The Test

Validation is a funny thing. It rarely happens when you want it, and even less so when you’re stuck in a hole requiring the energy to climb out. It’s also absolutely NOT the stuff you think it is. Not everybody wants to be loved and adored, you know. Many just want to be told that what happened to them was wrong, and that there’s a better way to live. When that happens, whole lives just become better, and you become determined not to repeat the mistakes of the past. Some you won’t ever avoid though, and only now, at this moment, do I really understand why.

When you assume the world is like you, nothing will ever function correctly, because of the disparity between your own perception and everybody else’s. Ironically, it’s taken a TV show to bring this home to me. It’s amazing how validating it is to have something presented to you on screen that becomes the perfect metaphor for that thing which ails you. In my case, that means I’m Tom Hiddleston, and this becomes a blog post about Loki.

Forget everything else about the show, and just take the protagonist’s dilemma alone: this Loki left his timeline when he shouldn’t. At the second that happened, a divergent branch of time was created, and the TVA turned up to make sure it didn’t and that Loki’s glorious purpose was fulfilled. He was born to die in the Sacred Timeline, and that’s it. Like all the other Loki who strayed off the path, all that mattered was his removal.

However, all those splinters of the same personality, all still Loki, continued to live past their removal. One never had the chance to live at all (in the case of Sylvie) whist presumably all the others got shunted out to the Void to be erased for good. What this gives us as viewers is a brilliant means by which we show Hiddleston’s version grow and understand that when he’s not selfish and thinking about himself, he opens himself up to becoming not only likeable, but noble. When his view of the world is so fundamentally altered for good, change becomes essential to survive.

Loki learns from the versions of himself: he brings peace to Sylvie in the moments before both think they will die, and their ‘relationship’ has a power that literally manifests as the most powerful Nexus event anyone in the TVA has ever seen. It’s not for nothing, I think that Richard E Grant’s Loki backstory involves him spending a long time in solitude either, that when he sees what Möbius intends to do now he’s learnt he’s been brainwashed as a Variant, it is enough to transform a bitter old Asgardian into a hero.

In its most didactic form, this show is telling us that bad people have good in them: Prime Loki says it himself to Möbius, before they head off to Pompeii to prove the theory of Sylvie hiding in apocalypses. He knows the difference between good and bad, he’s not a scared child… and as an adult, his reaction to the Loki bowling alley fight is priceless. All your personality splinters, vying for control, and all of them utter idiots. It’s no wonder there’s a fan theory circulating that this could be happening inside Loki’s brain the whole time.

Prime Loki knows what he is by Episode 5, what that actually means, and how he uses his powers for good and evil if he chooses. The whole TVA experience is the equivalent of an instruction manual on how to live life well in the Marvel Universe. It’s the moral code, laid down well and reinforced correctly. Nobody is irredeemable, but you have to want it, there needs to be work: when Prime Loki potentially gives his life, so Sylvie can have a shot at enchanting Alioth, it’s the validation of his journey. That’s the payoff. Here’s a new Loki, who’s accepted he can never return what he was.

That’s a very powerful storytelling element, and it’s an extremely clever means by which to build your Multiverse. All things are possible, past and present, old and new. It puts the ‘Original’ MCU down as a foundation that will work forever at holding up and increasingly diverse and colourful structure above it: as audience tastes change, so can it. In the end, this will annoy those who cannot think past the linear, that want their stories to matter more than anybody else’s, and if that’s not a metaphor for modern living, I don’t know what is.

You’re wondering what all this has to do with me, aren’t you? There’s a moment in Episode 5, as Prime Loki and Sylvie face up to Alioth: as they stand side by side, Loki moves. He places himself behind the variant who’s strongest, because that’s what you do. There’s a point where validation isn’t just about what you think it is, but it becomes something else. The validation you receive from other people is rarely recognized at the time, because you’re normally too busy fighting fires or just coping to grasp any actual significance.

Once in a while, something happens that justifies what you are: it’s that moment where judgement is proven to be sound. You make the right call, and here’s the proof: you didn’t enchant a monster or save the Universe. You just did you, to the best of your ability. This is the way, without feeling awkward or unhappy, and it is apparent, just for a moment, that there is a glorious purpose to be fulfilled. It is when humanity is recognized, then embraced.

Change begins with you, people. Never forget this.

Oh, and as a TL/DR and P.S. combined:

Police and Thieves

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Whilst I was unwell, NCIS saved my Soul.

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The man responsible for this concept also created Quantum Leap, a show that remains on the ‘guilty pleasures’ list after many decades. It’s a procedural, and I’ve enjoyed those well before CSI made science sexy on TV. If you want one reason why this show is so interesting, casting provides part of the answer. The NCIS team are an eclectic bunch, including David McCallum (Man from UNCLE, Sapphire and Steel) as the Coroner. However, the writing consistently shines, built around an embedded backstory thread that just keeps on giving. I’ve done Season One and am well into Season Two, with absolutely no regrets.

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Sometimes it creaks, I won’t lie. Other times it surprises, which is always a bonus in a TV show. It is the quirks in characters that often carry entire episodes, with guest star turns that never disappoint. The Season Two opener, for instance, stars David Keith in a role that almost looks as if it were written for him, which is wonderfully taught with the obligatory Third Act sting. I’ve yet to see a bad episode, and that for me makes TV that stops being casual and evolves into compelling.

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It also helps greatly that the women presented aren’t just smart, clever and independent, they’re made that way. It is a realistic view of the World as I see it.

I look forward to losing myself in the weeks to come.

Life on Mars

I have a confession to make: I watch perilously little TV these days. Normally there is just not the time to do so: there tends instead to be vicarious consumption via Social media. However, as of right now I have two regular shows which aren’t missed: Quacks on BBC2 (you can iPlayer the whole thing if you choose, I prefer to do it old school) and, on the same channel Astronauts: Do You Have What it Takes? They are about as far apart as you can get in terms of subject matter, but I have interests in both.

The former is interesting for the subject matter (Victorian medicine but done for laughs) except I don’t find it that funny. In fact, I’m slightly concerned when I’ve heard other people consider it just that when I really don’t laugh that much at all. However, Rory Kinnear can do no wrong in my mind (you’ll know him as Bill Tanner from the Bond movies) and everybody else seems to be having a whale of a time so you know, it’s a win regardless. The Astronaut thing is as cerebral as reality TV shows can probably get at current levels: you ‘prize’ should you ‘win’ is a recommendation from former Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield to get you into the Space Programme.

After that, there are a bazillion things I probably should watch but simply haven’t gotten around to doing, thanks to the levels of work at present. This includes The Handmaid’s Tale, Twin Peaks, anything on Netflix or Amazon Prime and pretty much every point in between. In good news none of this stuff is going anywhere, the nights are getting longer and I could conceivably do this whilst cycling in the shed. I’d have to make a priority list but it might be a plan for getting through until next year, assuming nuclear war doesn’t break out in the meantime.

Today however is Back to School day for everybody, and when you read this I expect to be celebrating with a cuppa and quite possibly a book before I get on with the rest of my plans for the week. There’s a poetry submission for the 8th but as I have to pay for it I’m still not sure it is summat worth doing. I’ll sleep on it tonight and consider the possibilities on Wednesday.