Sure we can talk about this scene Becca!
Natasha came to Loki with a request. He’s the one locked up—she should be in charge. She wouldn’t be asking for favors, rather than making demands, if she didn’t subconsciously fear him still. So he demonstrates what he can do with words and words alone, and brings that fear to the surface as violently as he can, making it clear that he is still the real power here.
Have you read the Wheel of Time? There’s a scene in one of the later books, when one of the Forsaken is imprisoned, that reminds me of this. She threatened terrible things too, but the specifics of the threats weren’t really the point—even though there was no doubt she could have and would have done those things—the point was that the Aes Sedai believed she had more power than them, and feared her.
So, this threat can be “all talk” while still being very serious. It isn’t about killing Romanov and torturing Barton—rather insignificant in the long run—it’s about maintaining his power, making sure he’s taken seriously as a threat.
It also, I think, is about reassuring himself that he’s still in charge of the situation. The way Loki sees himself is very much tied to the way others see him, though he would never admit that. Coulson was right—he lacks conviction. Think about all the people in the movie who really got on his nerves, who were actually able to provoke him. The old man in Germany, Coulson, Tony Stark right before the big fight. They didn’t fear him. They knew he was going to lose. But the more people fear him, the more confident he is in his power.
If Romanov’s request had been honest, it would have worked. But that fear he tried to bring to the surface never existed, and this particular threat’s not going to work on her. Killing her slowly, in every way she fears? Seriously, this is the Black Widow here. I don’t think it’s actually possible to kill her slowly, only suddenly and without warning. And if there are specific ways she fears dying, I’ve no doubt she’s especially prepared against them.
So no, I don’t think Loki would have followed through on this threat, I don’t think he ever intended to. I feel like it’s important to say though that for Loki, not doing something he said he’d do isn’t a sign of weakness. Never forget that he’s a god of lies.
If the question instead is “is he evil enough to kill and torture people this way?” then … well, he is a killer, but despite what Fury said, we don’t actually have any evidence of him killing people for fun. I think he would have done it if he had something to gain by it—and if Romanov had been killed in her fight with Barton (which she initiated, remember, even after Loki’s threat), he might have used that against Barton later.
I think trying to draw a line and say “he’s evil, but only so evil” is not really productive. He’s evil. He’s personally killed a lot of people and is responsible for a 9/11-level event. But redemption would kind of be pointless if it only worked if you were a little bit evil—even Darth Vader was redeemed! But it can’t be easy. I don’t like all this talk of “he just needs a hug” because that’s not how it works.
Ahh, Ellen, you’re absolutely right! My God, this makes perfect sense. Power of words alone to invoke fear—gah! Absolutely right! Words become the manifestation of power and the actuality of their meaning has little to do with anything—just the desired effect of producing fear—Loki’s attempt to create dominance for himself in this situation—GAH!
I agree with you as well—Loki is NOT merely misunderstood. He’s done terrible things. He is damaged and heartbroken, but the way that he has chosen to deal with these things is to lock himself in this shell of rage and hatred and to Seriously Mess Stuff Up. Not only does he Mess Stuff Up, but he’s very violent. And he doesn’t care about collateral damage. First he levels a small town in Thor in an attempt to get at his brother, and in Avengers he one-ups himself by.. um.. in Alice’s words, breaking New York. And also let’s not forget at the beginning of Thor, he lets Frost Giants into Asgard in a scheme that results in the deaths of both Frost Giants and Asgardians, all because he wanted to make a play against Thor. Careless AND violent! He views humans as his playthings, and—also paraphrasing Alice—feels the compulsive need to put himself above them because of his own inferiority complex and the need to prove that he is somehow above someone even if he himself will never in his heart feel equal to Thor or even any Asgardian.
And you’re right—redemption means that he has done evil, and that he must feel remorse for that evil. Loki certainly has done evil. A lot of it. The way Tom Hiddleston plays him, though, makes it so easy to see the possibilty for redemption. It’s just with this scene—I dunno, it really got me. It was harder to see the possibility for redemption with these things he says to Natasha. Which is silly, because he had already done some far, far worse things—like, oh I dunno, killing people for example—and here he’s only using words and threats.. Urgh, I guess we’re back to the fact that yes, he is doing great evil, he means to do this evil—he very clearly chooses to do it and it’s all about gaining power (in any way that he can—words and threats included)—with the effect of trying to give himself some sense of self-worth. And that’s what will make his (possible) redemption stronger. He’s built up this hatred through years and years of neglect and perceived inferiority and he’s lived with it for so long that he’s actually justified his actions to himself—at least partially. I don’t think at the heart of it that he really believes any of it. He may know logically that what he’s doing doesn’t add up, but he’s just so angry and so hurt that logical thought doesn’t matter.
Though I do think that he went through some very messed up stuff after falling into that abyss at the end of Thor. He came out of that more misguided, more insane—not to mention the fact that he looked terrible at the start of Avengers. I think maybe when he fell into the hands of the Chitauri, he tried to turn a very bad situation to his advantage. Like leading this army to rule the Earth was the best outcome he could gain out of being at the mercy of the Chitauri. As a result of whatever it was that happened between the Chitauri and Loki, it made him envelop himself in this great lie that he keeps telling himself even more. I felt like Loki was off his game in this movie. I saw a lot of desperation. I didn’t see a lot of conviction. He’s getting more desperate to prove himself even if he keeps trying to give himself this identity of vengeful, glorious space pirate.
*Sigh* I suppose this is what makes him such a great villain. He is so complicated, but I blame him for making me very strongly emotionally invested in him to the point where I’m very disappointed in him when he does things like the above conversation, or decides to kill a lot of people because of a grudge match with his brother and/or rage at his adoptive father, and/or his need to build power. I think what needs to happen for his redemption is for him to be just emotionally broken somehow. Which will be hard to watch, but then again, it just has to happen in order for him to have any hope of breaking through all the layers of lies and hate that he’s built up. Urgh. Being a Loki fan is exhausting.
Yes. Loki is trying to stay in control of the situation by manipulating Romanov with words. The joke, of course, is that she’s manipulating him—beating him at his own game. Which shows just how off his game Loki is in Avengers. Granted, Black Widow has skillz, but Loki’s supposed to be the god of this.
Further, though, I think part of why Loki reacts this strongly is because he’s afraid of what Romanov is. Think about it—she IS redeemed!Loki. By this point, Loki has to know that he’s in a very bad spot: he’s bitten off way more than he can chew with the Chitauri and Thanos, and we see a couple of times in his eyes that he’s regretting it or thinking of just going home with Thor. The only reason he doesn’t is that he’s convinced himself there’s no going back after what he’s done. “Can you really wipe out so much red?” isn’t wholly rhetorical. So to see Romanov apparently redeemed makes him question that conviction—already weak—and the only way to strengthen his own conclusion is to persuade himself, through persuading her, that she’s not redeemed at all. And threatening the torture (remember the chilling vehemence is just as likely an act as everything else he does) serves the double purpose of persuading himself that he can still play on the evil kids’ team.
Which is necessary, because Loki truly does lack conviction. He puts on a good show, but again, Hiddleston plays it such that Loki’s mask slips a bit too often (or he wants us to think it’s slipping so we pity him and give him a hug and he stabs us! But barring that). But when he and Thor are on that cliff, and Thor tells him to give up the tesseract, this mad plan, and come home, what does Loki say? “I don’t have it.” Addressing the LEAST important part of that sentence and shying away from the scary part, the part that Thor would forgive him and take him back right then. And again in this above scene, when Romanov says “I tend not to weep over that—I’m Russian. Or I was,” Loki allows himself to be drawn away from the main debate to ask “What are you now?” Because he needs to know. If redeeming oneself means giving up one’s old home, what does one go to? What would Loki be, if he did choose redemption?
I think Loki spends a lot of this movie toying with the idea of redemption, actually. As in the above scenes, as well as in the fact that he actually seems to like the Avengers (laughing at Stark’s jokes, trying to hide emotion from his brother, enjoying himself way more in his captivity than in his position with the Chitauri, etc). The fact that he plants a parallel between himself and Banner in Romanov’s mind. “You’re a monster.” / “You brought the monster.” Redeemed!Loki would be in much the same position as Banner, if you think about it: both have killed thousands of people and wrought billions of dollars of damages, and their untransformed- or redeemed-personas have to live with the consequences while trying to remake their image. And the fact that he gives up so easily at the end, almost as if he’s decided that however scary redemption is, it can’t be worse than whatever the Chitauri have planned when he does, eventually, outlive his usefulness to them. Hence his “I’ll have that drink now” and his lack of protest at being taken prisoner (they did gag him, but he’s already shown he can use those Brazilian martial arts skillz)—he’s already almost joined the Avengers team in his mind.
And joining the Avengers team has an additional benefit: they can protect him from whatever pain the Chitauri have in mind as his punishment. The entire movie, then, can be taken as Loki gauging the Chitauri versus the Avengers’ strength, to see who he’ll be better off with in the long run.
And yes, Loki needs far, far more than a hug. He needs intensive therapy that I don’t have anywhere near the qualifications to speculate upon. But I think the fact that he is so clearly already considering redemption shows that the first stage, at least, of his emotional breaking is underway. There’s a whole lot more to come (which I look forward to seeing in Thor 2, screenwriters!), but that vital first step has been taken.
Or so the trickster god would have me believe.
Two separate topics here. One, I’m going to talk some about Natasha, because Natasha’s awesome, too. Loki’s words do have an effect on Natasha here, and in some ways it is the effect he wanted, but more importantly it really isn’t. “Can you really wipe out that much red” really brings it home that no, you really can’t, not just by switching sides. But rather than discourage her, it just strengthens her resolve. Later, at the “we’re spies not superheroes” moment, she calls back to this—I think there’s a good chance she’d have remained in the background, rather than fighting on the front line, if Loki had not reminded her just how much she still owed.
Actually, Loki did this with pretty much everyone. As Tony Stark said, Loki managed to piss off every single one of the Avengers. We assume this was done with the intention of tearing the Avengers apart, but they weren’t exactly playing well together before this. Are we to assume Loki’s talent with words backfired this badly? Or was he actually trying to give them all motivation to fight, not just for themselves, but for the world? (okay, this was probably not Whedon’s intention, but it’d be kind of cool if it was).
And two, I’m going to talk about redemption. I’m not sure specifically how (or even if) it should happen for Loki, but here are some thoughts. I don’t think it’s something he (or anyone) can achieve by trying. Wanting to be redeemed, trying to make up for what you’ve done, is all well and good, but as he said, “can you really wipe out that much red?” I am going to make Star Wars analogies like a dork, but—Darth Vader. He didn’t have a long, drawn-out redemption; in the space of a couple of minutes he went from a loyal servant of the Dark Side to being good. He didn’t even have to say anything—I mean, he’s Darth Vader, we don’t even get facial expressions—and viewers knew this. How did it happen? It wasn’t about being good or evil, it was about one particular thing that he could not let happen. And since following the path of the Dark Side required that that happen, he could no longer follow it. And so he made a single decision from which there could be no turning back. Doesn’t make up for all the bad stuff he did, but that’s not what redemption is. It helped that he had someone there who believed he was capable and worthy of redemption—actually, letting the one person who believed there was good in him die would’ve been the same as letting the good in him die. Thor believes Loki can be redeemed, but I don’t think he can fill that role for Loki given their history together.
Okay, here it is! I believe the original question that sparked this whole mess of fangirling was “Would Loki have actually followed through with this threat?” but Becca can correct me if I’m wrong.
This is not fangirling, Ellen; it’s pure genius!