One Loki Scene Just Fixed Season 1’s Biggest Missed Opportunity
Sometimes, it’s good to be bad.
It’s been over a decade since Loki (Tom Hiddleston) tried to conquer Earth in pursuit of glorious purpose — but to the variant that escaped the Battle of New York and was shortly apprehended by the Time Variance Authority, it may as well have been last week. Loki technically takes place in a realm outside of space and time, but the events of The Avengers are still relatively fresh for the titular character. Still, it can be hard for audiences to remember that Loki was, in fact, a villain once — especially since we’ve already witnessed his long path to redemption since.
Loki’s checkered past is one of the things that have gotten lost in translation in Loki. Though the series does work hard to rehabilitate him, it also moved on pretty quickly from his recent rampage in The Avengers. His redemption is fast-tracked for our convenience: Agent Mobius (Owen Wilson) treats Loki to a highlight reel of his dastardly deeds and subsequent failures in Loki’s very first episode. He doesn’t change overnight, but it only takes six episodes for Loki to go from a self-interested demigod to a penitent trickster that actually cares about innocent lives. Even his allies at the TVA have turned the other cheek and learned to trust him completely. But Loki’s past does come back to haunt him in Season 2, with the introduction of an interesting foil in X-5 (Rafael Casal).
Spoilers ahead for Loki Season 2 Episode 2!
X-5 is pretty much old-Loki’s mirror image — or, at least, what Loki would have been without Hiddleston’s latent charm — a sniveling, self-centered con man with a god complex. When faced with the option to help Loki and Mobius save the TVA, thus saving trillions of lives, he chooses instead to run away from his duties and become a movie star. There’s not a lot of logic to this decision: if the TVA falls, that’s pretty much it for all life on any timeline. It’d be in his best interest to help our heroes save the day, but his reluctance to lend a hand shows us exactly the type of antagonist that Loki and Mobius are trying to win to their side.
It’s pretty much a fool’s errand, not only because X-5 can’t really be reasoned with, but because it’s mostly Loki doing the reasoning. X-5 is quick to point out that Loki isn’t too far removed from his own very specific war crimes. His efforts to make things right, however genuine, won’t be enough to redeem him in the grand scheme. X-5 can sense the false pretense from a mile away. Game recognizes game, after all: it’s only a matter of time before Loki cuts the act and starts wreaking havoc anew.
Ironically enough, that’s exactly the wake-up call that Loki needs. Somewhere along the line, Loki lost a bit of his edge. It’s come back in fits and spurts throughout the series, but part of the thrill of Loki’s return comes with the return of his mean streak. It’s fun to watch a bad guy do bad things — and in Loki’s case, it’s the only way to get results.
There’s a reason why his dubious interrogation tactics are the very thing that break X-5 later on. The TVA still operates on carefully constructed, bureaucratic rules. With the fate of the multiverse in the balance and time running out, it’s time to throw those rules out the window. Loki is one of the few at the TVA that’s willing to do what needs to be done. He’s the bad cop to Mobius’ good: they do need each other to accomplish their goals, but their partnership won’t work if Loki’s trying to be something he’s not.
So X-5 is actually right: Loki is a villain. But sometimes only a bad guy can save the day. It sounds counterintuitive, but it wouldn’t be the first concept that Loki has turned on its head.