This article contains spoilers for Loki episode one.
If I’ve talked about Loki with you in-person, then you’ll recognize the following statement: I haven’t been in this much awe about a show since season three of Daredevil.
One can tell the amount of care that went into the production of the show, the characters, cinematography and storytelling. Yes, there are various details that contradict the logic of the show, but the purpose of this article isn’t to nitpick. There’s one aspect of this show that many of us can relate to, especially in today’s climate. It’s this same aspect that warrants the reputation it holds among the other Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) or Disney+ series: rejecting archetypes and finding your own story.
In episode one, appropriately titled “Glorious Purpose,” Loki and Mobius, an agent of the TVA (Time Variants Authority), exchange dialogue about what motivates Loki to do the things he did leading up to the first Avengers film. During this conversation, Mobius says, “You weren’t born to be king… you were born to cause pain and suffering and death… Also so that others can achieve the best versions of themselves.” This quote has gone under the radars of the majority of people who watched the show. Upon closer study, it’s a poetic description of the purpose of an antagonist in storytelling. It serves as a precursor to one of the things the show intends to do throughout the series — deconstruct the character of Loki by forcing him to face the fact that he is the villain archetype and provide context behind what he does.
Eventually, Loki does provide this context by saying, “I do it because I have to… It’s the cruel, elaborate trick conjured by the weak to inspire fear.” Fans of the MCU already know this, as we’ve seen how Loki’s story and character development plays out throughout the Infinity Saga. We already understand that he’s just a little boy who grew up in the shadow of his brother; who has to put on a menacing demeanor to survive. We have also seen him grow out of that shell by Infinity War. But it’s the fact that Loki is forced to reconcile with that himself so that he eventually chooses to oppose the role as villain and write his own story, that makes this series so entertaining to watch.
Tom Hiddleston, the actor who plays Loki, seems to be knowledgeable of, and fascinated with, the dissection of the character he has spent a decade with. Here’s what he had to say in an interview when asked to describe the show:
It’s the Loki you know in a world you don’t know. He’s stripped of all the things that are familiar… [T]he question for me was without those things, what remains? … he’s forced to integrate the things… he’s run from… and driven towards a curiosity about finding… more… He’s still the same guy, charming and witty… [but] broken, fragmented on the inside… and maybe there’s a chance he can change.
The important theme of choosing your own story is made apparent once you understand what the show is aiming to accomplish and how Loki’s character develops throughout the saga. As alluded to at the beginning of this article, this theme is applicable to our own lives. Many mental health issues were exacerbated by the isolation we had to endure living through a pandemic. It’s become obvious, more than ever, that we have an innate need to belong. But that need shouldn’t overshadow the need to have our own identity.
Restrictions continue to be lifted and we are excited, more than ever, to hang out with friends and be with peers again. So in the wake of all these interactions after several months of quarantine, perhaps this show serves as a reminder that we are obligated to tend to ourselves, just as much as to others. Maybe this show can offset our eagerness to fit in, because, given the time we spent apart from each other, we want to fit in too much. We need to remember that our self-esteem shouldn’t be solely reliant on how we relate with other people; it should also lie in our own ideas, ambitions, and opinions.
Just like how Loki realized that he was only playing the role in other people’s stories and decided to choose his own, some of the show’s watchers may need to make that decision, too. It’s the audacity of this show to implement such an important and complex message into its plot that makes Loki truly excellent.