Sylvie pursing her lips in Marvel's Loki series.

I Loved Seeing Loki Avoid the Trope of Portraying Romantically Inexperienced Characters as Lacking

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Yes, even though the show came to an end three weeks ago (at least for now), I still can’t get Loki out of my mind. Even though it’s easily my favorite of Marvel’s Disney+ original series so far for many reasons, my feelings on the show are still evolving.

There are so many layers to unpack between now and whenever Season 2 comes out that I feel sort of guilty that the one that’s been on my mind the most as of late has been one of those that I feel has been pretty much dissected to death already, that of course being the relationship between Loki and Sylvie. However, the online discourse on the subject has largely seemed to revolve around what this whole thing means for Loki as a character, whereas I feel like I probably exhausted that viewpoint on things within my own mind by the end of the last episode and have found a lot of my own post-season thoughts on the matter have focused on Sylvie’s side of it.

Just a few weeks ago, I would have considered myself a “Sylki anti.” In fact, I could have been labeled as one before the show even began. Reading between the lines of some pre-season press, I got the vibe that they were hinting at a romance between Loki and a variant of himself and was pretty much horrified at the idea. When it began to play out onscreen, I grew to dread seeing the two characters share scenes together, and yes, I covered my eyes when they kissed in the finale after bracing myself for one several times while watching prior episodes.

But after the series came to an end and I was reflecting on everything I’d seen, my thoughts on the relationship began to soften. It certainly helped that the creators came out and said it was supposed to be a metaphor for Loki learning to love qualities of himself which he previously loathed (as opposed to an example of Loki proving he would only ever be able to love himself and no one else).

I wish this were directly explored a bit more on the show, but I had been hoping all along that if they were going to go for this strange romantic plotline, it would be about more than the absurd humor of two variants of the same being falling in love, so even just the confirmation of those intentions made me relax about the relationship a little more (as did the insistence that it wasn’t incestuous, though I’m still waiting for further clarification on that).

I also began to reconsider the Loki/Sylvie pairing from the latter’s perspective, which helped me to appreciate it more, as well. Loki may have been an outcast in his life before the TVA, but Sylvie was even more of one, forced to grow up alone in deadly apocalypses after having her whole world quite literally taken from her as a child. Because of this, she was never able to learn how to develop a relationship—romantic or otherwise—with another person, and also has some completely understandable trust issues getting in the way of that when the opportunity arises in the form of Loki.

Sylvie and Loki in the 'Loki' series episode 'Lamentis'

When an adult character in media has no relationship experience, they’re usually portrayed as someone who is totally naive, emotionally stunted, and awkward in pretty much every way. Basically, they’re often the butt of the joke, and rarely if ever considered “desirable” by others, especially if they are female.

But Sylvie’s characterization in Loki provides a fresh take on the matter; she’s the complete opposite of naive, and it is actually her world-weariness that’s standing between her and a healthy relationship with another person. And even though she may be awkward when it comes to talking about her feelings, she is completely confident and capable when it comes to survival skills, and can certainly hold her own in a sword fight.

It’s frustrating that the stigma of not being experienced in the dating department as an adult is so prevalent in media, even though this is the case for many people in the real world, myself included. While I haven’t experienced loneliness and lack of interaction with others to the same level that Sylvie has, I was kind of an outcast as a child and, as a result, didn’t truly learn how to socialize with others in a healthy manner until my teen years and beyond. Like Sylvie (as seen in the episode 4 flashback of her as a kid at the TVA), I was always able to empathize with others and wanted to have stronger relationships and reach out to people, but my childhood experiences shaped me into someone for whom forming close bonds was a bit of a struggle.

Even now, as an adult, I still have yet to have a romantic relationship with someone else. I know I have some life skills and am not as naive and innocent as I may look at first glance, but I still worry that I’ll be considered too “far behind” to be considered worth it when a potential significant other finds out, even with someone I develop a mutual connection with.

This is something else Loki turns on its head, because it’s obvious Sylvie is seen as attractive and desirable in Loki’s eyes even after it becomes clear she does not have a lot of experience forming close bonds with others. In episode 3, she implies she has never had a real romance in finishing Loki’s sentence on the matter, and in episode 5, she admits to him that “this is all new” to her while speaking about friendship.

This never diminishes Loki’s love for her, and at the end of the series, when they’re fighting over whether or not to kill He Who Remains, Loki says he no longer cares about revenge or ruling and “just [wants her] to be okay.”

I have to say, Loki saying those words to me after calmly telling me to stop and gently grabbing my shoulders probably would have worked, but I understand why they weren’t enough to get Sylvie to abandon her mission. In the previous episode, she nervously asked him whether he may still betray her, and even though he insists he never would, it takes more than a few affirming words to get someone who has experienced so much adversity in their life to let their walls down.

Loki and Sylvie sit and chat on Lamentis.

Of course, Loki is proven right in the end, at least about Sylvie killing He Who Remains and taking down the TVA not making her feel better. I think a lot of us have learned that revenge may seem like the answer to our problems, but it doesn’t allow us to truly heal from the pain we’ve endured.

Sylvie still has a lot of growing to do, and I’m looking forward to seeing her story continue in Season 2. It seems as though she’ll get to continue her arc while being separate from Loki, at least for a little while. While I’m looking forward to seeing how their inevitable reunion goes down, I think this separation will be a good thing as I have come to realize that I, like many others, had largely been viewing her through the lens of “Loki’s selfcestual love interest who I didn’t want to see him end up with” while the first season was airing, rather than an important character in her own right (and also because I’m still not sure where I stand on the idea of the two of them being a romantic couple).

Rewatching the episodes has made it clear to me how great a character she really is, and how important she is to this new era of Marvel Studios I mean, she ended up being the character to set off the long-awaiting multiverse! That alone makes her an MCU icon, and I can’t wait to see what she does next.

(images: Marvel Entertainment)

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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.