There’s a line from The Avengers that all Loki fans love: “I am Loki of Asgard, and I am burdened with glorious purpose.” Tricked, in effect, by the man he believed was his father and fully convinced he’s smarter and more righteous than his burly brother Thor, Loki has spent his adult life trying to rise to what he believes is his pre-ordained right to power, come what Avengers may. But then what? If Loki takes over Asgard or even Midgard, then what happens? If Loki is, in fact, born to lead, then what will he lead all of us toward?
It’s one of the big questions of the new Disney+ series Loki, which just premiered on the service today. If Loki’s not butting heads with Thor and his compatriots, who is he, really? And is he really everything he believes himself to be? Who would Loki rule for, other than himself?
It’s a question we posed to Loki himself, actor Tom Hiddleston, in a recent chat, and one that he had an appropriately encyclopedic answer for. As he explains in the video above:
As children, Odin told Thor and Loki “only one of you can ascend to the throne, but you were both born to be kings.” So there’s the sense that Loki has grown up with a sense of an entitlement to a birthright, and it gets distorted in The Avengers movie into this line he says to Nick Fury when he arrives: “I am burdened with glorious purpose.” I suppose it’s a motto. It’s a motivation. It’s a sense of self determination. And it’s a way that Loki gives meaning to his existence.
When he’s confronted by the TVA, this institution that governs the order of time, it calls into question the narrative of meaning that Loki has constructed for himself, that he thought his life was meant a particular thing and perhaps that meaning has been revealed to be fraudulent or or ineffective or insufficient in some way.
Loki’s contact with the TVA in the show serves both as conflict and as agitation, in that it takes the character out of the cycle of “Scheme to overthrow humanity. Lose. Stew. Repeat.” It’s a device Hiddleston particularly likes, telling us:
I think it’s very funny. If any human being believes they have agency in their lives and is making active choices, if somebody turned around said “actually these aren’t choices, you’re just rolling along predetermined tracks of of a reality that is supposed to happen and has been chosen not by you by somebody else, it would be a bit of a head scratcher.
I think that there is a question mark in the series about the nature of free will and self-determination or agency or self-awareness or choice. We all perceive reality in the way that only we perceive it, each of us, and I think [the show] raises the question of what is reality is there are other different ways of looking at reality? If your perception changes, then your awareness changes, then perhaps your choices change.
An exciting thing is that Loki is someone who is very much in control or believed he was all his life, driven towards what he conceived as this glorious purpose. His experiences in the TVA call that purpose into question. In that vacuum, what does he do? Hopefully the show answers those questions,
New episodes of Loki will be available each Wednesday on Disney+.
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