Loki wasn’t technically a villain in the Avengers, so what does that mean?


Marvel might have changed Loki’s villainous past in the Avengers, but does that mean he wasn’t a villain after all, and does that omit aspects of his heroic character development?

Much to 2012 MCU Loki stans’ approval (or dismay in some cases), Marvel confirmed the theories about Loki being manipulated in the first Avengers film. Sure, Loki still killed 80 people in a few days, he stabbed his brother, and he unleashed intergalactic warfare on the citizens of New York. But according to Marvel’s updated biography, Loki didn’t have complete control over his actions.

Marvel recently updated the character biography for the MCU’s version of Loki. The new version of the Asgardian’s official bio includes some clarifying statements about his tirade on Midgard in the first Avengers film:

"Gifted with a scepter that acted as a mind control device, Loki would be able to influence others.  Unbeknownst to him, the scepter was also influencing him, fueling his hatred over his brother Thor and the inhabitants of Earth."

The updates on his character card solidify that Loki wasn’t a villain by his own volitions in the first Avengers film, seeing as he was mind controlled throughout the film — and we can’t blame the shapeshifter’s actions he had no control over. Instead, Loki was at the mercy of the Mind Stone within the scepter, and thus under Thanos’ control.

Although it might seem like Marvel has retrofitted Loki’s villainous narrative in the first Avengers film to fit a popular fan theory, The Avengers is filled with a bit of implicit context that Loki was under some kind of control. This is seen either through abusive tactics — which we already know Thanos is perfectly capable of, even in regards to his daughters — or through actual mind control.

Evidence of Loki’s mind control

Loki’s physical appearance is the first clue that he wasn’t his typical self. As soon as Loki walks through the Tesseract’s portal, he resembles a disheveled bridge troll more than usual. He has deep dark circles under his eyes, he’s heavily perspiring, and he seems paler than usual.

He could just have the flu, but his physical appearance likely indicates his prolonged exposure to the Mind Stone in the scepter. By long-term exposure, we mean he’s been controlled by the stone for longer than Clint and Selvig, so his scepter-related state likely manifests a bit differently than newly inducted scepter puppets.

When the similarly scepter-controlled Clint and Dr. Selvig guide Loki to the truck, viewers can also see that he’s out of breath. Granted, this could be from Loki’s journey through the Tesseract, but it could also be a subtle hint at the scepter’s power over the God of Mischief.

Loki wasn’t the only person to fall into a compromised state thanks to some alien technology. The scepter also transformed other people into puppets in the same movie. With Clint and Dr. Selvig, the scepter converted them both into Loki’s temporary minions throughout the movie. Yet, Clint and Dr. Selvig aren’t the only two typical heroes who were mind controlled after encountering the scepter.

Toward the middle of the film, we get a glimpse at how powerful the scepter is in S.H.I.E.L.D.’s mobile station. While the Avengers argue over what to do with Loki and the alien device, the scepter compels Bruce Banner to pick it up. In the same scene when he’s wielding the staff outside of the frame, he vaguely threatens the others. Although Bruce is the Avenger who is most impacted by the scepter because of his innate rage via the Hulk within him, the same scene also heavily implies the scepter is controlling the argument between all the heroes in the room.

This scene shows us that it taps into its wielder’s most vulnerable rage, amplifies it, and manipulates those angry or malicious thoughts.

The Chitauri scepter wasn’t the only thing controlling Loki

In addition to the scepter’s mind control, Loki was initially coerced to release the Chitauri army on Earth by the Other and the Children of Thanos. Granted, he was coerced in the same way that other victims of Thanos’ abuse do things they don’t want to do. After all, the Other explicitly gave Loki an ultimatum for his mission on Earth.

During Loki’s flashback to when he was with the Black Order, which we can assume now was him being held hostage by the Black Order, the Other told him, “If you fail, if the Tesseract is kept from us, there will be no realm, no barren moon, no crevice where he cannot find you.” This scene also makes it clear that Loki had already met Thanos, was familiar with his power, and already feared the Titan.

Scepter or not, Thanos has actively used other people do the metaphorical heavy lifting on his quest to complete the Infinity Gauntlet. While he doesn’t need the Mind Stone to control the Children of Thanos or his daughters, he did use his physical and emotional manipulation to make them subservient to his mission. Under his reign, he convinced Gamora to find the Soul Stone. He had Nebula track down Gamora in the first Guardians of the Galaxy film. Then, he obviously had Ebony Maw and the other Children of Thanos do his bidding in Avengers: Infinity War.

He might have easily manipulated the Black Order to join his intergalactic cult and sent them on missions just by asking. However, it’s easy to assume that he needed to persuade an Asgardian such as Loki with more than just his typical tactics.

Villain, hero, or anti-hero

Because Loki was scepter controlled and his actions were manipulated Earth, he wasn’t necessarily a villain. After all, he isn’t any more a villain than any other reformed heroes in the MCU who were controlled by HYDRA or otherwise. However, that doesn’t erase the fact that Loki’s nefarious thoughts that the scepter initially tapped into and bolstered through the film were still very much Loki’s thoughts.

The contempt for Earth was there in the trickster’s mind. Thor loves Midgard because of Jane Foster and because of his empathy for the Earthlings. The last time we saw Loki before his war against New York, he was fighting his own brother out of jealousy and his own issues with his family (thanks to one of the true villains of Asgard: Odin, obviously). The scepter magnified that resentment and used it during his attack on the planet.

Though Loki didn’t have control over his actions or his free will, his evil thoughts that were exemplified throughout the movie were still his own—they just weren’t sequestered to his mind (hence, the Mind Stone’s abilities).

Despite Loki’s lack of control over his mind or body in the movie, his villainous intent was still very much his own. The scepter just acted on his thoughts. Because he was controlled, he might be a villain for killing people and inducing havoc on New York. However, he was still a villain from his previous attacks against Thor in the first Thor film, and his brief attack on Earth in that same movie. Likewise, his villainous ideation still made him a villain in some aspect.

Because he was still a villain regardless of Marvel’s updates regarding the Mind Stone in the Avengers, Loki’s heroic character development throughout Thor: Ragnarok and into Avengers: Infinity War is still valid. His redemption arc from his villainous past is still there, it just isn’t as heavily dependant on his apparent heinous actions in the first Avengers film.

This new information does retcon Loki’s intentions on Earth. However, that doesn’t change that Loki started his journey in the MCU as an antagonist and was even a villain at one point.

The fact that it took Marvel so long to confirm or deny this theory about Loki’s free will in Avengers could insinuate that his manipulated villainous actions or his overall role in the first film could play a vital role in Avengers: Endgame. After all, we can’t think of another notable reason that would prompt Marvel to suddenly confirm that the scepter mind controlled Loki in a movie that took place seven years ago.

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Although the scepter’s influence over Loki wasn’t vehemently explained during the Avengers first movie, the context was still there in the film. We’re just ready to see why the theory was officially confirmed when Endgame debuts later this year.