There’s a reason we’re obsessed with time travel as a culture, and it’s not because we all want to go back in time and kiss our mothers like Marty McFly. It’s because time travel gives storytellers the ability to solve history's greatest unsolved mysteries.
Some of the best science fiction uses this time travel trick to insert its characters into the real world in a way that feels somewhat believable. Star Trek uses time travel to explain the “truth” behind famous mysteries like Roswell, Jack the Ripper, and Amelia Earhart. Doctor Who gets even weirder, tackling the Mary Celeste, the 11 days Agatha Christie went missing, and even why Von Gogh painted sunflowers.
But with Loki, Marvel takes on arguably the greatest unsolved mystery of all time. That’s right, it’s time to talk about D.B. Cooper.
Here’s how this 1970s mystery quickly and efficiently establishes Loki’s character and the tone of the show, what it means for the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and an unexpected Mad Men connection.
Who is D.B. Cooper?
For those unaware, the story of D.B. Cooper remains the only unsolved plane hijacking case in United States history. Between 1969 and 1972, there a bit of a fad for air piracy, with a flight getting hijacked once every five days on average. This was mostly due to tense relations between the U.S. and Cuba, making travel between them nearly impossible.
Right smack in the middle of this heyday, on November 24, 1971, a well-dressed man in dark sunglasses passed a note to a stewardess on a flight from Portland to Seattle. He warned her, “Miss, you’d better look at that note. I have a bomb.”
The man gave his name as “Dan Cooper,” though this would be muddled in the press to the “D.B” moniker he’s known by today. His demands were simple: the plane was to land, and he would be given $200,000 in cash and four parachutes. The plane then set off on a course to Mexico City, but at a refueling stop in Reno, Nevada, found he was no longer aboard — he had jumped out the plane through the rear staircase, never to be seen again.
The mystery of D.B. Cooper was never solved, but according to Loki, that’s because there was no Dan Cooper. It was the God of Mischief making good on a bet he lost with his brother Thor.
The God of Chaos and the Mad Man
According to Loki, Cooper’s escape was achieved through a well-timed Bifrost ride courtesy of Heimdall, which would certainly explain why there’s no sign of him ever again.
But why, of all the unsolved mysteries, would Loki choose to portray this one? The answer lies in one of the best things about being a Marvel fan: fan theories.
Back in 2013, a Medium post by Lindseymgreen put forward a wild premise — what if AMC series Mad Men was building to a shock reveal that suave ad man Don Draper was none other than D.B. Cooper? After all, he worked for an agency called Sterling Cooper, an agency that was fighting to represent an aviation company.
All of this was bolstered by plane imagery used in publicity for the series, and then there’s the opening sequence to the show, showing a man falling from the sky. It all seemed truly convincing.
But alas, Don Draper didn’t end up jumping out of a plane in the last seconds of the series (instead opting to create the world’s greatest Coke commercial). So Loki picks up where Mad Men left off.
Loki’s ‘60s influences are apparent from the start. Every aspect of the TVA seems like a period postcard illustration of what Don Draper thought the world would look like in the future, from the glorious cities to the analog filmstrip containing the entirety of Loki’s life.
Loki’s head writer Michael Waldron wasn’t just inspired by the 60s, but by Mad Men in particular.
“I love Mad Men. That's my favorite series,” he tells Inverse. “I love that aesthetic. There's something stylish and sexy about it. And I always thought it'd be really cool to put that sci-fi veneer over it.”
Apparently, confirming Marvel fan theories isn’t enough for the MCU. Now, Marvel Studios confirming fan theories from other shows too.
A real-life Loki
There’s another reason why Loki is the perfect candidate for D.B. Cooper — it’s incredibly in character.
Loki’s whole persona as a “mischievous scamp” is that he causes chaos for the sake of chaos. D.B. Cooper’s exploits, unlike other infamous never-caught criminals like the Zodiac Killer, didn’t harm anyone (except for those who had to cough up the $200k.) He’s just a guy who wanted to exert some power over others.
Both Loki’s story and D.B. Cooper’s story are tales of men who wanted to feel powerful and confuse the populous. D.B. Cooper certainly did that — we’re still debating the subject 60 years later. And even after his own death, Loki is also succeeding in confusing the public if the first episode of Loki is any indication.
So why couldn’t they be the same person? It may be impossible for a fictional space god to have hijacked a real-life plane, but in the world of the TVA and the multiverse, nothing’s impossible.
Loki is now streaming on Disney+.