Loki Has the Chaos The MCU Needs

Hollywood has loved making films about how the massive industrial bureaucratic machine of Hollywood generates films since at least 1973’s Westworld. Where Jurassic Park and The Truman Show left off, the new Disney+ MCU series Loki picks off. It gives you a look behind the scenes at the location where mundane paper-pushers, attorneys, and cubicle dwellers create dreams.

The meta-story is well-crafted. There’s a joke where you learn that clerks utilize the all-powerful infinity stones as paperweights, as if they’re merely props — which they are. But maybe the nicest aspect of the show is that it realizes that all of the planning, cataloging, and synchronizing plotlines wouldn’t be possible without a little chaos. Loki is the most openly demystifying MCU narrative, at least based on the two episodes available for review. It is, nevertheless, one of the few that manages to maintain a sense of genuine mystery.

The series picks up after the events of Avengers: Endgame. Loki (Tom Hiddleston), the God of Mischief, died defending the cosmos from Thanos in that story. To defeat Thanos, however, the Avengers had to travel back in time to 2012, when Loki was less interested in waging the good fight and more of a megalomaniacal mind-controlling God of Evil bent on the world’s subjugation. After defeating the good Loki in the past, he was able to steal the Cosmic Cube and teleport away using the confusion caused by superheroes chrono leaping. He believes that this signifies he will be able to battle again another day. But the Time Variance Authority apprehends him before he can get too far (TVA).

They notify him that he is interfering with the three lizard-like Timekeepers’ only holy chronology. He’s on the verge of being obliterated… Unless he agrees to assist the TVA in overcoming a far more powerful and malignant time anomaly.

Kevin Feige and the boring individuals who control the MCU are clearly represented by the Timekeepers here. The joke is that these corporate drones walking down the street are in command. All of the colorful empowerment fantasies and megalomaniacal wizard-demons must serve them. “You obnoxious bureaucrats will not be the ones to decide how my story ends!” With a blend of godlike wrath and petulance, Hiddleston asserts. But he’s mistaken. The officials keep rewriting the finale of his story. And because Loki is a villain, as one of the TVA operatives, Mobius (Owen Wilson), points out, the end of his story is always that he loses humiliatingly so that “others can attain their finest versions of themselves.”

The first two MCU Disney+ shows have been plagued by the remorseless storyline teleology of villains who always lose and heroes who always win. WandaVision and Falcon and the Winter Soldier both felt as if they were trudging along towards a TVA end that had been pre-approved. WandaVision was always a hallucination, and we knew that in the end, Vision would still be dead, and Wanda would be back with her grief. It was always going to end with Sam becoming Captain America in Falcon and the Winter Soldier. In the movies, the Timekeepers had already established the sacred chronology. As we approached our eventual destination, the TV shows were only offering elaboration and filigree.

Loki is a unique character. He passed away. The series’ main character is an alternate Loki, and it’s unclear what his tale is or will be. We can’t tell if he’s a hero or a villain. He appears remorseful at times for the amount of harm he inflicted in the timeline he never ended. Then he learns of his home and family’s ruin and shrugs before moving on to the next plot. Hiddleston gives a fantastic performance, seamlessly transitioning from sincere mendacity to mendacious sincerity. You have no idea when he’s lying and when he’s not, or what his lies are meant to achieve.

The original Loki’s place in the MCU is clear to viewers. But this Loki isn’t the right fit. And if the principal character doesn’t fit, the story as a whole is off-kilter. It’s possible that the timeframe will proceed in any direction. In the Marvel Cinematic Universe, the heroes are always victorious. But it’s uncertain whether Loki is a hero, and even more so what winning would imply for him.

By the end of the six-episode run, the Timekeepers or their equivalent may have pushed the series back to more traditional themes. WandaVision appeared strange at first as well. But, for the time being, Loki recognizes that a linear story is tedious. You are entitled to as many script meetings as you desire. However, there are moments when you must relinquish control to the God of Mischief.

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