The general consensus around Avengers: Infinity War is that at least one of Earth’s Mightiest Heroes is going to meet their maker by the end of the film, with the evil Thanos (Josh Brolin) presumed to brutally strike down a member of the team in his quest to get his purple mitts on the Infinity Stones.
While no-one (including us here at RadioTimes.com) has seen the finished film yet, the smart money so far has been on characters like Captain America and Iron Man biting the dust, with actors Robert Downey Jr and Chris Evans presumably keen to move on to pastures new after a decade of superhero-ing and their removal paving the way for a clean slate as the Marvel Universe continues in the years to come.
That reading totally makes sense – but lately, we’ve been wondering. What if we’ve had it wrong all this time? What if the most shocking, emotional death in Avengers: Infinity War won’t be the tragic end of a hero, but a villain?
In other words, what if we’re about to see the end of one of the series’ most popular characters – Tom Hiddleston’s Loki?
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At first glance, this idea seems pretty unlikely. After all, Loki is one of the most successful characters in Marvel’s stable, a mainstay of the Thor films (which after the success of Thor: Ragnarok are a going concern again) and a big draw for fans of Hiddleston’s work. Plus, he only just started to reconcile with Thor (Chris Hemsworth) at the end of Ragnarok!
However, when you look at how Loki been advertised ahead of Infinity War, things start to look a little fishier. Thanks to the release of various clips, we know that a very early event in the film sees Thor, Hulk (Mark Ruffalo) and their ship full of Asgardians attacked by Thanos and his Black Order, resulting in the Hulk plummeting to Earth and Thor crashing into the Guardians of the Galaxy’s spaceship.
From this point on, footage shows Thor with some of the Guardians and the Hulk with the Avengers – but there’s no sign of the other characters we know on the ship, including Tessa Thompson’s Valkyrie, Idris Elba’s Heimdall, Taika Waititi’s Korg (sob) or Loki.
“Hold up!” we hear you cry. “I have seen Loki in Infinity War footage, handing the Tesseract (aka the Space stone) over to Thanos!”
And that’s a good point – were it not for the fact that the only two shots of Loki we’ve seen so far have him standing in the wreckage of the Asgardian ship, surrounded by Thanos’ henchmen. He hands over the Tesseract amidst the bodies of his people….and what’s Thanos likely to do then?
Well, if you recall correctly we were actually already told what would happen back in 2012’s original Avengers film, where Loki was given his sceptre (secretly containing the powerful Mind stone) and tasked with securing the Tesseract by Thanos.
“If you fail – if the Tesseract is kept from us – there will be no realm, no barren moon, no crevice where he can’t find you,” Thanos’ spokesperson The Other said.
“You think you know pain? He will make you long for something sweet as pain.”
Suffice to say, given that Loki failed to get his hands on the Tesseract, lost the Mind stone and then spent years gallivanting round the universe, Thanos may be inclined to make good on his threat.
Still not convinced? Well, then we’ll hand things over to Marvel Studios chief Kevin Feige, who may have actually hinted at Loki’s death a few months ago.
“We’ve been teasing him for years and the trick is when you tease something for that long you have to deliver,” Feige said of Thanos at a Brazilian comic-con last year.
“So, within the first five minutes of Infinity War people will understand why Thanos is the biggest and baddest villain in the history of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.”
The only footage and images we’ve seen of Loki so far have been in the same single scene, standing among the dead Asgardians – so couldn’t that be within that deadly first five minutes, before Thanos prods him off this mortal coil? We know that the Asgardian attack happens very early on, so maybe it’s the kick-off to show just how brutal and dangerous Thanos really is?
Plus, there may actually be an even greater clue hidden in Feige’s statement. Given that Loki is widely regarded as the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s greatest and most successful villain (well, except maybe Killmonger), wouldn’t Thanos killing him off truly cement his status as “the biggest and baddest villain” in Marvel, as Feige suggested? Thanos stamping in the head of the previous “greatest villain” would certainly be a statement to audiences of just how dangerous he is.
It might even be a moving emotional beat, with Loki finally acting to save his estranged brother – Thor is seen getting his head crushed by Thanos in one of the trailers – by handing over the Tesseract, his last act a decision born of love in a real journey from his nefarious origins.
And when you then add the fact that Loki hasn’t been featured on any individual or group posters for Avengers: Infinity War (when less prominent characters like Benedict Wong’s Wong have their own) it begins to look increasingly like Hiddleston is making an early exit from the film.
Of course, it could be that we’re completely wrong here and that Hiddleston merely takes a reduced role in the new film, potentially being kept as a hostage ahead of a bigger appearance in 2019’s secretive Infinity War sequel.
Alternatively, he might appear to die in the opening five minutes and then be revealed to have survived, retaining the shock value of introducing Thanos while still keeping the character in play for future Marvel instalments (let’s face it – “Loki’s alive!!” would be a great post-credits scene).
But for now, we here at RadioTimes.com are bulk-buying horned helmets in mourning colours, just in case the end of Loki really is nigh.
Goodnight, sweet Prince of Asgard – let flights of Valkyries sing thee to thy sleep.
Avengers: Infinity War will be released in UK cinemas on the 26th April