“I just want you to be ok.”
Upon uttering that line, Loki proved himself to be a changed man, unrecognizable from the deceitful, power-hungry God of Mischief who once attacked New York.
So, why did it sound so hollow?
As Loki and Sylvie enter the fortress at the end of time, both seeking emancipation from the brutal bureaucracy of the TVA, we’re treated to a massive exposition dump, and a brutal fight between the two, ending in a kiss, and a betrayal.
After Sylvie’s choice, the elastic snapped back, and the timeline returned to the status quo; the same man is in charge of the TVA, but seemingly, a more brutal variant, with Mobius and Renslayer reset to their former selves, Loki again powerless and alone.
Just like with Mephisto in WandaVision, fans have been feverishly speculating that Loki would introduce Kang the Conqueror, i.e., the Rick Sanchez of the Marvel universe. And this time, they were absolutely correct – Kang really was the man behind the curtain.
The best part of the finale was surely the introduction of Jonathan Majors, whose Kang has already split into infinite warring variants, meaning that we’re soon going to see Majors playing with Kang’s multiple personalities.
“Benevolent Dictator Kang” was extremely fun, and far more open about his intentions than one would expect – he actually offered Loki and Sylvie a fair deal. Sylvie’s fateful choice is about to make the future of the MCU far more interesting, but it feels as though we lost Loki along the way; the reveal that Kang was guiding their destiny the entire time was, thematically, a major disappointment.
Marvel has been criticized for relying on the “superhero fights an evil version of themselves” trope one too many times, but Loki is the one time where that scenario would have made perfect sense! This journey, after all, was supposed to be a journey of self-discovery for Loki, a rejection (or embrace?) of his dark side.
It would have been perfectly in line with what we know about Loki for him to have either made the selfish decision to kill Kang and unleash the chaos of the multiverse, or to seek the throne at the end of the world for himself.
Instead, Sylvie made the decision for him, while Loki’s evolution into a self-sacrificing hero felt rushed and inauthentic, as he passively floated through a story that functioned as an introduction to the next stage of the MCU, rather than a deep exploration of his character.
Loki, it turns out, was never really about Loki at all.
Loki might have been the man who started this journey, who experienced the branching of timelines into a multiverse, but his character was flattened along the way, as he was made to fit the mold of a typical Marvel protagonist, seeking order and stability above all else.
Loki has been labelled a survivor, a trickster, and a rebel throughout, but he rarely displayed any of these qualities – his variants did.
Sylvie is the self-interested agent of chaos that Loki once was, and Loki suddenly siding with the necessary evil of the TVA to preserve the “stability” of the universe just felt wrong, as did his sudden dedication and self-sacrifice toward Sylvie – they barely know each other.
The God of Mischief became Captain America, fighting to keep the repressive status quo, fearing chaos, even rejecting the opportunity to seize power and wreak vengeance.
But despite Loki’s narrative flaws, there was a lot to like – the set design, the casting, the performances and the soundtrack were all spot-on, the concept more interesting than Marvel’s previous entries. I’m disappointed with what Loki did to Loki’s character, yet, I’m excited for the next season, and to see the effects of the multiverse on the MCU.
This is both the problem, and the genius of the MCU – the story never really ends, and the only lasting consequences come from the expansion of the next phase – we’re always thinking about what comes next, rather than what just happened.
For the sake of Kang’s introduction, Loki’s nuance, his tendency to do the right thing sometimes, and do the wrong thing more often than not, seems to have disappeared – he’s just another self-sacrificing do-gooder.
Now, Marvel has another compelling, theatrical supervillain, far more intriguing than Thanos – but we lost one of the best characters along the way.
If you enjoyed reading, check out my recap of the previous episode of ‘Loki’