Is Loki Too Low Key?

Disney caught up to comics in killing death. Here be SPOILERS for Disney+’s Loki series, the direct sequel to this Hydundai commercial. (I thought Marvel Studios shilled for Audi?) This is not a trick. Oddly I don’t have too much to say about it? (Don’t get your hopes up about it being short though.) So stay for the mini-rants about alternate timelines vs. alternate realities & identity changes in adaptations!

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Loki begins the series on a personal low note. Not only has he been defeated twice, he finds he indirectly causes his beloved adoptive mother’s death. His cunning & magic are outmatched by the Time Variance Authority’s technology. Even his precious Tesseract doesn’t work in TVA HQ. Thankfully they don’t mention the attempted redemption retcon that Loki had to be tortured & brainwashed to get him to invade Earth. He does claim that he only hurt others as a performative illusion not because he enjoyed. In a way that makes his actions more abominable than if he genuinely was a sadistic sociopath. So the protagonist isn’t as fun as usual at the outset. His conversations with Mobius aren’t even that droll. Every moment where Loki isn’t wearing his horns is a moment wasted.

“I’m gonna play an obscure comic book character in a streaming TV show,” Luke Wilson.

“Wow. Hold my beer,” Owen Wilson.

Sorry, Morbius. This is the year of Mobius Mania! He was inspired by writer/editor Mark Gruenwald, who getsrefernced on a vanity plate in The Void. There’s a theory that Mobius is himself a Loki variant, which would explain why their conversations are too evenly balanced to be dynamic. Lokius is good ship name. The easiest way to tell Mobius from Owen Wilson’s other characters is he yearns for a jet ski.

Cartoon exposition by Miss Minutes (Tara Strong still had to audition.) reveals there was a multiversal Secret War. The TVA apprehends people when they veer off from their “destiny” during a nexus point event to avert the creation of a new multiverse of madness. They’d better prune Steve Rogers! Time travel appears to be rare in the MCU at this point. So most of the variants the TVA encounters just made the “wrong” decision rather than being true time doppelgängers like Loki & Steve Rogers. When these variants get pruned, however, wouldn’t  the flow of the sacred timeline still be ruined if they weren’t part of it anymore? How does pruning branched variants result in a pre-nexus version of those beings still existing? Does the TVA have some extra-Godlike tech to take care of this, or did the writers just not think this through? Nobody’s time travel rules make sense, so I’m not gonna be too harsh on this point.

The TVA mandate cleanly applies to the Loki who escaped from custody with the Tesseract due to botched Avengers time-crimes. Half the Lokis we meet are already physically divergent from the MCU Loki, however, before they do a nexus event. These Lokis should already be from distinctly alternate realities not branched MCU timelines. (If they were really from branched timelines, the nexus point would be Odin adopting a different child not anything these Lokis did themselves.) If the TVA propaganda is that the multiverse no longer exists, then how are these multiversal Lokis popping up in the sacred timeline & why aren’t any TVA agents concerned by this? This series conflates alternate timelines arising from nexus points with alternate universes that would’ve already been fundamentally different regardless of nexus points.

This could be a great opportunity to clarify why the last two seasons of Agents Of SHIELD don’t acknowledge The Snapture. So naturally they don’t address it. Whether Agent Carter, Inhumans, Cloak & Dagger, Runaways, & the Netflix shows are in the sacred MCU timeline is also unanswered.

Gugu Mbatha-Raw slays as Ravonna Renslayer. Her character isn’t as energetic as The Handler or The Master/Missy though. Although not fully in the loop, she believes in the TVA’s mission. She rocks office attire, but maybe she’ll sport Terminatrix armor in Quantumania? She used to wear hats that looked like they were salvaged from an AIM agent.

There’s too much brown in the TVA’s retrofuture aesthetic for me to appreciate it. We’re not supposed to be on the bureaucracy’s side, so this is effective production design by Kasra Farahani & set decoration by Claudia Bonfe. (All the sets are great, as is Natalie Holt’s score & Christine Wada’s wardrobe.) They drink discontinued soda.

In episode two, TVA library is level 372. This is a reference to Thor #372, which was the second appearance of the TVA’s Justice Peace, a parody of Judge Dredd in Peacemaker’s colors. (This Easter Egg might’ve been less awkward if it was one level lower.) The closest equivalent in this series is Hunter B-15.

I’m glad this show is getting people to talk about Legends Of Tomorrow. It also resembles The Umbrella Academy. So while it had a great trailer, watching the series unfold feels a bit repetitive even if the TVA came first in the comics. All of these owe a huge debt to Doctor Who. The End Of Eternity by Isaac Asimov is a likely influence as well.

Check out Eugene Cordero in Crazy Ex-Girlfriend & Golden Arm (not the Quibi version). He probably understands the concept of fish there.

Like the multiversal counterparts in The CW’s Crisis On Infinite Earths, the Loki variants are played by different actors. This is logistically easier than having Tom Hiddleston go full Orphan Black. It does raise the issue of how distinct each Loki can be without being considered truly unique.

We didn’t see the face of the variant at the end of the premiere, so it’s obviously not going to be standard Loki. The Lady Loki variant is superior since she can possess folks without a Mind Stone scepter. Some speculate that she’s actually Enchantress (not the DC one). In that case, the TVA were wrong about her being a Loki variant. (This is like an an Into The Spider-Verse situation where most of the Spider-Beings summoned by Peter Parker DNA weren’t actually his dopplegangers.) Unless Sylvie definitely is a Loki variant in which case she’s not Amora. (Her sister Lorelai, was on Agents Of SHIELD.) She’s a distinct character, so either way she’s not representative of Loki’s gender fluidity. (Sophia DiMartino’s costume had secret zippers to aid in breastfeeding.) They didn’t even make her brunette. It feels odd to mash up Lady Loki & Enchantress rather than making hem separate characters. She’s named after Sylvie Lushton, which leaves room to introduce Amora later.

It’s like when Aldrich Killian was the MCU’s real Mandarian until they backtracked, or when everyone presumed MJ was Mary Jane Watson until her name was revealed as Michelle Jones. Treating them as the same person just because of their initials is like saying Lois Lane, Lana Lang, Lori Lemaris, Lex Luthor, Lena Luthor, Lillian Luthor, Lesla-Lar, & Lara Lor-Van are interchangeable. It’s arguable Black Widow didn’t really debut Taskmaster, however, since it wasn’t cocky Tony Masters under the hood. Is it truly The Vision if he’s not made from Wonder Man’s engrams? Does it matter that Hela’s name & costume were her only aspects unchanged?

Adaptations are confusing! If none of the original elements remain, is it still the ship of Theseus if the replacements are in alignment? Or is this more like folding a copy of a copy into a paper airplane & tossing it into a tree?

It makes sense that enchantment was reworked to differentiate it from Amora’s love enchantments that enthrall her servants. (Skurge never needed one because he’s an archetypal simp!) This is more conceptually & visually appealing without the rape connotation. Although possessing people & manipulating their memories is also a violation. So Enchantress is still problematic (if this is her).

Loki’s hunch that his variant was hiding out in a natural disaster was clever. The RoxxCart apocalypse was the best scene. The runner-up was Sylvie enchanting Hunter C-20. Weirdly the fallout from Sylvie sending multiple prune-bombs throughout time isn’t followed up on despite utterly ruining “The Sacred Timeline.” TVA doesn’t appear able to un-prune things, after all.

Loki leads a drunk train sing-along on a doomed world. Dialogue, lighting, & director Kate Herron confirm Loki & Sylvie are bisexual. It took thirteen years just to acknowledge a major MCU character wasn’t straight? (There’s room for everyone under the rainbow at Disney … except a movie adaptation of Nimona.) Kudos for finally doing this much & not treating bisexuality like a huge deal. The cowards don’t address the time Loki turned into a mare & birthed Sleipnir though!

There was a theory that Lamentis was going to be an elaborate illusion Loki cast to get intel from Sylvie. That would explain why Loki now has telekinesis & green energy blasts. It turns out he just blew his cover on the train because tricksters are their own worst enemies. So they Loki & Sylvie get saved from lunar annihilation by TVA ex machina because their growing fondness for each other caused a gigantic nexus point.

It’s heavily implied that the nexus point is the two Lokis falling in love with each other. Fans ship doppelgänger characters together frequently, so it’s nifty is is more directly acknowledged than in most stories. It’s far less interesting that these doppelgängers are so distinct that they feel like different characters. It’s very heteronormative. Of course if  it was two male Lokis, Disney would play it off as purely brotherly love. (Alien: Covenant got fetish fanservice right?) It might be off-putting if the MCU’s first homosexual relationship not to have originated in prison was narcissism personified, but that’d be more the studio’s fault for not including more traditional gay couples earlier. Loki’s & Sylvie’s romance remains unrequited, so no shippers get satisfied anyway.

I wish there was more Asgard stuff. Jaimie Alexander wasn’t credited as Sif but her stunt double was? Loki cutting off Sif’s hair is a refernce to a genuine Norse myth. Marvel’s variation explains why Sif’s hair is now black not the proper gold. (But why isn’t Marvel’s Thor ginger?) In the MCU, he just gave her a bad hair day.

Everybody expected the mysterious Time-Keepers would be phony figure heads. The Time-Keepers were unintelligible without captions on. Loki & Sylvie reenacted The Last Jedi throneroom fracas in The Hall of Presidents. Why shouldn’t time be overseen by three secretly animatronic space lizards though?

Disintegrators being teleporters is a scifi trope. The MCU even used it when HYDRA made teleportation bullets from the Tesseract. We just didn’t see all the now dead corpses on Vormir. How insane is it that Arnim Zola made bullets out of an Infinity Stone? The pruned timelines get shunted to end of time to be eaten by Alioth the smoke monster.

Lokis

Me & the boys about to drop the multiverse’s hottest album.

Richard E. Grant is classic Loki! He escaped being anticlimactically slain by Thanos by projecting an illusion of himself & playing possum, which is what any self-respecting trickster should’ve been able to do. “Boastful” Loki evokes his Siege-era costume sans horns. The only humanoid Loki of color is a traitor who doesn’t get a headpiece. Kid Loki killed his Thor & drinks Ecto-Cooler. Is Croki (that name doesn’t work if he’s not a crocodile) the nemesis of Throg (voiced by Chris Hemsworth) whom we see separated from Mjolnir by a jar? He’s the best because he lives in a kiddie pool & drinks wine without ever losing his crown. Alloki chomps off President Loki’s hand so he can play Captain Hook. There are already cosplays of his scene stealer.  Firetruck Loki got an emoji (Ogre Loki & Cyclist Loki were snubbed!), but nobody’s sure if it’s real. Where is Loki as Cat-Thor?

“Journey Into Mystery,” the penultimate episode, was my favorite because it goes all in on the kookiness. I wish we could’ve spent more time getting to know all the Loki variants. The Void at the end of time is littered with fun Easter Eggs like the the head of a Living Tribunal statue, Qeng Tower, an enormous Yellowjacket helmet, & the Thanos Copter! Steve Rogers can no longer appear in the MCU because Alioth devoured America’s timestream corrupting ass! (We don’t see this happen, but you know it’s true.)

Classic Loki dresses like the comics but he’s not from 616. Like the majority of Captain America’s MCU suits, it’s missing scale mail. What did scale mail ever do to Kevin Feige? It’s still a step up from WandaVision’s Halloween costumes. This variant appears to have had the most offscreen character growth. He rubs it in that the other cinematic Lokis are far underpowered. While he’s still not as powerful as he could be, he’s able to summon full scale illusion of Asgard as a cover of “Ride Of The Valkyries” plays. His smiling sacrifice is the diversion for Sylvie & Loki to enchant Alioth & pierce the veil to the Citadel of Chronopolis.

The duo are greeted inside by a variant of Kang that Miss Minutes refers to as “He Who Remains.” So Marvel subverted expectations of doing the unexpected by having the mastermind be exactly who fans suspected. Sorry to everyone who bet on Mephisto again! Another Loki variant was a slightly less likely hunch given Jonathan Majors of Lovecraft Country (also starring Wunmi Mosaku) was previously announced as Kang the Conqueror. He outfit is closer to Immortus minus the imposing hat.

Kang explained he created the TVA to prevent over variants of himself from reigniting multiversal wars. (These dimensions are shown parallel to each other rather than branching, which may support my earlier pedantry.) This one is tired of his job & has gone a bit loopy. HWR calls out Sylvie on her hypocrisy. He tells the Lokis they can either take reign of the TVA or unleash chaos by killing him. Why not both? Now it’s officially a story of free will vs. determinism.

The talky finale perks up once the duo turns on each other. Sylvie thinks Kang is lying & wants to kill him for revenge. Loki doesn’t think they can risk that he’s right. So they swordfight! The counterparts share a romantic kiss before Sylvie teleports Loki away. Then she kills this Kang & the timeline splinters like wild even though this is happening at the end of time itself. Seems like it’d be too late to affect anything at this point. Do nexus points work retroactively? Loki winds up in an alternate TVA where nobody knows who he is & the Time-Keeper statues have been replaced by one of Kang the Conqueror. No Mobius variant rides a jetski.

This is the most backdoor piloty of all the Marvel D+ series thus far. The season finale leads into several new projects viewers would’ve watched anyway, so the series could’ve focused more on the title character(s). This officially confirms there is an MCU multiverse ahead of Dr. Strange & The Multiverse of Madness. (Showrunner Michael Waldron also co-wrote that.) Rather than it being a standalone series similar to the The Simpsons short guest-starring a yellow Loki variant, this will probably directly lead into the “What If…?” cartoon. The second Spider-Man 3 is heavily rumored to be a fanservicey Into The Spider-Verse redux instead of focusing on the MCU’s Spidey. (Fans are really impatient for its trailer.) Kang the Conqueror is going to be the villain of Ant-Man & The Wasp: Quantumania, where hopefully he’ll be introduced in his classic costume reclining on a transparent anti-grav seat. (Bonus points if it’s made from a clear inflatable chair!) They’re definitely doing a Loki season two too since this one barely told a complete story.

There’s so much spinoff seeding that Loki feels like a supporting character in his own series. Loki starts at a low point & only somewhat rises above it. He gets a bit more in touch with his feelings, but what made him a breakout character is an afterthought. He has brief flashes of cleverness but spends most of the time catching up to everyone else. He rarely gets hoisted on his own petard, & his charismatic swagger is virtually gone. It would’ve been more satisfying to watch him scheme & backstab his way up to the man behind the curtain. Since he’s too popular as an anti-hero now, the usurper who tried to genocide Jotunheim doesn’t do anything that might even be morally gray.

Arguably Sylvie is the true protagonist, but even she could’ve been a better Loki. Her desire for free will is simply born out of standard revenge rather than a metanarrative on her own nature as later Loki comics explored. Her most ingenious moment, the multiple prune-bomb, ended up being unsuccessful as both a diversion & as a massive impediment to the TVA. She mostly attacks the TVA head-on. I was expecting the final duel between the doppelgängers to have more manipulation on both sides.

Judging by back chatter, I wasn’t alone in anticipating how most of the twists would turn out. So were they really twists then? At least they make sense instead of relying on shock value. I was just expecting some more depth or innovation.

The Falcon & The Winter Soldier had lofty aspirations that it didn’t always reach. For instance, the development of the more intriguing supporting characters is rushed. (Don Cheadle getting an Emmy nomination for a cameo over Carl Lumbly is the latest indignity to befall Isaiah Bradley.) Loki hits its modest targets more reliably, but it also doesn’t have have the electrifying zeniths of Isaiah Bradly & the Zemo dance. It is also weird to consider Loki is the least ambitious of the D+ Marvel shows thus far since it only has time police overseeing the multiverse. (So that’d make WandaVision the best despite its conventional ending.) Maybe this was underwhelming because my expectations were so high? If you enjoy Tom Hiddleston as most folk do, however, it’s a pleasant diversion.

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Entertainment Earth has exclusive TVA & Loki pin sets.

Hasbro picked the most boring outfit for Loki to make a Marvel Legends. Although this is his main D+ look, does anybody want this much beige? I’m not alone in preferring they made President Loki instead despite him having minimal screentime. He never wears it on the show, but we still need a Marvel legends of his regalia from Thor. Sylvie is presumably coming in the What If…? wave. Mobius M. Mobius is a Target exclusive. Yet another dude in a suit is a shrewd reuse of parts, but Renslayer could’ve introduced a suited female body. Alligator Loki deserves an ML most of all. He can come with Classic Loki.

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Return next week for The Flash season seven finale review!

11 thoughts on “Is Loki Too Low Key?

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