Warning: This article contains SPOILERS for Loki season 2


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Summary

  • Loki’s journey from villain to potential savior showcases his growth and enduring popularity in the MCU, defying his nefarious origins.
  • Iron Man’s nickname for Loki, “Reindeer Games,” was a dig at Loki’s look, but also a mark of Stark’s defiant spirit.
  • But the insulting nickname gains new meaning as Loki’s story has changed in the MCU.

Marvel’s 2023 storytelling is finally giving Iron Man’s nickname for Tom Hiddleston’s Loki from The Avengers (2012) its real meaning, 11 years on. The eternally popular God of Mischief returned once more to the MCU in Loki season 2, thrown immediately into a hugely impactful mission to save the Sacred Timeline. Against all odds, the MCU timeline‘s first great villain could become its ultimate savior.

Just how far Loki has come since his debut in 2011’s Thor is quite stunning: cast off thanks to his attempt to overthrow his brother, and then compelled to invade Earth a year later, he began with real villain credentials. Hiddleston’s performance made the heir to the Frost Giant throne of Jotunheim the gold standard against which most other Marvel villains were judged, and most fared poorly until Thanos changed everything. That pretty much guaranteed he would reappear in several future MCU movies and his own TV show. And not only does Loki’s enduring popularity defy his nefarious origin, but it also plays off Tony Stark’s throw-away insult that’s now more than a decade old.

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Loki Pays Off The Real Meaning Of Loki’s Avengers Nickname

Loki from Loki season 2 between the monitor for the Temporal Loom and the actual Temporal Loom

In The Avengers, Robert Downey Jr’s hero christens Loki “Reindeer Games”, following the trend of Iron Man giving the Avengers nicknames and belittling villains the same way. While Iron Man’s justification of the nickname might be simple, Loki’s subsequent growth in the MCU completes the real meaning of the nickname, retroactively. “Reindeer Games” has come to mean something different since it was coined as part of the classic “Rudolph The Red-Nose Reindeer”, used to define populist activities that leave out individuals, particularly because of some perceived inferiority.

Loki’s story in the MCU is a strangely pertinent mirror of Rudolph’s, albeit with a darker note, but focusing on the idea of Loki being ostracized as an outsider, as he was on Asgard (in his own opinion), but then also as an unwanted variant in Loki season 1, and it becomes clear. Now, with Loki season 2’s timeline jeopardy, and the chance for the God of Mischief to save the day, completing his heroic redemption, he gets the same pay-off as Rudolph did: an unexpected victory where others failed. It’s almost like Iron Man had incredible foresight.

Why Iron Man Calls Loki Reindeer Games

Loki Avengers Reindeer Games

Initially, Iron Man’s nickname for Loki isn’t particularly deep: on the surface, it appears his “Reindeer Games” nickname is a reference to Loki’s ostentatious gold-horned Asgardian helmet. It fits with Iron Man choosing simple, reductive nicknames for almost everyone around him, based on their insecurities, lik calling Thor “Lebowski” in Endgame, Spider-Man “Underoos” in Civil War, and Rocket “Build-A-Bear” in Endgame too. It was never that deep.

But the fact that Iron Man’s nickname quip comes as Loki threatens to conquer Earth says everything about Iron Man’s defiant spirit. He’s unfazed by an Asgardian God, showing off his magic and threatening Earth with dominion. Loki was seeking forced respect from his potential subjects, and Iron Man refused to bend the knee, striking at Loki‘s confidence insteas.

New episodes of Loki season 2 release every Thursday on Disney+

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