Editor’s note: This post contains spoilers for Loki.
Running into our doppelganger would be startling enough, but what if there were multiple variants of ourselves?
Meeting an inferior variant may make us cringe; after all, no one revels in their weaknesses. What if we met a better version? Would we be inspired to improve ourselves or would we remain stuck in our old ways? Loki, recently concluded on Disney Plus, showcases the redemptive journey of finding the courage to forsake old habits in exchange for a new identity.
At the series’ start, Loki (Tom Hiddleston) has escaped the Avengers by creating a wormhole using the stolen Tesseract. Before he gets too far, however, Minutemen working for the Timekeeper Variance Authority (TVA) put him under arrest. He is found guilty of deviating from the “Sacred Timeline”—of being a “variant”—but his life is spared by Agent Mobius (Owen Wilson). Mobius enlists Loki’s help in capturing a destructive Loki variant that is threatening the TVA’s existence. Loki initially pushes back against the idea of the TVA’s ability to control every aspect of his life. However, when shown video transcripts of his biggest failures—and his future death by Thanos in Avengers: Infinity War—Loki’s fragilely constructed identity begins to crack.
Loki first began grappling with his identity in Thor, where he learned that he was adopted by Odin, king of Asgard. His true father was Laufey, king of the Frost Giants, who had tried to conquer the Nine Realms. Faced with this reality, he was not unlike Christians who are invited to join God’s family and turn from a path of sin. As Paul writes in Ephesians 1, God “predestined us for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will.” God has offered us a place in his family, ultimately giving us the choice on whether or not we want to belong. But how will we respond to his invitation?
When presented with the choice to either accept sonship in Odin’s family or embrace the malicious identity that his natural birthright afforded him, Loki chose the latter. Years later, Mobius presents the same question to Loki: will he continue to assert his identity as the “god of mischief” or will he play a more helpful role? Loki makes multiple attempts to manipulate his way into a place of control; however, coming face to face with another Loki variant, Sylvie (Sophia Di Martino), forces him to reconsider exactly what kind of Loki he wants to be.
TC Podcast: History Lessons (Loki, Summer of Soul)
At first glance, Sylvie seems to be in line with all Lokis—manipulative and capable of causing widespread chaos. However, in Episode 3, “Lamentis,” Loki learns that Sylvie’s disdain for the TVA seems to be justified, as they stole Sylvie from her timeline as a child and tried to have her “pruned”—effectively vaporzied at the end of a Minuteman’s wand. Although some of her tactics can be deemed less than admirable, Sylvie is not in pursuit of a throne; she simply seeks justice against the TVA.
The beginning of Episode 4, “The Nexus Event,” finds Loki and Sylvie awaiting their impending death. After inadvertently transporting themselves to Lamentis-1, a moon which is on the verge of colliding with a planet, they try in vain to find a way out of their predicament. With no chance of escape, they sit in resolve by a water-filled crater while numerous pieces of planetary debris crash around them. When Sylvie reflects on whether all Lokis are destined to lose, Loki speaks outside his normal character; he commends Sylvie for her will to survive in the face of insurmountable odds. Loki’s sincere encouragement prompts Sylvie to gingerly touch his arm. With meteors crashing around them and the moon continually growing dim from the approaching planet, Loki and Sylvie’s display of affection produces a nexus event—a deviation from the Sacred Timeline. This marks the initial moment Loki realizes there is a purer version of himself. While Sylvie does not represent a “perfect” Loki, she reflects a side of himself he has never had the courage to pursue.
Loki’s self-reflection continues in Episode 5, “Journey into Mystery.” Here he meets several other Loki variants. In discussing the nexus event that got him pruned, Classic Loki (Richard E. Grant) remarks that all Lokis “have but one part to play—the god of outcasts.” This remark gives Loki pause, as he realizes that every version of himself seems to struggle with their true identity and place in the universe.
In 1 Peter 2, we are assured that our identities are rooted in Christ because we are a chosen people: “Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.” Thankfully, God is not like the TVA. While he observes those moments when we deviate from his purposes, he does not send Minutemen to strike us with glowing wands, thus pruning us from existence. God is gracious and loving in that he gives us the free will to choose which path we will take and who we will become. And while we likely will not run into a variant of ourselves anytime soon, we can rest assured that God already knows the best version of ourselves.
Ephesians 1:4 says that we were known before the foundations of the earth were set. Psalm 139:13 remarks how we were knit together in our mother’s womb. Along with his purposes and plans for our lives were also knit strands of free will that would allow us to choose to walk in relationship with him. God does not want mind-controlled puppets like the TVA’s Minutemen. God desires genuine devotion and relationship with his children.
In Loki’s final episode, “For All Time. Always,” Loki finally commits to pursuing an enlightened path. When faced with the opportunity to kill The One Who Remains (Jonathan Majors) and assume ultimate control of the Sacred Timeline, Loki hesitates. He cares not only for himself and Sylvie, but also cautions about what could happen to everyone’s futures if the timeline suffered such an alteration. Loki grows beyond the good that is present in Sylvie and steps into his own redeemed identity.
Throughout the course of our lives, we will likely encounter potential “nexus events” that will either propel us closer to God’s purposes or create an even larger breach from what he has planned for us. Even though it may feel more comfortable to stay in the identity we have always exhibited, God gives us the courage to embrace his identity for us. We only need to trust that he has always seen us as the best version of ourselves. In this present moment, God does not see us as we are; he sees us as the person we were created to be. He only longs for us to have the courage to submit to his will and allow ourselves to be guided by his Holy Spirit.