Despite a Glorious Finale, Loki Season 2 Was Another Waste of Time

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Despite a Glorious Finale, Loki Season 2 Was Another Waste of Time

Last week, an article in Variety titled “Crisis at Marvel” broke down the many issues plaguing Marvel Studios in 2023. These include diminishing box office and critical responses to recent works, reshoots on The Marvels, and banking the future of the MCU’s next phase on Jonathan Majors, a man currently awaiting trial on assault charges. Marvel Studios, once the unsinkable entertainment monolith, suddenly appears to be taking on water.

In the article, author Tatiana Siegel mentions that the Disney+ era of MCU TV was a 2020 COVID mandate to “help boost Disney’s stock price with an endless torrent of interconnected Marvel content for the studio’s fledgling streaming platform.” Gaps between films would be filled with six-episode TV shows so there would never be a week without new Marvel offerings. They flooded the market with short TV shows to sell Disney+, which now comes with a hefty $14 a month price tag. 

All art made in an industry like entertainment is inherently corporate, to a degree. But greenlighting such a high load of TV has severely hurt each series. Marvel’s six-episode runtime is far too short, yet, even in that time frame, it often feels like very little happens. The shows have horrible pacing, many episodes are spent talking in circles until they finally reach the one episode that the season was pitched around. Marvel’s resistance to hiring showrunners and choosing “Head Writers” instead leads to massive structural issues with every show and an utter lack of narrative momentum.

Loki Season 1 suffered from all those issues and some. The decision to have our main character’s love interest essentially be another version of himself didn’t exactly draw people in. There was so much promise in its analog science-fiction setting and time travel possibilities. But Season 1 kept getting caught on the show’s demands to the greater MCU narrative.

Season 2 of Loki could have been great. They could have gone on more actual time travel adventures. But instead the season descended into the same problems. New issues include an overly complicated plot with time travel rules that need constant reiteration, individual character conversations often going in circles as characters tell each other exactly what they want, and far too much of the season being trapped in the same sets rather than exploring the literally infinite possibilities of infinite timelines. Side characters struggle to get their due, and even an always wonderful Ke Huy Quan is relegated to becoming a glorified exposition-reciter.

With all the episodes preceding it, I expected to finish the finale, titled “Glorious Purpose,” as embittered as I watched the rest of the show. And yet, Loki managed to surprise me. Episode 6 is captivating and clever. The show finally reveals what it wanted to build up to the whole time. Loki’s time travel adventures are exactly what the show should have been. And despite playing the character for 12 years, Tom Hiddleston manages to still reveal new depths to his godly character.

Loki has been centered around purpose. Why do some lives/timelines get to matter and some get thrown away? Are we only destined toward one fate, or should we have the ability to change what we’re supposed to do? “Glorious Purpose” finds a fun way of sorting through the rest of the season’s mess and tying it together into one character statement. Maybe Loki always has been burdened with a “glorious purpose,” just not the one he originally imagined for himself.

This finale is also a cinematic playground. Loki’s final episode is one of the best adaptations of the pure fun chaos of comic books that has ever been put to screen. It captures that feeling of reading an older event series with an incomprehensible and convoluted plot but with bright and beautiful illustrations that carry you through. This singular episode has some of the best cinematography and scoring as any Marvel offering to date. It’s grand and crazy and chews its plot until it turns into something brand new.

Loki’s finale is so good it makes the rest of the season extra frustrating. If this is what the show knew it was going to become all season, why did we waste so much time in conference rooms with side plots that fizzled to dust (sorry evil Ms. Minutes, you deserved a better execution). “Glorious Purpose” has so many great shots and moments that could have only been greater if it came at the tail-end of a season that supported the weight of its finale.

Season 2 faltered most when they lost track of Loki as a character who drives his world (or at least tries to). Too many episodes relegated him to a sidekick running after the exposition machine. People became obsessed with this character because he had an instant aurora to the weight of his persona. He’s the longest running character in the MCU now after Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) for good reason. It’s not just Hiddleston’s performance. Loki is delightfully evil yet also speaks to the loneliness and insecurity in us all. If you only watched Episodes 1-5 of Loki Season 2 and nothing else, you would have no sense of why this character is so intriguing. He became the amalgamation of the idea of someone fun and interesting without the depth. His place at the end of “Glorious Purpose” as the guardian of the branches of time could work as a finale to the character himself. He is the most fully realized as  he has ever been in the MCU, a true God after all this time. He finally is worthy of his title.

The Marvel Cinematic Universe in 2023 is in a strange spot. While the franchise has always been industry-made, it has completely lost the story to its existence. It no longer exists as individual pieces of art (and yes it is art, not that word “content” that seeks to degrade every piece of media it is assigned to). The MCU is the idea of something people once loved. Loki was able to go back so no time was wasted, but the MCU does not have that ability. They are spending hundreds of millions of dollars wasting their time to get to the next big step. But when they waste their time, they waste our time. And if Loki wants to send any message, it’s that time is a precious thing.

Leila Jordan is a writer and former jigsaw puzzle world record holder. Her work has appeared in Paste Magazine, Gold Derby, TheWrap, FOX Digital, The Spool, and Awards Radar. To talk about all things movies, TV, and useless trivia you can find her @galaxyleila

For all the latest TV news, reviews, lists and features, follow @Paste_TV.

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