Being a huge Marvel fan is my nerdiest trait. You should have seen me analyzing movies about the Marvel superheroes for hours, pulling up screenshots from comics to support arguments (from a gallery that was overflowing with comic book content and not a single picture of my best friends), and crying my eyes out at Tony Stark’s sacrifice. Yes, I was a tough case of a nerd. That is, until Marvel ruined everything.
Whether it was intentional or not, the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) since the release of became much campier and not in a quirky, arthouse way. Perhaps the creators realized that they had already raised one generation of fans and with the second phase needed to cater to a much younger audience, so the movies started focusing more on the legacy of our favorite superheroes, introducing new characters all the time and making the storylines less emotionally heavy and more visually stunning. Dr. Strange: The Multiverse of Madness was my last straw with the MCU because of that star-shaped portal the new protagonist, America (of all names), would move through space with … I realized that the MCU no longer had anything to offer because, sadly, I was no longer a CGI-impressionable kid.
Yet, as I revisited some of my favorite movies for phase one, I realized that maybe I was never impressed by the CGI alone. There was a substance to these movies that went beyond the visuals and the latest filming technologies showcased in the action sequences. There was social commentary and bold interpretations of the source comic books. There was a mature, sometimes even traumatizing, element to the storylines and the filmmakers did not shy away from an emotional scene. Most of all, the connections between characters and universes were genuine, even the Stan Lee cameos were real and always tastefully done. So, indeed, the MCU had just gotten worse, but I remained the same Marvel nerd.
When they announced that there would be a show about Loki, my all-time favorite Marvel character, I was skeptical about how they would add more to his story. I had already mourned his death enough times, and I was definitely not looking forward to doing that again. But season 1 was far from disappointing: it featured all of the elements of the original MCU movies and more – it had that, now-famous, female gaze touch. It had plenty of fanservice sequences, lots of punchy references to the comic books, and much-appreciated trauma and tragedy that keep you on the edge of your seat. Yes, it still featured the with-the-power-of-love-and-friendship nonsense, but it was definitely not overflowing with it and was not in the face.
This is why when I started watching the newly released second season of the show, I was disappointed. The first three episodes had more of the campy energy that the phase two movies have than the tone of the Marvel movies and series I love. It was weirdly-paced and the elements of surprise lacked any surprise. I could even predict, word for word, the dialogue of most scenes. Predictable, unimaginative, and stale. Tom Hiddleston and Owen Wilson carried the show on their backs with some of the best acting, though. I am grateful I stuck through because, from episode four onwards, it all started making sense. The last three episodes of the season were some of the most emotionally intense scenes in the whole of the MCU. Bonus points for making the show extra science fiction-y with some real science and some cute science gibberish about time travel propelling the story forward.
Throughout this season alone, Loki went through quite the transformation from a quirky, mischievous Norse god to a very relatable, lonely, and emotionally exhausted character. In the last few episodes, he was more honest with himself and with others than he has ever been, even in the stories from the original Norse mythology. The profound revelations about what freedom means were the true punch to the gut though. The focus of episodes four and five was definitely the conversations between Loki and one of his alter-egos (or variants, in the lingo of the show), Sylvie, who had a very different understanding of the meaning of free will. While Loki’s choice would have been to try to restore order (which was very out of character compared to his original persona in the MCU and the myths both) to save the lives of millions of people but force them into submission to a singular predetermined path of life, Sylvie wanted to let ultimate disorder reign if it meant all people would be able to make life-altering choices on their own. The resolution of this conflict is also the culmination of the show in episode 6, when Loki gives up not only his personal desires and beliefs, but strips himself of his whole identity. With a clever wink to one of the best comic books ever, Loki: Agent of Asgard (see, I still got it!), Loki takes it upon himself to sustain life across the multiverse but also allows for every storyline to branch out with every decision we make or avoid, thus becoming the God of Stories.
In the end, Loki did not die. However, I could never imagine a more painful way to end his story than this: alone, stranded, and burdened with all of our choices and glorious purposes at the end of time. And this certainly seems like the end of all Loki stories because there really is no way for him to make a return without ultimately dooming the entire Marvel Multiverse.
It has been over a week since the show's culmination, but I am still living in that vacuum of heavy emotions the last episode created for all Loki die-hard fans. While I still hope to see him return with a grand entrance and much pomp and circumstance, I am also content with Loki having found the throne he deserves and redefining himself, all in service to “all of us”, as he says at the end. The tragedy of Loki’s character arc transformed from modernistic to Shakespearean. I think Tom Hiddleston himself would not have it any other way, so who am I to wish a different fate for the God of Stories?
Yana Peeva is Senior Columns Editor. Email them at firstname.lastname@example.org