When last we saw Odin (Anthony Hopkins) before Thor: Ragnarok, we weren’t really looking at the real Odin. In Thor: The Dark World, Loki (Tom Hiddleston) had faked his death and then fulfilled his lifelong ambition to rule Asgard by magically stripping the All-Father of his powers and banishing him. Loki used his illusion-casting powers to pose as Odin. With Queen Frigga (Rene Russo) dead after the events of The Dark World and Thor (Chris Hemsworth) away from Asgard, there was no one from Odin’s family who could penetrate Loki’s disguise. The God of Mischief was happily ensconced on the throne. That is, until Thor returned at the start of Ragnarok and ruined Loki’s good time.
The two sons of Odin immediately went looking for their missing All-Father, and we found out Odin’s whereabouts for the last three years. Loki had sent Odin to a rest home in New York City, but it was since demolished, officially making Odin a missing person. Thanks to an appearance by Doctor Stephen Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch), who sends the brothers to Norway, Thor and Loki were all-too-briefly reunited with the dying Odin on a cliff overlooking the ocean.
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Odin usually has a revelation up his sleeve for his sons, and his final one was that Hela (Cate Blanchett), the Goddess of Death, is his firstborn daughter, whom he imprisoned. Odin’s long life and his life force were all that was stopping Hela from returning, but now that his time is at an end, he could no longer hold Hela at bay. Due to his exile by Loki, Odin’s power had been slowly draining, so after telling Thor that he loved him, Odin died in a manner fitting a god: his disintegrated into pure energy (the Odinforce) and entered Valhalla. Sure enough, seconds later Hela breached the dimensional gate and landed in Norway, meeting her younger brother Thor for the first time and launching the main thrust of the film.
The Thor films have always been at pains to find ways to remove Odin from the action. The first Thor saw Odin placed in the Odinsleep for most of the film, later to awaken and declare Thor a worthy successor after initially banishing him to Earth without his powers as punishment for his hubris. Loki himself got rid of Odin in Thor: The Dark World and took his place. Thor: Ragnarok at long last did away with the All-Father altogether. Quite how Odin died isn’t made clear, but it’s implied to be the repercussions of Loki’s banishment. That said, Odin meets his mortal end willingly and, as we’ll see, to call it “death” may be a bit off base.
Having Thor’s supremely powerful father around in the movies was always a narrative issue – the filmmakers would have to concoct a reason why Odin doesn’t interfere in his son’s affairs and save him. Director Taika Waititi’s solution was to end the entire Norse Cycle of gods and Asgard in the MCU with Ragnarok.
However, Odin’s death doesn’t mean we’ve seen the last of the All-Father by any means. Having an actor the caliber of Sir Anthony Hopkins isn’t something Marvel will readily disregard, even if they utilize the Oscar winner in such a limited fashion. In Ragnarok, Odin still appeared to Thor from Valhalla, giving him encouragement and reminding him that he’s more than just his magic hammer – he’s the God of Thunder because his power comes from within himself. In the future, Odin will be used even more sparingly, taking on an Obi-Wan Kenobi as a Force Ghost role, dispensing the occasional cryptic lesson to Thor. The God of Thunder will live a long life and will likely always welcome some fatherly wisdom. Luckily, even though he’s ‘dead’, Odin will always be around when Thor needs him most.
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