Loki's Latest Twist Represents a Missed Opportunity for Marvel
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Loki episode 1 and 2 spoilers follow.
The first episode of Loki ended with a somewhat strange 'reveal.' After Agent Mobius explained that the Big Bad they're chasing is a Loki variant, the premiere ended with this "Loki" killing some TVA agents. But the variant in question still hid their face under a cloak.
Does this mean that the new Loki is more than a mere carbon copy of Tom Hiddleston's character? Or did Marvel just want to give Tom a break from being impossibly charismatic on screen?
Of course, we now know that the new Loki is in fact none other than Lady Loki, a female version of the trickster god. "Brace yourself," she says. "This isn't about you." And with that, the timeline is thrown into chaos by a growing multiverse that not even the TVA can stop.
The introduction of Lady Loki might be the MCU's worst-kept secret since, well, since Tom Holland last spoiled a major plot point. Over a year ago, leaked set photos revealed that Sophia Di Martino would most likely be playing Lady Loki because she was wearing the same outfit as Hiddleston's Loki.
However, what we didn't know until today was if this version of Lady Loki would be our Loki transformed or a different character completely. Episode two's reveal marks a big change from the comics, and it's also a missed opportunity for Marvel, who could have used this twist to course-correct one of their biggest issues.
In the source material, Lady Loki is just our Loki in female form. Over the past six decades, comic book Loki has often shape-shifted into a woman, and at one point, he even stayed in that way for a number of years. This eventually led to confirmation from Marvel that Loki is in fact gender fluid, and fans have been happy to see this Disney+ show has now followed suit seven years later.
Even before episode one dropped, a clip revealed that Loki's sex is described as "fluid" in TVA paperwork, and since then, director Kate Herron has described this as "an important thing to make canon" (via Insider). So why's that a big deal? Well, not only has Loki long been gender fluid in the comics, he also shifted between male and female binaries many centuries ago in Norse mythology too.
But even more importantly than that, Marvel has been historically bad at representing LGBTQ+ characters on screen. Remember when Valkyrie's bisexual scene was cut from Thor: Ragnarok? Or the cringeworthy tokenism of that scene in Avengers: Endgame? And now, Marvel's embarrassing track record has continued to play out on the small screen too, most notably with all that queer-baiting in Falcon and the Winter Soldier.
Things look set to improve with Eternals, which will soon feature the MCU's first out gay superhero, and WandaVision's Billy Maximoff is destined to become a queer hero as well. But before all that, Marvel could do so much to explore Loki's gender beyond just a tiny reference that casual viewers would almost certainly miss.
Of course, we're only two episodes in, and it's entirely possible that the writers will make this fluidity more central to the story. However, Tom Hiddleston recently told Reuters that he's "really pleased" Loki was able to "touch on that in the series," which certainly implies that his character's gender identity won't be referred to much beyond this point.
We sure do hope we're wrong about that, but based on this quote and what we've seen so far, it doesn't look like it. In fact, it seems that Loki has gone out of its way to avoid portraying this by treating Lady Loki as a separate character entirely rather than as an extension of Loki himself. Just giving him a female counterpart, like a She-Hulk to his Hulk, isn't enough.
And while we're at it, one extremely brief glimpse of the word "fluid" isn't exactly the great step forward that Marvel makes it out to be either. Loki might be a trickster god, but don't let Disney fool you into thinking that this is anything but the bare minimum. Let's hold back our congratulations until the show actually does something meaningful with this reveal beyond mere lip service.
Loki streams exclusively every Wednesday on Disney+.
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