Loki finally has control of his time-travelling powers, but where does he go and when? He needs to find a way to stop the loom crashing, but almost every attempt he makes fails to work and he begins to despair on ever being able to rewrite things enough to save everyone. Seeking advice from the people he’s met along the way, Loki finally has one idea that might work. It’s audacious, it’s ambitious and it is filled with glorious purpose… and perhaps a little mischief.
And back we go…after a handy recap, we start literally rewinding – to the extent that even the Marvel branding starts playing out in visual and audible reverse…
There’s a madcap, almost Doctor-Who-on-steroids (particularly Peter Capaldi era’s Hell Bent episode) feel to proceedings as Loki (as a series and character) relives moments and moves back along the series timeline trying to put right what once when wrong… or, at least get some sage advice on how to do so. Weirdly, there’s opposing forces at work here that, perhaps for the first time, actually find common ground to be the sum of their parts: Glorious Purpose (the same title as the very first episode – no accident) has moments that feel both genuinely emotional (much more so than the rest of the Season Two entries) and epic in its story-structure with its ideas about existence and meaning that threaten to be coherent. Yet, amid the predestinational pomp and chronological circumstance, it’s also beard-stroking, universe-pondering nonsense that casts its multitude, multiversal and existentially Nordic runes to the wind and hopes to look profound. It really isn’t, but it’s entertaining enough.
Loki’s retrospective tweaking is fun but doesn’t make a lot of sense. If he’s truly that powerful, then confining himself to his experiences in the TVA seems more like the MCU guarding its third-rail. It would be a huge opportunity (logically and narratively to get ahead of the apocalypse by going further back and even revisiting some of the big-screen moments. We need to keep reminding ourselves that this isn’t the Loki that redeemed himself in the movies post-Avengers. all this character’s development has been on the TV screen – wouldn’t he be even tempted to tweak the Battle of New York‘s outcome? (And, as noted before that’s also a problem – the character having moved from outright villain at the outset to self-sacrificing God unreasonably quickly – is almost unrecognisable as the same character on which the show set up its shingle).
As noted previously, Loki as a show still remains a grand and magnificent idea with many wonderful moments and a highly-talented cast giving it their all… yet in advance it would have been hard to believe that Marvel would have left this strange, unconventional and askew jigsaw outlier into the template sand-box. Plenty of fans will like it – and there’s much to admire amongst the nuance – but I challenge anyone outside the production to fully articulate its story, internal logic or try to balance the minute attention to detail in one scene with hand-wavery excuses in the next. It’s an example where the double-sided result proves beautifully self-indulgent to the very last, alternately over-embracing its otherness then achingly wasting that talented ensemble on the ephemeral and transient. It’s arthouse-meets-tentpole story given so much free-rein on the former that its best moments feel improvised and held together by visual effects. It’s Wes Anderson meets Star Wars, Terry Gilliam meets Groundhog Day and Picasso meets Quantum Leap. But in the end, liking its style or not, it’s also a twelve-part (nine hour?) story which could have been told far more effectively and dynamically in genuinely less a quarter of the time.
It’s been… well, different… a complex, tesseracting, tessellating mess, but sometimes a beautiful one… It’s Wes Anderson meets Star Wars, Terry Gilliam meets Groundhog Day and Picasso meets Quantum Leap. But in the end, liking its style or not, it’s also a twelve-part (nine hour?) story which could have been told far more effectively and dynamically in genuinely less a quarter of the time…
Acting-wise, Hiddleston is in his element and consistently rises to the challenge of giving his character weight and depth, managing to balance delightfully absurd technobabble with monologuing worthy of the Bard. Owen Wilson, Jonathan Majors, Sophia Di Martino also recognise the show for the showcase of their talents that it’s become. There’s imagery galore – something that the series has embraced with both hands and a stylus – and it’s hard to deny that the multiversal, multi-thread loom turning into a clear version of the legendary World Tree/Yggdrasill is worthy of the big-screen.
Some will consider this the best Marvel/Disney+ has produced, others may think it’s the worst. It’s been… well, different… a complex, tesseracting, tessellating, paradox-baiting mess, but sometimes a beautiful one. As a prologue to even more cosmic implications, Loki has its part in the tapestry. Marvel played the long game successfully with Thanos, with a regular drip-feed of clues and building blocks towards its superb Endgame. The harder reality of Loki is that anyone looking for real resolutions to the possibly huge-consequential implications of its ending, is likely to have a very long wait. Even though the ending of current theatrical release The Marvels also ties into the multiverse, the inevitable ties to Kang and the announced Secret Wars ambitions of the MCU won’t even begin to materialise for another three years and Marvel‘s road to that is already indistinct and uneven and at the whim of outside forces such as the recent strikes and Jonathan Majors’ ongoing legal problems – though, despite rumours, Loki‘s resolution does give them a quick and clear ‘out’ of their Majors/Kang problem if necessary). In this reality, such delays mean that there will be no MCU releases in 2024 (excepting the multiversal-adjacent Deadpool 3) and its Disney+ arm likely to be more street-based than cosmic).
Doctor Who once noted that ‘we’re all just stories in the end‘. In the end, Loki was diverting – frustrating and vastly over-stretched, but an ambitious story, one that was at least not like anything else out there in the MCU – and nowadays, that’s something all too rare.
- Production Design / VFX9