‘Thor: Love and Thunder': Uh, What Happened to Valkyrie’s Search for a Queen? (Commentary)

Back in 2019, the Marvel crew hit Hall H at San Diego Comic-Con and Tessa Thompson gave fans an exciting tease for “Thor: Love and Thunder.” “As new king, she needs to find her queen,” she said. “So that will be the first order of business.”

Now, the movie has arrived and uh… that definitely wasn’t the case.

When we find Valkyrie this time around, she’s traded in her battle armor of “Thor: Ragnarok” and “Avengers: Endgame” for a sleek suit, running New Asgard like the mayor of a wealthy small town rather than a conquering monarch. The city is thriving, albeit a bit chaotic. She’s proving that Thor made the right call in abdicating in her favor.

Missing from all this is a queen or even the implication Valkyrie is looking for one. She doesn’t even have a girlfriend. The closest we get is, frankly, scraps in the form of one (1) extremely mild flirtation in Omnipotent City, where Valk kisses an unidentified Greek Goddess’ hand before jumping off a ledge and escaping, Bond-style. It’s an excellent moment, but it’s certainly no meeting of future wives.

Well, according to Thompson herself, there were “lots of conversations about it,” but the decision ultimately came down to a very familiar justification.

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“I think there’s a lot of folks that are righteously very hungry for that representation to exist in these movies, as am I,” Thompson explained to the LA Times. “But I also think [it’s important] not to hang the character’s hat solely on her sexual identity just because she’s a queer character. I think that’s one way of minimizing her humanity, actually, if that’s the only facet that you get to explore her in.”

Of course, Thompson is absolutely correct that Valkyrie — and all queer characters — shouldn’t be reduced to only their sexuality. But honestly, it’s a bit hard to accept that at face value. And that’s nothing against Thompson herself. She’s excellent, and inarguably knows Valkyrie as a character better than anyone. But the problem is, that’s a kind of logic that only ever seems to be applied to queer characters.

No one, for instance, is going to complain that Thor’s ‘hat’ has been hung solely on his sexuality because so much of the story involves his relationship with Jane. For that matter, no one has argued that Jane has been boiled down to being into guys because of that relationship. He’s still the hero who saves the kids and learns how to be vulnerable, she’s still the genius scientist-turned Thunder God who comes to terms with her impending death.

In fact, we’ll argue that you’ll never see heterosexual people or their relationships characterized thus. Certainly, those relationships never have to justify their portrayal the way queer relationships do.

But getting back to Valkyrie, her hat pretty much was hung on her love life — or lack thereof. As a character, Valkyrie really didn’t get much else in this movie.

What we saw was a woman who was made king, but inevitably found it boring and wanted to get back in the fight. This is how most warrior-to-ruler stories go, and frankly, was even more predictable given the ferocity that Valkyrie was originally written with. Of course she wouldn’t have been happy ruling New Asgard in a room full of suits, she’s built for battle. So yes, put her back in the field with Thor and Mighty Thor, excellent!

Once she’s there though, you have to give her something to work with. According to director and writer Taika Waititi, that something was her solitude, and continued coping with her past.

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“There was something about that character that I find really interesting as someone who’s OK with being alone,” Waititi also told the Times. “So often people are like ‘to show someone is queer, you have to see them with someone.’ But [Valkyrie] lost the love of her life, and the most important person in her life [now], that’s she’s trying to learn how to love, is herself. And I think that’s just a stronger message, no matter what your orientation.”

But really, was she OK with being alone? Was she focusing on loving herself? Because, once she was out there, Valkyrie was mostly made to look longingly at Thor and Jane’s love. As they make out in front of space dolphins, she makes herself scarce, sighing and drinking inside the boat’s cuddy.

We get a touch deeper on her loss thanks to a conversation with Korg at that point, which brings us to a grand total of two depictions of how devastating Hela was to the Valkyries (the first coming when Loki invades Valkyrie’s mind in “Thor: Ragnarok”). But that conversation is short, and really serves more as an explainer on how Kronan babies are made.

To be honest, I don’t much remember at all what Valkyrie’s thoughts on the matter were in that conversation. The moment was so fleeting, and thanks to the babymaking talk, only half serious. That tonal imbalance is an issue the movie struggled with as a whole, and this particular moment throws it into a harsh spotlight. Her half of the conversation is not the memorable half; what’s memorable is Korg making very Korg-y jokes, and Valkyrie generally being sad over being alone.

Marvel Studios
Marvel Studios

It’s a stark 180 from what was promised in Hall H three years earlier.

“Thor: Love and Thunder” really leans into Valkyrie’s friendship with Thor and with Jane, but we couldn’t help but watch that through the lens of Thompson’s comments about Valk’s intent to find a wife. Particularly in the subtext of Valkyrie proudly telling Thor that she’s “Team Jane” in their romantic woes.

Between that, and their hushed conversation about being packed for the mission, there’s plenty of kindling for slashfic. But nothing happened onscreen and Jane is very clearly into Thor.

But. If we were to speculate on that pairing, what would we called them? Janekyrie? ValkyJane? Personally, I advocate for MightyValkyrie. It just fits. But anyway, I digress.

The friendships that Valkyrie has are excellent. Especially after losing her fellow valkyrie women, seeing her and Jane bond was soothing in a deep way. Valk and Thor have more of a sibling relationship than anything, always ribbing each other, but it’s still enjoyable to watch. Had “Love and Thunder” allowed for more emotional moments in these relationships, rather than overextending gags or action sequences, it’d be a bit easier to land on the side of “Valkyrie has her friends and herself, and that’s what she needs right now.”

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But let’s not forget how Gorr the God Butcher (Christian Bale) taunts her after taking them captive in the Shadow Realm, poking at how much pain Valkyrie is constantly in after losing her most valued relationships in war.

Valkyrie’s entire conflict in this movie — because she really didn’t have any kind of real arc — was how she didn’t have a partner to lean on like Thor and Jane did. Obviously Valk is more than capable of taking care of herself, but she’s lonely and that’s obvious with or without her saying “gosh, I am lonely” which she practically did anyway.

The disappointment of this aspect of “Love and Thunder” hits particularly hard in light of events less than 4 months old. Lest we forget, Disney had a deeply unsatisfying response to one of the most virulently homophobic laws passed in this country in decades, in a state where a sizeable chunk of its employees work

Those employees had to publicly shame Disney into even tepidly opposing Florida’s noxious “don’t say gay” law. So it’s bit hard to overlook the fact that what was originally promised to be an enthusiastic hunt for Valkyrie’s queen turned into a passing comment from a rock creature about a confident warrior being afraid to even put herself out there again.

The good news is, Valkyrie at least seems to be on the journey toward healing. In the final scenes of “Love and Thunder,” Korg fills the audience in on how Valkyrie mandated that all the children of New Asgard be given combat training, in the event they were ever taken or in danger again. It’s a beautiful moment, seeing her train the next Asgardian warriors.

But still, she remains a king without a queen. And of course, no, finding a girlfriend or a wife wouldn’t be the magic fix to all her struggles — but finding someone to trust and lean on again sure would be a big step forward for her, and fulfill a promise made to fans almost three full years ago.