The God of Stories
Spoiler alert - Loki Season 2 Episode 6 (and additional story arc) spoilers
The Disney+ series Loki season 2 ended with a significant change to Loki. This mirrors a comic book arc in which Loki becomes less mischievous but keeps his essential character. Loki is setting up future Marvel projects and continues the multiverse idea seen in Dr. Strange, Spiderman, What If…, and other Marvel stories. My favorite Marvel characters are the anti-heroes like Loki, Deadpool, Wolverine, and others. The anti-heroes reveal truths about the Marvel Universe that mirror the real universe. As an Enneagram Seven, I see myself in characters like Loki - both the good and the bad. Fellow sevens know what I mean when I say we sometimes feel compelled to mischief.
In Loki the series, a Marvel arc within the multiverse unfolds, where a “variant” Loki is recruited to assist in the search for another variant responsible for the murders of Time Variance Authority (TVA) personnel. The TVA exists to prune timeline variants that may lead to catastrophe (at least that is the stated purpose). In season one, Loki eventually teams up with the variant who kills. This variant is a Loki who calls herself Sylvie. They embark on a journey of saving variant timelines, meeting Loki variants such as Alligator Loki, and causing mayhem. Ultimately, Sylvie and Loki reach the end of time and destroy He Who Remains. Sylvie cannot imagine a universe of determinism which is what He Who Remains stands for. Season one’s end sets up the arc of season two.
Killing He Who Remains puts the multiverse at risk due to an expanding timeline variance. In season two, Loki has to discover how to save the TVA and the multiverse. Loki fails repeatedly. In the last episode, Loki learns to navigate the multiverse and improve the time loom to fulfill Sylvie’s dream of freedom. Loki goes back to confront He Who Remains again and tries to convince Sylvie to not destroy. I will not spoil this scene, but it is incredibly powerful as Loki comes to realize a truth that combines Sylvie’s hope and He Who Remains' fears. This leads to Loki’s transforming and selfless actions later.
In Season two, Loki and Sylvie find themselves at odds by approaching the crisis in different ways. Sylvie wants to destroy the TVA and just allow unlimited variance. Loki is still trying to repair what he perceives in wrong and in an exchange between them we get one of the most important quotes from Loki. “Sure. Burn it down. Easy. Annihilating is easy. Razing things to the ground is easy. Trying to fix what is broken is hard. Hope is hard.” Loki is realizing that mischief may not be the only way and that hope, while hard, is preferable to resignation. This is when we see a turn in the series which sets up the continuing Marvel multiverse stories. But first, back to Loki.
In episode six, “Glorious Purpose,” Loki’s story arc transforms both Loki and the multiverse. Through countless attempts to upgrade the time loom, Loki continues to encounter failure, including when the loom is successfully upgraded. It is at this moment that Loki realizes he must do some mischief in order to fix what is broken and restore hope to the multiverse. Loki returns to the moment before destruction and goes out into the time radiation, walking toward the time loom. Loki transforms his clothing into his God of Mischief outfit with horns and dramatic lines. Sylvie and Loki’s TVA friends are in awe as Loki removes the time loom, causing the timelines to flow around him. He fights to save them from potential destruction. The scene is powerful as Loki walks toward a throne that appears. When Loki vanishes from view and we return to the TVA. Sylvie smiles and says, “He’s giving us a chance.”
Loki carries the ever-expanding timelines toward the throne where he sits grasping the timelines. In that moment, Loki shifts from being the God of Mischief to become the God of Stories. Loki makes a selfless move to give his friends and the multiverse a chance. Not having read the Loki comics, I did not see that coming. I am now going back to read Loki’s stories to understand this move better. But, reading Loki stories is not necessary to see the beauty in what Loki does.
Like anyone who preaches, I immediately thought, “that’ll preach.” From the moment Loki told Sylvie that “hope is hard” I knew we were in for a wild ride. But beyond the Marvel Universe and Multiverse, there is truth in understanding The God of Hebrew and Christian scripture as a God of Stories. Good stories and the ways we interact and learn captivate humanity through story. Scripture, at its most simple is the story of God and the people who experience God working out what that experience means. From the opening of Genesis' creation hymn to the symbolic and hopeful claims of Revelation, God is revealed in story. In the act of kenotic love lived out in the Christ event, we see the ultimate story of who God is. When we interpret the scriptures with Jesus and the Christ event in mind, we can tell inspiring stories about God and how to respond to God’s grace.
God is the God of Stories, but what stories do we tell of God? Do we tell stories that sound more like the stories of the world? Do we tell of a God who is more like He Who Remains or Thanos, than a God who gives up Godself like Loki as he becomes the Marvel God of Stories? Do our stories describe a God who is all controlling and vengeful, or do we tell stories of a God whose love demands that Nineveh be spared when the prophet wants it destroyed? Does our story of God center on the selfless giving over in solidarity for us on the cross? Our stories matter and I hope that we tell beautiful stories of grace and love luring us into relationship.
Christianity stands at a millennial crossroads in the wealthy West. We can continue with stories of empire, conquering, and ugliness; or we can take the harder path of stories filled with hope, kenotic love, and beauty. Brian Zahnd likes to quote the derisive comment toward the Prince in Dostoevsky’s The Idiot “beauty will save the world.” Zahnd is pointing to the beauty of the Christ event, which Christians believe is the beauty which will save the world. Loki’s statement is the statement we might keep in the backs of our minds as we tell stories. “Sure. Burn it down. Easy. Annihilating is easy. Razing things to the ground is easy. Trying to fix what is broken is hard. Hope is hard.” Live into the beautiful story of hope.