Tom Hiddleston as God Loki in the Loki season 2 finale.

‘Loki’ Season 2’s Ending Is Beautiful but Continues a Disheartening MCU Pattern

Loki season 2 has come to an end, and its titular character has now achieved his ultimate glorious purpose. Being the God of Stories (they didn’t say it, but it’s pretty obvious) as a living Time Loom is a bold new direction for him and the Marvel Cinematic Universe in general.

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So why does this ending feel oddly familiar? And not necessarily in a good way?

This whole show was about Loki redeeming himself, but redemption arcs in the MCU are a double-edged sword. It’s awesome that they’ve given folks like Iron Man, Black Widow, Yondu, and more the chance to go out in blazes of glory with epic moments that show how much they’ve grown as characters. But the problem is that the implication seems to be they were never actually heroes until they made the ultimate sacrifice—that they hadn’t “made up” for their past misdeeds until they gave everything up. In a way, it’s like saying a person who’s done bad things is more useful dead than alive.

Loki’s Infinity Saga arc was very much this, with him sacrificing himself to save Thor and getting brutally choked to death by Thanos (“You will never … be … a god.” Chills.) The arc he experiences in Loki is about him having the goodness brought out of him and embracing that side of himself. Through his relationships with Mobius, Sylvie, and the rest of the TVA crew, he learns about the importance of free will, personal responsibility, and, of course, love. Yes, he loved people like his mother and Thor, but his relationships with the aforementioned two Loki characters have been richer and deeper than anything we’ve seen from him before.

It’s Mobius and Sylvie who each give him a crucial piece of the puzzle he puts together in the end. He ends up on a throne, but not the one he originally thought he wanted. Not willing to take either of the choices offered to him—taking over the task of overseeing the Sacred Timeline from He Who Remains or killing Sylvie—Loki decides to take matters into his own hands, literally. Without telling anyone what he is doing, he walks out onto the path to where the Time Loom—a secret failsafe to maintain the Sacred Timeline—is malfunctioning. His clothes change from TVA-style business attire to green garments, he gets a new pair of horns, and he grabs all of the timelines, infusing them with his magic.

The catch here is that to keep all these branching timelines alive, he must hold onto them himself and become a living Loom. A gold throne forms where He Who Remains’ citadel used to be, and now Loki must sit there alone, presumably for all eternity, to give everyone else a chance at life.

This isn’t a death like he experienced in Avengers: Infinity War, but thematically it is kind of similar to it and the other redemptive deaths I mentioned. Putting aside the fact that Sylvie could hypothetically go see Loki if she wanted to since she has the special TemPad once owned by He Who Remains that grants access to the end of time (seriously, why wasn’t this possibility ever addressed?) Loki is now in self-imposed exile from everyone and everything. Based on the last scenes with Mobius’ final words echoing over the final shot of Loki on his throne, he can likely see and hear what happens on all these timelines, but he can’t interact with them. He’s alive, but he doesn’t really get to live.

Loki has been a “good guy” for most of the series by this point. He’s helped Mobius and the other TVA workers grow as people by revealing the truth about their status as brainwashed variants and changing the organization’s mission for the better. He’s helped Sylvie become a better version of herself, giving her hope when she needed it last season and being one of the catalysts to help her realize vengeance won’t bring her the satisfaction she wants. But apparently, it doesn’t matter that he did all that, because this conclusion still feels like a punishment for wanting a throne in the first place, even though he stopped wanting one by the end of last season.

I realize this is supposed to be a story about how Loki learned to love so much that he was willing to give up everything for a purpose that was all burden and no glory. There is beauty in that, for sure. But looking at the laundry list of other characters with checkered pasts from the MCU this kind of thing has happened to, it’s hard not to look at it as a reminder of how society at large doesn’t see people who have done bad things as truly redeemable. They want to cast them out as quickly as possible because it’s easier.

I suppose I should be satisfied with these stories giving these characters room to grow and learn from their mistakes, something that doesn’t happen nearly enough in real life. But when these outcomes happen, it’s as if the middle part didn’t matter, and their dying (or exiling themselves from society) was the only way they could actually be redeemed.

It’s difficult for me with Marvel in particular because so many of the characters that are given arcs like this deal with mental health issues and trauma. Tony Stark had anxiety either stemming from or exacerbated by PTSD, which made me feel very connected to him. Loki, while not having an explicit diagnosis of any sort, definitely exhibits several traits and behaviors that fall under the Cluster B umbrella (and while I don’t want to “armchair diagnose,” I have taken solace in his character—particularly during this series—as someone who does have a Cluster B diagnosis).

And, while nothing is confirmed, knowing Marvel, it stands to reason that Wanda Maximoff is going to be on a similar path to redemption after her villainous turn in Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness—a movie that was already a slap in the face to her WandaVision arc of learning to deal with her depression and grief (if you believe recent reports, she already had her redemptive death by the end of that movie). It’s not only characters with these issues this sort of ending has been given to, but it’s a disheartening pattern to see play out time and time again.

There are still so many MCU characters I love. Loki itself introduced a lot of new faces and concepts I’m eager to see again in the future. But other than Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3, which managed to not kill off any of its main group chock full of people with questionable pasts, it seems that Marvel is stuck in this cycle of showing that characters with “red in their ledgers” are only able to “wipe it out” by giving up their entire lives. And each time, it makes it harder for me to come back to this franchise.

(featured image: Disney+)

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Julia Delbel
Julia Delbel (she/her) is a contributing writer at The Mary Sue and has been doing freelance entertainment coverage for five years. She loves diving into film, television, and theater, especially Marvel, DC Disney, and animated content, particularly taking a hard look at their character development, storyline weaving, and place in the pop culture pantheon.