Ever since it was revealed in 2015’s Avengers: Age of Ultron that the scepter Loki wields in 2012’s The Avengers is powered by an Infinity Stone — specifically the Mind Stone — there has been plenty of theorizing in the fandom that the god of lies was never a villain, but was being controlled by the artifact (an issue I discussed in an op-ed yesterday). What’s always surprised me is how there never appeared to be any discussion of what has always seemed obvious: the only way Loki gets the Mind Stone is if the Stone forced Thanos to hand it over.
Thanos Giving Loki The Stone Makes No Sense
Out of 15 years of Marvel content, after dozens of movies and TV shows all of different quality, little has made less sense to me in the narrative than the notion of Loki being entrusted with the Mind Stone by Thanos. The Mad Titan sees the “universal balance” obtained by murdering half the universe with the Infinity Stones as his sole, all-encompassing purpose.
All of his resources, all of his efforts, the recruitment of the Black Order, the training of his adoptive daughters Nebula and Gamora — his alliances with Loki, Ronan, and the Chitauri — it is all in service of obtaining the six Infinity Stones.
Think about that, and think about the fact that before he forcefully takes the Power Stone from Xandar off-screen shortly before the events of 2018’s Avengers: Infinity War–six years after the events of The Avengers–he does not possess any of the Infinity Stones. This means when he first collected the Mind Stone–which he would’ve needed to have done in order to give it to Loki–it was the only of the six Stones Thanos possessed.
So imagine you have at your command the resources of the most feared warlord in the galaxy. Every moment of your waking world, and every drop of your resources, is spent only to collect six elusive stones.
And after finally obtaining one of them, you hand it over to a man who A) is literally known as the god of lies, B) just finished a campaign in which he betrayed everyone he ever knew or cared about, and C) ultimately failed at betraying his people, and nearly died as a result?
Thanos murders his own daughter–quite possibly the only person for whom he’s ever felt any genuine love–in pursuit of the Infinity Stones. Does that sound like someone who would treat the Mind Stone like an old book he doesn’t mind lending to a buddy?
By the way, what happens because Loki was given the Mind Stone by Thanos? Well, as a result, no Stone proves to be more difficult for the Mad Titan to obtain. It’s the last of the six he acquires, and he needs to use most of the other five to do it.
We argue that the only way it makes sense for Thanos to have given the Mind Stone to Loki in The Avengers is if the Stone forced Thanos to do so.
The Mind Stone is the only Infinity Stone Thanos must go to Earth to acquire in person, and he can only travel there as quickly as he does because of the Space Stone. The Power and Reality Stones allow him to brush aside most of the heroes when he arrives in Wakanda. Only the Time Stone’s ability to turn back the clock allows him to acquire the Mind Stone after Wanda destroys it.
If Marvel‘s Infinity War and the 2019 follow-up Avengers: Endgame teach us nothing else, it’s that Thanos isn’t foolish enough to entrust the Mind Stone–or any of the six Stones–to Loki, and Thanos certainly isn’t trusting enough.
Loki is deceitful and, as Phil Coulson notes before his death, lacks “conviction.” If the SHIELD agent sees that in the trickster god, you can bet Thanos sees it too.
Regardless of whether or not the Stone was influencing Loki in Avengers, or how much, the only way he gets the Mind Stone from Thanos is if the Stone itself influenced the Mad Titan to hand it over. Without the Stone’s influence, Thanos would certainly see Loki as a pawn he could manipulate for his own ends, but handing the god an Infinity Stone–much less his only Infinity Stone at the time–would be too high a price.
Why would the Mind Stone rather be in Loki’s possession than that of Thanos? Self-preservation.
The Mind Stone’s Plan
In Age of Ultron we learn the Mind Stone possesses intelligence. Presumably, if the Stone is self-aware, then it wants to continue to exist.
What does Thanos do after he succeeds in combining the Stones and murdering half the universe? He destroys the Stones because of the temptation they represent.
If it was always Thanos’s plan to destroy the Stones after his quest was complete, then the Mind Stone was likely aware of that as soon as it was in the Mad Titan’s possession. That alone is more than enough motivation for the Stone to prefer the company of Loki rather than that of Thanos.
The Mind Stone would likely sense either that Loki would only manage to hold on to it for so long, or that even if the trickster god possessed the Stone indefinitely, he would not share Thanos’s goal of murdering half the universe and then blowing up the Stones. Loki would sooner gnaw off his own limb rather than destroy something that could give him so much power.
Of course, the real reason it was revealed that Loki was given the Mind Stone by Thanos is that, as the outcast filmmaker has admitted, Joss Whedon had no solid long-term plans for the Infinity Stones when he snuck Thanos into the mid-credits scene of The Avengers. He was making things up as he went along.
But narratively, the only way Loki gets the Mind Stone from Thanos is if the Stone did its Jedi mind trick on Grimace. Otherwise, it’s all just bananas.