Major spoilers for Thor: Ragnarok.
Did Loki steal the Tesseract from Odin's vault at the end of Thor: Ragnarok in one of the films biggest moments of setup for Avengers: Infinity War? Or was it all a misleading trick to get audiences unfairly mistrusting the seemingly redeemed God of Mischief?
In terms of character, Loki was far and away the most consistent with his previous big-screen appearances in Ragnarok; Thor has much more misplaced bravado and Hulk is for the first time a thinking beast, but Tom Hiddleston is broadly the same trickster we always knew. Of course, that's not to say he doesn't change across the film, gradually realizing his duty to Asgard (one he'd previously only professed in a fake play starring Matt Damon) and helping Thor beat Hela in the climax.
Read More: Thor: Ragnarok’s Ending Explained
To do that, he went deep into Odin's vault to resurrect Surtur using the Eternal Fame, although not before spending a good few seconds staring at his former MacGuffin of choice, the Tesseract. The scene cuts before we see what he does next, leaving the audience questioning if Loki's back to his old tricks and has taken a dangerous Asgardian artifact unbeknownst to his now-King brother. We think he definitely does - allow us to explain.
What Is The Tesseract?
The Tesseract was an essential part of MCU's Phase 1. Introduced in the post-credits scene for the first Thor in the hands of S.H.I.E.L.D., we saw its discovery on Earth in Captain America: The First Avenger and Loki used it as an essential part of his conquest in The Avengers. After he was defeated, it was taken to Asgard to keep it safe, something reaffirmed in Thor: The Dark World's mid-credits scene where Volstagg and Sif gave The Collector the Aether to avoid keeping two Infinity Stones together.
That moment in the Collector's Museum was also the careful in-universe confirmation the Tesseract was, indeed, the Space Stone. As Taneleer Tivan later explained in Guardians of the Galaxy, the Infinity Stones (Gems in the comics) are concentrated remnants of the original six singularities in existence before the universe's creation. These are the object of Thanos' desire in next years' Avengers: Infinity War - anybody who brings them together in the real Infinity Gauntlet will be able to wield unlimited power - so all eyes on them as we barrel towards the culmination of the entire MCU so far.
Why Loki (Probably) Took The Tesseract
The Tesseract was highlighted earlier in Ragnarok when Hela first perused the vault. While the main focus of that scene was to clear up a long-standing plot hole regarding the Infinity Gauntlet (she dismisses her father's version a fake), it also saw her take some interest in the Space Stone (confirming that it was real one and not a double); that's pretty pointed, cluing us in that we're meant to be paying attention. And, as it only turns up again with Loki, he's the only way that wink can be paid off. Now, him pausing to look on the cube could just be a reference to The Avengers - Thor 3 already did something similar with its repeated references to Hulk's "puny God" takedown in the gladiator arena - but it's too out of character for him to not take advantage.
Related: Thor: Ragnarok Spoilers Discussion
Sure, some may question if this fits with his redemptive Ragnarok arc, although the simple rebuttal is that where the film took Loki was the part that's strange. He's an anti-hero, and so while we may get him working with Thor and not trying to turn him into a frog, he's still got that same sense of self-preservation. We see this best in the mid-credits scene where Loki expresses wariness to Thor about returning to Earth considering the last time he was there was as demented conquerer. The scene devolves into threat before his concern's resolved, but the doubt is seeded; taking a cosmic cube that gives the vision-heavy Asgardian some real power is really only to be expected.
Bigger than Loki, considering there are no other Infinity Stone in Thor: Ragnarok - contrary to previous theories - this would be a nice way for the film to still slot into the bigger picture, helping put the pieces in place ahead of next May. The three 2017 Marvel movies have all been light in overt shaping up the cosmic side of that showdown - Thanos was only mentioned as part of Nebula's sub-plot in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 and Spider-Man: Homecoming actually had Peter Parker reject the position he'll eventually take up in Infinity War. That allows for clearer, standalone stories, but that doesn't mean they haven't subtly thrown down clues.
Loki Taking The Tesseract Fits With What We Know of Infinity War
Potential mild spoilers for Infinity War in this final section.
The real evidence that Loki has the Tesseract at the end of Ragnarok, though, comes from the San Diego Comic-Con trailer for Infinity War. This showed us what'll happen to Thor after the Black Order turns up to threaten Asgard in Thor 3's mid-credits scene - he flies out of the debris of what appears to be a destroyed planet into the Milano, uniting him with the Guardians - but we're more interested in a moment a little later on; Loki was shown kneeling down before presumably Thanos and presenting him the Tesseract. That's right - we know that in Infinity War, Loki is in possession of the Space Stone, so it really only makes sense for him to have picked it up from the now-destroyed Asgard.
What this means for Loki's role in the film is unclear. He's obviously betraying Thor and going to his former master (Thanos was behind everything in The Avengers), confirmed by the Mad Titan later seen using a portal created by the Tesseract and clearly having the blue gem in the Gauntlet, but we don't know where this leaves the giver. Will Loki join up with Thanos once again, or does the presence of the Black Order and his failure in New York make him a liability and early casualty of the Infinity War? If only we had the Time Stone (currently in the possession of Doctor Strange).
- Thor: Ragnarok (2017) release date: Nov 03, 2017
- Black Panther (2018) release date: Feb 16, 2018
- Avengers: Infinity War / The Avengers 3 (2018) release date: Apr 27, 2018
- The Avengers 4 / Avengers: Endgame (2019) release date: Apr 26, 2019
- Captain Marvel (2019) release date: Mar 08, 2019
- Spider-Man: Far From Home (2019) release date: Jul 05, 2019
- Ant-Man & The Wasp (2018) release date: Jul 06, 2018