The Magic Theater || Loki Meta
(This is a thing I wanted to write after the premiere but was at work and then too tired. Enjoy!)
Ahh, meta analysis! For some citizens of Fandom, it’s just a way of one-upping other fans, making it look like you have all the answers and get all the references. For others, it’s about projecting what you wish was true to validate your feelings, starting from the desired conclusion and working backwards.
But to me, quality meta is like frozen yogurt: taking something you love and ruining it a little so you can have more of it! And the first episode of the new Loki series is some quality fro-yo.
For Loki: Episode One, and Loki: Agent of Asgard
The God of Stories
So Agent of Asgard is a very meta comic title. It’s a story about stories, about a perennial villain trying to break out of his pigeon-hole as the God of Lies. To make the greatest of all escapes and begin again as something new. But in order to achieve this, he has to literally fight himself first.
King Loki (Loki’s future self) loops around the timeline, contriving the world of his past, and convinces an uncertain All-Mother that the future stability of the Aesir depends upon Loki being a villain, on him failing to redeem himself and remaining the enemy of Asgard, hated by all.
I was reminded of that because… When Mobius tried to get Loki to confront the wicked things he’s done in the time theater, and especially the reason he did them, he doesn’t talk about him like he’s a person, he talks about Loki like he’s a character in a story, claiming that his place in it is to challenge other characters to reach their potential as heroes.
“Antagonist,” that’s what he’s describing, someone who forces the protagonist on their journey.
According to the Sacred Timeline, Loki will play the antagonist, over and over for all eternity. Because some higher, unseen beings decreed it long ago. It isn’t until Loki’s knocked out of his timeline and forced to look at himself, examine himself outside his “God King” narrative, from the perspective of an audience in a theater, that he comes to the realization of why he keeps losing.
His fearful scrambling for control of his story – selfishly, recklessly, at the expense of the lives of countless others – has made him a villain, and thus inspired heroes to rise up against him. He’s fated to attempt a… shall we say, unexamined redemption arc, but when the consequences of his deal with the devil inevitably catch up with him, it literally gets him killed.
But not this Loki. Not our new Loki. This one is on a different path.
It’s so cool, so weird and meta, that Loki gets plucked out of his story before he dies and is given the chance to change how it ends. To become, if not the hero, then at least the main character.
Hear that sound? The loop is breaking.
No matter how much Loki hurts because of who he’s been, an audience who selfishly stans him won’t want him to change, even to save his own life. Even if he’s obviously miserable. No, stans are like the kind of people who give their dog chocolate “because he wants it”. And anyone who actually cares enough about the pup to wrench that Snickers bar out of his mouth is going to be hated for it.
As such, Mobius M. Mobius has some fans split. They want to believe he’s a villain, an abuser, that he’s using Loki. And, sure, it’s technically possible he’s a secret villain. Any twist possible in an MCU show. So I won’t talk too much about whether he’s good or bad, but more his actions, his place in the story, his abilities, and his effect in the first episode.
To begin with, Mobius specializes in dangerous variants, but he’s not a hunter, doesn’t seem like he’s considered a fighter by TVA standards. But what he does seem to have that the hunters lack is the ability to understand and show compassion for someone who’s nothing like him.
And that seems to be his defining trait: empathy. This is demonstrated in his big character introduction, when he stops the hunters from attacking a child, choosing instead to comfort and to gently question. And he’s assured by Hunter U-92 that the kid has nothing to tell them that they don’t already know, so it’s not really due diligence on Mobius’ part. It’s just his modus operandi.
Right after this, he sits in on Loki’s trial, and just when our boy’s being sentenced to a reset, Mobius puts his own ass on the line to save him. Under the promise that Loki will behave and be helpful, Mobius becomes Loki’s handler for the time being, responsible for whatever havoc Loki wreaks. Then he takes him to a “time theater” to work through some issues he knows the God of Mischief has.
Just wanna point out, this is clearly not TVA protocol. They don’t snatch variants out of their timelines and try to use them to crack cases, they reset them, they prune them, they don’t trust them. Mobius isn’t just being a good time cop, he’s saving Loki’s life. Unfortunately, he needs Loki’s help to do it, and that means rolling up his sleeves and yanking the snickers out of his mouth.
Unlike almost everyone else in the MCU who have decided Loki’s just insane, Mobius wants to know from him why he does what he does. Mobius seems to know, but he wants Loki to know. And while Loki’s very resistant to having his narrative challenged at first, he clearly wants to spit the chocolate out, especially after seeing what it’ll do to him in the future.
And to my delight, (and strange parasocial pride) Loki ends up doing the rest of the work on his own. Even if it’s all just a plan to escape or betray the TVA, he’s still been confronted with the truth he’s been running from: that he’s just a frightened little godling, puffing up to fool people. He’s willing to be honest with himself just now, and in doing so, he begins to tell a different story.
I’m so damn happy about this. One of the things Loki very nearly lost (after the revelation of his true parentage turned his topsoil) was his love of good old fashioned silly time. There may be more heavy stuff on the horizon, but the blood-soaked nightmare boy seems far away now. Funny, annoying, cute, frustrating hijinks are back on the table. And I love it.
“Nah. No more evil. Mischief, now. That’s still got legs.” – Loki, God of Stories
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You know what thrilled me about the first episode of Loki?
We got to see a male character express grief in a way that wasn't rage or revenge.
He actually got the chance to grieve once he was alone and no longer performing for anyone. And I loved that the show allowed space for us to see that entire sequence of emotions in a scene that didn't contain any character dialogue, just the background of what was happening on the screen and the focus on emotion.
It was beautifully done and I've gone back to watch just that scene a second time. It was a fantastic moment of intense character development and something we'd been missing in Loki's personality (though fandom has been speculating on)- his relationship with his family and his feelings about them, even with all he felt when he found out his ancestry.
I hope we see this kind of growth throughout the series.
On the comment that I've seen floating around that somehow Mobius' interrogation was "therapy" - no, it wasn't. And point-blank blaming Loki for Frigga's death was cruelty.
What was therapeutic, even though done entirely alone, was the time Loki had to let himself feel his emotions fully.
And I am entirely here for this kind of character progression and emotional arc.
I'm sure they're going to stab us in the gut when we find out where/when Loki's going to end up after all of his work with the TVA is done. But I trust it's going to be a more satisfying ending, on some level, than Loki having his neck snapped and being tossed aside.
(I also love the emotional reaction Variant Loki has to watching his final interaction with Thanos and his own death- just incredibly done and heartbreaking.)
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