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Why Loki may be more important in Endgame than you thought

He's the God of Mischief, he's got parent issues, he's Thor's brother, and he's dead… again. There's no doubt that the cinematic representation of Loki, brought to you by the talented Tom Hiddleston, has made an indelible mark across the MCU over the years. From sibling squabbles to bids for world domination, the villain — or hero, or antihero, or whatever role he's filling at any given  moment — was a regular presence around the galaxy, until he was suddenly and unexpectedly swept away in the opening moments of Infinity War.

As the troublemaker would have wished, though, that wasn't the end of his impact on the greater MCU storyline, on or off the screen. Ever since the trickster's untimely demise, theories and rumors have run rampant regarding whether he was really dead, if he would return, and how his death (or resurrection for the hundredth time) could impact the epic showdown brewing in Avengers: Endgame. Here's our rundown on some of the ways that Loki, dead or alive, could impact the upcoming installment of the Avengers' story in as dramatic a fashion as the Prince of Lies can deliver.

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Is he still alive?

First thing's first — is this god still alive or not? It's not a simple answer, for more than one reason. We're talking about Marvel here, a company that is renowned for undoing deaths, retconning and rebooting characters, and generally managing to always find a way to keep someone in the storyline when it suits them. From time travel to parallel universes, if Marvel wants Loki alive, you can be darn sure they'll do it. Add onto that the fact that Loki "died" at the end of Thor, came back and "died" again in Thor: The Dark World, only to circle back around and drop in yet again in Thor: Ragnarok, and it wouldn't be out of the question to assume that the Asgardian prince is still alive and well in a dark corner somewhere, smirking and biding his time.

The question is, do the creative minds of the MCU want him back or not? In November 2018, the Russo brothers were asked in an interview if Loki was masquerading as the Hulk in Infinity War, a popular fan theory that was circulating at the time. The directors' laconic answer seemed to wrap things up with little room for argument: "Loki is dead." And you know what? We believe them. But that doesn't mean Loki is necessarily done. After all, the Russos have been known to make misleading statements before, which can typically only be excused via strict technicalities, as they did with the Endgame title.

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A simple theory

The flat-out declaration of Loki's death by the directors, taken at face value, does dispense with the bulk of the fan theories about whether or not the god was alive throughout Infinity War. And we're not about to go on any deep dives to dredge up a bunch of possible fan theories on how he actually could be living. However, one point that a fan made on Reddit is worth consideration, as it sums up all of the skeptical hype over the issue.

This simple theory makes a few basic points about the setup of Loki's death scene, pointing out that he still is, after all, the God of Mischief. He wouldn't try to stab Thanos directly, nor would he put himself in danger when he could use his established cloning power to both be the hero and survive all at the same time. Add onto that the fact that Thanos very deliberately stated his "no more resurrections" line, in spite of the fact that there's no clear evidence he had any say over life and death at that point — remember, this is before he had all the Infinity Stones — and the whole scene, along with the Russos' confession, reeks of just another round of deception on the part of the wily Asgardian to keep everyone in the dark while he watches from the sidelines.

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Avenge him

So, where does all of this leave us, then? Is Loki alive or not? Unfortunately, we simply can't make that call until the movie comes out. But the good news is that there are still plenty of different ways that Loki could affect the Endgame storyline, dead or alive. For instance, there's still the fact that he's Thor's brother, and the God of Thunder is still very much alive and kicking. While Thor's role in Endgame is going to be a big deal regardless, the fact remains that the King of Asgard's brother was killed before his very eyes, and by none other than the same fella that destroyed half of the universe at the end of the film.

While Thor has a laundry list of grievances against Thanos at this point — the mad Titan wiped out his people, killed his brother, slew Heimdall, shamed the Avengers, and so on — you can bet your bottom dollar that Loki's sudden heroic streak, cut short by a death grip from those purple, gauntleted fingers, is going to be quite present in the son of Odin's thoughts as he decides how to avenge his brother when Endgame rolls around.

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The belated protagonist

One of the best arguments for Loki's continued survival in the MCU is the fact that Kevin Feige and company have been working through an impressive character arc with the adopted frost giant that took some pretty wild twists and turns. From his beginnings as the conflicted, antagonistic God of Mischief, Loki Laufeyson has slowly evolved into a deeply complex character who retains a penchant for trouble, yet can't help but jump in on some of the heroic action from time to time.

The latest, rather dramatic change to the character actually came after the fact and off the screen. A popular rumor was recently confirmed claiming that as he led Thanos' Chitauri hordes in the invasion of Earth during The Avengers, Loki himself was unknowingly being led as well. The scepter that he wielded during the movie, which contained the Mind Stone, turned out to also be influencing the Asgardian himself. The admission of Loki's possession by Thanos has opened up the floodgates for fans of Hiddleston's character to lift him up as a hidden hero all along. While that may be a bit of a stretch considering his rather muddled track record, it would put a resurrected Loki in an interesting position during Endgame. The knowledge that he was possessed during his main interactions with Thanos would make his past collaboration with the villain more of a motivation for revenge than a need for redemption.

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Ever the antagonist

Now let's flip the tables for a second, in true Loki style. Even if Loki came back and tried to shimmy in as "one of the good guys" at this point, chances are he's going to have that impish streak still show itself from time to time. Remember, when Loki first entered the MCU he was an antagonist of the highest order, usurping the throne from his brother before lying to him in order to keep him in exile.

His devilish streak continued in Thor: The Dark World. Sure, he picked the right side during the fight with Malekith and Kurse, but it only took about three seconds before he secretly stole the throne of Asgard in the guise of his adopted father. From there, he weaseled his way through Thor: Ragnarok, where he ended up once again with the good guys, though he still thoroughly enjoyed his brother's gladiatorial suffering and spent time in shackles. The fact stands that, despite his apparent repentance, the man — er, god — has clearly remained as harmful as he is helpful. If he's alive for Endgame, the Russos could use him as easily for evil as for good, depending on their mood.

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He knows Thanos

Let's not forget the plain, unadulterated fact that Loki knows Thanos. Personal emotions and loyalties aside, he not only has had conversations with the Mad Titan, he has literally served him. We now know he's been possessed by him, too. On the one hand, this could cause some issues. Look at what being possessed by the Mind Stone did to Eric Selvig — the man literally went mad, running around Stonehenge, due to the fact that he had "had a god in his head." While Loki certainly has a stronger mental constitution than a puny human scientist, his past cerebral connection to Thanos could provide the grounds for future trouble.

On the positive side, though, Loki's history with the genocidal maniac could be a boon to the big bad's opponents. Just as his devious knowledge helped saved the universe in Dark World when he aided Thor and Jane Foster in their escape from Asgard, Loki could be the perfect source of "inner circle" intel that would give the Avengers the edge they need in their second bout with Thanos.

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The Battle of New York... again?

Yet another way that Loki could have quite a big impact on the outcome of Endgame is through the Battle of New York, and it wouldnt' even matter whether he's alive or dead… in the current timeline, at least. For a long while now, leaked Avengers 4 set photos have been circulating showing an older Tony Stark and Ant-Man hobnobbing with Chris Evans, with the latter appearing exactly as he looked in the first Avengers movie. This has strongly implied that time travel in some form or another is going to help both Stark and Lang (at the least) head back in time to revisit key moments in MCU history, including the Battle of New York.

And who is it that heads up Thanos' forces in that battle, again? That's right — it's Loki. Dead or alive in the present, the chances of a run-in with Loki during a time travel sequence in Endgame are pretty high, and could even provide a way for the Avengers to break the Mind Stone's spell and pick his brain for some inside info while they're at it.

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He's just plain popular

There's no getting around it — Loki is a popular character. In the past, he's served as one of the most complex and unpredictable villains in modern movie history, while simultaneously tugging on everyone's heartstrings through his occasionally impressive heroics that have had even Thor in tears more than once. Marvel and Disney know this. Heck, they're even giving Loki his own show.

Whether that series is in the future (tipping that he's still alive) or it's more of a prequel thing, the bigger point here is that people like the guy. Up until Thanos walked into the picture, there were few other MCU baddies that really drew the audience in quite so well as Loki did. Many of them were simply, by and large, dark reflections of the protagonist — take Iron Monger or Abomination, for instance. So it would be quite a surprise if, with no more than a quick, neck-cracking squeeze, they dispensed with one of their most popular characters, literally casting him aside without so much as a second thought. 

Particularly when we're dealing with the god of mischief, there's a good chance the Russos have got something up their sleeve at this point despite their dire assertions. Perhaps they're simply following Loki's lead and being good magicians by keeping their secrets close to their chests. Here's hoping.

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The stakes have never been higher

One of the more subtle ways that Loki could impact the fourth Avengers film takes a little work to piece together. Say the Russos really are telling the plain truth and Loki is completely gone — no tricks, no deception. That would mean that for nearly a decade, Marvel took a character, tore him down, built him up, drew everyone into his story… and then snuffed him as callously as if he was a Chitauri soldier that happened to cross paths with the Hulk. While this seems hard to believe based on the history of both Loki and the MCU in general, that could be exactly the larger point being made here.

If Loki truly is dead, we may have witnessed one of the first cold-blooded eliminations that the Russos back-handedly promised when they declared in April 2018 that "You have to go to very difficult places for the stakes to feel real, for the characters to feel like they have something to lose, for the audience to feel like they have something at risk." While Loki could come back and have a huge impact in Endgame, his greatest legacy going forward could be that he stands at the front of a line of classic, beloved characters knocked out in the MCU's high-stakes game of galactic storytelling.

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Working the Marvel Magic

Of course, once again, we must keep in mind that we're dealing with Marvel here. Particularly when you take the comic books into account, there is literally an endless combination of life, death, and resurrection scenarios that writers can choose from without "breaking the rules," so to speak. While Marvel has been criticized over the years for its inability to fully let go of popular characters, the truth is, they don't have any precedent or pressure to do so in the first place. The Marvel multiverse, including both comics and films, is overloaded with an ever-revolving door of characters that cycle through as they are needed.

While Loki may be off the board for the moment — and may even be truly dead — that doesn't mean a writer or a director down the road couldn't pull some strings and bring the God of Mischief back into the picture if they really wanted to. If Loki is truly dead, we may have to wait a while, but that doesn't mean it's goodbye forever. And if he's alive? Well, with all hands on deck for Endgame, we can probably expect the fireworks to fly sooner rather than later.