Everything is fine.
These are the first words Loki sees upon waking in a bright room with no memory of arriving here. He remembers dying, though, and he flinches away from the memory of Thanos’s massive hand crushing his throat.
A door opens nearby, and a man in purple robes steps out. “Loki? Come on in.”
This could be a trap, but Loki’s already dead. How much worse could things get?
The room is small and cozy, decorated with furniture and potted plants. Instead of using a chair, the man sits on his desk in what Loki supposes is an attempt to appear friendly. “Nice to meet you, Loki. I’m Kang. How are you?”
“I’m dead, aren’t I?”
“That’s right. But the good news is… you’re in the Good Place! You made it!”
“Is this Valhalla, then?”
Kang shrugs his shoulders. “It’s not exactly the ‘hall of noble warriors’ you were raised to believe in, but it’s, oh, maybe seventy-five percent the same idea. It’s the Good Place.” He spreads his hands like that explains everything.
“And how exactly did I end up here?”
Kang picks up a file on his desk and flips through it. “You died with honor. You sacrificed your life to protect your brother and, in effect, the universe from annihilation by Thanos.”
Surely one selfless act in the end doesn’t redeem him? Loki’s been kind of shitty, with most of his awful deeds happening on the recent pages of his life’s story. Maybe it’s a paperwork error, or Kang has confused him for someone worthy of Valhalla, like Thor.
“Was it — was it all for nothing? Is Thor here too?”
Kang flips through more pages in his file. “Doesn’t look like we have a Thor Odinson here. But there’s always tomorrow.” He laughs, cutting off the sound abruptly when he sees Loki’s dour expression. “Sorry. Just a bit of afterlife humor.” Kang slides off the desk and moves for the door. “C’mon. I’ll show you around.”
Kang gives Loki the grand tour and explains that the Good Place has neighborhoods which exist on separate planes of reality. This particular neighborhood is reserved for everyone killed by Thanos. Heimdall is around here somewhere, as are the passengers of the Statesman. But no Thor.
That’s good. Thor must still be alive. For now.
“So this is your domain, then,” Loki says as they walk.
“Give him a gold star!” Kang says. “Every neighborhood has an architect — the head honcho, if you will. This one’s mine — neighborhood 12358W. The numbers are just for paperwork purposes. You know how it goes. Or maybe you don’t. You never filed a damn bit of paperwork in your life.”
Loki has visual splendor to keep him company for eternity. The Good Place is idyllically rustic, with bright green foliage, elegant marble fountains, and quaint pastel-colored shops.
“I’m surprised you haven’t asked what the Bad Place is like,” Kang says. “For most people, that’s question numero uno after they learn there’s a Good Place. Aren’t you curious? Just a little bit?”
A memory rises in Loki’s mind like a silvery bubble: a barren asteroid field known as Sanctuary, the Chitauri planet where the Other threatened Loki with a fate worse than death if he failed.
Loki supposes the Bad Place must be something like that. Dark and empty, devoid of life.
“You know what they say about curiosity…”
They arrive at a quaint little cottage tucked into the woods. “Welcome to your new home for eternity!” Kang says against the soft sounds of birds chirping and the gentle trickle of water from the nearby lake.
“I thought it would be larger.” A palace, perhaps, or maybe a castle.
“Did you? Really? ‘Cause the houses here are built based on what you want.”
Perhaps Loki still has a few surprises up his sleeve, even for himself. At least seclusion means he won’t have any annoying neighbors.
The interior is furnished and decorated exactly to Loki’s tastes. The walls are a soft white with elegant artwork on display. The cozy little kitchen has louvered blue cabinets and probably holds enough supplies to make his mother’s prized tomato bisque.
Loki opens the fridge and finds plump, fresh tomatoes inside. He’s not sure why he doubted they would be there. This is the Good Place.
The neighborhood has everything Loki could ever want, except his family. There are massive libraries with books from every realm and planet; restaurants serving delectable dishes from all over the universe; clothing shops filled with the finest fabrics. The massive television in his house gives him access to shows and movies from numerous planets.
“What do I do with the rest of eternity?” Loki wonders aloud to Heimdall one afternoon. “At some point, won’t I run out of books to read, or languages to learn, or hobbies to perfect?”
“Why don’t you ask Mobius?” Heimdall says. “Hey, Mobius?”
“Hi there.” A man literally pops into existence beside them, and Loki would have stabbed him in self-defense if in possession of his daggers. “How can I help you?”
“Who — or what — the hell is this?”
“I’m Mobius M. Mobius, the neighborhood’s vessel of knowledge.”
“You can ask him anything,” Heimdall says. “He knows all about the creation of the universe, the histories of entire civilizations — ”
“Does the M stand for Mobius?” Loki wonders.
“It stands for Mark,” Mobius answers, dimly cheerful.
Loki scowls. “So your name is Mobius Mark Mobius?”
Heimdall lifts an eyebrow at Loki. “You couldn’t think of anything more meaningful to ask?”
“I have many more questions.” Loki turns to face Mobius. “Some time ago, I lost a bet to Thor. If he had lost, his side of the bargain was to go streaking through Asgard. Would he have actually done it?”
“No,” Mobius says with a placid smile.
Loki scoffs. “I knew it.”
“You did not,” Mobius supplies.
“I beg your pardon?”
“I have a question,” Heimdall says, veering them away from this absurdity. “What happens when we’ve done everything the Good Place has to offer? Is eternity here truly eternity?”
“When you’re ready to end your afterlife, you can walk through a door that dissolves your essence and returns it to the universe,” Mobius says.
“Where is this door?” Loki asks.
“I cannot reveal that information until you have lived a full, contented afterlife,” Mobius says.
“How do you know I haven’t?”
“I know everything.”
“Then certainly you know what will happen to my brother. Will he end up here when he dies?”
“I cannot reveal the future.”
“Then you’re rather useless to me, aren’t you?” Loki could rest much easier knowing Thor is safe. Though if Thor is alive, he’ll have to face off against Thanos at some point. Maybe Loki will see Thor sooner than he thinks.
“What about the rest of my family?” Loki asks. “My mother and father… Could I visit them?”
“Frigga Freyrdottir resides in the Good Place Neighborhood 53101A,” says Mobius.
“And my father?”
“Odin Borson is in the Medium Place.”
The existence of a mediocre afterlife fascinates Loki, so he visits Odin first. The Medium Place is what it says on the tin: unremarkable and mediocre. The landscape is a flat field as far as the eye can see, with an overcast sky, and small ordinary houses.
Odin’s home is a serious downgrade from his Asgardian palace. Even the doorbell makes a bland little chime when Loki rings it. There’s nothing middling about Odin’s reaction to Loki, though. He wraps Loki in a warm, tight hug and pulls him inside.
Loki has the feeling Odin doesn’t get many visitors.
“My son,” Odin says with what Loki could fool himself into believing is pride, “it has been too long.”
“Don’t be so thrilled to see me. Being here means I’m dead — for real this time.” Loki looks around at the place his father calls home. It is absolutely drab, and Loki’s grateful for his own cozy cottage. “Before you ask, Thor is still alive. As far as I know. Do you see Frigga often?”
“Sometimes, yes,” Odin says. “She will be overjoyed to see you.”
Loki touches the rubber leaves of an indoor plant. “How did you end up here? Weren’t you a benevolent king?” he asks with a trace of sarcasm.
“I wasn’t always. Hela could tell you as much,” Odin says grimly. “Alongside her, I drowned entire civilizations in blood and tears. By the time you and Thor came along, I changed my ways, but I still made plenty of mistakes. Rather than atone for them, I lied, kept secrets, and covered up my past. I imagined dying a virtuous warrior’s death to secure my place in Valhalla. Instead, my death was unremarkable and carried no weight.”
And whose fault is that, Loki wonders, but he doesn’t want to give Odin any ammo for a reprimand.
“Perhaps the real question is: how did you end up here?” asks Odin.
Loki frowns at the implication that he couldn’t earn his way into a mediocre afterlife. “I didn’t. I’m in the Good Place.”
Surprise ripples across Odin’s face and melts into something that might be pride.
“I helped Thor stop Ragnarök. And I sacrificed my life to save his. Apparently that earned me some goodwill.”
“Never underestimate the power of a virtuous death.”
Loki doesn’t entirely make peace with his father, but the Good Place makes it easier to let go of his anger.
His visit to his mother’s neighborhood is more emotionally fruitful. Frigga throws her arms around him in boundless joy and becomes his ambassador to the Good Place. She has made friends from varying planets and realms, and she teaches magic in the neighborhood’s community center.
For the first time, Loki truly feels that this is the Good Place after all. Too good to be true, perhaps, and he awaits the reveal of this illusion. He is certain he will wake up on the Statesman, burning to death amongst the ship’s firey remains.
One morning, Loki awakens to find his neighborhood overcrowded with confused visitors. Thanos must have struck again.
Loki rushes through the crowd and searches for familiar faces. He doesn’t see anyone he knows. Still frantic, he summons Mobius.
“What’s going on? Where did all these people come from?”
“Thanos gathered the Infinity Stones and turned half of all life into dust,” Mobius says, sounding way too cheerful considering the news he’s delivering.
Something cracks inside of Loki, perhaps the last vestiges of hope. Thor and his allies couldn’t stop the Mad Titan. “Is — is Thor dead?”
If half of all life in the universe is gone, Loki isn’t sure he should be grateful that his allies survived.
Kang is overwhelmed by new residents, homing them in fresh neighborhoods specially constructed to accommodate everyone Thanos snapped into dust. Multiple architects swoop in to help acquaint the newcomers. Each neighborhood can only comfortably hold about 500 residents, and Loki’s brain hurts when he tries to picture how many different neighborhoods must exist for this sole event, let alone all of history.
Kang holds an introductory dinner that evening for the residents of neighborhood 12358W. Heimdall is the only person Loki really knows here, so they go together. Heimdall strikes up casual conversation with the people seated around him and tells anecdotes about Asgard. Loki remembers most of these stories but finds himself incredibly bored with the proceedings.
Kang’s onstage giving the welcome speech to the new residents. He talks about how everyone here has earned their spot in the Good Place, how some have died noble deaths, lived virtuously and unselfishly, and how a few in their midst are heroes who fought against Thanos.
“You made a valiant effort,” Kang says. Spotlights illuminate Loki’s table, as well as a table on the other side of the dining room. “I told myself I wasn’t gonna put you guys on the spot, but, hey, you’re heroes! Give yourselves a hand!”
Polite applause erupts from neighboring tables. Loki nods to the adoring crowd. He’d stand up and take a bow if he didn’t think this was a test, and that a display of arrogance would signal that he doesn’t actually belong here.
At the other table of proclaimed heroes, a well-built, scruffy man in a red jacket sits with his arms folded, looking furious as he shakes his head. Loki wonders what that guy’s story is, why he seems uncomfortable with the attention and adoration.
Perhaps he doesn’t belong here either.
The spotlights switch off, but Loki’s gaze is still drawn to Red Jacket Guy. The girl sitting beside him offers her hand, as if attempting to touch him, but he pushes his chair away from the table in a huff. Red Jacket Guy storms out the back exit, and this is already the most interesting thing Loki has seen tonight. Of course he follows.
The restaurant sits above the lake, and the red-clad stranger walks to the edge of the water, gazing out at the bucolic countryside.
“Everything alright?” Loki asks. Of course nothing is alright here, despite the first words every resident of the Good Place sees upon arrival. But Loki’s just trying to get him talking.
The stranger turns to look at him. His eyes are red-rimmed, his expression hopeless. Underneath the sorrow, he is strikingly handsome. “No, dude. We’re all dead. Why would everything be fine?”
“It’s the Good Place,” Loki says, as though that means anything. He stands beside the stranger and watches the water. “What realm were you from?”
“‘Realm’? I’m from Earth. What realm is that?”
“Ah. Midgard, then. I’m from Asgard. Well, technically I’m from Jotunheim.” Loki glances at the man, who’s staring at him in bewilderment. “It’s a long story.”
“What’s your name?”
“Loki of Asgard.” He adds the last part as an embellishment of ego.
“Peter Quill. You might know me by the name Star-Lord, though.”
“Can’t say that I do.”
“Damn it,” Peter grumbles. He finds a small stone on the ground and skims it across the lake. The stone bounces on the water’s surface until losing momentum in the distance.
“Though my last venture to your realm wasn’t exactly for sightseeing.”
Peter stuffs his hands into the pockets of his jacket. “You wouldn’t have found me there anyway. I left Earth when I was eight. A Ravager ship picked me up and took me all over space. Haven’t been back since.”
“Have you been back to Yodelhigh—”
Peter rolls his eyes. “Whatever. Have you ever gone back?”
“Once or twice,” Loki says darkly, though he understands the subtext in Peter’s point. To steer the conversation away from that particular subject, Loki says, “So you don’t relish being told you’re a hero? I imagine someone named Star-Lord might appreciate adulation.”
Peter scoffs. “It’s just... It’s bullshit. That Kang dude telling us how we’re all good and noble and virtuous. I don’t belong here, man.”
Loki is quite familiar with the flavor of bitterness in Peter’s voice. He quirks an eyebrow. “Why not?”
Peter’s lower lip quivers. He takes his hands from his pockets, then his hands clench into fists, like he’s struggling against some selfish urge. He rakes his hands through his hair and takes a few steps away. “I got everyone killed! It’s my fault we’re all dead!”
“How is that, exactly? Did you simply hand Thanos an Infinity Stone?”
Pain flashes across Peter’s face. “Sort of?”
Loki waits for him to continue.
“We had him,” Peter says, his voice shaky. “We had Thanos. We could have stopped him — But I just couldn’t... I fucked everything up.”
Peter explains that he and his friends (the so-called Guardians of the Galaxy) had a chance to kill Thanos on Titan before he gathered the final stones. But Peter threw out their entire plan and lost his mind when Thanos revealed how he acquired the Soul Stone: Thanos sacrificed his own daughter — Peter’s true love. A soul for a soul.
“What would you have done?” Peter asks, his cheeks damp with tears. They’re walking along the water’s edge, nearing the bridge that will bring them to the town square. “If you knew he killed the person you love the most?”
Loki thinks of Thanos torturing Thor with the Power Stone, of how Loki surrendered the Tesseract at the threat of Thor’s demise.
“The same as you, I’m certain.”
Loki shares his own regrets with Peter. If Loki hadn’t stolen the Tesseract from Asgard and smuggled it onto the Statesman, Thanos wouldn’t have killed him, Heimdall, or half of Asgard’s refugees on the ship. With more time, maybe Thor and Loki could have teamed up and concocted a plan to destroy Thanos together.
“One could argue I am the reason you’re all here,” Loki says, “since I handed Thanos a stone that made him strong enough to defeat you and your Guardian friends. A better argument could be made that I don’t belong here either. I betrayed everyone who ever loved me. I betrayed my father, my brother... my home.”
“Yeah, well, they’re probably dead ‘cause of me, so, I’m sorry.”
Loki shakes his head. “Don’t be. My father died before any of this, and Thor is alive. Mobius confirmed it.”
Confusion crosses Peter’s face. “Thor? Wait, is he a big guy missing an eye? Kinda muscular? Not that good-looking?” Loki snorts a laugh at the description. “That’s your brother?”
“We found him floating around in space. He was... really torn up about losing you.”
Loki doesn’t know how to feel about that. “Did you fight beside him in battle?”
“No. He took Rocket and Groot and went to some planet to make a super-weapon, I think? He told us to get the Reality Stone on Knowhere, but...” Peter shrugs and shakes his head. “Obviously we got there too late.”
It’s so odd that this Peter Quill, a stranger with memories of Thor and commonalities with Loki himself, ends up in the same neighborhood as Loki. Maybe Loki will have a companion burdened with the same grief. More importantly, he has someone who knows nothing about Loki of Asgard. He can start fresh here.
Peter sighs as they cross the bridge. “If Rocket was here, he would’ve found us by now. Do you think — Kang mentioned other neighborhoods. Could Rocket be in one of those? Or could he still be alive, trying to figure out a way to fix everything?” Peter comes to a halt. “Oh shit! What about Gamora? If she’s in another neighborhood, I’m gonna fight my way outta here.”
Loki calls for Mobius, who blips into existence and startles Peter.
“Holy shit!” Peter flails and nearly falls off the bridge.
“How can I help you?” asks Mobius.
Loki says, “Mobius, this is Peter Quill. Peter, Mobius. Ask him about your companions.”
Peter steadies himself against the bridge’s guardrails. “Where’s Gamora?”
“Gamora Zen Whoberi Ben Titan, daughter of Thanos, is currently trapped in the Soul Stone on Vormir-199999,” Mobius says.
Loki finds that numerical distinction fascinating. Like the neighborhoods of the Good Place that inhabit other planes of existence, could there be parallel timelines with alternate versions of planets and realms? Do alternate Lokis exist?
“‘Trapped’?” Despair crosses Peter’s face. “Is she dead or alive or —”
“Neither. The life force of her soul exists inside the Soul Stone.”
“Could we trade? If we got the stone from Thanos and brought it back to Vormir — ” Peter looks at Loki with determination, then his expression falls when he remembers that he’s dead and won’t be able to make that exchange.
Peter slumps against the guardrail, as though all hope has been siphoned out of him. “What about Rocket Raccoon? Is he in one of these neighborhoods?”
“Rocket Raccoon currently resides on Earth-199999,” Mobius says.
“So he’s alive?”
“He is alive and well, considering the circumstances.”
“How do you know this stuff?”
“I know everything,” Mobius says. “I’m a walking database of knowledge about the past, present, and future.”
Peter thinks for a moment. “Is Footloose still the greatest movie of all time?”
“It never was.”
“Seriously?” Peter looks to Loki for support, as though expecting Loki to have a strong opinion about this.
Loki isn’t quite sure why, but he finds Peter amusing.