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Tessa Thompson’s King Valkyrie Explained

I volunteer to be her queen

We’re pretty big Valkyrie stans here at The Mary Sue—especially when it’s the MCU’s Valkyrie, played by Tessa Thompson. Now we’ve had our first glimpse at her since Avengers: Endgame, thanks to the new Thor: Love and Thunder teaser that dropped earlier this week. There’s a lot of confusion over Valkyrie’s new role, though. Why is she called King Valkyrie now? Why does she look so miserable in the trailer? Here’s everything you need to know about King Valkyrie!

Valkyrie in the MCU

We first met Valkyrie in Thor: Ragnarok. As one of the Valkyries on Asgard, Valkyrie’s job was to help protect the throne. However, after Hela killed all of the other Valkyries (including one that Tessa Thompson thought of as Val’s lost lady-love), our Valkyrie left Asgard, disillusioned with the demands of the royal family, and eventually ended up on Sakaar, where she spent untold ages working as a scrapper and selling gladiators to Jeff Goldblum’s Grandmaster.

When Thor falls off the Bifrost and lands on Sakaar, it’s a hardened and cynical Valkyrie who captures him to deliver him into the gladiatorial arena. She doesn’t even blink when she realizes that he’s a member of the Asgardian royal family. To her, Thor is just one more source of cash that she can spend on booze.

Thanks to Thor’s intervention, though, she decides to return to Asgard and kill Hela once and for all. Thor even finds her old Valkyrie uniform for her, and she wears it proudly while kicking the asses of Hela’s undead army.

Valkyrie disappears in Infinity War, when Thanos attacks the Asgardian refugee ship, although director Joe Russo said in a 2018 fan event that while Thor, Loki, and Hulk are facing down Thanos, Valkyrie is getting civilians to safety in another ship offscreen. After that, she settles into life in New Asgard while Thor ostensibly carries out his duties as king, but in reality, he sinks into a deep depression and spends his days playing video games and drinking.

At the end of Endgame, Thor decides to abdicate the throne so that he can go figure out exactly who he is, and tells Valkyrie that he’s naming her King of New Asgard. She accepts the title, and tells Thor that she’s going to make some changes as the sovereign. Ever since then, we’ve been waiting anxiously to find out what she’ll be like as King.

So, She’s a Valkyrie and her Name is Valkyrie?

Yes, Valkyrie is a Valkyrie named Valkyrie. In the comics, Valkyrie is a title, and the leader of the Valkyries is named Brunhilde, but MCU decided to go in a different direction. If Valkyrie has a different name, we haven’t learned it yet. (Wouldn’t it be awkward if all the other characters found out she’d been waiting for someone to ask what her name was all this time?)

Wait, if She’s a Lady Shouldn’t She be Queen?

No. She’s King.

Thor and Valkyrie’s choice of words is very interesting. Traditionally, kings have a higher rank and more power than queens. Also, Valkyrie already messes with Asgardian gender a little bit by being a female warrior. In the first Thor movie, we learn that Sif being a warrior is kind of a rarity in Asgard. Then, in Ragnarok, Thor completely loses his chill when he realizes that Scrapper 142 is actually a Valkyrie, one of the female warriors he’s only heard about in legends. Unfortunately, Asgard seems to be a bit retrograde when it comes to women in the armed forces.

Thus, the word “king” could point to both Valkyrie’s rank as ruler of Asgard, and her queerness. In fact, at Comic Con 2019, Thompson made this aspect of her character explicit: “As new king, she needs to find her queen. So that will be the first order of business. She has some ideas. I’ll keep you posted.” (Jaimie Alexander has volunteered Lady Sif for the role of Valkyrie’s queen, which we’d love to see.)

Of course, the one complicating factor in this explanation is Hela. In Ragnarok, Hela refers to herself as both queen and the ruler of Asgard by virtue of being Odin’s firstborn (and also just wanting it really badly). Can a queen outrank a king in Asgard? Maybe. If Hela had taken the throne and then married a dude, would he have been king or would he have taken a lesser title, like prince consort? We don’t know.

What’s important to remember, though, is that Valkyrie and Thor chose the title of king for her, so king she is, with all the rights and responsibilities thereof.

So How’s She Enjoying the Job?

Hmm. So far, kingship doesn’t seem to be what Valkyrie thought it would be.

We get a little footage of Valkyrie in the teaser for Thor: Love and Thunder. At first, things seem to be going great in New Asgard. New buildings have gone up, there’s a thriving tourist industry, and the Asgardians have even gotten ahold of Toothgnasher and Toothgrinder to pull one of their ships. It looks like Valkyrie’s doing a great job!

Then we get a peek at Valkyrie herself. Dressed in a suit and tie, she’s sitting in some sort of diplomatic meeting looking like she’d rather jump out the window than spend another second there. Peter Quill’s voice-over says, “Whenever you feel lost…” just as the camera pauses on Valkyrie, implying that she’s, well, feeling lost.

The general consensus on the Internet is that she looks great in the suit (she does), and that’s fantastic! But she also looks completely miserable, like a kid forced to sit through Sunday school in their scratchiest outfit. It could be misdirection on the teaser’s part—Marvel loves to do that—but so far, all signs point to Valkyrie not being too happy in the role of King. The shot in the teaser implies that there may be a lot more plodding bureaucracy and diplomacy or Earth issues to wrangle than she’d imagined. Or maybe the neighboring Norwegian towns aren’t happy about all the cruise ships popping up on their coast, and she has to deal with cranky government officials. Whatever’s going on, we can surmise that, like most warriors who win themselves a throne, Valkyrie would rather be out on the battlefield than stuck ruling the kingdom.

However, we’ve already got some clues that she may find her spark again in Thor 4. An early set photo revealed another, much more battle-worthy costume for Valkyrie, so we know she’ll be swinging a sword again—maybe in retaliation for Zeus’s attack on New Asgard. Plus, we know that Jaime Alexander will be returning as Sif, and rumor has it that Sif may end up as Valkyrie’s queen.

Hopefully we’ll find out more when the second trailer drops. And we’ll definitely get the whole story when Thor: Love and Thunder comes out on July 8!

(image: Marvel)

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Julia Glassman (she/her) holds an MFA from the Iowa Writers' Workshop, and she consumes massive amounts of Marvel media, folk horror, science fiction, fantasy, and nature writing. She lives in Los Angeles, where she reads tarot and makes yarn on her spinning wheel. You can check out more of her writing at https://juliaglassman.carrd.co/, or find her on Twitter at @juliaglassman.