Bad casting, too much exposition and world-building, not enough action
A couple days after its much-anticipated airing, I think it’s safe to say that the finale of Season 1 of Marvel’s ‘Loki’ was kind of a disaster. The show as so full of twists and turns and surprises and crazy world-building, and the finale just pulled the rug out from under all of it. And, in addition to that, it lacked action. It was just all so talky. Talky talky.
The surprising thing was that Tom Hiddleston’s Loki, one of the great movie talkers, doesn’t do any of the talking. He mostly just stares with exhausted-looking red-rimmed eyes at the lady version of himself and passively watches things unfold. There is one fairly good sword fight with magic, but other than that, it’s 40 minutes of backstory after five hours of previous backstory. The largest event in the history of the fictional Marvel universe, the destruction of the “sacred timeline,” plays out almost as an afterthought, on screens.
Most of the talking came courtesy of a character played by Jonathan Majors, who, Marvel fans and now everyone else knows, was a variant of the super-villain Kang the Conqueror. I didn’t see Lovecraft Country, Majors’s big Emmy-nominated breakout role, but people loved him in that. However, it’s safe to say that in this manifestation, “Immortus”, Majors was flat-out awful. He has his fans, but come on. He mumbled half his line readings. The character called for him to play super-intelligent, somewhat whimsical, very universe-weary, and tricky. But I didn’t buy any of it.
Marvel is usually great at casting a universe that calls upon actors to play super-witches or gods or monsters or otherwise semi-unkillable celestial beings. Majors seems like a huge cosmic blunder, given that his character, or versions of it, are going to return a lot. I could be wrong, and I actually want to be wrong. I want Majors to win Oscars for Kang the Conqueror, that’s how much I want to be wrong. But so far, I am not wrong. Fight me, on any timeline.
In the end, ‘Loki’ falls prey to the same problem that plagued the end of ‘WandaVision.’ Both series started off formally innovative, even thrilling. WandaVision stayed that way for most of its run. Loki started to explain itself around the third episode, and then the plot took over. But unlike WandaVision, there was no satisfying conclusion, or even semi-conclusion. Loki ends with a cliffhanger, but it’s not very persuasive. The show ends up feeling more like connective tissue than a standalone show. Part of the fun of Marvel is that one product bleeds into the next. But some feel more like placeholders than others. ‘Loki’ promised to be something fresh. But it ended up feeling like just another issue of a comic book, or a mediocre series of Doctor Who episodes. Maybe that’s all it ever was.