Fascination and Frustration with the Loki Finale

Season One of Loki has come to a close and I have lots of feelings.  My relationship with Loki has been complicated from “go.”  The first episode left me with more concerns than intrigue, wondering about the direction they were taking the MCU’s overarching narrative.  The second episode setup so much!  It got me excited!  Maybe I was wrong!  Episode three was disconcerting as it was just filler.  Then comes four-five-six and I’ve been all over the board with how this show has made me feel.  Now, with the dust only beginning to settle, I wanted to explore my at-times-surprisingly visceral reaction to the end of Loki Season One.  MASSIVE SPOILERS for the Loki finale will follow.  A mass of FEELINGS will follow as well.  So tread carefully, based your comfort level with exposure to SPOILERS and my raging feels ;D.

The finale begins with Loki (Tom Hiddleston) and Sylvie (Sophia Di Martino) standing at the citadel which exists beyond the void at the end of time.  There they meet He Who Remains (Jonathan Majors).  Before we go any further, a note on names.  The internet is calling He Who Remains, “Kang.”  I get why.  Jonathan Majors has joined the MCU to be the time travelling villain Kang the Conqueror.  But the character we meet in Loki is very clearly not Kang the Conqueror.  In fact, his whole life’s work seems built around preventing his would-be-conquering variants from doing their thing.  In the comics, Kang’s given name is Nathaniel Richards (who may be descended from Reed “Mr. Fantastic” Richards or Victor Von “Don’t Call Him ‘Mr.’” Doom in that reality).  But we don’t ever hear He Who Remains call himself “Nathanial” either.  So, while it’s more clunky than “Kang,” in the interest of narrative integrity I’m going to stick with calling the man they meet beyond the void at the end of time “He Who Remains.”

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Loki and Sylvie take the elevator with He Who Remains, up to his office. / Photo Credit – Marvel Studios’ Loki

What we learn alongside Sylvie and Loki is, while the Time-Keepers themselves were a fiction, the TVA’s mission and methods were pretty much exactly what was presented.  They have a map of how the Sacred Timeline should flow and if anything steps out of place along a reality, the TVA steps in to prune the variant causing the trouble and reset their reality (which we now know includes the creature Alioth feasting on it).  However, the reason for the TVA’s work was only a partial truth.  In the very first episode, Miss Minutes told Loki their job was to prevent, “a nexus event which, if left unchecked, could branch off into madness leading to another multiversal war.”  But what we learn in episode six is that this multiversal war has nothing to do with everyone and their choices and everything to do with the variants of He Who Remains. 

As they talk in his office, He Who Remains explains the rationale behind the birth of his cosmic control system to Loki and Sylvie:

Eons ago, before the TVA, a variant of myself lived on Earth in the 31st century.  He was a scientist and he discovered that there were universes stacked on top of his own.  At the same time, other versions of us were learning the same thing.  Naturally, they made contact and, for a while, there was peace.  Narcissistic, self-congratulatory peace.  I love your shoes.  I love your hair.  Nice nose.  Ah, thanks man.  They, they shared technology, knowledge, using the best of their universes to improve the others.  However, not every version of me was so, so pure of heart.  And to some of us, new worlds meant only one thing – new lands to be conquered.  The peace between realities erupted into all-out war, each variant fighting to preserve their universe and annihilate the others.  This was almost the end, ladies and gentlemen, of everything and everyone. [….] I weaponized Alioth and I ended, I ENDED the multiversal war.  Once I isolated our timeline, all I had to do was manage the flow of time and prevent any further branches – hence the TVA.  Hence the Time-Keepers and a highly efficient bureaucracy.  Hence ages and ages of cosmic harmonyHence, you’re welcome.  You came to kill the devil, right?  But guess what?  I keep ya safe.  And if you think I’m…evil, well just wait ‘til you meet my…variants.  Annnnnnnnd that’s the gambit.  Stifling order or cataclysmic chaos.  You may hate the dictator but something far worse is gonna fill that void if you depose him.  I’ve lived a million lifetimes.  I’ve gone through every, every scenario.  This is the only way.  The TVA, it works.

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He Who Remains explains that all of time is designed to keep his darker impulses in check. / Photo Credit – Marvel Studios’ Loki

So the ENTIRE POINT of the TVA is to keep He Who Remains’ nasty variants in line.  That’s it.  Free will doesn’t exist inside the MCU because these beings are so evil everything else has to be controlled to prevent them from getting out of line.  Because, as He Who Remains reveals, the multiversal war was a war between his variants seeking to conqueror everything else.  The universes themselves weren’t heading to war.  There is nothing inherent in the make-up of creation that lead universes to war.  It was his variants who sought to dominate and destroy so his variants must be controlled – For all time. Always.

This is certainly a fascinating introduction for a villain.  It lays so much groundwork, too.  We know the Marvel Cinematic Universe is part of a multiverse now.  There are few concepts more intriguing to me, in fiction and reality.  I think about it all the time!  Of the nine types of multiverses discussed by theoretical physicist Brian Greene in his text The Hidden Reality: Parallel Universes and the Deep Laws of the Cosmos, two would yield the type of “Multiple Me’s” we think of when we think multiverses – the Quilted Multiverse (if space goes on forever in all directions, repetition must happen which would give rise to more universes like ours) and the Quantum Multiverse (reality is a probability wave containing every possible option for a particle or particles in any given situation so every choice splits the wave, with us only seeing the decision we chose while other versions live out every possible choice).

How can you not spend forever thinking about this?!?  Of late I’ve been deeply exploring my past and wading through memories in therapy.  Reflecting on old relationships I find myself thinking, if the multiverse is real, there are plenty of Michaels who ended up with all those terrible matches that populated my twenties…and I feel bad for those guys XD.  I hope they found the courage to get divorced and find a partner with whom they can care for each other’s needs in a healthy way.  But I guess the multiverse means there are realities where I came together with those women and we were healthy and supportive partners and that makes my head spin, too.  Let’s get back to Loki

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We’ve met many new Lokis now that we’ve entered the multiverse. / Photo Credit – Marvel Studios’ Loki

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Photo Credit – Marvel Studios’ Loki

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While I liked the Vote Loki nod, this guy and his band of Lokis were all tools. / Photo Credit – Marvel Studios’ Loki

This opens the door for the MCU to tell stories through the multiverse the way the comics have for decades.  We’ve already met a whole bunch of Lokis.  What If…? is coming to Disney+ in August and those stories are legitimate universes where things went differently than they did in the MCU’s timeline.  Spider-Man: No Way Home is coming in December and unless the 4,000,000,000,000 rumors are wrong, Tobey Maguire’s Spider-Man and Andrew Garfield’s Spider-Man will be swinging alongside Tom Holland’s.  Will Deadpool be joining the MCU as a refugee from another universe?  Will Hugh Jackman’s Wolverine be coming, either as the Logan we know and love or as a new version of the character?  And what of the Scarlet Witch?!!?  In WandaVision we learned Wanda has some pretty significant reality-warping powers.  How will that come into play?  There is so much they can do.

All of this is exciting to me.  Plus, Loki has given us an incredible new cast of characters for the MCU from this new Loki variant to Sylvie to Mobius (Owen Wilson) to Hunter B-15 (Wunmi Mosaku) to Ravonna Renslayer (Gugu Mbatha-Raw) and I can’t wait to see what happens to them.  The finale ended and I just wanted to hug Loki and Sylvie!  Loki is left lost, betrayed, and terrified at what’s coming.  Sylvie has finally killed He Who Remains, as that traumatized little girl who still lives in her heart and mind sought release from millennia of pain in the only way she could imagine.  Yet that couldn’t bring true healing.  So she, too, is left shaken, devoid of purpose with all those wounds still raging within her soul.

So I will give credit where credit is due.  Loki setup a lot and I’m eager to see what they do with it.

That being said, I am REALLY FRUSTRATED with how Loki ended.  Before I vent my frustrations I want to say I do trust Kevin Feige and the writers of the MCU.  Thus far they have proven to me, again and again, they have a vision.  Again and again, I’ve been impressed by how their vision comes to fruition.  You can count on one hand with fingers left over the number of times the MCU has truly disappointed me.  So all of this may come together in a way that makes all my issues fade away.  I hope it does!  But I can’t see that path now and I’m frustrated.

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Oh Alioth, would that you consumed this finale before we had to wrestle with it’s implications. / Photo Credit – Marvel Studios’ Loki

Why am I so frustrated?  Because if what He Who Remains tells Sylvie and Loki is true – and we have every reason to believe it is, the scene feels like an honest proclamation and when Sylvie claims he’s a liar, Loki replies, “So am I.  And I don’t think he was lying.  Not about that.” – then NOTHING MATTERS

Not a single thing in the MCU matters, outside of the ending of episode six of Loki.  When He Who Remains asks Sylvie and Loki to take his place he tells them they’ve crossed the threshold, they’ve moved beyond what he can see.  He no longer knows what’s going to happen.  What Sylvie and Loki decide to do is the first free choice any character in the MCU has made.  All those discussion about how to watch the MCU?  Where do you start?!  What order should you go in?!  Start with Loki S1E6 because the rest of it DOESN’T MATTER.

And yes, I understand this episode is dropping us squarely in the middle of the “fate vs. free will” debate.  Haha, as someone who a) instinctively learned decades before therapy to let his mind endlessly deconstruct and analyze as an alternative to letting his anxiety disorder rage and b) has spent his entire adult life studying religion, I’ve spent a lot of time on the horns of this dilemma.  I can understand my own biases here, too.  I have always struggled with fate because I like control (not surprising for someone with an anxiety disorder).  Since I was in high school I’ve said I’d rather have a crappy life because I made bad choices than a brilliant life because it was written for me.

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Without choice, what are we? Does the connection Sylvie and Loki share matter if it was all just written for them? / Photo Credit – Marvel Studios’ Loki

I know this is a me thing, too.  I can recognize the beauty of karma in Hinduism and Buddhism.  I love and respect it.  A few years ago I realized it was easier to recognize the beauty of something similar to fate in other traditions while not wanting it anywhere near my own frame of the universe.  I’ve challenged myself to grow, to see if there’s room for God’s presence in my own life more than I was comfortable with.  And I’ve come to accept and even treasure the “God moments” in my own life.  I do believe God, fate, the universe, destiny – whatever name you want to give it –places certain people and experiences in our lives at specific times.  I do think things can happen “for a reason.”  But I’ve always seen my own choice existing alongside that.  God may weave my life together with someone else’s at a particular time because we can learn so much from each other…but we each must choose to connect.

So even with a sort of fate, choice remains.  Whether we’re talking about karma, where everything that happens to us is a result of our past choices and our future lives are shaped by the choices we make in the present, or the sort of “everything happens for a reason” fate we associate with a more Christian approach to God, choice remains.  That results in a relationship with the Divine, one in which we choose how to respond to the world around us.  However much is chance or plan remains to be seen, but our choices remain.

Given my own issues with control I’ve always bristled at everything happening for a reason.  However, even those who most strictly adhere to “everything happens for a reason” don’t traditionally mean everything.  For example, you may invoke that when celebrating a joyous occasion or wrestling with a very painful loss but I’ve yet to meet anyone who would say I just mistyped “occasion” and “mistyped” in the last sentence because God was controlling my fingers on the keyboard.  That makes us puppets, not people.

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As Bob Dylan sings on “John Brown,” “I couldn’t help but think, through the thunder rolling and stink / That I was just a puppet in a play.” / Photo Credit – Marvel Studios’ Loki

BUT THIS IS NOT HOW THE MCU WORKS.  He Who Remains makes this abundantly clear to Sylvie and Loki.  They think they are free…but that’s not the case.  

Sylvie – “No.  No, we broke out of your little game.  That’s how we got here.”

He Who Remains – “No, wrong.  Every step you took to get here – Lamentis, the Void – I paved the road.  You?  You just walked down it.  And I have the rest right here.  Everything that’s going to happen.  There’s only one way this can go.”

Sylvie – “Then why are we here?

He Who Remains – “Oh, c’mon.  You know you can’t get to the end ‘til you’ve been changed by the journey.  This stuff, it needs to happen, to get us all in the right mindset to finish the quest.”

Loki – “Right.”

He Who Remains – “Right.”

Loki – “Right.  So it’s all a game, a manipulation.”

He Who Remains – “Interesting that your head would go to that.”

Every step you took to get here, I paved the road.  You just walked down it.  And I have the rest right here.  Everything that’s going to happen.  There’s only one way this can go.  EVERYTHING they did was part of his plan, the script He Who Remains has written for how life should play out.  Loki, fairly I’d say, calls it all a game, a manipulation.

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Can you even imagine what type of issues/demons you’d have to have to bend ALL OF THE MULTIVERSE into a cage for the evil versions of yourself?? / Photo Credit – Marvel Studios’ Loki

Every single facet of life is monitored by He Who Remains’ TVA, too!  As Miss Minutes says in the video Loki saw in the first episode, “Now the Time-Keepers protect and preserve the proper flow of time for everyone and everything.  But sometimes people like you veer off the path the Time-Keepers created […] Maybe you started an uprising, or were just late for work.”  The proper flow of time deals with everything from regime changes to when you get to work and if there are any deviations from the plan, you’re pruned and an entire timeline is fed to Alioth.  So there is no choice in He Who Remains’ plan, not in any of the traditional ways we often see around the ideas of fate, because if you choose differently, you’re pruned.  So it’s “the proper flow of time” or death to an entire universe.

Which brings us back to the point I was wrestling with in my first post about Loki, after the very first episode.  EVERY SINGLE MOMENT that we’ve cheered for or been touched by or moved to tears over in the MCU’s decade-plus existence is now retconned into having happened because He Who Remains wrote that plot line.

Tony Stark shutting down the arms manufacturing division of Stark Enterprises?

Peggy Carter and Steve Rogers talking about that dance as he plunged the Hydra aircraft into the ice?

Natasha helping Clint come to terms with the world of gods and monster they now exist in?

Just everything beautiful about the ending of Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2?

T’Challa’s triumphant return when he tells N’Jadaka, “I never yielded and as you can see I am not dead”?

Carol telling the Supreme Intelligence, “You’re right, I’m only human” as she gets back up?

Tony’s 1-in-14,000,605 snap to save everything?

Wanda sacrificing her world to face her losses head on?

Sam taking up the shield and the mantle of Captain America?

Natasha [REDACTED AS EVERYONE HASN’T SEEN Black Widow YET]?

If all of these moments didn’t happen exactly as they did, then the TVA would have pruned the timeline.  So we haven’t been celebrating the growth and development of all these characters over the course of twenty-four movies and two Disney+ series because they only did what He Who Remains wrote or they would have been destroyed.  These outcomes, these moments, are the only ones He Who Remains would have allowed.

That pisses me off.  In fact, I feel kinda betrayed about all this.  I feel like Marvel sacrificed everything that happened in their first three phases to setup an exciting Phase Four and I am not fucking ok with any of that.

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I, too, share Sylvie’s rage and sense of betrayal. / Photo Credit – Marvel Studios’ Loki

I don’t care how scary a villain Kang the Conqueror may prove.  I don’t care that Sylvie, Loki, Mobius, Hunter B-15, and maybe even Doctor Strange and Wanda will have to fight to finally get free will for everyone.  I don’t.  I don’t care at all.  Or, rather, I don’t care as much about the future stories they’re setting up as I do about the ones they robbed of any dramatic tension or organic character growth.

This isn’t even getting into how little of this makes sense.  The main MCU timeline wasn’t pruned, right?  So that means everything we’ve seen was what was supposed to happen, right?  So that means the plan He Who Remains wrote requires any existing timeline which proceeds to also have a timeline destroyed and another corrupted.  Think of how Avengers: Endgame played out.  The Avengers kill Thanos.  A Thanos from 2014 comes to 2023 to fight the assembled Avengers.  He and his 2014 Nebula and Black Order die in that 2023.  So the timeline they came from loses a Thanos, Nebula, Gamora, and Black Order.  Naturally, it’d have to be pruned.  And the 2014 Gamora is then free to roam around the 2023 she finds herself in.  So for a timeline to exist it requires another timeline to die and a variant Gamora to walk around in it.  Plus, Steve goes back to be with Peggy which creates its own variant timeline which has to be allowed to exist because Steve comes back after living his life with Peggy to give Sam the shield and mantle of Captain America.

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So THIS is ok. Being late for work, you get pruned and your timeline is fed to Alioth…but THIS is totally fine? / Photo Credit Marvel Studios’ Avengers: Endgame

What sort of plan is that??  How does that make ANY sense??

Even episode six of Loki doesn’t seem to make much sense.  He Who Remains tells Sylvie and Loki he’s not going to fight them nor prune them.  Rather, he’s offering them his job: 

He Who Remains – “There’s two options.  You kill me, destroy all this, and you don’t just have one devil, you have an infinite amount.  Ooooor, you two, you two run the thing.”

Loki – “You’re lying.  Why would you give up being in control?”

He Who Remains – “[pause] Buddy, I’m tired.  And I’m older, I’m older than I look.  This game is for the young, the hungry.  I’ve gone through a lot of scenarios, tryin’ the find the right person to take this spot, and it turns out that person came in two.  But it’s definitely you two.  So, no more lies.  You kill me and the Sacred Timeline is completely exposed, multiversal war, or you take over and return to the TVA as its benevolent rulers, tell the workforce who they are and why they do what they do.”

We see the Sacred Timeline beginning to diverge outside He Who Remains’ citadel as Loki and Sylvie deliberate what to do.  But how are timelines branching at the end of time?  How does their not making an immediate choice ripple back through time?  Wouldn’t the TVA keep doing their job until a different choice is made?  AND how does the perfect plan He Who Remains wrote for all of time require not one but TWO variants to do the exact opposite of everything that we are told keeps his Kang the Conqueror variants in check?!!?

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Sylvie and Loki debate He Who Remains’ offer. / Photo Credit – Marvel Studios’ Loki

There are so many glaring contradictions right now.  Plus, the story that sets up these contradictions also invalidates every moment of choice or growth we’ve seen the characters we know and love go through since 2008.  HOW CAN I BE OK WITH THIS??  I’ve sat in a darkened theatre for every Marvel movie’s opening night (save Ant-Man as it was Dad’s birthday and it was, well, Ant-Man, so David and I went that Sunday) and I’ve watched these show religiously and I’ve immersed myself in this universe…but all I was doing was reading He Who Remains’ play?  Fuck that.  No, thank you.

As I lamented this for several hours with Jeff on the phone yesterday, he said he felt this was exactly what the show was supposed to make me feel.  This frustration, this rage, this sense of betrayal, he theorized, was the point.  I can see that.  The “fate vs. free will” thing can be maddening.  And the amount of anger I feel at how the finale came together clearly points to a well-executed story.  I couldn’t be this pissed if I didn’t care and wasn’t affected by it.  The opposite of love, after all, isn’t hate.  It’s apathy.

And that, I realized as I talked to Jeff, is what I’m really scared of.  I’m scared of not caring.  I’m scared of the MCU becoming to me what Star Wars has.  I haven’t written about Star Wars in over a year and a half because I just don’t have anything to say.  Don’t get me wrong!  I love and will always love the Original Trilogy, the Prequel Trilogy, and all the Expanded Universe novels and comics I have.  But what has frustrated me again and again and again with the new Disney Canon is how so many of the stories contradict themselvesThe Rise of Skywalker directly contradicted The Last Jedi which directly contradicted The Force AwakensThe Last Jedi contradicts its own lead-up material by presenting a Captain Phasma who was the exact opposite of the character we met in Delilah Dawson’s Phasma novel and Kelly Thompson’s Captain Phasma comic.  What The Bad Batch is doing with Kanan’s character directly contradicts what they did with him in Greg Weisman’s Kanan: The Last Padawan comic.  Chuck Wendig’s vision of the Wookie homeworld Kashyyyk in Aftermath: Life Debt completely contradicts what we see in Gerry Duggan’s Chewbacca comic.  Sadly, this is far from an exhaustive list.  And these are all stories written within a few years of each other!

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I feel as though I am being dragged along by the whims of creators without even the stories that came before to add any sort of a solid foundation anymore. / Photo Credit – Marvel Studios’ Loki

So while I have found plenty of incredible stories in the new Disney Canon of Star Wars (Claudia Grey’s Master & Apprentice, E.K. Johnston’s Queen’s Shadow, and Cavan Scott’s Dooku: Jedi Lost come immediately to mind), it’s hard to care in the way I once did as I know any story – from a little comic to a massive movie – can be undercut by the next Star Wars story to come out.  I still read and enjoy Star Wars from time to time but, for someone who can’t help but dive fully into these worlds, I can’t care as I once did because I see the people making the stories don’t care about what’s come before.  I don’t hate Star Wars.  I never could!  I’m just…ambivalent about the new stuff.  I approach it as I would anything else I casually enjoy.

And I am so, so scared that Loki is laying the groundwork for my relationship with the MCU to go the same way :/.

I grant this is a personal thing, but if you want me to care I need to know the stories I am investing my heart and mind in matter.  I’m not saying there can never be contradictions.  Of course those happen!  But I need to see the stories I’m investing myself in can’t just be thrown away at the whim of the next “cool idea” to pop up in the writer’s room.  And you can’t hit me with an “it’s just fun!” or “don’t overthink it!” as a rationale for sloppy tie-ins.  Don’t ask me to compromise my preferences because your creative vision has become too big to successfully handle everything.

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At this point Sylvie, I’m with you. No retreat. No surrender. We deserve better. / Photo Credit – Marvel Studios’ Loki

As I said above, I’ve no reason not to trust the plan Kevin Feige and the Marvel writers have in store.  And I hope that trust is rewarded.  But, for now, if I could talk to the MCU writers, I’d find myself echoing Sylvie’s pained words to Loki at the end of this finale, “Why aren’t we seeing this the same way?”

I’m intrigued to see what everyone else thinks. Am I the only one wrapped in this existential angst?!? Or do others have problems with how Loki went down, too?

14 thoughts on “Fascination and Frustration with the Loki Finale

  1. Well thought, however, I think you might be missing a key detail. One of the things I have realized by watching this final episode is similar to yours, but leaves an unending question. You see, those moments we’ve loved throughout the films, if taken in the construct of how this show has been created, I can see your point and agree. But, alternatively, you could also make the case that everything that happened in this episode has now erased our initial view and love of the current timeline. They are kind of playing off Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. here. Our current Loki and Sylvie were plucked from the timeline (our sacred love with everything that happens) right after the Battle of New York. Therefore, if they have killed He Who Remains (Kang the Conquer) at this juncture, then it’s safe to say that everything with the Phase 1-3 films didn’t happen.

    I’m excited to see where this goes next, but I think it will end with the MCU returning back to normal after Phase 4. We have the Eternals coming, Dr. Strange, and more to help nudge the timeline back to what it was. Think of it like a chiropractor – they don’t automatically fix your spine into alignment with one session, it takes multiple sessions to slowly push the spine back into alignment. I think that is where the MCU is heading – slow, methodical adjustments, back to the original sacred timeline leading to an overreaching villain who was pulling Kang’s strings all along in Mephisto.

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    1. I like the idea of nudging the MCU back to where it was at the start. And the idea of a big battle across the multiverse to restore free will and reintegrate those choices would be interesting to see. But I don’t know that the idea of our MCU not happening or existing anymore fits with what we’ve seen.

      The only reason the Loki variant this series follows ends up with He Who Remains was because he got the Tesseract and escaped after the Battle of New York. The only reason Loki got the Tesseract is because Tony had come back in time in ‘Avengers: Endgame’ to bring it back to the present and lost it when the Hulk smashed out of the doorway. So if ‘Endgame’ didn’t happen Loki couldn’t’ve absconded with the Tesseract. So our events in the main MCU have to have happened as they happened or that Loki would never have arrived at the TVA.

      Sylvie, too, seems to be completely disconnected from the time and place of the Battle of New York. As she and Loki prepare to enter the citadel at the end of time she tells him, ” I was pruned before you even existed. I have been preparing for this moment my entire life.” So she would appear to be millennia older than Loki. And they were captured by the TVA on Lamentis in that universe’s 2077.

      But all that aside, I am excited to see where it goes next. I’m frustrated and I worry they’ve bitten off more than they can chew, but I’m still hopeful. There are ways they can save it and I think the idea of free will existing, being lost, and then fought for once more is an intriguing setup. I do wonder when we’ll see Mephisto, too!

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  2. I really need to watch the last two Avengers movies . . .

    Anyway, I was also philosophically unimpressed by the last episode. I found it particularly odd it implies that not having free will is the “correct” choice. Since Loki and Sylvie were given the option of killing He Who Remains and unleashing Kang to kill everyone (or whatever we’re afraid of) or of taking his place, and killing him was apparently the “wrong” choice and now everyone is freaking out about it . . . that suggests Loki and Sylvie should have continued pruning Variants and writing time. Which is disturbing.

    I’d like to think there was a third choice that wasn’t considered, but He Who Remains seemed pretty certain there was no other choice, and it appears as if we’re supposed to believe he was telling the truth about things. So I guess I have to go with the comment above and assume that Kang will be defeated and all the time reset properly, and maybe that indirectly makes unleashing Kang the “right” choice because all the chaos and death ultimately leading to free will is better than not having free will??

    I also just have a lot of questions about He Who Remains in general, and I’m not sure if they weren’t addressed or I wasn’t paying attention.. Like why killing him allows other universes to branch off. Or why he came to the end of time and things he knew.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I agree, the idea that free will is “bad” makes me very uncomfortable. It feels like the exact opposite of what we know in our heart to be true and it seems to fly in the face of all their other stories, too.

      And YES – I have so many questions about He Who Remains! There’s so much that doesn’t make sense! To go along with your questions, one of the things the show did tell us was He Who Remains was human…right? Didn’t he tell Sylvie and Loki he was just “flesh and blood” and just “a man”? So how does all you reference happen from the death of a human? And how does he find himself in the place akin to where we’d imagine a God-like being in the first place? He doesn’t seem to have powers outside of being super smart. It is so frustrating and it’s not because we weren’t paying attention.

      Just this morning I read an article on Inverse (https://www.inverse.com/entertainment/loki-episode-6-review-star-wars-rise-of-skywalker) which explains, “Immediately following the release of Loki Episode 6, multiple articles were published on Marvel.com….[revealing] details that were completely absent from the episodes themselves. Considering the timing of their publication, it’s almost like the studio is using its own blog to fill in some important blind spots the show couldn’t cover….The problem isn’t the message; it’s the medium. If Star Wars and Marvel have a key detail to share about the plot of a story, it’s important to do that in the actual story — not in an article or book that only super-fans will ever read.” Now I’ve not read any of those articles myself so I don’t know if they answer any of our questions (and I guess I’m not a super fan XD). But I AM frustrated by this approach all the same.

      On your point of unleashing Kang being the “right” thing to do, I had a conversation just yesterday with a friend who theorized that the multiversal war He Who Remains fears hasn’t happened yet, at least as far as our main MCU timeline goes. If his variant who found the multiverse did so in the 31st century maybe we’ve not seen that and maybe what he did to try and prevent the war ends up causing it. So maybe the battle ahead is, as you say, about how having free will is better than not and worth fighting for. I don’t know but it was an interesting angle.

      I really do love to speculate. It’s a lot of fun for me. But I love it when I feel there’s a planned out ending that makes sense that I’m speculating towards. And while Marvel normally does this very well, the end of Loki S1 left me worried it may not be the case. Also, a certain amount of questions I can get behind. Like I said, that’s part of the fun! But when they leave me with a hundred zillion questions and a “Come back for Season Two and probably watch Dr. Strange 2 as well!!!” I get annoyed by that. I don’t enjoy stories that are only/primarily the means to setting up another story they want me to buy.

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      1. Exactly! If He Who Remains is human, then I want to know the details about how he came into this position of power and how his death made all the branches. Shouldn’t there have been branches from the point he didn’t know what was happening next simply because the TVA wouldn’t know what was the “correct” timeline and what they should prune? Also, how was he going to “pass on” his power to Loki and Sylvie? Or is there no “power” beyond telling the TVA what to prune?

        Yes, I was also thinking about the fact he said he was from the 31st century and how that worked in the timeline of the movie since nothing he was talking about would have happened yet.

        I was annoyed the ending was such a big cliffhanger, as well. I actually didn’t realize there was going to be a second season, and then that season isn’t going to be released for 2 years, so all this is just sitting around unresolved.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. TWO YEARS??? BRIANA…TWO YEARS?!!? I had no idea!!! We’re not going to see how all this resolves itself FOR TWO YEARS???? How am I supposed to wait that long?!? And I say that as a Doctor Who fan who’s used to a year or more between seasons. Marvel…what are you doing to us?? Cut us a break here.

        And YES to everything you’ve said about He Who Remains. There should be no branches past the end of time. It should have branched from the moment he didn’t know. And I don’t think he has any power at all!!! At least I didn’t see any evidence of his power in the show.

        I’ve actually been reading a lot of “classic” Kang comics since this aired to try and get a feel for the character. I’ve learned a) he has no powers outside of being super smart and having “future technology” no one in the present can “ever understand” and b) he’s routinely beaten by 4-6 Avengers. Also, he seems interested in just conquering planets at various points in time and he doesn’t seem to care at all about multiversal war (save trying to kill other hims to establish his own supremacy). Soooooo I guess they are really amping him up in the MCU to make him “the next Thanos”?

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  3. I was reading your post nodding my head and going don’t forget about good old Steve, don’t forget and there it was 🙂

    I thought a lot of these questions might come up for me when they started unmasking characters as Skrulls in Secret Invasion. But here we are early! Marvel is definitely trying to have it’s cake and eat it to with many of the things presented in Loki. Like you said trust in Marvel but it’s really hard to see where this is going.

    All we have to go on are a million rumors about Spider-Man, Doctor Strange 2 (thankfully) still under wraps, Kang not scheduled to show up until… Ant-Man and a season 2 of Loki…at some point in time. It will be interesting to see if they can continue with the connective tissue or if Marvel itself fractures.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That’s it! That’s the perfect way to put it. Can Marvel continue with their connective tissue or will it all fracture? It feels very much like they’re teetering on the edge. We have a decade of great stories but all it takes are a few overly complicated and poorly thought out story beats to get themselves in way over their heads and then everything begins falling apart.

      For example, I love Scott and Hope but, from what we’ve been told so far, doesn’t Kang seem a bit above Ant-Man and the Wasp’s ability to handle alone? I found it odd that Kang was showing up there first to begin with now I’m really confused.

      And YAY for great minds thinking alike with Steve! Go us!

      Also I literally didn’t even think of characters being unmasked as Skrulls affecting my experience of the MCU stories until right now! Aaaaaagggghh!!! But thank you Gemma, for putting this idea in my mind as now I can begin to emotionally prep for it because YIKES. That may hit pretty hard, too :8.

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  4. I think the main point for me (and we’ve talked about this already) is what you so perfectly captured above; in just 6 short episodes of a TV show, the MCU basically threw out the entirety of their first three phases, their golden goose, the thing that gave them ALL the money, just to set up a “potentially terrifying” new super villain/villains for their new phase.
    I will admit, after End Game, I just didn’t believe that I would be AS invested in these new characters and this new phase as I was in everything that has come before it. I was skeptical. Then we got WandaVision and even though I was in the minority in thinking it was OKAY until the last couple episodes, I still felt VERY intrigued and hopeful for this phase 4 setup. Then we got Captain America and Winter Soldier, and I was even more invested. Then we got all the rumors about Spider-man exploring the multiverse for the new movie coming out this year. Then Dr. Strange, and Thor and it all started to line up and really get me excited. But now I am just overwhelmingly disappointed. I know they had a VERY large hole to dig out of for these new phases. Thanos would absolutely be VERY difficult to top in multiple ways. But I had faith that their storytelling would successfully and appropriately build up to that point. What we got with Loki was a half-assed “scrap it” attempt to distance themselves from a successful franchise while still banking on the fanbase for it.

    It’s like we discussed before. It felt very lazy. Like they threw some stuff against the wall and ran with the first thing that stuck. I am SURE they will redeem themselves with season two and the movies all coming out shortly but right now I’m still very disappointed.

    Also I agree with Briana, I’d love to know more about Kang/He Who Remains. I’m hoping to eventually run into his storyline(s) in my comic reading 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. As I was reading your comment I was thinking…Marvel already had the roadmap. You’re right – they had a hugely successful franchise! They had the golden goose! They had ALL the money!
      They got all that money through telling a story where we didn’t even see Thanos until a two second mid-credit scene in ‘The Avengers’ as Phase One came to an end. Then we didn’t hear him until ‘Guardians Of The Galaxy’ and they didn’t face off against him until ‘Infinity War’/’Endgame.’ Why wouldn’t they stick what works? Give us a bunch of interesting, eclectic, scary-in-their-own-right-but-not-as-big-as-Thanos villains until they laid the groundwork and/or figured out who their next big big bad was going to be?

      As you said it was lazy and frustrating and disappointing. It wasn’t just a bad villain in one show. It setups a really awkward next phase (or more) in the MCU. I like how you’ve framed this, too. You were skeptical about your emotional investment going into this next generation of the MCU. But then they hooked you! You were super excited! I know they had me imagining an Avengers with Sam as Captain America and the Scarlet Witch and Captain Marvel and Jane as Thor and Spider-Man and the Winter Soldier and I couldn’t wait to see them suiting up for the first time together! So it feels upsetting and jarring to be sitting here.

      As to the Kang comics I MAY’VE been spending part of my day doing research into some classic Kang comic stories yesterday…so ideas will be flowing soon :).

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  5. Hm, I guess I read the last episode completely differently! Or maybe the distinction I have in my head is one that isn’t really a distinction. While the show does suggest that free will didn’t exist previously, and now Loki has the option of giving it back, I think there could be an argument that there WAS always free will–He Who Remains just kept nipping certain choices in the bud. But does that mean the choices he left WEREN’T free? That is, if Captain America makes choice A on the timeline, and He Who Remains likes it, it gets to stay. But if Captain America makes choices B, and He Who Remains does not like it for some reason, the timeline gets pruned. But…Captain America still made choice A; He Who Remains didn’t force him to do it. He Who Remains just…allows certain choices and not others. So, I think the choices were still free, but He Who Remains was on a power trip about what got to stay and what had to go. I don’t know. Is that a meaningful distinction? It feels like one to me!

    I also think the idea of free will is supposed to be deliberately scary, as is mentioned in the comments because, well, free will can be scary, right? It’s a big responsibility to make choices that have consequences! But this is something Loki has been grappling with for awhile. Previously, Loki kept trying to rule others because he wanted to make it “easy” for them by becoming their dictator. In this show, he finally realizes that, yes, free will might be scary and MIGHT lead to terrible things, but he has to fight with himself (er, literally) over the question of whether the having free will is important enough to risk bad things happening.

    That being said, I’m not sure all the previous time travel that happened in the films makes sense in light of all the revelations of the TVA. But…I think the comics have historically been like that, too, with later stories contradicting earlier ones and then decades passing before someone tried to fix it all again? Maybe the plot holes are just all part of the process. Or maybe we weren’t supposed to think too hard about it.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It’s probably both! But one of the differences between the comics and the MCU (one that fascinates me and I think will come into play more as we go forward) is no one ever presumed anyone was reading EVERY Marvel comic but the MCU’s narrative is always toting its interconnected nature and the less of it you see the harder it becomes to follow along. I think, while this may be an unfair presumption, that makes these overarching issues a little more pressing. The comics are a constant process of retcon and retooling. It is one of the more intriguing parts of the medium! I don’t think there’s another sort of story like it in our culture – the same characters in new stories month after month for decades (some for over eighty years!) without really aging much. But I started reading Spider-Man (for example) in the mid-80s. I only learned of his backstory as I went and, until recently, there was no easy way for me to read his original stuff. I was decades into my Spider-Fan life before I ever read anything by Stan Lee. So I saw the past through the lens of the present. The MCU feels like it’s trying to do both – tweak it as it goes along while making alllllllll the old movies and shows prerequisites for fully understanding the newest one.

      So I wonder – and worry! – if the MCU is heading down a dangerous road where people may find themselves tagging out because now, like the comics, it feels too confusing.

      I think you’re absolutely right about the free will, too. It *does* exist in the MCU…but any choice that He Who Remains doesn’t approve gets pruned. So I think (at least what I’d say I was thinking when I wrote the above piece in a veeeeeeeeeeeery emotionally reactive place XD) if any choice saved the “approved” one gets pruned then it isn’t really free because only approved choices get to move ahead. But I love your idea of the difference being important! From your comment it would seem you see more importance there than I do and I’d love to be able to see that, too! So, for real, if you can help get me there I’ll take it :D.

      I absolutely love what you’ve said about Loki’s character arc. I didn’t even see that through my frustrations with the larger plot. And I do think it’s so important! It’s particularly interesting, I think, it happens so (relatively) quickly to post-Battle of New York Loki and not the one we’ve already watched grow. I think that adds something to the intensity of the character journey there. But I still wish they could’ve given us this development in a different way.

      Also, I appreciate your pointing it out SO MUCH because it’s something I can look to this show and hang on to as a positive…outside of kinda loving the chemistry Loki had with himself?!? Still, I can relate. A Buzzfeed quiz did once tell me Black Widow was the Avenger I was while another Buzzfeed quiz also told me Black Widow was my Avengers Soul Mate so I guess I can sympathize with Loki on falling in love with yourself…

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      1. I think this show is something I continue to grapple with because it’s just so unresolved. I, too, had the question the first comment addresses about whether the season ending would mean other MCU films now didn’t happen.” But I don’t know. Maybe the next season or another movie will have everything reset so it did. Or maybe it did happen as you pointed out since that’s how Loki got the Tesseract in the first place. But that just makes my brain hurt because then wouldn’t Loki leaving then cause the Tesseract to not come back to him so he couldn’t leave in the first place??? Time travel confuses me.

        And then I feel like the question of how the show wants to depict free will is also unresolved. The show actually evaded having Loki made a final choice on that. We saw him arguing against the multiverse because he’s afraid of a multiversal war and, well, that seems reasonable to me! Maybe he would have come around to Sylvie’s side in the end and decided that free will is more important than avoiding a war. We don’t know. But I can’t really fault him for wanting to think through the gigantic repercussions of the choice they were making before they made it.

        So, for me, the question of whether the show wants to make free will look like the wrong choice is still up in the air. All we got was Loki being pushed aside so Sylvie could make the choice for him, and now he’s going to be too busy dealing with the repercussions to keep thinking on that philosophical point. Because it’s a moot point, apparently. For now.

        I do think you may be right about the MCU being different from the comics, though. While I would like to think that people can jump in at any point, that doesn’t feel completely true. When I watched Loki, I actually had to go read a Wiki article about his whole character arc because I’d forgotten and didn’t know what time this was or what was happening or if Loki was “good” or “bad” at the moment. I don’t really want to have to do that for every new show or film, but maybe I will have to.

        I’m torn on the Loki chemistry. It makes sense, but it’s also…a bit weird?

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