“I assure you, brother — the sun will shine on us again.” So few lines in the Marvel Cinematic Universe have hit me with as much force as the last thing Loki says to Thor in Avengers: Infinity War. And over the past year, it’s only become more prominent after re-watching Thor: Ragnarok for the millionth time then Infinity War for the 392th. Nevertheless, it’s fascinating how the story of Odin’s sons plays out and where they find themselves after the events of Thor: Ragnarok and Infinity War. The two of them have come so far since the boys we met in the very first film. “The sun will shine on us again” is a promise — it’s an ode to the future, promising that somehow, someway, they’re going to be alright, and their fight as brothers is the very reason for that. It may take some time after the battle against Thanos, but when it comes to pass, it’ll be beautiful.
If you had told me way back when that years later I’d mourn the loss of Loki Odinson, I wouldn’t have believed you. At least not to this degree — not in the same way I’d mourn the loss of a traditional hero. Because the reality is, I didn’t feel any of this in Thor: The Dark World when he was presumed to be dead. Sure it was heartbreaking, but it wasn’t as powerful, and Loki’s heroism has never been as great as it is in this moment. (Infinity War.) Loki’s always been a sensational villain, without question, one of the most finest, and perhaps that’s what makes his hero’s journey that much more heartbreaking. By the end of it, you wanted him to make it through. You wanted him to survive. You let yourself expect that he’d survive. You wanted him and Thor to finally get that chance to be brothers at best. (I’ll be frank, for a while there, I couldn’t see how this ending was justifiable for Loki’s character, I’d tirelessly argue that he’s not stupid and he wouldn’t approach Thanos solely with a knife, enchanted or not, knowing he’s up against the space and power stone. But it echos a fact Kevin Feige confirmed in Thor: The Dark World commentary. “I like the idea that the person you thought was the villain is really the victim, and that the story is really about the villain trying to regain his humanity.”) And that’s exactly what Loki does, in every way, he not only regains his humanity, but he shines a light on the fact that he’s learned from the past.
Both Thor and Loki have affected each other remarkably, and in doing so, they’ve also captivated the audience with their bond. The Asgardian brothers are such a significant duo when we take the time to really look back at their journey throughout the films. And especially in Thor: Ragnarok, in particular, during the scene where they’re talking to Odin one last time because Tom Hiddleston does a prodigious amount of work with Loki’s silence. That is the first, real moment where Loki actually feels like he is one of Odin’s sons, and we’re able to see how that understanding shapes him. It’s the first moment where he understands that Odin means every word in addressing both of them as his own — both as his legacy. And that belief helps shape so much of his journey in a beautiful, poignant arc. He’s always been the mischievous one, the oddball out if you will, the villain as we’ve seen him, but in Odin’s eyes, belief in Loki has never wavered. A belief that Loki could never see or feel as potently as he could in this moment, and Hiddleston touches on a myriad of emotions throughout the conversation, making sure every ounce of the pain that’s fluctuating in him is conveyed for the audience. For the first time, Loki’s rendered speechless — no sly comeback, no questions about past actions, just the acute understanding that he does belong, he is special, and he needs to do everything to fight alongside his brother now.
The thing is, we don’t see a rapid change in Loki, the mischief is still present, and he doesn’t become a pinnacle of nobility overnight, but by the end of Thor: Ragnarok, it’s evident that there’s nothing he wouldn’t do for his brother. And in that moment, bravery matters more than anything, and the bravest thing he could do against Thanos was try. There’s a genuine sense of hope in Loki when he promises Thor that the sun will shine on them again, an untainted form of idealism unlike anything we’ve ever seen in his character, and it’s that very moment, which showcases the prodigious growth his character’s gone through. And perhaps one day, the sun will shine. Perhaps the Loki that’s run off with the tesseract will find a similar sense of hope with his brother, perhaps, he won’t, but the choice Loki Odinson made aboard the ship that day served as the utmost insignia of hope.
A kind of hope that’s guided Thor throughout Infinity War and Endgame. Thor isn’t himself when we reunite with him five years later — he is at this point, a man who’s seen too great of a loss to believe in himself or his worthiness. He’s a man who’s masking his pain and pushing it aside until given the nudge to regain a sense of the light that was taken from him. A performance Chris Hemsworth delivers so achingly well throughout the final film, it crushed me. The Avenger who had always believed he was the strongest is at his most vulnerable and Hemsworth makes it clear with an expressiveness so raw, you feel every ounce of the emotions coursing through his veins. Thor has lost everything, his best friend, his brother, his mother, his father, and the battle he believed was the greatest test of them all.
The failure to save the world as he was meant to destroyed his spirit deeply. Thor’s gentle spirit has often been the most intriguing part of his character, it’s what’s inspired him to forgive Loki over and over again because in spite of everything, all he’s ever wanted was his brother in his life. And with the lack of sunshine in their world, that gentleness faded, too. In the midst of his depression, darkness and exhaustion reigned over him. Because for the five years following, Loki’s affirmation was merely a sentence with no hope following its potency.
The most riveting aspect of Thor and Loki’s relationship is that it’s never been and never will be perfect. Siblings are complicated and the two of them set the bar high, but the sun is never perfect either. We complain when it shines too bright and we hide from it, but when it’s absent, all we can do is miss it. And that I suppose, is what makes this line so painful. It’s an emblem of hope that’s been set on fire too many times before, but its potency today comes from the understanding that though the moment is bleak, the future has a chance because of all the winters they’ve faced in the past. There comes a point in every fight where you get tired of bargaining for the same things, but because Thor and Loki had finally come away from that as brothers, this seemingly final, dark moment in Infinity War is still illuminated with hope enveloping the adoration they hold for each other.
Avengers: Endgame doesn’t leave a lot of room for sunshine in the lives of our heroes, but with Thor, by the end of the film, as he boards Quill’s ship again, it’s clear that he’s on his way towards finding that sunshine once promised to him. Though there will be more battles with potential losses in front of them, and great pain etched in their bones, the sun does shine on them again. For the audience, it shines in Thor’s choices, and it shines in his actions, but its most bold showcase is in the will to push forward towards a new day carrying Loki and everyone he’s ever lost with him — remembering them, celebrating them, and always fighting for them. It’s years of fights and affirmations in one sentiment and it’s a good reminder for us, too. I don’t know how it’ll all play out in the years to come, but darkness will only ever be a temporary resident in the lives of Odin’s sons.