Every Marvel fan should watch Loki. The show sits at the crossroads between Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) phases. I’m sure there will be some necessary replay to ensure that when a film requires Loki plot points non-Disney+ subscribers won’t collectively stare into the void and ask, “WTF?”
According to some reports, Loki’s audience engaged post-show more than any other in tracked history. This means that people watched the show then flooded the web with inquiries about what they just watched. Loki is perhaps Marvel’s deepest cut property. It’s like knowing Bowie only through Major Tom and “Space Oddity,” and then discovering “Rock and Roll Suicide” one lonely night just as the weed and beer kick in. That may mean that even those who don’t watch the show will learn enough to not get lost in the play-up to other television series and movies, but I would heavily recommend watching the show, even if its the only thing you watch on a Disney+ trial.
Loki starts exactly as expected: right as Tom Hiddleston’s long-haired and leather-clad child of frost giants picks up the Tesseract in Endgame—and disappears from the ensuing battle between destruction and redemption. In Loki we witness this Odinson tossed into the waiting arms of a desert, discovered by some ragtag group of wanderers (that just keep wandering I presume), and ultimately captured by the Time Variance Authority or TVA.
Purportedly, the TVA exists to keep time straight. Literarily. No branches ala the Sorcerous Supreme, no multiverse of madness—just a nice straight line from here to there. Anything that deviates from the plan gets pruned, removed from existence like it never, well, existed.
I’m not giving anything away by saying that the God of Mischief plays havoc with the underlying assumptions. All of hims.
Loki mostly explores Loki. Many manifestations of Loki. It seems a Loki is one of few beings able to survive the TVA’s pruning process that keeps time’s guardrails functional. Loki advises himself, fights with himself, and falls in love with himself—none of which is overly surprising. Along the way, he also learns from himself.
Without the MCU context, Loki reads like a Steven Moffat-era Doctor Who, only better. I would love to see Sylvie’s Sophia Di Martino as The Doctor.
Beyond being the trippiest Marvel entry (even more so than Thor: Ragnarök) Loki is also perhaps the talkiest of the Marvel ventures. It’s a My Dinner with Andre in a TVA office. If aspiring screenwriters ever need a lesson in useful exposition, they need to look no further than Loki.
Loki is also perhaps the talkiest of the Marvel ventures. It’s a My Dinner with Andre in a TVA office. If aspiring screenwriters ever need a lesson in useful exposition, they need to look no further than Loki.
Mobius, played with understated quirkiness by Owen Wilson, confronts Loki with new realities. Loki discovers that he has not aligned with the great powers of the universe on his conquest for Glorious Purpose. No, he betrayed his mother, his brother, his father—all for naught. The precious Infinity Stones so central to MCU world-building are but paperweights on TVA functionary desks.
Mobius pokes and prods at Loki’s shortcomings, and we watch him slowly grow, or so we think, into a better Loki.
There is one Loki who steals the show, the female Loki known as Sylvie. Sylvie proves the reason the TVA allows our MCU Loki to survive. They need him to track down the Sylvie variant. What they don’t know is Loki will fall for his blond intellectual doppelganger and together they will rewrite the future.
There is nothing wrong with a beautiful blond Loki, any more than there is with an Alligator Loki or an old classic Loki in horns and wrinkled golden garb. But this does beg some questions about the MCU’s version of genetics. If these are all Loki’s, then something other than genetics must dictate what makes a Loki. There is some metadata that isn’t carved into DNA. We don’t know what frost giant DNA looks like but perhaps it is more malleable than human DNA (as Loki never appears as a frost giant beyond infancy). The Mobius we met briefly at the end of Loki looks like Mobius, though from a different timeline. His genetics, if not his memory, seem to be intact. The Loki’s all know what a Loki is, but they all appear physically different. Branches of the timeline might well create a Loki’s under different circumstances, but we would presume they would all look like Tom Hiddleston.
It appears that the multiverse conjures a Loki in all manifestations. It is as though the universe needs a Loki. But unlike other alternate beings, Loki physically changes within the manifestations, perhaps to be the most effective Loki for a given context. If that sounds confusing, it is, and like so many other things, Marvel offers no insight into why a Loki looks different, but it does offer plenty of revelations about the characteristics of a Loki.
Loki’s don’t all have the same powers. They don’t dress the same. They aren’t the same sex or species—but they are all fundamentally Loki’s—able to survive pruning, but perhaps more importantly, able to ask questions about their circumstances and eventually find a way for one or more of them to break out of what appears the most secure incarceration ever conceived.
The idea of Loki survives. And Loki’s ideas change everything. Sylvie, shaped by years of persecution, living in the shadow of great apocalypses, seeks revenge at all costs. She wants to free the universe of the constraints that painted the target on her back.
And she succeeds. The MCU will never be the same.
What we do know, is that in the battle for what is Marvel canon, He Who Remains held all the chips.
Note: No, I didn’t talk about Kang or He Who Remains. As much as the Internet is abuzz about the character, we know very little. His seemingly all-knowingness fades pretty quickly in the face of Lokis. Jonathan Majors brings nuance to exposition with a near Shakespearean monologue on his history, and his position on what is at stake should the TVA lose control over the sacred timeline. But all we know is He Who Remains was an invisible hand in Loki, one who seemingly allowed all of the time jumps and battles of the MCU to happen. The motivation behind the TVA becomes clear, the mechanisms of implementation remain cloudy. What we do know, is that in the battle for what is Marvel canon, He Who Remains held all the chips. Until Loki. Now we don’t know anything about Marvel cannon. Like the comic books before them, Loki exploded previous plot points, undercut beliefs, and disrupted the rules of continuity. Loki resets the MCU, and the next several films and television shows will likely explore what that means for characters we know, and new ones, or versions of them, that exist in the sprawling web of time that will make up the next phase of Marvel’s conquest for pop culture dominance. See you in What…if.
Watch the Loki trailer.
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