Welcome to my first official review! I’ll get to that awful Dinotopia mini-series soon, but I wanted to warm up with a more pleasant topic. I’m so used to taking a more objective stance even in the near-reviews where I talk about mythology in media, like Ice Fantasy or the Grishaverse. Those posts also focused on more or less completed series. But sometimes I just want to share my thoughts and opinions about the latest installments of ongoing series. Such is the case with the second season of the Norwegian high school drama Ragnarok and the first of Marvel’s Loki show. So here is my take on these two Lokis who made me smile this summer.
Note: I will be dividing things as much as possible into spoiler-free and spoiler zones, with links to skip the spoilers if you want. With Ragnarok, that’s admittedly a bit tricky since this is the second season and will therefore be all spoilers if you haven’t seen season 1. With that in mind, I’ll consider the two Loki-related points I discussed in my Thor and Loki in Media post to be fair game and the rest will go in the Spoiler Zone.
Season 2 starts off with a bang right where season 1 left off. Also with a demonstration by an unfortunate paramedic of why you should never shock a thunder god. It looks like they received a bigger special effects budget this time, given the new hypnotic Otherworld woven of auroras and water. New members of the Norse pantheon make their appearances, and yes, it’s official, Laurits is Loki! Like season 1, season 2 does a nice job of weaving in mythological material with original interpretations. Still no Loki shapeshifting beyond dying his hair, but Erik does acknowledge mythical Loki being Odin’s blood brother.1 It’s an interesting moment, since Laurits and Magne are brothers similar to Marvel’s Loki and Thor. Well, half-brothers, as it is now confirmed that Laurits is Vidar’s son.
Laurits’ insecurities are revealed this season, but thankfully they seem more about teenage angst and god/giant troubles than his LGBTQ+ identity. I did have to ponder his view of Loki as “the first transgender person in history,”2 though. It’s hard to tell how well those modern terms describe the original Loki since even the earliest version of the stories had been filtered by time and cultural change. I don’t agree with the theory of Loki as a Christian demon “inserted” into Norse mythology because he’s too complex,3 but he wasn’t exclusively gay like Laurits. He had closer relationships with his wives than that one stallion. Odin became a woman briefly as well (to rape the goddess Rind),4 so Loki is not the only gender-crossing being in Norse mythology. Still, Laurits is a great modern interpretation. His lack of a partner is probably more about meeting the right guy than because society rejects his gay, fluid side. In fact, the casual acceptance Edda’s people show is refreshing. So I’m really hoping he doesn’t turn totally evil in season 3!
You have entered the Spoiler Zone. To jump past it, click here.
Ragnarok: Spoiler Zone
Ok, I’m not sure how to feel about the bit with Loki giving birth to the Midgard Serpent. It’s a definite departure from mythology. Loki fathered Jörmungandr, along with underworld goddess Hel or Hela and the wolf Fenrir, with the giantess Angrboda.5 I could have done without the Serpent being a giant tapeworm too. No, really, it hisses and slithers, but even after its surgical “birth,” it has no eyes and its mouth looks an awful lot like microscopic images of tapeworm heads. That final kiss Laurits gives his child before sending it into the sea could be sweet but I was too grossed out to feel it. That moment does set up a final showdown, though, as Laurits foreshadows that Jörmungandr is “the one thing” capable of killing Magne.6 That part is taken from mythology, as the Serpent kills Thor in the original Ragnarok. I’m still hoping it will turn out to be more than a monster in the end, just as I’m hoping for Laurits.
Thor und die Midgardsschlange, or “Thor and the Midgard Serpent,” by Emil Doepler, 1906, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.
I also had a hard time with Laurtis’ reaction to Magne (finally) killing Vidar. Yes, in this season Laurits’ carefree mask falls away to reveal his sense of isolation. “I don’t want to be one of a kind,” he tells Turid,7 and that family photo where he’s literally held at arms’ length…Ow. Learning about being Loki and connecting with Vidar both boost Laurits’ pride, but it’s sad to see the brothers’ bond so deeply torn that Laurits calls Magne a “murderer.”8 Magne giving up his Thor powers in penance softens things a bit, but Laurits still resists seeing that Vidar truly did intend to kill him that day. It might have something to do with the “old world” rule that sons have to avenge their fathers. We know giants can’t have children now, so Laurits is technically Vidar’s only son, though it’s Fjor who feels most compelled by that law.
On a related note, though, the way this season calls into question whether the gods are really any better than the giants was awesome. Wotan/Odin rigidly holds to old patterns, rejecting Laurits without thought while Fjor and Ran refuse to let Saxa lead simply because she’s female. This sets up possible rebellion, like Laurits stealing Wotan’s blood to complete his transformation. I doubt Saxa’s sex scene with Magne actually means she’s on his side—she’s too smug about it delaying him from defending Laurits. Then we have gods behaving badly. Iman uses her Freya powers for free clothes and better grades while Harry explodes with unnecessary violence as Tyr. Meanwhile, Magne is truly shaken by killing Vidar and argues that “If the good can only win by killing, they have already lost.”9 Time will tell if he abandons his ideals or becomes a moral center for a new way.
I’m certainly hoping for that new way. Wotan doesn’t seem to consider that following the same old pattern could result in the same result where the gods die, and I’m always a fan of finding Option C. I don’t yet know if season 3 will bring the final battle or simply more lead-up. It will be interesting to see who returns. Gry left early in this season, but she might return to sway Fjor again. Maybe Halvor will even make a second appearance. I kind of hope so, since I found it disappointing that they had to make him their magical Svartálf/dwarf rather than let him simply be a cool character with dwarfism. At least he was treated with more respect than the dwarfs in most Norse legends.
Marvel’s Loki, Season 1
Ok, this is the Loki story from Marvel I have been waiting for! As a sidekick/villain to Thor, Loki’s role was too often limited to betraying, sneering, getting hit, and apparently dying. Not that I didn’t laugh at the “puny god” scene, but it rang a little hollow. Tom Hiddleston brings enough psychological depth to Loki that I knew he was capable of being so much more than a slippery punching bag. And here we have it, Loki front and center and even multiplied as one variant of him is asked to help the TVA (Time Variance Authority) catch another. I felt like Agent Mobius was the part of my mind that always wanted to ask Loki “what makes you tick.”10 We even get some answers, including the “I don’t enjoy hurting people” that I was expecting, while Loki gets a new chance to grow without being killed off. Amazing what Main Character Immunity can do for one’s inner life.
The TVA was a mix of chuckles and genuine interest for me. I can only assume the stacks of paper files most agents use are inherited from the original comics considering they can also photograph a “temporal aura” or open portals though time. Captain Renslayer and Miss Minutes can access electronic files,11 after all. As a Whovian, it was also hard for me to avoid comparing the Timekeepers to the Time Lords, particularly the High Council with their “funny hats.”12 Timeline police are an intriguing concept, however, and it’s nice to see so many POC—and WOC specifically—in fairly prominent roles. Right now, most are still dedicated to the rigid order of the TVA, but I’m looking forward to how they will develop in future seasons.
Sadly, one attempted mythological reference doesn’t work so well. The time loop holding cell where Agent Mobius stashes Loki is clearly based on the story of Loki cutting off Sif’s hair. However, the original Sif’s whole identity was mainly centered around being Thor’s wife and having beautiful golden hair.13 So when Loki shaved her completely bald, she was understandably upset (as was Thor). For the full story, which leads to the creation of Thor’s hammer, see below. In the MCU, however, Sif is a kickass warrior who looks longingly at Thor but never attempts to really pull his attention. So other than maybe being angry that Loki got the jump on her, I’m not sure why this Sif is punching and kicking over a tiny lock whose absence isn’t even obvious. Seriously, why is it so small? It’s like the people behind the camera couldn’t stand actually messing up supposedly rough and tumble Sif’s hair.
You have entered the Spoiler Zone. To jump past it, click here.
Loki: Spoiler Zone
Oh, those Loki variants! I really liked Classic Loki, the oldest one who developed greater powers and maturity by actually stopping to reflect. He offered such hope for what could happen if Loki lives, which is why seeing him wiped out by Alioth just about made me scream. Especially since it felt more formulaic than actually necessary. Main Loki kept staring at Classic Loki instead of focusing on enchanting. If he had just done his part—! Oh, well. At least we still have Alligator Loki. No idea why he’s an alligator—maybe a Sobek reference?—but I love it. And I really hope we get to see some of the other barely-glimpsed variants getting in on the action next season.
One thing about those Loki variants: they kind of contradict the idea that the TVA maintains only one Sacred Timeline. Mobius talks like Loki dying at Thanos’ hands is a fixed event, and even “stepping on the wrong leaf” will throw everything out of whack.14 But Classic Loki isn’t nabbed for not dying, just for trying to reconnect with the world. Meanwhile, Sylvie’s choice not to identify as a Loki is understandable because she seems to be the only one targeted for what she is rather than what she did. Why is it a timeline crime to be “born the Goddess of Mischief,” but the Alligator of Mischief is fine unless he tries to eat a cat?15 Considering Loki is confirmed bisexual now,16 it shouldn’t have been necessary for him to meet a female variant to fall in love and cause that major Nexus event. So why is Sylvia being a woman a problem? Also, just gotta say the other Lokis saying a female variant “would be scary” kind of undercuts the genderfluid element for me.17 But maybe that’s just my own idea of genderfluid. What do you think?
The ending (which had serious Matrix vibes) also suggests multiple timelines already existed. Either that or Sylvie killing He Who Remains made the timeline branch so fast that Loki fell backward into an alternate reality where Mobius doesn’t even know Loki from files and the TVA has statues of He Who Remains instead of the Timekeepers. It must be a very different TVA to have no record of the seeming most-arrested variant in history. I sure hope the Mobius from the previously Sacred Timeline comes back because it would be a shame to lose all that character development. I also can’t help wondering what we’re going to learn about Miss Minutes. Clearly she knew what was going on the whole time, so what else does she know? I guess I’ll just have to sit back and wait for the story to continue.
Summer hasn’t been the best this year, so I appreciated being able to start it off watching two Lokis on new journeys. Ragnarok had more mythological references to dig into, while Loki was more sci-fi and felt a bit like a video game in the way that each episode unlocked a new level to grasp. Both were fascinating and I’d happily recommend them. Have you seen one or both these shows? Or perhaps you have other thoughts about Loki, in myth or media, that you’d like to share. I’d love to see your comments!
- Ragnarok, “Power to the People,” episode 3, season 2, directed by Mogens Hagedorn, written by Adam Price and Emilie Lebech Kaae, SAM Productions, May 27, 2021.
- Ragnarok, “Power to the People.”
- Seigfried, Karl E. H., “Questioning Loki, Part One,” The Norse Mythology Blog, posted Jan. 5, 2013, accessed Sep. 6, 2020, https://www.norsemyth.org/2013/01/questioning-loki-part-one.html.
- McGrath, Sheena, “Blood-Brothers: Loki and Odin,” We Are Star Stuff, posted Apr. 4, 2015, accessed Sep. 6, 2020, https://earthandstarryheaven.com/2015/04/04/loki-and-odin/.
- McCoy, Daniel, “Jormungand,” Norse Mythology for Smart People, accessed Aug. 14, 2021, https://norse-mythology.org/gods-and-creatures/giants/jormungand/.
- Ragnarok, “All You Need is Love,” episode 6, season 2, directed by Mads Kamp Thulstrup, written by Adam Price and Emilie Lebech Kaae, May 27, 2021.
- Ragnarok, “Brothers in Arms,” episode 1, season 2, directed by Mogens Hagedorn, written by Adam Price and Emilie Lebech Kaae, SAM Productions, May 27, 2021.
- Ragnarok, “God Is God, Though All Men Death Had Tasted,” directed by Mogens Hagedorn, written by Adam Price and Emilie Lebech Kaae, SAM Productions, May 27, 2021.
- Ragnarok, “Know Yourself,” episode 5, season 2, directed by Mads Kamp Thulstrup, written by Adam Price and Emilie Lebech Kaae, May 27, 2021.
- Loki, “Glorious Purpose,” episode 1, season 1, directed by Kate Herron, written by Michael Waldron, Disney +, June 9, 2021.
- Loki, “The Nexus Event,” episode 4, season 1, directed by Kate Herron, written by Eric Martin, Disney +, June 30, 2021.
- Doctor Who, “Time Crash,” special episode, directed by Graeme Harper, written by Steven Moffat, BBC Wales, Nov. 16, 2007.
- McCoy, Daniel, “Sif,” Norse Mythology for Smart People, accessed Aug. 7, 2021, https://norse-mythology.org/sif/.
- Loki, “The Nexus Event.”
- Loki, “Journey into Mystery,” episode 5, season 1, directed by Kate Herron, written by Tom Kauffman, Disney +, July 7, 2021.
- Loki, “Lamentis,” episode 3, season 1, directed by Kate Herron, written by Bisha K. Ali, Disney +, June 23, 2021.
- Loki, “Journey into Mystery.”