SUPER UBER SPOILERMANIA: The Ending... What Does It Mean?
Obviously, SPOILER ALERT!
Seriously, don't look unless you want spoiled!
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At the end of Thor: The Dark World (the end of the main film, not including the post-credits stuff), Thor and Odin talk in the throne room. They mourn the death of Loki, with Thor remarking that Loki died honourably. Odin offers Thor the throne of Asgard, but Thor turns it down, saying that, for all his faults, Loki probably had a more suitable temprament for the throne than he does. He says that he would rather serve Asgard and all the Nine Realms in his own way. He leaves, with Odin's veiled blessing. Or so it seems....
As once Thor's gone, "Odin" morphs into Loki, not dead after all, and now the de facto ruler of Asgard, posing as his adoptive father! And in the end credits visual montage, the last image we're left with is that ominous shot of Loki on the throne.
So, this brings up a couple of questions.
First up, what exactly is the chronology of what happened? I take it that Odin sent a guard to Svartalfheim, who Loki offed and replaced. So, in the conversation in Odin's throne room where the guard is talking to Odin, telling him that Odin is dead, I take it at this point it's actually Loki talking to Odin. So far, so straight forward.
But here's where it gets confusing. On first assumption, we might be supposed to think that Loki has somehow forcibly taken the throne... imprisoned the real Odin away somewhere while he poses as him. But I don't buy that. How could Loki overpower Odin? And where could Loki hide him where he would go unfound?
No, I have a different theory. Watching that scene with Odin and the guard, something in Odin's face suggested to me that he saw through the disguise and knew he was talking to Loki. And what if, rather than Loki stealing the throne from Odin, it was given to him willingly? What if, weary and grieving, Odin DID want to abdicate, as Loki-Odin indicated to Thor in the end conversation? But what if Odin knew Thor would never accept the role of his heir? And what if he figured out that the best means of keeping Loki in line would be to give him a measure of power? So, Odin goes into self-imposed exile - as he has been known to do in the comics - and Loki is left to run Asgard in his place? But of course the people of the Nine Realms wouldn't accept the hated Loki as their leader, so Loki maintains the form of Odin while on the seat?
The other question is: was Loki running a long con, staging his death to win over Thor's trust again and make himself out to be a martyr, so he could be in position to take the throne through nefarious means? Or was his sacrifice genuine, and the throne-taking subterfuge only a spontaneous act of opportunism? I'm inclined to lean towards the latter, as for it to be the former too many things outwith Loki's control would have had to have gone just how he wanted them to. But I admire the filmmakers for making it just ambiguous enough to be read either way.