Free will with a side of mischief

Marvel’s Loki stumbles upon true glorious purpose

By Aaron Lambert

The Marvel Cinematic Universe is ever-expanding, and the latest offering about everyone’s favorite Norse god of mischief, Loki, is getting all kinds of time-traveling buzz, and for good reason.

The six-episode series, now available to stream on Disney+, picks up Loki’s story immediately following his miraculous and yes, mischievous second chance at life as shown in Avengers: Endgame. A disclaimer: it’s probably best to watch at least Endgame to fully appreciate what Loki is all about; the Thor movies might also help give the series more context if you’re watching as a newcomer to the MCU.

One of the more interesting aspects of Loki lies in its attempt to tackle themes of free will, destiny and ultimately, existence.

Aaron Lambert

Any good story worth telling shares parallels with the Christian life; some obvious, and some not so much. Loki is no exception. While the series is not explicitly spiritual in its execution, it does center around a “god” of sorts who’s definitely been through the wringer as a main player in the MCU — and has done a fair amount of wringing himself. In his eponymous series debut, Loki, portrayed by Tom Hiddleston, finds himself captured by the aptly-named Time Variance Authority (TVA) almost as quickly as he manages to steal the Tesseract and escape the clutches of the Avengers.

The TVA is tasked with maintaining time as the characters in the Marvel universe know it; specifically, time as it is supposed to happen. This Sacred Timeline, as it’s called, is overseen by the elusive Timekeepers, three mysterious figures who dictate time. Essentially, when someone does something they aren’t supposed to do, a Nexus Event is caused which creates a variant of themselves that exists outside of the Sacred Timeline and is free to roam about and cause more trouble. This is where the TVA comes in; they were created by the Timekeepers to hunt down variants and thus maintain a certain order of time within the universe. If left unchecked, the Sacred Timeline could branch off into countless other timelines that would usher in total chaos and risk the imminent destruction of the universe.

So how does Loki fit into all this? As it turns out, the TVA needs his help hunting down a variant of — you guessed it — himself. Loki teams up with Agent Mobius, played by Owen Wilson, to track down the impostor and….well, we’ll just leave it at that for now. As the six episodes unfold, there are many twists and turns along the way, and as is expected, the series sets up the next phase of the MCU rather nicely. It’s a Marvel show, so there’s a fair amount of violence and turmoil that Loki and crew get into along the way, but aside from that and a few suggestive scenes, the series is reasonably mild and makes for a charming family show geared towards kids 11 and older.

While the plot itself is compelling and well worth a watch, one of the more interesting aspects of Loki lies in its attempt to tackle themes of free will, destiny and ultimately, existence. In his many mischievous escapades, whether he’s trying to best his brother Thor or overthrow his father Odin as King of Asgard or become the supreme ruler of the universe, Loki has always maintained the idea that he is in control of his own destiny; that is, until he meets another version of himself that isn’t supposed to exist. For the first time, Loki begins to feel empathy and question his own existence — and he starts to wonder if there is more to his “glorious purpose” than his own actions and motivations have led him to believe.

The Christian life follows a similar trajectory. It’s in our human nature to think that the world exists solely for our own fulfillment, and that we control our own destinies. There is truth in this assumption, to be sure; unlike the Timekeepers, who prevent Loki from achieving his destiny and seem to be actively working against him, God, in His perfect love, gave humanity free will, simply because true love requires it — freedom to choose or not choose. However, as the Christian also knows, God is ultimately the one in control, but not in a dictatorial capacity — He invites us to live our lives for something greater than ourselves, and it is in this pursuit that true fulfillment lies.

Loki gets his first taste of this as he is unwittingly thrust into a bigger story than one he’s ever known, and suddenly, his existence takes on a whole new meaning. Despite the irony that it takes an unusual relationship with another version of himself to come to this realization, the parallel to the Christian life is not lost. God does not exist in the MCU, but if He did, then Loki has what you might call the very first “come to Jesus” moment the series has ever known — a genuine conversion from the darkness to the light. Time — and the future of the MCU — will determine whether or not it lasts.

In the end, Loki is a rousing and sometimes hilarious series that boasts several surprisingly spiritual moments and themes throughout its course, and though it’s not without its faults, it reveals its glorious purpose in some of the deeper questions it asks.