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Warning: The following contains spoilers for Loki through episode six and all of the MCU. Read at your own risk.
The season finale of Loki’s season two, Glorious Purpose, didn’t suck!
I know, I know, this sounds damning with faint praise. But folks we have to remember our competition from season one. Or, frankly, from other Marvel Studio Disney+ properties. “Can you tell at least a somewhat coherent story while wisely using your budget and resources?” is, in fact, setting the bar on the floor as far as standards go but others haven’t managed it. Loki season two did! That’s really impressive! Especially for Loki!
I can get into the whys and whatnots and in fact I will, so why linger here in the introduction?
How Loki’s Second Season Improved on the First
As I was watching season two’s Glorious Purpose (annoyingly I have to specify given that that was also the title of season one’s premiere - I mean I get it but c’mon, help a girl out!) the thing I kept coming back to was budget. They were so smart on budget.
I realize that these are the kinds of things that only me and a Hollywood accountant might notice (and in fact I know one such person who might be giving me side eye as they read that and going “Nope, that’s all you actually.”) but honestly I cannot stress enough how sexy this kind of thing is from a production standpoint.
One of the reasons Loki season one was weak is that it way overshot itself. Its hopes and aspirations were so far beyond what it was able to accomplish and that was especially apparent in resources. The poor quality of the costumes - as in literal poor quality of smooshed buttons, flaking ink, and clearly rushed seams - were but one testament to that. Top down it was a show where the lack of direction beyond “Introduce Kang in ep six” met a production not given what it needed in terms of time and money and a hot mess resulted.
I know, I know, there’s people who liked Loki season one anyway. But by and large those were people who either 1) Mistakenly thought the Kang reveal was going to have a much larger impact on the MCU than it did or 2) Would watch a still photo of Tom Hiddleston if nothing else was on TV that night. I’m not saying there were no people who felt the story of season one was perfectly fine, I’m just saying when I’ve read people talking about it a not insignificant chunk are doing a lot of heavy lifting regarding to appreciate things that weren’t actually in the show.
(There’s also the faction of people who thought She-Hulk was good and when even the people who worked on that show eventually admitted “Eh we did our best” I don’t know what to tell ya.)
Anyway, getting back on point, Loki season two - notably under new showrunners - used resources wisely.
And nothing shows that like setting up your finale, a finale in which you know you have to blow a huge part of your budget on an extended VFX scene involving your lead, with a purposeful, earned, Groundhog Day Loop.
Seriously, I’m not even joking. I know the finale had story and blah blah and I’ll get to that but I honestly wanted to stand up and slow clap it out for how Justin Benson, Aaron Moorhead, and the whole Loki team sat down and said “We are going to give you an entire season where the bulk of scenes will be two actors talking for significant chunks of time on the same set and when we mean same set we mean not only are we not going to change locations mid-scene but we will be personally accepting the challenge to create as few new sets for the show as humanly possible.”
Right through the finale! Look at that finale! Yeah that Loki ascending the throne scene was FX-tastic but you know what all the other scenes were? People talking in rooms! Rooms that were already built! Wearing costumes already made! And then, because of a conceit that made perfect sense from how they built the season, doing the same scene again with small changes!
Groundhog Day loops save money, people. That’s part of why shows do them. They’re like Bottle Episodes that way. And it made perfect sense and I fucking loved it.
Okay, yes, granted, I’m eye rolling at the whole “Wait - the Loom is only for the Sacred Timeline?? GASP!” when that was explained quite thoroughly by He Who Remains last season and someone (me) has been pointing that out this whole fucking time (me, extremely me, I have been shouting this from the rooftops for six weeks now).
Likewise the show never sold Kang as being someone worthy of being scared of for reasons other than Loki insisted he was and Loki only believed it because He Who Remains told Loki that.
Also how do you write an entire episode and only bother to give Wunmi Mosaku a handful of lines at the very end as an afterthought? Moreover, the female point of view was decidedly lacking in the finale considering that Sylvie is supposed to be a co-lead. I get that yeah Casey didn’t get a monologue either but Sylvie should have been more than a device for Loki to have something resembling second thoughts because he couldn’t make himself kill the woman he loved. That’s making Sylvie an object, not a person.
On that topic, I still think the show would’ve been better having Sylvie as the main character, same as Hawkeye did with Kate Bishop. I get it, I do, again they were very purposefully aiming for the Tom Hiddleston still photo crowd, but it doesn’t mean I don’t mourn what could have been on a Sylvie-led show.
There’s also the part where the show did unceremoniously kill off characters who are apparently just dead now. And have details like B-15 being from New York in 2012 with no awareness that that’s a tiny bit of a significant date and location in the MCU canon. And we sure got told a lot about Loki changing as a person without really showing us that. And on and on and on. But here’s where I think we grade on the curve. They were coming off a season with some really sloppy groundwork and trying to do a season that was buttoned up as tightly as they could. I think they succeeded more than they failed, particularly on the goals they set for themselves.
As for example, I think one of the goals was to actually give that guy named Loki something resembling a character arc. Not a great one. Not a fully earned one. But sorta kinda one all the same.
And while I sigh over the fact that this show repeatedly, including in this episode, forgot that the lead character was the guy who specifically wanted to remove humanity’s free will mere days before Loki season one episode one took place, I do appreciate that regardless it ended with Loki, god of mischief, figuring out a loophole in how to handle the timelines.
(And yes, I do get that in the finale Loki added a few centuries to his age so he could learn what OB and Victor knew, but let’s be real if the show still didn’t remember that this was the Loki from the Avengers last week they weren’t going to start remembering it now.)
I also appreciate the symbolism of having all those timelines weighing down on Loki’s shoulders and then transforming into Yggdrasil when Loki sat. I actually liked the VFX of it too and I’m hoping this was a sign that among the resources they used wisely it was giving their VFX people reasonable requests and enough time to complete them in.
(Dare we hope the flecks of purple in the branches were also the show remembering that Kang’s color is purple and thus those should be symbolizing his variants popping up? Yes. I’m not going to go crazy and assume it for sure, but there are definitely better odds of that being true this season than last season’s clusterfudge of color story, that’s for sure. )
I also appreciate how self contained Loki season two was. They’re not trying to imply some huge impact on the MCU like last season did. It was a story inside of itself where if you saw it, great, if not no big whoop. That’s exactly what all of the Disney+ Marvel shows should be.
So yeah. Didn’t suck. Color me stunned, but also color me appreciative. Well done, season two Loki team.
As always, things that didn’t fit anywhere else
- Given the conceit of the episode I can see yet another reason why they felt boxed onto a corner with the Jonathan Majors of it all. Hard to replace the guy when he’s the center of a big set piece and hard to replace him when he’s needed to repeat scenes that he’s already been in. Ooof.
- The scenery chewing that worked to elevate the monologues in For All Time Always didn’t work as well when Jonathan Majors had to bounce off of Tom Hiddleston. But luckily Jonathan seemed to dial it down as needed.
- Mind you, “RIP HWR” was a weird line read. Like he was just saying the letters with no acknowledgement they were supposed to mean something. Which frankly only furthers my theory that all of Victor Timely’s verbal quirks were because Jonathan Majors decided he was doing a thing and nobody felt like telling him he should stop.
- If you want to get an appreciation for how good Ke Huy Quan has been in adding actual life and charisma to exposition scenes, watch Tom Hiddleston as he tries doing technobabble. Yes, Loki is rushed so he’s rattling things of fast. But as many a “I play the tech geek in this genre show” actor will tell you, you can be fast but also sound like you’re saying real words. It’s a specific skillset and not everyone can be The Smart Guy. Props to Ke Huy Quan for showing just how good someone can be.
- I liked the design and FX of the protective suit to show that Victor Timely was taking damage but still able to keep going. It felt real, for a thing that’s entirely made up.
- I’m curious about the design and construction of Loki’s shoes at the end. I’m wondering if they were meant to have some kind of basis in historic Viking clothing. Because those were very… plain and plastic looking for something that got as many closeups as they did. This is where I need someone like The Welsh Viking to weigh in (and I’ll update if he does).
- Speaking of closeups, didn’t like the uncomfortable tight shots on people’s faces in the first episode of this season and I still don’t like them now. Not sure if this is an Isaac Bauman special but no me gusta.
- Some weird pacing still snuck in to this episode. Not as bad as others but things like Victor coming back from successfully fixing the Loom implied some kind of shenanigans while he was in there, like there’d be a reveal he did something sneaky or he was about to scatter all over the timeline and that is how the Kang variants start or whatever. We had Paul Zucker on editing for this ep but that could’ve been Aaron Moorhead and Justin Benson’s calls as directors as well.
- Why wouldn’t Loki grab an earlier version of Sylvie to convince not to kill He Who Remains the same way he sat down with an earlier version of Mobius to get advice about how to handle burdens? I mean I get the production answer is “Because that’s how Loki has a conversation with Jonathan Majors and also we already recreated the He Who Remains set for an earlier episode this season and you do remember this is the season where we reuse sets to save money, right?” but from a character standpoint it didn’t make sense. Like we already know he and Sylvie had a shit ton of time to kill on Lamentis.
- I mentioned last time something about a comic arc that sort of relates to the show. That’s Journey Into Mystery which is an entirely different animal but still a good story. You can see how they pulled inspiration for Loki from it though, in my not so humble opinion, not enough. I don’t want to spoil the comic for anyone who hasn’t read it yet but since I did promise to at least mention it this week I’ll just say imagine if last season instead of finding a Kang variant it turned out He Who Remains had been a Loki variant the whole time. You can’t tell me that wouldn’t have immediately been a far more interesting story. I’m just saying.
- Once again an entire season of Loki without the easiest bit of fanservice in the world, which is Tom Hiddleston talking to himself. Though in fairness that may have been a budget saving measure. Doing those double shots ain’t cheap, just ask Moon Knight.
And I think that covers it. Thanks for joining me and see you in the next one!