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[So gnine and I rewatched The Avengers and had a long conversation about what Loki was actually doing, and gnine (as is her wont, Smallville fans may recall) figured it all out!]

Whether Loki is the villain you love or the villain you love to hate (or just hate), there are two things about him that nearly everyone seems to agree on. One, Tom Hiddleston makes an awesomely compelling supervillain; and two, Loki's apparent masterplan in The Avengers makes no damn sense.

While Loki is definitely not rowing with all oars in the water, he still is enough on the ball to face off against all the Avengers and hold his own against most of them, and spout dramatic speeches while doing so. He comes across as scheming and manipulative, but his manipulations are baffling. According to his various monologues, his self-stated goal is to rule Earth, to save humanity from itself under his evil benevolent reign as supreme high king and make goat-horns an obligatory fashion statement.

To do this he calls down an alien army on New York City (notably not the capital of anything) and proceeds to wreck the place, while making no demands of any sort, no "Surrender this planet to me or else"; and not sending his army beyond the city limits. He also makes a big production of riling up the Avengers, ostensibly so he can utterly crush them in the final showdown; only most of his last act face-offs with them are out of the public eye. None of this seems like a feasible way to achieve world domination.

There's also the whole thing that back at the end of the Thor movie, Loki specifically tells Thor, "I never wanted to rule, I only wanted to be your equal," and he had not the slightest interest in Midgard. So his new obsession with ruling Earth is either to piss off Thor (maybe by showing he's a better king?) or...something else entirely is going on.

The two primary theories I've seen explaining what the heck Loki is doing are that he was to some degree under the Chitauri's mind control same as Hawkeye and Selvig; or that the whole Earth invasion was really a Xanatos gambit for Loki to get taken back to Asgard so he could go treasure-hunting. There's quite a lot of evidence for the former theory, while the latter is especially appealing because it's in keeping with comics!Loki's master manipulator skills. But one of the things that makes Loki a fun supervillain is that at any given time he always has half a dozen different motivations, and while he might've been a bit brainwashed, and getting back to Asgard was probably his goal at the end, we think he was working on a different project for most of the movie.

Namely, the annihilation of the Chitauri army.

At the end of Thor, Loki falls off the Bifrost, but not to his death - somehow he ends up on Earth (or at least is magically projecting himself to Earth) where he induces Erik Selvig to get involved with SHIELD's work on the Tesseract. However, Loki is not the only one after the cube; it's also an interest of Thanos, the big bad revealed at the end of The Avengers, and the power behind the Chitauri. Somehow between Thor and The Avengers, maybe because of that mutual interest, Loki falls in with Thanos and the Chitauri. And given how strung-out he looks at the beginning of the movie, it wasn't a fun time.

Loki's partnership with the Chitauri seems fraught. While he supposedly commands their army, when he talks to their upper management they insult and threaten him - "You think you know pain? He will make you long for something sweet as pain" and end their chat with a psychic bitchslap that probably would've broken a mortal's neck.

From that interaction, it's not too far a stretch to suppose that the Chitauri have a hold on Loki - it could be a mental influence; it could as easily be the threat of death. If they can smack him around long-distance, it's possible they could actually kill him at any time. Considering they can contact him, they can probably watch him as well (in the final invasion Loki summons the second wave just by murmuring for it, no radio in sight). They know Loki is a tricky bastard; they're keeping him on a tight leash.

A leash Loki wants out of. "Freedom is life's great lie," he says, but that's his greatest lie; as a trickster, freedom is what Loki values above all else. He's mouthing the Chitauri/the Tesseract's platitudes to convince them he's drunk the kool-aid and is on their side. Meanwhile Loki is doing everything he can to set up the Chitauri's ultimate demise, both to be free of them and as payback. His plan is pretty straightforward: get together a force strong enough to fight the Chitauri, and then summon his alien army and watch them get wiped out.

Loki wanted the Avengers to assemble. In particular, Loki wanted the Hulk - how he found out about Bruce Banner's condition is unclear, but he obviously believes the Hulk is powerful enough to take on his enemies. To that end, after stealing the Tesseract and starting on constructing the portal, he arranges to get himself captured and taken to SHIELD, all for the purpose of activating the Hulk. This is confirmed as Loki's purpose, except why he wants the Hulk awakened isn't clear - if he just wanted the Hulk to take out SHIELD, why doesn't he do more himself to take them down?

Loki's under a serious limitation; he can't openly explain his plan or his problem to the heroes, because if the Chitauri get so much as a hint that he's working at cross-purposes, they can instantly gank him. So he's got to play the part of the megalomaniacal villain, crazy enough that the Chitauri don't question his more questionable actions. Such as letting his most dangerous supposed enemies live.

Loki repeatedly has the chance to kill various Avengers, but fails to do so, even though he has no problems killing non-superheroes. Despite what Fury says, Loki doesn't really seem to enjoy killing so much as just not caring about it one way or another; regular humans are only a means to his end. He brutally kills(???) Coulson in front of Thor for the same reason that Fury later uses Coulson's death for - as motivation to get the Avengers to come after him, and more importantly, come after his army. On the other hand, when he confronts Tony Stark at the end ("And you've managed to piss off every single one of them." "That was the plan."), Loki first tries to scepter-possess him; when that doesn't work, he grabs Tony and throws him out the window - rather than just stabbing him, or snapping his neck, or any of a dozen other ways he easily could've taken him out for good. Throwing Tony out the window was a test: either he'd somehow survive the fall (and therefore would prove himself strong enough to be useful in the coming fight) or else he'd be useless and die, in which case the other Avengers would be that much more pissed off and eager to take care of Loki's Chitauri problem.

(It's possible that Loki is cranky with Tony for another reason. He picked Stark Tower as his base of operations for several reasons, not least of which being it was the most obvious place in the world to get the Avengers to come find him, even if he couldn't tell them outright where he was located. But also, as Stark's "castle", Loki might have been assuming it to be one of the better-defended places on the planet, somewhere most able to fend off an alien invasion. He might even have assumed that Tony would have some safeguards to protect the local population (or maybe not; they are just mortals). (Either way, the question of why the hell Tony (and SHIELD) didn't call for Manhattan to be evacuated as soon as they figured out it was Chitauri Ground Zero is going to irritate me until the end of time...))

Loki also might be trying to indirectly explain himself to Thor. During their cliff-top conversation, Loki keeps saying things that Thor knows aren't true (such as that Thor threw him off the Bifrost, rather than Loki choosing to let go; and repeating his claims about wanting to rule even though in their last conversation Loki told Thor that wasn't what he wanted). Maybe he's trying to get Thor to figure out for himself that something is wrong, and his rising temper is impatience that Thor is not getting it (not until right at the end, when Iron Man so rudely interrupts.) At their confrontation on Stark Tower, Loki is close enough to kill or at least seriously injure Thor, but instead gives him a little stab in the side with a tiny knife that does no apparent damage - he doesn't want Thor out of the battle. In fact, dropping Thor out of the SHIELD airship, though he claims is an attempt to kill Thor, was likely the opposite - the airship was going down, and Loki didn't want one of his key fighters to be blown up or stuck on the bottom of the ocean.

Then there's the scepter. It's definitely a major power boost, but it's the Chitauri's, not Loki's. Is the scepter in fact Loki's leash? We know it can influence moods as well as mind-control; it might be exerting pressure on Loki, if not to the extent it does on mortals. And the Chitauri might've warned him not to try to toss it. In which case that's another advantage to getting himself caught by SHIELD - it gives him a perfectly logical reason to be separated from the scepter as much as possible.

Meanwhile Erik Selvig, even under mind control, manages to build a backdoor into his Tesseract-powered portal-opener. Or was that really his idea? Loki had mental influence over Selvig at the end of Thor. Perhaps he maintained that influence, even when Selvig was being controlled by the Chitauri's scepter. Selvig's backdoor would be very useful for Loki - it uses the scepter to close the portal, and apparently destroys its power in the doing (in the end, Natasha has the scepter, but its light has gone out.) Loki's plan all along might have been that once the Chitauri were taken out, he would close the portal with the scepter, destroying Thanos's hold on him, and then grab the Tesseract for himself and abscond.

Which might have gone great, if Loki hadn't slightly miscalculated just how hard the Hulk can smash.

Still, the majority of his plan is a complete success - the Chitauri are defeated, the scepter is destroyed, and Loki himself is alive and intact and - along with the Tesseract - getting taken back to Asgard, which of anywhere in the universe is probably the safest place to be when a pissed-off Thanos is coming for you. No wonder he's in the mood to celebrate at the end (and that may be the scene that gives the most evidence that something is going on with Loki beyond the obvious, because his relaxed resignation is completely unlike his maniacally malicious attitude in the rest of the movie; he's like a different person, once the heat is finally off.)

Now all Loki needs to do once he's back on Asgard is get out of his gag and chains, grab the Tesseract and maybe the Infinity Gauntlet while he's at it, and then, having obtained ultimate power, make like a proper Loki and do what he wants. Probably take out Thanos, take over some realm or other just 'cuz, and then take a long nap. And maybe stop by the new Avengers tower to take Tony up on that drink...

[tumblr link]


( 49 comments — Leave a comment )
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Jul. 3rd, 2012 12:57 am (UTC)
That was a really great read :) I hope your theory is actually right. While watching the film whenever Loki was doing his thing I went "what the hell are you doing?!". I thought that either I was too distracted by all the shiny the film provides and was missing something vital or that Loki is a really unimpressive villain xD
Jul. 3rd, 2012 01:45 am (UTC)
Yeah, I was disappointed by Loki's ineffectualness - this is much more satisfying! \o/
Jul. 3rd, 2012 01:18 am (UTC)
from friendsfriends
I really love this theory. It makes sense, with Loki's not wanting to be king, all the gaping holes in his plan and actions, and, just, everything.

In particular, Loki wanted the Hulk - how he found out about Bruce Banner's condition is unclear, but he obviously believes the Hulk is powerful enough to take on his enemies.

I think Selvig talks obliquely about Banner in Thor (the friend who got involved with SHIELD and then disappeared); if that's who he's talking about, Loki could have gotten the info from his mind.
Jul. 3rd, 2012 01:47 am (UTC)
Re: from friendsfriends
It all fits so well I'm having a hard time not making it my headcanon!

And good point about Selvig! Loki might have had other sources, too, since he was hanging around the SHIELD lab mirror-stalking Selvig for that time...
Jul. 3rd, 2012 02:31 am (UTC)
I LOVE THIS! I would very much love for this to be what happened
Jul. 3rd, 2012 02:35 am (UTC)
Hee, well, the advantage of this being a movie series is that it'll be more than a year before any canon disproves it, at least! XD
Jul. 3rd, 2012 04:35 am (UTC)
We've been seeing this sort of thing in HP fandom for years - the plotting is so bad that if you want an explanation for the character's behaviour beyond 'the writers were out to lunch' you have to assume that something else is going on.

In the Avengers movie this manifests as a conflict between two pieces of information:

1. Loki is a brilliant master manipulator.

2. Loki's invasion plan was completely pants.

So when we try to resolve this we come up with explanations like yours (which would make a great basis for a fic, btw).

My personal theory is the Chitauri invasion was actually just the first phase of Loki's real invasion plan and the whole thing was a cover to lay the groundwork for the real invasion. Assembling the Avengers means that all Earth's greatest warriors will be together as one easy target and Loki now has a pretty good read on their capabilities, personalities and team dynamic . . .
Jul. 3rd, 2012 07:03 am (UTC)
*laughs* Yup, trying to fill in plotholes is one of the joys of fandom! (HP must be particularly fertile ground; the limited view of the protagonist offers a lot of room for workarounds...)

I was thinking of writing this as a fic, but I'm working on a huge long one right now which this doesn't quite work with, so I wanted to just get it out there and then get back to mine...
(no subject) - gemfyre - Jul. 26th, 2012 02:49 am (UTC) - Expand
Jul. 3rd, 2012 11:25 am (UTC)
That makes a lot of sense! I think I might adopt the idea :)
Jul. 3rd, 2012 09:48 pm (UTC)
You are very welcome to it! ^_^
Jul. 3rd, 2012 12:25 pm (UTC)
\^_^/ I love this! you rock! I too wondered what the heck Loki was doing, not really trying HARD enough to make Earth his. *shakes head* I was thinking that there was something weird about the scepter, that it had some sort of hold over Loki too. which in a way it does if Thanos and his pals are keeping an eye on Loki through it.

maybe it's all Thanos great plan in the end (which Loki had hoped to use for his own purposes, only Thanos didn't stand for that. oops.). he had some sort of hold over Loki, sent him in to judge Earth's heroes and defenses, then let Loki go back to Asgard to do whatever, and next up: Thanos sets in motion his own invasion. during which I hope Loki returns to exact revenge on him for having used him - a GOD! - in such a way. thus we can end it with Thor/Loki snuggles when Thor (blond!) finally figures it all out. ;oP

okay, that was my two cents of brain power today. I'm done. ^^

Next time I watch the movie I'm going to be looking at each scene in a whole different way!
Jul. 3rd, 2012 09:50 pm (UTC)
I think the scepter might have some influence on Loki as well, to explain how unhinged he's acting even if he has a master plan (though said influence could be as simple as 'power corrupts')...

And yeah, it might be Thanos's plan, or part of Thanos's plan. But Loki getting vengeance and then Thor/Loki snuggles, YES, I highly approve! \o/
Jul. 3rd, 2012 08:01 pm (UTC)
I adore you. You do my Loki-obsessed heart good.
Jul. 3rd, 2012 09:51 pm (UTC)
Hee, glad to help! XD After Smallville we're old hands at villain-obsessing...
Jul. 3rd, 2012 09:03 pm (UTC)
I think I had assumed that "fuck up the Chitauri" as at least a sub-point in Loki's plan was explit and obvious canon; I mean, if there's one point of characterization for Loki that is constant under all the crazy, it's that he reacts poorly to being told what to do. When I was watching the movie, I actually turned to the person next to me at the "you will long for pain" bit and said "threatening Loki: that's going to end well."

I hadn't actually looked at it as something as well thought out as you detail, though, more: the Chitauri are Loki's problem, make them earth's problem, but I think you're on to something that Loki's more inexplicable actions do make a lot more sense if you assume he's trying to assemble the Avengers.

As to the trying to keep his plan secret from the chitauri's presumed psychic-spy abilities, though, I have to say, I'm pretty sure Loki would rather have his fingernails removed than ask for help, and I really buy Loki as someone who, with his back to the wall, reflexively lies. Tell the Avengers his plan? Why should he, when he then has to work to convince them, and it's so much easier to just kill a few (thousand) people and then lead them around by the nose.

Not to say the Chitauri keeping an eye on him isn't plausible, but I think I am really invested in a Loki who, when the going gets rough, just straps another feather boa onto his full-tilt-diva act.
Jul. 3rd, 2012 10:06 pm (UTC)
See, yeah, once we'd thought of it it seemed obvious, but until then it hadn't really occurred to me that he was actively trying to screw the Chitauri during the movie (even if I figured that after everything he was going to want some payback.) But it did occur to me that Loki spent a lot of the movie acting like he'd read the script and was working to fulfill it, I just couldn't figure out why (I was vaguely contemplating a scenario where he was collaborating with Fury for reasons I never figured out, hence me not writing it...)

And no, I don't think Loki would've just gone and asked for help even if he'd been free to do so (going crying to his big brother after being bullied, no, not his style...); but the Chitauri monitoring him explains why he doesn't leave a more explicit hint about where the showdown would be. (and I do appreciate the investment in preserving Loki's magnificent bastard-hood!)
Jul. 4th, 2012 04:53 am (UTC)
The only way Loki's plans make any sense to me is if a) this was the plan all along, maybe get to Asgard, get Thanos' Infinity Gauntlet, etc. or b) this idea, where he's manipulating the Avengers into doing his work for him. It still works with Thor pleading with him to come home and Loki being visibly affected by that, but unable to divert himself from this path. If Loki had just been about lashing out, why not go to Jotunheim instead? He certainly has more reasons to want Jotunheim destroyed than he does Midgard (and I'm not buying that he's lashing out at Midgard because Thor loves it, otherwise we'd have seen him start that up in the stinger to Thor) and the idea that he wants to defeat the Avengers publicly in a grand battle kind of... goes against everything about Loki's fighting style? He likes proving himself, yes, he likes grand moments of divahood, of course, but he's also a back stabber, the kind who hides in the shadows and strikes when you're distracted. Not the kind who says, hey, here I am, come get me. Not unless there's more going on there.
Jul. 4th, 2012 05:31 pm (UTC)
Yeah, the whole plan didn't make sense, from attacking Midgard instead of elsewhere on! And even as a master plan to get back to Asgard it's sort of...needlessly complicated and a pretty big risk for Loki to run? Really just stealing the Tesseract would probably have been enough to get him dragged back to Asgard, no need to bring down the wrath of superheroes! So I'm very content to have some sort of explanation XD

(...we only just came up with this, so I probably won't be working it into the fic, but on the other hand it doesn't contradict it, either...)
Jul. 4th, 2012 09:13 am (UTC)
Ooh. This is all so deliciously plausible and fascinating, and makes Loki a far more efficient manipulator/antagonist than I gave him credit for. Because, really, taking the movie at face value he doesn't do that great for himself. But where's the fun in taking things at face value when you can analyze and theorize and come up with brilliant stuff like this?
Jul. 4th, 2012 05:33 pm (UTC)
Heee, yes - I love the Avengers movie but the first time I saw it I was like, "Wow, that was awesome! Wow that had no plot!" But it does have one, you just have to read in between the lines (I actually think some of this stuff is intentional, there's enough hooks in the film itself for it...not sure how much, though...)

(and then, I like that this explanation changes Loki from insane supervillain to magnificent bastard...)
Jul. 4th, 2012 10:13 am (UTC)
With that in mind, I would congratulate you in deciphering what that manipulative bastard is up too.

Like what they say, what we see is sometimes, what we don't get unless we think it through.
Jul. 4th, 2012 05:34 pm (UTC)
This is definitely my headcanon, at least until later movies disprove it! XD
Jul. 4th, 2012 08:59 pm (UTC)
Wow... I... Yes to all of this. It would be so perfectly Loki that I would wept with joy if this is the real canon.
Jul. 4th, 2012 10:00 pm (UTC)
I am totally making it my canon until proven otherwise!
Jul. 7th, 2012 05:50 pm (UTC)
I read this awhile back and meant to comment on it, but then family happened. *g* Anyway ... *is intrigued*

It's hard to know for sure, but I think at least some of this might have actually been intentional. I definitely got the impression that Loki was meant to be under the thumb of the Chitauri and trying to get out of it. I hadn't gone all the way from there to the conclusion that he'd engineered the failure of the Chitauri's invasion, but I actually don't think it's a far-fetched theory. For one thing, Whedon is twisty enough to have had something like this in mind. XD
Jul. 7th, 2012 07:53 pm (UTC)
Yes, this is very much like our Lex-nalysis in which I really do feel is at least partly intentional. In the case of SV, I believe it was something some but not all of the writers were on board with, which made it confusing; in this case I wonder if Whedon did have something similar in mind, but the movie just didn't have time or plot to explore it (there's too many hooks in the story for something going on with Loki. And it does open up the potential for a redemption (probably via death?) arc, which considering the popularity of the char would be worth pursuing; plus Whedon really likes them...!)

Edited at 2012-07-07 07:54 pm (UTC)
Jul. 8th, 2012 06:26 am (UTC)
Now I have to watch the movie again with all this in mind. Gosh, life as a fan is hard.
Jul. 8th, 2012 06:58 am (UTC)
I know, sometimes it is just SO difficult! ^^
Jul. 10th, 2012 08:09 pm (UTC)
This is very interesting, the whole "Taking over Earth" thing didn't make any sense, I didn't really buy it.

Loki did look like shit at the start of the movie, he seemed lost, and I think he stumbled at one point while getting out of SHIELD base, he also kept insisting that Thor threw him of the bifrost (WTF?) which didn't make any sense, I personally think that Loki was
coerced to work for Thanos .

I think he was playing for himself, pretending til the end that he is doing what Thanos & the "Other" asked him, but secretly trying to sabotage the mission , so if Chitauri still won, he wouldn't be on their bad side, if not, he at least would be able to go back to Asgard
Jul. 10th, 2012 08:36 pm (UTC)
Yeah, his weakness at the beginning is very curious - I couldn't figure out if it was exhaustion from the Tesseract-travel, or from overextending himself using the staff, or something else, but something was going on! But yeah, whatever Loki was really up to, Thanos and the Chitauri were coercing him somehow, and I don't think Loki liked that one bit...
(no subject) - greenlady2 - Jul. 17th, 2012 08:27 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - xparrot - Jul. 18th, 2012 02:21 am (UTC) - Expand
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