Warning: Here there be spoilers for the whole of the MCU as well as through episode 3 of Loki.
I want to get one thing out of the way right off the bat, which is to say that in the comics Loki goes by the pronouns of whatever gender Loki is currently presenting as. So for Tom Hiddleston's version of Loki it's "he" and for Sophia Di Martino's version it's "she." I will therefore be taking my cues from that on which pronouns to use until such time that the show indicates their version(s) of Loki want to handle it differently.
Also people who think that Loki being genderfluid means they can use whatever pronouns they want (such as "she" for Tom's version) need to cut that the fuck out. A fictional character won't hear you misgender them but actual transgender and nonbinary people will. Don't do it.
Well that was a great episode of Doctor Who, huh?
I want to thank episode 3 of Loki for doing me a solid. Because after I posted last week's entry I had the realization that we were dealing with a weekly time travel show and I hadn't mentioned Doctor Who yet. So now it looks like I was deliberately waiting to make the comparison at a moment when it was most apt and not me totally forgetting to make the most obvious TV show comparison in the world because, um, I'm not actually that big of a fan of Doctor Who.
(I know, I'm SORRY. Look I know enough to cry at the Vincent Van Gogh at the museum scene because I do have a soul and I don't blink around statues because I'm not that suicidal so maybe that can count as an A for effort on my part and we can move on? Thank you.)
The thing with episode 3 of Loki is that it's a very multifaceted thing depending on who you are. If you are a diehard fan of Loki this was the best episode in the entire world of anything ever omg did you SEE this ep??? If you are not a diehard fan of Loki you are me and this episode... existed, that is to be sure. There it is. Yup. Being an episode. Good for it!
Now again I don't hate Loki I'm just not obsessed with Loki. I'll remind you that on the scale of "Tony Stark and Carol Danvers" to "Wanda Maximoff and Her Sentient Real Doll" Loki falls way closer to the Tony and Carol side of the scale than he does to the seriously, why didn't they shove Vision into the nearest volcano during Infinity War side of the scale. And in case my apathy about that side could not possibly be clearer, I will say that "Third ant from the left in Ant-Man and the Wasp, a movie I have not seen nor likely ever will" also falls above Wanda and Vision in this system.
So to that end I do want to talk about what went well with this episode in addition to what was not so much. Because just because it didn't work for me doesn't mean it wasn't well done for what it was, and I do think that deserves recognition.
Loki Fans, I'm Happy For You
So in episode 3 we learn "Lamentis" means "fan service" and you know what? Good on 'em. I did say last week that episode 2 was thin on the ground for things which would make Loki fans happy, and if you're not making Loki fans happy what exactly is the point of the Loki show?
And when you look at reaction to episode 3 vs 2 you can see it. As I said, the only thing people really responded to last week was the reveal of Sophia's character. I did keep an eye on the Loki tag as the week went on and you did see some other things creep in like "Aww, Loki's so cute when he's sleeping!" which is an actual example of a thing people found pleasure in. And you know if you like that great but as TV shows go a highlight should not be when your main character is unconscious.
In contrast we have this week in which there was backstory! Singing! Confirmation of Loki's sexuality! (More on that in a bit) Loki using magic! Loki smashing a glass thus enabling the audience to say "Hey that's a reference to a thing I know!" (Which was also, for the record, the working title of Avengers: Endgame.)
Now for me I freely admit watching all of this was kind of like when I found out there is an entire fetish devoted to watching people trying to start old cars. Which is to say it exists, it really does something for the people who are so inclined, but you could put me in front of a 43 minute long video of it and at no point would it ever do a single thing for me. (Also I don't... get it? Is it the age of the car? The turning of the key? Is rust a factor? You know what I don't need to know. Good for y'all, you enjoy your car vids.)
But this is no judgement on my part! Because make no mistake, if every single episode of the Ms Marvel show was also fanservice to the point that nothing else happened during those hours besides Kamala reading aloud her Carol/Valkyrie fanfiction titled "A Noble Love Embiggens Us All" I personally will run the Emmy campaign to have Ms Marvel declared the greatest show that ever existed.
And to that end in many ways I feel like episode 3 of Loki was fanfic. Which is to say that fanfic, unlike official media, has the ability to set plot completely aside and be entirely about the characters having a conversation in which they confirm things the author wants confirmed and reveal emotional things that normally official media doesn't allow them to, either because of time constraints or other limitations. Case in point confirming Loki's bisexuality, which again I'll get into more detail about in a minute.
If you have a six episode series to talk about a side character, why not use the time to give more depth? WandaVision actually showed why Wanda and Vision were in a relationship besides "Well it's in the comics, so...." The Falcon and the Winter Soldier gave us an entire episode of Bucky and Sam fixing a boat and talking about their feelings. If Loki the series wants to take an ep to let Loki talk to himself about his childhood, why not?
There were also things that were handled very deftly. I liked that they confirmed that Sophia was playing Sylvie right out of the gate, and that Sylvie is a form of Loki. Now whether we can actually trust anything Sylvie has told us remains to be seen, but at least the show didn't play coy with details to the point where we don't even know what name to call her.
I also liked how we never saw Loki going "But - but you're a GIRL!" His lack of reaction to that was the perfect way to show and not tell his genderfluidity. He has no reaction to it because for him it's not something unusual to react to. Perfectly done, loved it.
Sophia also did a great job. You could see the chemistry she had with Tom that probably helped her pass the screen test. Also frankly at this point I like Sylvie better than I like Loki. She's scrappy. I appreciate that.
Rounding out the highlights of the ep we have the oner which came towards the end. That was a lot of balls to juggle and they managed to pull it off. I'll be interested to see the behind the scenes on that. Also it was nice that in episode 3 they established that the people working at the TVA are variants, because, like with Sylvie's name, the show's not playing coy with details for the sake of it and I appreciate that.
But that's bringing me to the end of the highlights, which means we're at the point of what didn't work.
What Didn't Work
Again I make my own fun with my subheadings.
So here's the thing, while on the one hand I fully support people who were gifted an entire episode of fan service, on the other hand if you're not a Loki stan this is an episode where fuck all happened. Loki and Sylvie are trapped on a planet and they go through some motions and end the episode trapped on the planet. Which is a fine thing if you're talking about a 22 episode series. You can take time for filler eps. But when you only have six episodes to play with they should be moving the narrative along more than "not at all."
Hence my comparison to Doctor Who. Which isn't to put down Doctor Who but at least on that show it's understood that the main concept is that in each ep some sort of wacky location and time related shenanigans will happen which may or may not connect to longer story arcs. "We're stuck on a planet at the exact moment it's about to be destroyed!!" is a perfect Doctor Who style plot. It is not, however, a plot in any way related to the TVA or the sacred timeline, which are supposed to be the things we care about on this show other than Loki. A single line telling us that TVA employees are variants isn't enough to justify the other 42 and a half minutes.
There's also the issue where the more Loki the show goes on the more the first Avengers movie looks bad by comparison. Because, other than some brief moments with magic (and admittedly him moving the falling tower was cool), the Loki we see on this show continues to give the impression that he could not successfully operate a scarf, let alone take over an entire planet with a scheme so clever and diabolical it took the formation of Earth's Mightiest Heroes to stop him.
I know some wank out there is going to say "But the Chitauri!" and sure, the entire Avengers were needed to stop them. But you'll recall the Chitauri couldn't get to Earth without Loki being the one to bring them there, which was the entire plot of acts 1 and 2. Based on what Loki the show is giving us, to all appearances the real reason why Fury didn't bother to call Carol for help is that she would've pointed out that they could've stopped Loki by leaving him alone long enough for him to manifest a rake which he'd then use to accidentally hit himself in the balls. Carol would've then taken her pager back and resumed being the boss of space.
I get that this is a variant and I get that seeing his own future is going to make him more vulnerable. But it's not going to make him more stupid. And not to be all "You had ONE JOB, Phil!" about this but Loki is a trickster god. Doing tricks is his one fucking thing. Being silver tongued and able to manipulate people through talking is supposed to be his key strength.
I don't mind it when he screwed up at that woman's cabin because it was a moment of hubris combined with an excellent example for DMs to use when explaining what can happen when you roll a natural 1 on a deception check. (Don't @ me about how natural 1s don't count for skill checks. You DM your way and I'll not play at your table because you lack fun.)
But later at the train when he's all "How do you do, fellow guard?" that should not have happened. Him knowing how to stay undercover when lying about who he is and changing his appearance is so much a part of him that they took all of episode 1 of the series to remind us of it! One job, Phil! One!
(Also since when is normal liquor something that can affect an Asgardian?)
I'm not saying Loki has to be perfect and win every encounter. He didn't in the movies, after all. But in the movies he still came off as a badass. He said kneel and a vast number of the audience immediately said "Yes sir!" I get the feeling that if this Loki said kneel he'd have to immediately follow it up with "Please clap."
As always, things that don't fit elsewhere:
- I don't mean to discount the canon confirmation of Loki's bisexuality by putting it down here but on the other hand I confess to mixed feelings. I'm glad we got the confirmation, don't get me wrong. But at the same time I'm underwhelmed. "A bit of both" is vague enough to leave wiggle room for plausible deniability. Plus it's not the movies and thus easy to discount. Also it's hard not to remember that Disney was more comfortable with alluding to Loki having sex with a horse long before they were okay with doing the same thing about him having sex with someone who wasn't a woman. Still, I know Kate Herron fought for it and she also acknowledges that it's only a small step. So as I say, mixed feelings.
- That being said, if you ever wonder how (rightfully) desperate people are for representation, look no further than the multitudes of people reacting to this episode with "Even the LIGHTING was bisexual!" Seriously, Disney. Stop dicking around and give us all of our LGBTQIA+ characters.
- Also on that topic, I'm amused at people going "But Loki can't have chemistry with Sylvie! It'd be like having sex with himself!" because, again, fucked a horse. Extroverted masturbation is basically missionary position for our boy.
- I appreciated how Sylvie tied her hair back before fighting with the TVA. It's the little things that tell you a woman was behind the camera. (Looking at you, scene in Iron Man 2 where Natasha puts her hair down when changing into Black Widow mode.)
- I'm a sucker for a shot of a character simply thinking, so I loved the moment of Loki before we next see him having grabbed his knives out of the locker.
- I was wondering why magic users were doing so much melee fighting and then Sylvie mocked Loki for being "just" a magician. So I liked how it was actually a conscious choice by the writers instead of a mistake. That being said, why did Loki not do more magic last week?
- Given that Loki also said "jeez" my suspicion is that this is a writer's room quirk where they forget the origin of the word is "Jesus Christ" and instead have it filed away as "expletive we can use without worrying about using up our limited curse word allowance." So possibly I'm overthinking it here but maybe Casey using "jeez" yet not knowing about fish was a hint that he's a variant. And if so, kudos.
- A friend of mine suggested that maybe the theme of Loki the series is how do you define one's identity. I don't know if we've seen enough in the first three eps to know if that's right but I wouldn't mind it if that turned out to be true.
- This episode was written by Bisha K Ali, who is also the showrunner for Ms Marvel. I feel like a single episode of Loki isn't enough to judge how she's going to do on Ms Marvel, for good or ill. So it's mostly something I'm filing away so later on I can compare what she did with the two shows because I am, in fact, that nerdy.
- I recognize that I complained about the lack of colors and this week we get an episode entirely made of purple. I blame myself for holding that monkey's paw while writing last week's Lagniappe.
- Finally, there is still no Sam as Cap in the Marvel Studios credits. I don't want to abuse a phrase like "don't make me have to take hostages" here so, yanno. Chop chop, Marvel.