The first season of Disney’s latest Marvel series, Loki, has ended with a bang. Not only did we learn that the Time Variance Authority (or TVA) would be coming back for season two, but it also introduced a major villain for the Marvel Cinematic Universe. But did Loki stand on its own? We’re here to find out.
io9's Beth Elderkin is joined by Jill Pantozzi, Charles Pulliam-Moore, Germain Lussier, and James Whitbrook to chat about the first season of Loki, starring Tom Hiddleston and Sophia Di Martino. Topics include the season finale reveal, Alligator Loki, and why Sylvie deserved more than a simple revenge plan. Warning for full spoilers through the season one finale, “For All Time. Always.”
Beth Elderkin: Welcome to io9's Time Variance Authority. For All Time. Always.
Jill Pantozzi: Hail, Beebo. Oh wait, wrong show…
James Whitbrook: Blessed be the sacred timeline, and all the future content it may or may not contain.
Charles Pulliam-Moore: *Cursed timeline.
Beth: We’ve all had a day to digest the season one finale of Loki, “For All Time. Always.” But looking back, what were your very first reactions to Kang’s big reveal? Surprised? Disappointed? Something else?
James: I think so far my feelings are more that I like Kang the idea, moreso than Kang the execution. At this point. And that’s not on Jonathan Majors, particularly, who was very charismatic and made an episode that was 90% a standalone conversation engaging to watch and sit with, but... I also just wish he and what he’s leading to weren’t the be-all-and-end all focus of this specific journey for Loki and Sylvie. But Kang the idea? Kang’s cool! He’s Kang. Love Kang. Fun to say. Kang!
Germain Lussier: I was both excited and also… unsurprised? James covered this in his recap but Marvel always tries to be so secretive about new casting and stuff but that news gets out. And leaks and rumors get out. And sometimes they’re true, often they’re not, but you have that seed planted in the back of your head. So when he appeared I was like “Oh, that’s cool” but also “Oh, yeah I heard this might happen.” Now, that said, I thought he was INCREDIBLE and I loved his intense, goofy choices in the performance so I think it’s genius casting. but as like, a big reveal? On the fence.
Charles: As much Rick and Morty energy as Loki had throughout its season, the show also had a distinct Wizard of Oz vibe to it that got more pronounced as Loki and Sylvie teamed up and began to share their suspicions about the TVA with one another. Kang is this show’s Wizard, in a sense, hiding behind contraptions to hide his real status and involvement in the TVA, and his reveal in this last episode was very... fitting, I guess. Fitting in that the reveal ended up being sort of kooky and like a “you see, it was me all along” kind of deal. I can’t say that I was particularly satisfied by it, though, because as soon as he pops up and monologues, he’s just, you know, gone.
Beth: My biggest issue was how much it was a “tell, don’t show” situation. Majors was great, as James said, but there’s only so long you can watch someone talk at our two lead characters before it becomes a chore. I wish we’d had something more visually engaging than futuristic mud on a desk. Maybe have Sylvie try to enchant him, and see his story instead of being told it, but know deep down he’s so powerful he could still be tricking her.
Germain: Strong Matrix Reloaded energy.
Jill: I was actually surprised by his appearance here, I didn’t think they were going to bring him in so early. My main theory was that it would be another Loki.
Germain: By the way, I know we know it’s Kang, but outside of him saying “The Conquerer” he’s never named that right? In the credits it’s “He Who Remains.”
Beth: We need Kirk to come out of the rafters and yell, “KAAAAANG!”
Charles: That collar and smock situation he was wearing said “Kang.”
James: He’s He Who Remains, who is, technically, Immortus, who is, technically, a future version of Kang, who is, tech—brains self over the head with a pile of comic books.
Jill: As our pedantic readers noted, he’s the Immortus version of Kang. So…Kang.
Beth: This whole episode felt like it was designed for the next phase of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Which, OK, fine. But, did it come at a cost to this show’s narrative? Are you satisfied with season one overall?
Jill: That was the worst part of the show for me.
Germain: I think this, again, was a larger Marvel problem and not only the show’s problem. If we’d known going in this was a season finale and not a series finale, as we all expected it might be, we may have had more of an open mind to “Oh, there’s still so much left that has been set up this season, can’t wait until next year.” Because now that we know there’s a season two, I’m OK with the fact that, yes, this finale was more a set up for the MCU at large rather than close to season one of Loki. There’s more coming. But in the moment and just looking at it on its own, pre-end-credits reveal, I was frustrated that so many things were still left on the table.
James: Yeah, I’m inclined to agree, Germain. It’s hard to say that I’m satisfied with this season as-is, because, for better or worse, we now know that this is not the end of Loki’s (and Sylvie, and Mobius, and B-15, and so on and so on’s) journey. So on the one hand, I’m glad that we’re still in what feels like Marvel Studio’s favorite state of being—that promise of future potentiality—because it takes a little of the sting out of the fact that all the momentum that was built up in Sylvie and Loki’s arcs, and their reflections on themselves, just sort of hit a pause to let the larger gears churn into setting up that future.
When WandaVision came to an end, I felt like there was obviously still plenty of potential, and things to explore, with her and Vision and Monica and so on. But I still felt satisfied that the story WandaVision had told had progressed through an arc and had a sense of finality to it, right? I didn’t get that feeling from Loki at all.
Germain: Same with Falcon and the Winter Soldier. More to come, but the characters had progressed. It was an ending. This was a new beginning.
Beth: I’m kicking myself that my big complaint about WandaVision’s season finale was “too much action” and this one is “stop talking and give us a decent fight for once.”
Charles: I think, while we wanted Loki to be a character study, the show’s main focus was re-endearing him to audiences in a variety of situations designed to set the backdrop of the larger Phase 4 story. In terms of actual character growth and delving into unexplored elements of his identity, Loki didn’t really do... all that much with Loki proper, in the end. He’s always been wily and conniving and getting into mischief here and there, and this show was six episodes of that featuring a bunch of new supporting characters whose ultimate (glorious) purpose in the show was to obfuscate that it was Kang all along. I think what made this season feel kind of so-so for me was that even with the concept of the Variants, I don’t really know how much Loki really doing all that much with them that broadened our understandings about who they all were as people.
Beth: That’s an excellent point Charles, and leads me into one of my big questions coming into the end of season one: Whose story was it?
Charles: Miss Minutes.
Germain: For me? Sylvie. And the jet ski.
Beth: Give Mobius his jet ski!
James: Is it cheap to say Loki, because that counts for approximately half the cast by the end of it? But yeah, I think if there’s anyone who really gets to own a significant element of this season, it’s absolutely Sylvie.
Germain: My thinking is—the only reason the TVA brings Hiddleston’s Loki in is to find Sylvie. She’s the one who makes him change and realize more about his self and, ultimately, it’s her decision to kill Kang that sets up this infinite multiverse. It was Sylvie, all ah-lonnnnnng. (Charles already made that reference but I’m OK using it again.)
James: Even though we’re still primarily stuck in the teasing of it, again, I think the thing I love most about this finale is that we actually see her complete her goal, and then the reaction to it is just so... minor. She gets to kill the person in charge of the TVA, but then there’s no satisfaction, no what’s next, no real catharsis, she just has to deal with it. And will now have to deal with it in a season two. Once again, potential! The potential is there, and so tempting, even if what we currently have is not as exciting.
Beth: I’ll admit I’m a little cringe about the idea that the multiverse is fucked up because of two women—Wanda and Sylvie—and that Doctor Strange is expected to come clean up the mess they made.
Germain: Don’t forget Spider-Man!
Beth: Yeah but he’s “just a kid”—as the movies love pointing out.
James: I’m team chaos ladies, frankly. Go nuts! A single controlled linear continuity is for boring men who like to argue about canon online.
Charles: I think where you see potential, I’m still feeling a lack of a real grasp of who Sylvie was meant to be in this first season beyond a romantically charged foil for Loki in the end. This first season gave us so little real detail about her past and the hardships she went through that pushed her into the space we met her in at the beginning of the series, and so by the end when there’s this hollow victory, it just kind of landed flat for me.
Germain: I hadn’t thought of it that way but I do agree Charles. I think it was her story but it was a little too “I want revenge” surface to really have that full, emotional impact. Which was evident in her reaction, as James said.
Beth: There was a throwaway line in the season finale about how Sylvie had been on the run since before Loki was born. I wish more things like that had informed her character. I felt in some ways they portrayed her as a scared little girl, from beginning to end, which is insulting to a thousands-year-old trickster god who toppled a time empire.
Charles: There was no real attempt to treat the context of Sylvie’s past as a mystery really, it was just glossed over, and I think it could have been interesting to get just a bit more detail about her in the same way that we got from all of the other Variants who ended up in the show towards the end.
James: That’s fair Charles—and I think it’s definitely a thing a lot of Marvel stuff has to grapple with. It’s always got this sort of feeling of dissatisfaction because there’s so much more wrapped in the “well, there’s more to come, there’s this movie and that show, they could do this and this and this,” and that’s meant to make up for what you got in the here and now being slight. Funny to say it after what I just said, but I do hope that a season two actually takes the time to dive into that stuff now that they’ve got the “whoops, so you started a multiverse” stuff out the way.
Charles: Help me out here—is the show still leading with the idea that Sylvie’s a straight up variant? That line in the end when she says “I’m not you,” struck me as another suggestion that this has all been a long con on her part and the foreshadowing for her being a wholly different character, which I still think would be a bit more interesting.
Beth: I have to wonder if they were trying to “separate” her from Hiddleston’s Loki as much as possible, so people wouldn’t do the “eww multiverse incest” thing. Which, OK come on let’s be grown-ups they’re different people.
Charles: Being into clones and/or alternate reality versions of yourself isn’t incest.
James: Oooh! I had not thought of it like that. I thought it was more about her reclaiming her own sense of self—or not perhaps reclaiming, but reminding Loki, that despite the fact they’re both very similar people in that they are Lokis, and can bond over that, she’s still her own person with her own wants and needs.
Germain: I think it’s muddled. I believe Kang calls her a Loki, and he’d know. But I think the show began to get away from it the second she took off her horns.
Charles: Let’s prune that idea from the timeline now.
Beth: Speaking of Lokis! Who was your favorite Variant you saw onscreen? And was there one you didn’t see that you wanted to? I loved the Tour de France one myself.
Jill: Loki-gator obvi.
Beth: There’s more to life than Alligator Loki but also yes.
Charles: Loki Classique.
Germain: Come on. Is this really a question? Exactly. ALL-I-GATOR!!!! (Oh and Classic Loki is pretty awesome too.)
James: It IS because everyone’s going to say Alligator Loki, because they’ve got Baby Yoda brain poison, but the answer is definitely Classic Loki.
Germain: He had the most to do, the best actor behind it, the best costume. But besides that, what else? Is he an alligator?
Beth: He had GLORIOUS PURPOSE.
James: The Alligator is very cute and will no doubt be on 3049653209672 versions of the Merchandise by years end. He is not character actor Richard E. Grant having a camp old time being, literally, magical. That man gave a hell of a performance with so little, and it soared—his magic, his tragedy, his loneliness, his heroism. Absolutely the highlight of the season.
Germain: Fine yes, this is all true. But in all seriousness, I just think the audacity and stupidity of an Alligator Loki is the perfect representation of the best of this show.
Jill: I honestly expected so much more weirdness in that vein.
Charles: One thing I did like about Loki was the way it illustrated how, in the grand scheme of things, Prime Loki’s actually on the less impressive end of the spectrum in terms of the way that he’s used his magical abilities up until this point. Even though Grant definitely played the character for laughs in places, there was something very, very cool about Classic Loki in his Kermit costume basically showing off why, silly as he looks, he was a legitimate agent of chaos in his home reality who kept the Avengers on their toes with his illusions, and his display of power was a really great way of illustrating how Prime Loki hasn’t been living up to his potential. The show also tried to do some of that with its explorations of Sylvie’s enchantments, but with Classic Loki, you got the sense that what he did to stop Alioth was very much the sort of thing he was accustomed to doing.
Beth: Who was your standout non-Loki character from season one? And Germain if you say Mobius’ jet ski I am going to insist you draw fan art of Alligator Loki riding a jet ski. So just go into this question knowing what’s expected. (And if anyone’s made that fan art please put it in the comments.)
Germain: Honestly? Miss Minutes. I really enjoyed all the new characters—Mobius, Ravonna, B-15—but this animated character just stole my heart and my imagination.
James: Sylvie. cackles I mean, she said it, right?
Beth: James I meant non-Loki as in all the Lokis!
James: I kid, I kid, if we can’t pick a Loki variant, it’s probably B-15 for me! But once again, that’s more about the potential of her character rather than what she actually was in the show. I miss, deeply, what we got in those glimpses both early on and then when Sylvie awakened her to her memories. I really hope season two lets her have more of a focus, because Wunmi Mosaku is a delight and needs more screen time. But yes, I vote for Wunmi, as a concept. Conceptual Emmy for the Idea of Wunmi Mosaku.
Charles: Hard concur.
Germain: She’s great but I think, like my Alligator Loki rants, what I liked best about this show was how it could go outside the box. How it could challenge what things are and why they are. So these non-human characters just really represented that potential for me. Plus, Miss Minutes plays both sides! She’s a devious creation of Kang, we assume. She’s just fun.
Beth: Owen Wilson was Owen Wilson, he was fine as Owen Wilson. I also want to give props to Renslayer, because I felt Gugu Mbatha-Raw gave her a complexity that would be lost on another actress. You could see her doubts, about herself and her purpose, creeping in—not just at the end of the season, but throughout the show. That said, what do you think Renslayer’s place in all of this is going to be? I’ve seen some folks speculate that she’s Kang’s mom, but I also know she’s got a larger history with Kang in the comics. What did Miss Minutes tell her?
James: Honestly, the biggest shame of the finale’s wider ramifications—that Loki is thrown into this branch of the timeline where Kang is Kang the Conqueror, and the TVA are just keeping on keeping on—is that we have to see these characters like Mobius and B-15 re-learn who they were and re-go on those arcs, in some ways. I get that they’re “technically” new versions of themselves because of the multiversal branching, but that reset hit hardest as the most frustrating aspect of the finale for me.
Charles: I definitely loved both Gugu and Wunmi’s performances, but I will say that one of the things that consistently bothered me about Loki was the way that basically all of its Black characters ended up being villains and/or people that became the targets of Loki and Sylvie’s wrath as the series progressed. With B-15 and Renslayer, there ended up being a level of explanation as to what was going on, but then you had characters like Boastful Loki who seemed to just be dropped in as afterthoughts just to create obstacles that, in such an imaginative show, could have been executed more interestingly.
Beth: The Boastful Loki betrayal could’ve been handled so much better. Then again, I wanted to see more of the variant Lokis than we got. There were shots in the trailer of at least one Loki that we never saw in the show.
Germain: I think lots of that was the show both felt like it was hindered by its six-episode length and also, ultimately, not beholden to it. I think a normal TV season we would have spent a few more episodes in the Void, gone on a few more adventures. And yet the show felt like it was rushing, pushing things aside, to at the end be like—“Wait, never mind, there’s more to come!”
James: Which, maybe we’ll see that stuff next season now? But hard agree on Boastful Loki—a real waste of Deobia Oparei, and making him the “betrayal” Loki just sucked.
Beth: Have your feelings on the season finale, or the series as a whole, changed at all knowing that it’s coming back for season two? And are you excited for another season?
Germain: I’m absolutely excited for the second season because I want to see more of what was promised in the first five episodes of this season. I do feel, as I mentioned, if I knew this was a season finale rather than a series finale, I would’ve had a different initial reaction. Now that I do know that though, I’m hoping the second season gives more breath to all the characters. But that’s Marvel isn’t it? Always looking forward to the next thing. The brass ring is ever present. But overall, I enjoyed Loki immensely, even the season finale. A really fun, inventive, not-perfect show. Which is OK. I was never upset I stayed up super late to watch it.
Beth: So... in closing: Phase 4, baby! The multiverse is open now. What’s next? Do you see this as the start of something new, more experimentation in the Marvel Cinematic Universe? Or is it a false promise?
Charles: Looking forward to see what’s next for the Inhumans.
James: What I hope for, more than anything else or any particular “I want this movie and this movie and this show” sort of list, is that the multiverse, outside of building up Kang as the next big antagonistic force, is just that it opens up the creative will to go completely buck wild with these stories. It’s what I’ve really liked seeing slowly start playing out at DC actually, and we’re getting it in little fits and starts in the galaxy far, far away through shows like Star Wars: Visions or them seeding Legends releases back onto shelves recently.
I just want the potential to be that these creatives can tell whatever story they want—it doesn’t all have to play the path towards the Big Plan, it doesn’t have to star the versions of characters we’ve met that we know already, it doesn’t have to tie into one thing or another, it can just be. It doesn’t have to be, beyond the loosest sense of the term in that it’s part of a multiverse, “canon,” as much as that might rile some fans! Just go wild, take big swings, tell the only sort of stories comic book superheroes can tell, and have fun with it... But if I did have a “I want this movie and this movie and this show” sort of list, can one pocket of this fractured timeline have Ben Reilly as Spider-Man in it, please?
Germain: At one point in Loki they mention some kind of multiverse war and to me, I think (maybe) that’s where the next Avengers mega event is going. We already know all these upcoming movies deal with multiverses. Multiverses could be the key to let Marvel being able to say “All of these other Marvel movies that happened before are part of our universe, even though they’re different actors.” And now, because of Loki, we have the death of Kang, an event that sets up how and why that is happening across all time. Always.
It potentially sets the table for so much and also bolsters the importance of the Disney+ shows as much watch content for the MCU as a whole. Does that service this season of Loki as a show? Kind of. At the very least, it gave us an entertaining, must see origin story for new characters, new stories, and new universes.
James: I really hope, Germain, that the multiversal concept doesn’t just play to the back catalogue of stuff in that way. Like, oh cool Jessica Jones and the Daredevil movies “count” now, woo. That’s... boring, to me? They don’t matter any more or less just because there’s a wiggly-squiggly bit of time connecting them to another wiggly-squiggly bit of time that Hiddleston’s on or something. And in a way I kind of hope that’s what Loki builds on in the future now that this set up is out of the way, rather than being this nexus point for just checking off references to other parts of the Marvel universe, now that it’s bigger than ever. There is so much potential, and this first season definitely squandered a bit of that in the end to set up even more potential, but I just hope it remembers to spend a little of that promise on itself next time.
Beth: I just want a universe where Mobius gets his jet ski.
The first season of Loki is available to watch on Disney+, and the show has been renewed for season two.
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