as the eldest son, is destined to ascend to the throne. Loki automatically becomes a character desperate to prove his worth, shown by how quickly young Loki chimes in with Thor’s answers.
When we get to Thor’s almost-coronation, Loki seems genuinely happy for and proud of his brother, despite the jealousy that is still there. Aside from Odin’s obvious favoritism of Thor, Loki’s jealousy may also stem from being forced to stand in Thor’s shadow. Loki gives solid advice when he tells Thor not to go to Jotunheim and again when he tries (and nearly succeeds) to talk Thor down so they can leave Jotunheim without confrontation. However, his advice is ignored and his talents mocked (there’s the line about his “silver tongue turning to lead”).
When Thor is banished from Asgard, Loki becomes the sole remaining heir (despite being adopted). He finds out the truth of his birth and it makes him angry; he feels betrayed. Loki lashes out and does some terrible things. However, I think that all he was trying to do was prove his worth. As the adoptive son rather than a true heir, he must prove himself even more than if he were merely the second born. He doesn’t just desire approval, he needs it to validate his place in Asgard. He says to Thor: “I never wanted the throne. All I ever wanted was to be your equal”, which is heartbreaking. Loki’s actions, therefore, don’t stem from ambition, but from his desire to be accepted by those that claim to be his family.
At the end as he speaks to Odin he says, “I could have done it, Father… for you! For all of us!” once again showing that he was simply trying to prove himself. However, Odin replies: “No, Loki”. In that moment, Odin’s rejection of his adoptive son breaks him. After everything that has happened, Loki snaps and lets go. That decision to let go, to let go of his family and possibly his life (though we know he is alive and well in The Avengers) is poignant. The rejection of his father is powerful enough to snap the last few strands of hope that tie Loki to his family.
While I know he is the “big bad” of The Avengers and that, according to Norse mythology, Loki is destined to fight against Asgard in Ragnarok, I want Thor to save him. I really want, just this once, the person desperate for acceptance to find it. Thor loves his brother, as shown by his reaction to Loki’s decision to let go and his later mourning. In the end, I think it is only Thor who can show Loki that they don’t have to compete, that they are equals, that Loki is loved, that they are brothers.
I think that Loki’s salvation is a much more appealing and complex story than writing him off as evil and severing all his ties with his family. If he becomes a random big bad who no longer cares for his family or is cared about, then he becomes a static, one-dimensional character. Tom Hiddleston and the entire Marvel Universe deserve better storytelling than that. With all of this in mind, I hope they decide to save him. I really do.