Is Marvel’s ‘Loki’ a True Deviation? Or Just a Fun Experiment?
One thing Marvel can do is develop a story. Think back to the dawning days of the Marvel Cinematic Universe in the early 2000s. The so-called Phase 1 was to create the superhero roster with individual movie stories that would fit into a big crossover movie: “The Avengers “. A decade and a half later, crossovers are over, Easter Eggs are expected, and a slew of new movies and TV shows continue to provide an influx of stories and characters who branch out into their own universes.
You could even say that the MCU looks like a branching timeline – that’s what a member of the Time Variant Authority, or TVA, would say, the bureaucracy at the center of the Disney + “Loki” series. Because for all the interdimensional fun of the series, “Loki,” which ended last week, is a philosophical dialogue that also functions as a meta-commentary on Marvel’s storytelling. The show’s central theme of the value of order versus chaos reflects how the MCU, as it develops through Disney + and beyond, alternately presents and breaks with linear narratives. contents and types of characters by heart.
Although Loki (Tom Hiddleston), sometimes the archenemy and sometimes the Avengers ally, was killed by Thanos in “Avengers: Infinity War”, the Asgardian now appears – resurrected! – in his own series. But this is only a resurrection in the sense of the mark: the series centers on an earlier version of Loki, the one who escapes the battle of New York, from the first “Avengers” movie, with the all-powerful glowbox (known as Tesseract). His escape with the Tesseract causes a branch in the timeline, an offense that has him first arrested by VAT and then recruited by one of the group’s agents, Mobius (Owen Wilson), to help catch a female “variant” Loki (Sophia Di Martino) who broke the rules of other time limit. In an inspired, albeit awkward, Freudian twist, the two Lokis fall in love with each other and team up to dismantle the TVA before ultimately finding themselves at odds.
From the start, “Loki” was an odd addition to the MCU because, like the recent “Black Widow” movie, it retroactively tried to give back some history and growth to a character who had already died in the central MCU timeline. More intriguingly, he repositioned a character who had been an antagonist and repulsor for Avengers as his adopted brother, the Nordic golden boy Thor, as a hero of his own story, which undermined what we had already seen happen in franchise.
By making another version of Loki a hero, the series itself acts as a variation. In general, Marvel has used its latest Disney + shows to steer away from the often tiresome, even oppressive, timeline established by the films. These side stories open the world to more subtle and interesting narratives: “WandaVision” and “The Falcon and the Winter Soldier” allowed their heroes to develop in terms of superhero abilities and emotional depth.
But whatever their differences, these stories always end up being tied to the MCU’s main narrative – Marvel’s own unbreakable timeline, which often yields an awkward outcome. “WandaVision” used its classic TV parodies to intelligently explore the contours of grief and emotional escape until its “Avengers” adjacency seemingly demands a required explosive ending. Sam Wilson (Falcon) and Bucky Barnes (the Winter Soldier) battled trauma and its aftermath, but the specter of Captain America, and the question of whether Sam would ultimately take the shield, ultimately picked up the story. .
In “Loki”, the Asgardian discovers that everything is predestined, even his identity. Loki is supposed to be a bad guy, and he’s supposed to lose. There are no other options. What the show asks is how does a character whose goal is simply to accentuate, by contrast, the strengths and shortcomings of others, lead his own story?
The series certainly struggles to answer this question at first; Loki doesn’t seem out of place in his own show. When the show allows him to be less of a reactionary character – he gets his own sheets in the form of his many variations – he finally feels at the center of the narrative. It evolves, proving that Loki can win and be honest and loving and compassionate. And just as “Loki” challenges the definition of his main character, the series takes him out of the only position he’s held in the MCU so far.
As a loyal TVA agent, Mobius, as he tells Loki, believes his job is to maintain an ultimate sense of order – even if that order seems to rob the universe of free will. What happens when the timeline is fully sorted, with no branches? “Just order and we will find each other in peace at the end of time,” says Mobius.
“Only the order? No chaos? Loki answers. “It sounds boring.”
Marvel risks undermining itself with “Loki” and with every bit of narrative chaos introduced by its latest shows. How can something have emotional stakes when there is always a loophole or a deus ex machina around the corner? (Indeed, “Loki” takes place in a closed loop, which at the end of the series has reset itself.) And at what point does the narrative coherence crumble and give us an indecipherable jumble of conflicting events ?
The franchise wants to embrace both a traditional way of storytelling and a bit of narrative chaos in the form of time travel, multiple universes, and nonlinear shifts in time and space, all of which allow for gaps. compared to the main scenario. But the more varied stories we get, the more unstable and convoluted the whole structure becomes.
“Loki” is a fun touch of mayhem for Loki fans, myself included, but it makes me wonder how long the relative order of the MCU franchise’s central timeline can maintain the recoil, leaps and bounds. inversions, even in their own pockets of time. The vast mega-averse that is Marvel is already home to countless characters and stories, and yet having one that Loki is still alive in is infinitely more fun.
But as conceptually delicious as “Loki” was, to me it just felt like a fun and entertaining experience. What Marvel will do with the results of this experiment is another story. The end of this season’s cliffhanger means that the full measure of the series’ success and impact is yet to come, whether in the second season promised in the finale or in the larger MCU.
Is “Loki” really a variant within the MCU? Will it introduce reverberations in movies and TV shows in the future, or will it essentially be isolated in its own playful thought bubble? If the former, I suspect Marvel won’t be able to maintain the full weight of the main narrative, with all of these branches, forever – that is, unless Marvel fully embraces the chaos and lets go. the MCU will break up into separate multiverse without such a restrictive overall timeline. After all, if the god of evil has taught us anything, it’s that a little chaos can go a long way.
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