For more than a decade, Marvel has made films and shows that have been extremely careful to have continuity. Loki (Tom Hiddleston), however, has gotten rid of this in just a few episodes of the new series.
Burdened with Glorious Power
For 13 years, the Marvel Universe nailed into us that the infinity stones are ‘the’ objects of immense power. They can manipulate all existence when together. Avengers Endgame showed us that chasing them across time was the mission of many. Then Avenger’s Infinity War had half the cosmos snapped into dust by the stones. But, in just a passing moment, Loki discovers that these objects of destruction are nothing more than colourful paperweights.
The cheekiness and humour in the series befits the God of Mischief, however, the way the series is going is surprising. By telling the story this way, the studio dismisses its own storytelling – more than a dozen films insisted on the importance and power of the stones. Yet, in a single scene this is completely dismantled. Loki learns that the objects he has been wanting for so long – and by extension what the audience has forever believed in – are just mere office supplies that are piled up in a drawer like junk at the Time Variance Authority. Are we ok with this? If we are, should we be?
Madam, a God doesn’t plead.
Marvel have taken a fan-favourite and dropped him into an unfamiliar and unfriendly world that is filled with characters that seem to have the same traits. The series really challenges Marvel’s tried and tested formula. All their previous content tells their own stories but stayed intwined and connected with the main ‘timeline’.
After all, Hiddleston’s not even playing the Loki that audiences know, but a Loki ‘variant’ from another timeline—in other words, a version of the villain without all the MCU-imposed character development. He’s been simmered down to the central components of his personality—petulant, entitled, mischievous—and given room to be chameleonic as soon as the series begins.
Loki also complicates the MCU’s tendency to situate its central conflict between two characters who represent opposing values. In the show, Loki’s threatened not by a superhero but by another Loki version whose trickery he begrudgingly admires. And the greater threat appears to be the TVA itself: Everyone Loki meets at the organization comes off as somewhat inhuman not just in lifestyle, but in personality. Even the craziest MCU characters emanate some type humanity, but the TVA staff remain strangely apathetic, even cruel. One TVA captive gets disintegrated for arguing with an agent; the hunters—agents who prune the branches of errant timelines—use devices that wipe out all living things affected by a variant.
Such brutal efficiency, the show suggests, comes from the all-powerful nature of the Timekeepers, a trio of unseen figures who created every TVA agent and who keep the so-called Sacred Timeline intact. The administration’s staff worship the Timekeepers like gods, believing wholly in their mission to keep the flow of the universe’s events to one trajectory. The TVA conducts its affairs so tightly that an office drone Loki meets has never even heard of a fish, and Mobius admits that he yearns to ride a jet ski but cannot for unspecified fears of damaging the timeline. These are small, seemingly throwaway revelations that ultimately feel more sinister than absurd. At the TVA, continuity is essential, but suffocating.
Come on! What did you expect?
Loki, in drawing inspiration not from the established MCU method but from the looser narratives of comic books, feels like a refreshing reset for the franchise. The series indicates to fans that it might not be essential for everything to be thoroughly connected. Perhaps some stories in the future will be enjoyed as, say, stand-alone variants. Do we think this is a money tactic or something that we would be interested in? So far, the Loki series is a fresh new outlook but is it a one off? I am looking forward to seeing how the series pans out and what Marvel are going to bring next in their timeline!