The Loki TV series has gained a lot of attention since it premiered last summer, and people who aren’t too familiar with the MCU want to jump in to enjoy it. But how do you do that? What films do you need to see first? Let’s talk about it.
The Marvel Cinematic Universe is huge and complicated. Loki is even more complicated than a lot of the other shows because of the time travel elements involved. It’s not quite clear to newbies what exactly needs to be watched to understand the show, which is entirely understandable. Loki is an appealing character, though, and new fans seem to be pouring into the fandom. Joining a fourteen-year-old fandom with a property involving time travel is not an easy task, but I admire those who are stepping up to the plate and giving it a go! So let me help you sort through the chaos.
So far Loki has won two People’s Choice Awards (Best Show 2021 and Best Actor – Tom Hiddleston) and wide critical acclaim from reviewers. While some of the elements were controversial and received criticism, such as the issues with genderfluid representation and the differences between this Loki and the Loki from the films, fans have generally praised many other elements of the show. Notably, the thorough introduction of the multiverse, having the first titular queer character in the MCU, the incredible acting, and fantastic music have been praised. Rotten Tomatoes gave the series a 92% rating, and it often scores high in fan popularity polls.
It’s so popular, a second season is in the works and set to come out likely in late 2022 or 2023. Many speculated that it’d start filming in January 2022, but it’s apparently set to begin this summer. So hey, this is the perfect time to catch up on all things Loki. Join us and watch season 2 in real-time!
So what do you need to know before starting this series? We’ve got a few different options to choose from: Short, Medium, and Long.
An Intro to Loki
Thor, the God of Thunder, and Loki, the God of Mischief (or “Trickster God”), are brothers from a world called Asgard. The Asgardians are basically Gods, even though they can age and die. Their lives are incredibly long and they are far more resilient than people from Earth (also known as ‘Midgard’). They also have magical powers. Thor can wield lightning and thunder, whereas Loki knows various magical skills, the most prominent one being his ability to shapeshift.
Loki is often framed as a villain in these stories, but that title doesn’t always fit him. He’s usually an antagonist, sure, but he’s not an ‘evil’ character. His ‘crimes’ are often the result of an outside factor – the dark influence of an Infinity Stone, for example, or an extreme response to trauma. His drive for self-preservation is strong, too, which can be read as selfishness or narcissism. But fans of the character see the much deeper motivation behind a lot of his actions, and would push back on a lot of the negative labels that get applied to him.
Loki’s story spans five films in the first three phases of the MCU, and he’s featured in a sixth film as part of a time travel narrative. This last appearance is what brings our Loki from the series into being. The Loki that appears in the eponymous Disney+ show is pulled from that timeline after his second cinematic appearance, which is shown in his sixth appearance. Confused? That’s okay. Stick with me here. Time travel is messy.
The Loki featured in the series is what’s known as a “Variant.” That term is used for any duplicate of someone from the “Sacred Timeline” that went off course. As a result of going off course, he’s arrested by the Time Variance Authority (TVA) and charged with crimes against the Sacred Timeline, which is the event that sparks the start of the story in the show. The Loki in the show hasn’t experienced everything that the main Loki has experienced. He is, however, shown some of that story in what’s called the Time Theater. He’s at least somewhat aware of what was set to happen to him should he have continued living on the Sacred Timeline.
The trauma of his life thus far combined with the trauma of being shown what his life would have been creates a very different version of Loki. In order to differentiate him from the others, we refer to him as “TVA Loki.” Some fans of the original version aren’t really pleased with this character, but he’s personally my favorite. He’s Loki, but he’s not that Loki. But he’s still a Loki.
MCU Complete Watch Order
This article is part of an ongoing Phase 4 series that will highlight each property in a way that makes it accessible to newbies, and also provide fun rewatch orders for long-time fans. We’ll be posting articles for all the Phase 4 content thus far, as well as suggested rewatch orders for upcoming properties. We also have the complete rewatch order, which will be updated through the year and contains a breakdown of each phase.
So stay tuned, because there’s a lot more coming after this one!
Short Loki Watch Order
Who Should Watch: New fans with extremely limited time, Old fans who need a quick refresher
Approximate Run Time: 16 Minutes
As always, I want to stress that this isn’t a watch order that I recommend to newbies. You lose far too much context for it to be emotionally impactful. The Marvel Studio’s Legends series is designed to fill you in on key facts, often glossing over emotional beats. And if you’re at all like me, it’s the emotional beats that make the MCU so satisfying.
That said, if you are really in a time crunch, it could be okay. I recommend going back to the Long Order later, though. It’s through that one that you get the full picture of both the character and the story that this show is trying to tell.
- Marvel Studios Legends – Loki & The Tesseract
Medium Loki Watch Order – Loki Variant Version
Who Should Watch: Old fans that want to experience this Loki Variant’s personal journey
This order should not be watched by new fans as you’ll be incredibly confused by a lot of what happens in the Time Theater. These scenes will also contain major spoilers for the films featuring Loki that follow it. This watch order only features the segments of Loki’s story that the Variant (TVA Loki) experiences before being arrested by the TVA.
That said, if being confused as heck is your favorite thing, this will probably be perfect for you. But if you’re researching watch orders for Disney+ shows, I doubt that fits you. Clearly, you are into details and want to know everything you possibly can to be prepared for it. So please, scoot on down to the long order and save yourself a headache.
For those of us more familiar with the MCU, this can be pretty fun, though. You really realize just how much TVA Loki missed. It hurts. It hurts so much. But I appreciate the insight I get about TVA Loki from this watch order.
This is the first film for both Thor and Loki. It’s absolutely crucial to watch for anyone who wants to truly understand these characters. Both of them are already over 1000 years old during the film, but somehow it manages to convey their relationship thus far pretty succinctly. We really understand the type of relationship they had growing up – both the good and the bad – and get to experience a pivotal moment in both their lives. Nothing is the same for Odin’s sons after the Thor film.
Since this is the first film in the Thor sub-franchise of the MCU, you don’t have to know much going into it. Just sit back and enjoy. Maybe bring some tissues, though. There are a few tearjerker moments.
- The Avengers
Loki is the primary antagonist in Avengers, and many refer to him as the ‘villain’ of the story. As I mentioned earlier, however, there’s significant pushback on black and white labels for him. He’s much more complicated than that. But since the superhero club known as the Avengers are the protagonists and he’s working against them, that’s the role he’s taken on here and gets labeled as such accordingly.
After the events from Thor, Loki finds himself partnered with Thanos and in possession of the Mind Stone and Space Stone- two of the six Infinity Stones that become crucial in the Infinity Saga. The Mind Stone is in his scepter and has a very noticeable effect on him both physically and emotionally. The Space Stone is in the Tesseract, which is the main object of interest in this film.
The Tesseract is vital to Loki’s story. It pops up again in Thor: Ragnarok and the Disney+ show. Not to mention that, as one of the Infinity Stones, it is part of the central plot for both Infinity War and Endgame. It even has it’s own Marvel Studios Legends episode. Make note of that little blue cube. It’s important.
This is where we have a split between the different Loki’s. If you continue on to the long watch order, you follow the Loki that got to live their life out on the Sacred Timeline. However, in Endgame we see Loki do something he wasn’t supposed to do and branch off into a different timeline. It’s this Loki that gets arrested by the TVA.
Long Loki Watch Order – Full Story Version
Who Should Watch: New fans who want to watch Loki, Old fans who want a refresher
This is the ultimate watch order for both new and old fans alike. It covers all the important plot elements of Loki’s journey so far, as well as the emotional beats.
The first two films on the list are the same as the Medium Watch Order because both versions of Loki have experienced them. However, the rest of the films follow the Sacred Timeline.
- The Avengers
- Thor: The Dark World
This is the first film that the TVA Loki didn’t get to experience himself. He’s shown traumatic clips of this in the Time Theater, but living these experiences and seeing them play out on a screen are two very different things. Both Loki’s are impacted by these events, but not in the same way. TVA Loki and Main Loki are both very traumatized, however, and have a ton of emotions to work through.
Someone give that Trickster God a hug please. Please.
This film takes place immediately after The Avengers, so you don’t need too much information beyond that to understand what’s going on. If you’ve watched the two films before this, you know everything you need to know.
- Thor: Ragnarok
This is almost universally a favorite of the Thor franchise. It’s directed by Taika Waititi, who seems to seriously understand these characters at their core. This film is snappy, funny, and incredibly beautiful. The music is fantastic as well.
This film contains some of the best Loki content for many fans. He’s, quite simply, a complete badass and lives up to his Trickster God moniker. And, on a purely superficial level, the wig Tom Hiddleston wears for Thor: Ragnorak is absolute perfection. “Why are you talking about a wig in a watch order list article?” Because his hair is beautiful. Just trust me on this one. Especially if you haven’t liked his hair in the previous two films.
Look, hair discussion is important, okay? Okay. Moving on.
Ragnarok is largely self-contained. Like the other two Thor films, not much context is required going into it. The one thing you should be aware of is that there’s a character named Doctor Stephen Strange. He’s a sorcerer and kind of cocky. He’s only in one scene, though, so missing out on his film won’t impact you too much.
- Infinity War
If you’ve fallen in love with Loki at this point (which is likely), prepare for some heartbreak and heavy emotions. Thor and Loki’s story flows directly from Ragnarok into Infinity War, but is a complete heel turn on an emotional level. Gone is the light comedy and intense badassery, replaced by sadness and despair.
Welcome to Infinity War. Prepare to cry.
Both Infinity War and Endgame contain characters from almost every sub-franchise in the MCU so far, so you’re going to be quite a bit lost. As Loki’s part is only really present at the beginning, you might wonder if it’s worth watching the whole movie after that. If you want to understand Endgame, which is crucial to understanding the Disney+ show, you need to watch all of Infinity War.
So yes. Please watch this film, even if Loki is in it for less than five minutes.
Endgame leads into the Loki series even more directly than any of the other Phase Four content thus far. As the primary plot revolves around time travel, they skip backward through several plots from the previous film. Yes, like Infinity War you will be lost for a lot of it because of all the other characters, but when they skip back to the first Avengers film, you’ll understand why this is crucial.
Loki, in his infinitely mischievous ways, sees an opportunity to avoid the punishment that’s coming his way after the attack on New York and takes it. By doing so, he goes off the Sacred Timeline and creates a branch. The TVA notices this branch and arrests him and bam, you’ve got the Loki Disney+ series.
Got it? Good.
Now You’re Ready for Loki
If you’re heart hurts and you’ve developed a soft spot for that mischievous scamp, you’re ready to watch the Loki series. While I know the time travel elements made this pretty murky, hopefully, I’ve been able to layout where things diverge clearly. Brace yourself, because the series is even more chaotic. Embrace the chaos.
Author: Angel Wilson
Angel is the admin of The Geekiary and a geek culture commentator. They earned a BA in Film & Digital Media from UC Santa Cruz. They have contributed to various podcasts and webcasts including An Englishman in San Diego, Free to Be Radio, and Genre TV for All. They’ve also written for Friends of Comic Con and is a 2019 Hugo Award winner for contributing fanfic on AO3. They identify as queer.
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