Let's analyze the first three episodes of the Marvel series Loki, airing on Disney +, to find out what kind of metanarrative he's doing and why the real villain of the series is the viewers.
This article reports spoilers for all and first three episodes of Loki.
Loki is the third Disney series for the Marvel Cinematic Universe, available June 9 on Disney +. This series sets the stage for the Fourth Phase of the MCU, and more precisely for Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness.
Created by Michael Waldron, known for Rick and Morty, and directed by Kate herron who, as a fan of Loki, has prepared a 60-page document requesting the role of director of the series. We find again Tom Hiddleston as Loki, joined by Gray Gray in the role of Ravonna Renslayer, Wunmi mosaku like Hunter B-15, Owen Wilson who plays Mobius M. Mobius e Sophia di Martino as the mysterious variant.
This article will talk about how the series Loki subtly metanarrate on the continuity of the MCU, reflecting on the existence of errors. Then it will reflect critically on the relationship between the series and the viewers, and on how the latter are the true antagonist of Loki.
Loki, episode 1. There is a pathological narcissist, a jet-ski lover, a methodical liar and a chaotic neutral
The series breaks the conventional MCU continuity narrative by taking advantage of the Avengers' miscalculation in Endgame.
The first episode is then started just as the God of Deception collects the Tesseract to escape his arrest in New York City. The ride doesn't last long, as the Time Variance Authority (TVA) catches Loki without too much effort, collects the Tesseract and restores the course of events "as it always has been, is and will be".
Loki, according to the rules of the TVA, is a system error called Sacred Timeline. But before Ravonna Ranslayer determines her fate as an all-knowing and all-powerful court judge, the trial is stopped by Mobius.
Loki is therefore placed at a crossroads: to be eliminated as Variant whose existence would lead to the destruction of the Sacred Timeline resulting in the creation of a war between Multiverses, or to collaborate with TVA to hunt together with Mobius a Variant of himself originating from another timeline.
The evolution of Loki in the first episode: a house of cards that collapses
The first episode thus lays the foundation for a tale where the rules are subverted and rewritten.
There is yet another unknown form of supreme power beyond that embodied by Dr. Strange or Scarlet Witch. So, in this place it doesn't matter what you know how to do or what tricks you have up your sleeve, because even the Infinity Stones don't work and are only useful as a paperweight. And what's the point of continuing to be a villain if you're never going to be the protagonist of your story? And this is because the only reason you keep breathing is to raise other people to the divine role that you believed was due to you from birth?
Loki is no longer able to maintain the house of cards and beliefs with which he created his precarious identity. Mobius destroys all his convictions, his “glorious intentions”, giving him access to videoprojected scenes of the future of the timeline in which he should have found himself.
Instead, now Loki is in unfamiliar terrain and with totally new rules. If he wants to survive, he has to take on a new role.
Loki, episode 2. The Time Variance Authority also has lunch breaks
Is a jacket with an inscription on the back enough to bring a repentant on the right path?
Mobius has spent years studying all known versions of Loki, and he knows he can never be trusted. But he needs help tracking down a particular Variant.
So yes: please Loki, join the team. But please, wear this jacket with a giant writing on the back. Let's have a laugh, let us never forget your "wrong" nature.
In the second episode we get to see how far we can extend the meaning of "Variant", and Loki himself is surprised.
Mobius is convinced that he can identify common factors between the various Loki, but admits that he has not yet understood "What makes Loki a Loki". What makes variants similar, and what makes them different? What makes them common but divergent at the same time? Perhaps Mobius could take advantage of the particular rendition in the space-time continuum of the TVA headquarters to bingewatchare Orphan Black, and find some clues there.
There is no time to go into details, and Mobius must find this Variant before more TVA Agents are killed. Then, Mobius tries the carrot and stick method, teasing Loki as he describes the Variant as a "superior version" of the God of Deception, hoping to make him more cooperative by creating a relationship based on challenge.
How Loki unravels the tangle of chaos
But what makes the arrest of the Variante a noble goal to pursue? Why shouldn't that also be a proper continuation of the Sacred Timeline? Mobius does not consider these questions.
The trust he places in the TVA has something religious, almost fanatical. This order is sacred and must be maintained, varying from the norm is not allowed. Chaos can generate nothing but destruction.
After sacrificing a bowl of salad and showing off an excellent knowledge of spoken Latin, Loki demonstrates to Mobius the constant between Variants and the weakness of TVA linked by a single element: the destruction (distracting) generated by chaos. And it is in the authorized forms of destruction that the Variant hides.
Thus, Loki and Mobius try to track down the Variant during an event classified in the archives of the TVA as "Apocalypse level 10". But the control exercised by the Time Keepers is not absolute: Loki welcomes the opportunity to confront himself with another version of himself and escape with the variant at the last second.
Loki, episode 3. Loki isn't good at formulating metaphors, but at least there are fans to fill in the blanks
Ravonna Renslayer doesn't care: Sylvie, the Variant of Loki, can also kill our God of Deception, because they are only Variants. In fact, according to the established order, both must be eliminated.
Difficult to do, however, if the two variants fall into a time portal and hide behind the delirium of another apocalypse.
Lamentis, the third episode, is a necessary slowdown. With an empty TemPad and two satellites colliding, the escape to escape this Apocalypse is just a narrative excuse to have two characters sit facing each other and make them talk.
And what are episodic series if not a concatenation of narrative devices?
At the moment we only know what Variants for TVA are, and Loki knows that he is not only facing an altered version of himself.
The variant is also keen to remind us that his name is no longer Loki, but Sylvie. Here, many have pointed out how this scene borders on the theme of deadname, that is the name assigned at birth to trans people, who later changed their name.
However, there may also be parallels between the two variants, but TVA cannot decide what her fate is for Sylvie, and for this the Time Keepers must be eliminated.
The merits of a much criticized episode like elephants
The episode has already been classified by many as elephants, but the amount of information that are provided to us are many and very important.
Every sentence, every exchange, every interaction between the two is composed not for lack of inventiveness, but because, like the penultimate episode much criticized by WandaVision, the characters have a sense of acting only on the basis of their own experience and the relationship they have with it. Furthermore, this change of pace reminds us that even a slow narrative, at the expense of convulsive and accelerated stories such as those given by the continuous and rapid releases of MCU films, has several advantages.
Not just that of having provided us a coming out of not one, but two characters, but also to include exchanges and ideas, opinions that help the creation of multidimensional and less monolithic fonts.
There are many small holds that trigger conversations between fans and they feed the fruition relationship between product and consumer. Because in the end, when we hit play and get comfortable to watch the episode, we simply do it based on our experience with the vast and complex Marvel imagery.
The real villain of the series is you
So what's the role of Loki (the series) in all of this?
In addition to the purpose of investing money to receive more money from Disney + subscribers, of course. What message can be hidden behind all this little theater?
Beyond free will and discussions of what makes an identity valid to exist in a sea of multiple versions of oneself within a world where one's decisions are predetermined by an authority acting in the shadows, after three episodes I can add to see some metanarrative that explores the relationship between us viewers and Marvel Studio.
A series on continuity errors
Through the episodes of Loki, showing us the fallibility of TVA, although the continuity of the stories must be preserved to make the succession of events understandable one film after another, the existence of the Variations reminds us that a little chaos at the end is always acceptable. If only for the fact that it's fun or epic a moment in itself.
Ignore minor continuity errors, such as the different Darkhold covers between Agent of SHIELD, Runaways e WandaVision, allows the freedom to create amazing and exciting products.
As fans scramble on social media to look for errors, and pinpoint the differences between two frames from two different products with pinpoint accuracy, Marvel must choose whether to avoid a small continuity error or do something incredible. He will always choose the latter.
And maybe these small errors of continuity are actually canonical, thanks to products such as the series Loki.
Why are MCU viewers sometimes like TVA?
Consequently, Does it make sense to keep looking at MCU products looking for references right into print publications? Can't we enjoy (or ignore) a product in its entirety, without necessarily having to meticulously check every reference to what has previously happened, or to what inspired it?
After the airing of the second episode, many were convinced that the variant was actually Enchantress. And many based their judgment on the third episode on how close or not Sylvie in the series could be close to Enchantress from the comics.
The long life of Marvel, and the continuous and changing forms that its creatures take cannot certainly satisfy all palates.
We probably got to know a character like Loki by reading specific numbers of Journey Into Mystery, or watching Thor movies. And when the image of the character that has formed in our mind does not coincide with what is shown in a new product, we hardly accept it.
In this sense, we are like TVA, which wants to decide which variant is right and which is wrong.
But, just like TVA, we don't have an explanation why things shouldn't be like this. Marvel is probably trying to pinch all those fans who, just like the bureaucrats and agents of TVA, try to raise fuss because "the timeline is not perfect, there is a plot hole, and now I will show you".
And just like Loki and Sylvie, the presence or absence of all these (few) details that don't fit together will not stop the MCU continuity from existing as it is written, in its ups and downs.