Baron Zemo was the cherry on top of The Falcon and the Winter Soldier. The show had a pretty full dance card of villains already between the Flag-Smashers, John Walker, and the Power Broker. But still, the plot managed to fit in a rich, still-traumatized Baron with a decade-ish of prison time to give him some perspective.
The idea of a trickster god like Loki being the main character of his own series is tempting and terrifying at the same time. While the prospect will surely make for another gripping MCU television series, there’s no telling what will happen when Loki is in the custody of the Time Variance Authority. The only thing scarier than Loki alone is Loki at the literal hub of space-time in the MCU.
But in a way, we’ve already seen what it’s like when a villain is the main character of one of these shows — twice over.
Wanda Maximoff was, in a way, the villain of her own story in WandaVision. But Wanda didn’t know she had these dark tendencies. Meanwhile, Helmut Zemo is very content in his role, and to him, he is the main character of The Falcon and The Winter Soldier.
For Zemo, his story is leading the people who he once fought against where they need to go as a gracious favor for breaking him out of prison, all with the hidden agenda of destroying the super-soldier serum.
At every stage, he proves himself to be the brains of the Zemo-Sam-Bucky trifecta. When the three split up to try and get information on Donya Madani, the Avengers strike out with their method of “asking around.” Zemo uses his deception and charm to coax the knowledge out of the local children with the help of candy. Is it moral? Debatable. Is it effective? Absolutely.
To borrow a Dungeons and Dragons term, Zemo is the prime example of a character who maxed out their charisma and deception traits and gets by on those alone. That also perfectly describes Loki, so we can safely assume Zemo’s episodes will be the model for what a Loki-based series will look like. A lot of deception, a lot of quips, and hopefully some dancing too.
However, there’s a dark side to the Zemo-Loki comparison. There may have been considerable concern over Zemo’s portrayal not highlighting the fact he’s a villain who once killed five soldiers with a single bullet, and instead just showing him dancing. Well, that’s only scratching the surface of what Loki could bring.
Loki, I’ll remind you, was the impetus for the Avengers assembling the first time around. He was working with Thanos. Yet it’s likely we’ll see him portrayed as the hero of his titular series. In the month leading up to Loki, it’s worth remembering that the Marvel lens is very subjective, and just because a character is portrayed as a hero, it does not mean that their actions are good. You don’t need to look at Zemo for proof; just look at John Walker.
Loki premieres on Disney+ on June 11, 2021.