The Marvel Cinematic Universe version of Loki—Thor’s adopted younger brother and the Asgardian god of mischief—has been a villain, an antihero, and a self-mythologizing playwright, but that’s nothing compared to the various roles and identities he has taken on in the comics. There, he’s been a twisted and evil old man, a charming schemer in line with Tom Hiddleston’s movie version, a woman, a woman disguised as the Scarlet Witch, a heroic little kid, a similarly heroic (if slightly less trustworthy) teen, the Sorcerer Supreme, a U.S. politician, and—thanks to the occasional alternate reality or twisted timeline—an actual superhero with good and noble intentions. With Disney+’s Loki now giving Marvel’s master of manipulation his own spin-off show, it seems like the MCU version of Loki is finally getting a chance to follow his print counterpart’s lead and get wacky with alternate variations of Loki from other worlds.
For one thing, the version of Loki that Hiddleston is playing on the show isn’t even the same Loki we’ve watched gradually become a slightly better person over the course of a decade of Marvel movies. That Loki, the one who (sort of) gave his life to save Thor in Thor: The Dark World, who fought with Thor against Hela in Ragnarok, and who actually gave his life to defend Thor in Avengers: Infinity War died at the hands of Thanos and is presumably dead forever. The Loki in the TV show is specifically the Loki from Avengers: Endgame when the heroes went back in time to collect the Infinity Stones, crossing back over their own timelines and inadvertently letting a not-yet-redeemed Loki get his hands on the Tesseract and escape immediately after the events of the first Avengers.
That’s why, as seen in the trailers, Loki’s been summoned to the bleakly bureaucratic offices of the Time Variance Authority, with Owen Wilson’s Mobius M. Mobius enlisting Loki to help undo the damage he caused to reality when he altered the timeline. Based on the shots of a screen showing different branches extending out from one main line (a common indicator of “alternate timelines”), the mysterious glimpses of weird places like a fully obliterated New York City, and the scenes of Loki in weird situations (like standing in as D.B. Cooper, the man behind history’s only unsolved airplane hijacking), it looks like the show will follow Loki and Mobius hopping through alternate timelines where things happened differently, like New York being destroyed in some cataclysm or Loki using his magical tricks to pull off a thrilling mid-air heist.
It stands to reason that those other timelines will then have their own other Lokis, giving the show a chance to reveal—as the comics did many years ago—that there’s more than one way to make a Loki. Tom Hiddleston is too lovable in the role for Marvel Studios to ever say “Loki’s a twisted old man now” or “Loki’s a woman now” with no explanation, but Disney+’s Loki could be that explanation, much like how WandaVision introduced the new all-white Vision. At this point, it’s worth noting that a number of actors, including Richard E. Grant and Sophia Di Martino, have been confirmed for Loki with no official word on who they’re playing, but we can already see how Grant and Di Martino would be perfect for Old Man Loki and Lady Loki, respectively.
Old Man Loki, wearing a green jumpsuit and a very ornate version of the golden-horned helmet, was the main version of the character in the comics for many years, going back to when the Avengers first assembled in the 1960s. He was a full-on conniving villain at first, monologuing about how much he hates his brother Thor and coming up with needlessly complex evil schemes. Richard E. Grant is overqualified for that kind of role, but it’s the same basic character he played in Star Wars: The Rise Of Skywalker, and he could certainly have some fun with a fully over-the-top take on the god of mischief.
Lady Loki, meanwhile, was the main version of the character for an extended period of time in the 2000s, and unlike what we’re predicting for the Loki TV series, she actually was the original version of the character reincarnated (not an alternate Loki from another timeline). The persona still pops up from time to time, whenever comic writers want to remind readers that Loki is bisexual and genderfluid, but Lady Loki is generally more of an unrepentant villain than other Lokis. Rumors have swirled for a while that Di Martino might be playing Lady Loki, as she was spotted wearing a Loki-like outfit in leaked set photos, and—no offense to Old Man Loki—there is a bit more meat to this version of the character. Based on nothing but rumors and the trailers, introducing Lady Loki could be Marvel Studios’ way to bring in an updated version of the character that doesn’t negate the growth that Hiddleston’s Loki went through over his many movie appearances, but still lets Loki be a villain.
The previous two Disney+ Marvel shows did reveal new incarnations of existing heroes, like the aforementioned White Vision, the Scarlet Witch, and Sam Wilson’s new gig as Captain America, and lifting these new Lokis from the comics could be Loki’s way to do something similar. Plus, it would be a smart way to maintain Loki’s presence in the MCU without worrying about keeping Hiddleston under contract or having to continue explaining that this Loki—even though he’s played by Hiddleston—is not the same Loki that got killed by Thanos. Loki could come back again as a villain, as a woman or an old man, or Loki could even lay some groundwork for the arrival of Kid Loki, a certified Good Guy and member of the Young Avengers in the comics alongside Billy and Tommy (Wanda’s kids, as seen on WandaVision), Eli Bradley (from The Falcon And The Winter Soldier), and Kate Bishop (who will debut on Disney+’s upcoming Hawkeye series). Disney hasn’t said if it’s making a Young Avengers show or if Loki will appear in any form after the Loki show—but both are becoming increasingly likely.