Before the long knives come out, I do not hate the new Loki series on Disney+ – but I do not love it either. The series is so bent on showing how clever it is, how many Easter Eggs it can hide, that it has forgotten how to be interesting.
Tom Hiddleston is doing his best but he is falling short because the span of ‘Loki’ is too large for the average person to be able to grasp. This isn’t a ding on average people. I’m just pointing out most people don’t know their Universe from their Multiverse and the explanation for why there are people monitoring the time stream may simply escape the casual conversation being had at the dinner table.
“Honey, can you pass me the parallel reality?”
“Which one? Temporal reality? Casual reality? Or do you prefer truncated reality? Does this include regions such as Dormammu’s Dark Dimension?”
The series has spent an inordinate effort (an entire episode) with Loki gazing into the eyes of a possible alternative Universe version of himself, without an adequate explanation as to why Silvie is doing anything at all.
We have been asked to accept:
• The casual verification of parallel Universes in the MCU. Yes, FANS of the Marvel Universe know there are full-time existing parallel Universes where beings have crossed over permanently into the canon comic Universe of Earth-616. Joe Six Pack doesn’t know Earth-616 from Earth $19.99.
• The inert and useless nature of the Infinity Gems at the scale of the TVA. We watched an entire Universe tremble only to see them reduced to desk ornaments in their office.
• The Timekeepers: beings who monitor the Time Stream. Yes, I know the Timekeepers made their first appearance decades ago in Thor #371 featuring Justice Peace from Earth-869371. The Timekeepers are an established conceit of the Earth-616 continuity appearing in Fantastic Four and She-Hulk stories.
• The idea of the Sacred Timeline and the Time Variance Authority promoting the idea of a time stream more important than any others. Marvel Comics has muddied the time stream of their Universe with temporal dimension travel back and forth across their timelines and into variable Universes featuring beings who use time travel the same way you and I use the train to cross town.
• To make matters worse, Doctor Doom has his own time travel device he keeps in his castle basement. Kang the Conqueror has corrupted time travel so often he has even met earlier versions of himself and killed them because they were in his way, or he’s corrupted them to use them for his own ends or even cooperated with them, creating an agency at the end of time called the Council of Kangs. Again none of this is apparent to the non-fans of the MCU.
This series is a love-letter to the fans of the Marvel Comic Universe and depending on the enthusiasm of the fan, it may transfer over depending on how forgiving the fan is on this new iteration of the character.
All of this information is less important to the average viewer than figuring out who all these variants are and why they are significant at the last stop before the end of Time. It even makes me ask: why is Loki the only consistent being sent to the end of time? Why is he the only one who seems to be able to navigate this purgatory? We see remnants of the Living Tribunal, Throg, Frog of Thunder, and even a dead Mjolnir lying around in the rubble. Don’t get me started on the Thanos copter…
The Thanos-copter is (or was) canon and like bad ideas, it was retconned (retroactively erased (or added) to canon) and we all agreed it didn’t happen. Which is the point of this temporal purgatory. Stories we didn’t like, ideas which didn’t pass the smell test, or were just incredibly stupid and an editor wanted to use the opportunity to erase such a story from continuity, sent that story HERE to the last stop before Oblivion.
The high point of this series has little to do with the strangeness of the setting or the rationale of why only Loki seems capable of surviving where apparently no one else sees fit to try and survive, instead, the psychological deconstruction of the variant Loki (the closest variant to the canon “dead” version of the character) and his motivations.
Loki, in the presence of the apparent power of the TVA, is figuratively hitting “rock bottom” with his power addiction, his lust for control, to manipulate everything toward his “glorious purpose.” Instead, we see him revealed as a fearful, narcissistic, individual with intense feelings of isolation and loneliness, mitigated only by his machinations to distract him from his awareness of his nature.
I find the fandom equally divided.
Some are screaming for ANYTHING INTERESTING to happen. Others find the psychological exploration of Loki to be the best thing this series has done. Another subset indicate their love of the series comes from the revelation of hidden realities and opportunities to tell greater stories in the slowly-expanding Fibonacci flower of the Marvel Multiverse.
Me? I wonder why there isn’t a ‘Boastful Loki’ (played by DeObia Oparei) Funko doll while I mutter through my teeth as ‘Alligator Loki’ shows up as one.
But I do have a favorite scene: When ‘Old Loki’ or ‘Classic Loki’ reveals his backstory as the Loki who got away from the rat race of fighting the gods, tricking the gods, fighting his brother, getting defeated and decided to analyze his lifestyle came away with the awareness of his true nature on his own.
When push came to shove, he realized ‘Silvie’ and ‘Variant Loki’ had no chance at success without a real distraction, he sacrificed himself against the cosmic vacuum cleaner, Alioth laughing all the way to his end. Why did he laugh? Because he realized the irony of his fate. He spent his whole existence seeking power and mastery only to discover he had lived long enough to see himself become the hero he had always despised.
Take that, Batman. Classic Loki was the hero we always knew he could be. And he knew it too.
Any bets ‘Alligator Loki’ is the mastermind behind all of this?
Thaddeus Howze is an award-winning writer, editor, podcaster and activist creating speculative fiction, scientific, political and cultural commentary from his office in Hayward, California.
Thaddeus’ speculative fiction has appeared in numerous anthologies and literary journals. He has published two books, ‘Hayward’s Reach’ (2011), a collection of short stories and ‘Broken Glass’ (2013) an urban fantasy novella starring his favorite paranormal investigator, Clifford Engram.