This article contains Loki spoilers
The third episode of Loki season two is a wild trip back to the past as Mobius and Loki try to track down Ravonna Renslayer and Miss Minutes, who have been MIA since the season one finale. They find the pair trying to alter history at the Chicago World’s Fair in 1893, and are also led to a variant of He Who Remains, one who could potentially help them with their temporal loom problems back at the TVA.
A ton of detail has gone into recreating the World’s Fair, and HWR variant Victor Timely (Jonathan Majors) puts on a spectacle for the crowd there, showing off an early version of the loom that doesn’t yet work as described. But before Loki and Mobius clap their eyes on Timely, they meander through the fair and take in some of the attractions, including a diorama that features the chiseled faces of Odin, Thor, and a third person you may be less familiar with.
Loki calls the wooden Norse display at the World’s Fair “embarrassing”, saying that no one could “reduce an entire culture down to a simple diorama”. Mobius calls Loki out on his disgust, accusing the God of Mischief of feeling left out because he isn’t even in it, which Loki denies, just before he retorts “and why’d they include Balder? No one’s even heard of him.” Yes, the artists who created the diorama saw fit to include Odin, Thor, and one Balder the Brave, but not Loki, or even Thor’s villainous big sister Hela.
Created by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby in 1962, Balder first appeared in Journey into Mystery #85. He’s based on the deity Baldr from Norse mythology, and in the pages of Marvel Comics he is also Thor’s half-brother and close friend. If you’re wondering why such a prominent member of Thor’s family has never made an appearance in the MCU over four Thor solo movies, the answer is that he almost has many times, most recently in the un-Thor-related Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, where he was set to portray one of the Illuminati alongside Maria Rambeau’s Captain Marvel and Peggy Carter’s Captain Carter. Not only that, the role of Balder was earmarked for none other than James Bond himself, Daniel Craig.
Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness costume designer Graham Churchyard revealed back in 2022 that Marvel’s plans to make Balder happen in the MCU have constantly failed for one reason or another.
“We got very far designing Balder the Brave and then we were waiting, and waiting, and waiting on casting,” Churchyard told the Phase Zero podcast. “I took it to a prototype stage, we were kind of in that design thing, getting fabrics together and ideas and waiting for an actor. Poor Balder the Brave, he almost made Thor 1, and Thor 2, and Thor 3, if I can simplify that. Then, it’s just like, ‘Yay! He’s gonna get an appearance!’ Poor guy. I’ve seen designs in Marvel’s archive book of Balder’s helmet going back to Kenneth Branagh’s Thor. So, he’s been a long time waiting and I don’t think he’s gonna make an appearance any time soon.”
Churchyard spoke a little too soon, because Balder has now finally made it into the MCU in the second season of Loki, albeit as part of a wooden diorama. Whether this ends up being a tease for a real live-action appearance later on remains to be seen, but it’s clear that Marvel hasn’t forgotten about Thor’s brother from another mother, and with the multiverse re-emerging in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, anything’s possible.
Though Balder never made it into any of the Thor films, nor Doctor Strange 2, there are plenty of upcoming projects that could see him appear from the shadows, including Marvel’s Avengers: Secret Wars and the Wade Wilson threequel Deadpool 3, which is rumored to be filled with all sorts of multiversal cameos.