Y'know the one thing that bugged me about The Avengers?
Now, don't worry - I don't mean Tom Hiddleston, or even the character of Loki himself - they're both awesome. There's a problem, hidden within the film, though:
Everything Loki does in The Avengers is...kind of dumb.
Or, rather, he's constantly being captured - and, within minutes of being initiated, his grand plan falls apart at the first sign of the brand new super-team, one that was founded directly in response to his attacks.
So, all in all, for a super-intelligent God-Alien, he's not all that good at the whole 'epic super-villainy' deal.
Or is he...?
Loki Totally Knew What He Was Doing
The theory - mooted way back in 2012 right here - goes a little something like this...
Loki is the Whole Reason The Avengers Happens At All
After all, it's his deal with the Chitauri that sets in motion the entire plot - and that ultimately leads to his downfall.
Unless, of course, that downfall happened before the movie even started...
Loki Isn't in Charge of the Chitauri
Instead, he seems to be very much the junior partner in the arrangement - being insulted, threatened and generally manhandled during the course of the movie.
Which, when you think about it, makes sense - he teamed up with them after falling off of the Bifrost, so most likely wasn't in a particularly good bargaining position.
Which you can kind of tell from the fact that he doesn't look all that fantastic at the start of the movie...
Which seems to imply that Loki isn't too thrilled with the arrangement - especially as he keeps saying things like:
"Freedom is life's great lie"
So, it seems that...
Loki is Trapped by the Chitauri
Or, at least, by their ultimate boss.
But - since they seem to be very much on top of him - he can't tell anyone. So, that whole scene where he talks to Thor on the cliff-top, and completely mis-represents the events of Thor, that's not iffy continuity - it's a cry for help.
So, what's a Trickster God to do?
Well, first up...
His Actions on the Helicarrier are Specifically Designed to Bring the Avengers Together
The movie even tells us that he wants to be there - with the explicit intention of awakening the Hulk. The question then, though, is why? After all, there are far more efficient ways to destroy a S.H.I.E.L.D. helicarrier, as Cap ably demonstrated in Captain America: The Winter Soldier.
The answer? He was there to bring them together.
So when he 'kills' Agent Coulson? It's not Nick Fury that turns that into a way to bring the team together - it's Loki himself, who saw one man as being expendable as part of his greater game.
Loki Tries Really Hard NOT To Kill The Avengers
After all, for a villain more than willing to murder Agent Coulson, Loki sure does seem reluctant to actually do anything that brutal to the heroes facing him. Sure, he keeps throwing people out of S.H.I.E.L.D. helicarriers - including his own brother - but that actually seems like a much less efficient way of killing people who can usually fly than almost any other.
Especially considering the fact that on several occasions he was in a position to pretty straightforwardly kill them - like the moment in the gif above, for instance, where he literally had Tony Stark by the throat.
On top of that, even his henchmen somehow end up working for the side of good...
Loki Manipulates Erik Selvig...Very Carefully
Which, in fact, solves a slight plot hole. In the movie, Loki spends a lot of time manipulating the good doctor with his cosmic super-weapon, the Scepter, only for Selvig to mysteriously break his conditioning and include a fail-safe in the design of the portal.
In this scenario, that fail-safe is entirely Loki's idea. After all, if the Avengers should fail to defeat the alien menace, he needs a back-up option, after all.
So, it seems that...
Loki Basically Founded the Avengers - Just to Stop the Chitauri
Sure, Nick Fury and Tony Stark played a big part - but it was ultimately Loki who actually cemented the team, and (very much intentionally) gave them a common enemy.
And if he had to be defeated for that to happen, then he seems alright with that. Take a look at Loki, right at the end of the movie, post-defeat:
That's a God who's totally OK with how things turned out.
The thing is, though...
That Isn't All Loki Had Planned
I mean, sure - it's possible his original scheme to defeat the Chitauri using The Avengers may have included an escape plan - before the Hulk kicked his ass all over Stark Tower.
But, for a villain as intelligent and scheming as Loki, that seems to be an unlikely mis-calculation. After all, he assumed that The Hulk was strong enough to destroy a helicarrier - why would he be so sure that he could defeat him himself?
Instead, it seems that Loki had other plans.
Loki Wanted to Return to Asgard
And, it seems, to return there with the Tesseract - an obviously tempting source of power for him. Now, there was no plausible way to get there while the Chitauri were still around, but once they were out of the picture?
Well, then, getting imprisoned by Thor was the best possible outcome for him - as the events of Thor: The Dark World later proved.
Loki ends up back in Asgard, and is able to manipulate events to his overall design - which is presumably to take over as King from Odin.
The only loose thread then? Loki totally knows that Thanos is coming... But that's a theory for another day...