So I’m watching Disney+ series, Loki and the second episode is about to become available any minute, yet I haven’t posted a review.
The series, what it seems to be tackling, and what if delivered in the first episode gave me a lot of things to write about, and I’ve started, scrapped, and re-started this review several times.
It’s too much.
So, first, let me sum up: Fun! Funny!
Some more details would be nice, and I’ll try to do that in a reasonable word count below. I must warn you: *After this there be SPOILER!
So turn back now if you don’t want to be spoiled.
First, want to say that I’ve enjoyed the way that the Marvel Cinematic Universe has handled the elements of Norse Mythology they’ve used for the Thor and the Avengers movies. Often when American producers delve into mythology they go the cookie cutter route of portraying the leader of the gods as the Good Guy, kind and wise and so forth, one of the other gods as the Bad Guy (usually a take on the Devil), and the other gods are mostly sorted into the two camps of the good gods and the bad gods.
Therefore, Odin is the leader of the good gods, Loki is the equivalent of the devil, and Thor is the loyal son of the leader of the good gods.
If you’ve actually read Norse mythology, you know that this isn’t how things are. Odin in wily and is not above cheating another supernatural being out of an agreed upon payment for a large job, just to get one example.
Some of the most interesting of the Norse stories involve Loki very cleverly getting Thor or the other Asgardians out of trouble that their carelessness or arrogance get them into.
Particularly in the move Thor: Ragnarok we saw that Odin has definitely not always be a "good guy" and that when push came to shove, Loki will do the right thing.
It is true that Loki is often portrayed as a master of deception, and clearly he’s never going to be a Knight in Shining Armor, but the way he’s been portrayed in the movies by Tom Hiddleston over the last decade or so has always given us moments where you feel for the guy.
In Avengers: Infinity War Loki died trying to kill Thanos and save the remnant of Asgard’s population. In the next Avengers movie, End Game the surviving heroes pull of a series of Time Heists to get the Infinity Stones (which Thanos destroyed after using them to kill half the population of the universe). And during one part of that heist they jumped into a portion of the very first Avengers movie, but things don’t go according to play, and the Loki of that time period (who had been captured and was in restraints) grabs the Space Stone (aka the Tesseract) and escapes.
Thus messing up both the plans of the heroes (who later in the movie put all the stolen stones back into the place and time they had come from).
The series picks up moments after that Loki vanished. He finds himself in the Gobi desert. Some kind of portals open up and heavily armed people come out, incapacitate him, make some comments about the broken timeline, then set something called a "reset charge" and take the captures Loki through the portal.
Loki has been arrested by the Time Variance Authority (TVA). The TVA appeared in a lot of Marvel comic books over the years. They are, essentially, an extra-dimensional time police. And look for events that break what they call "the sacred timeline," they find the person who caused the change in history, (who they call "variants") they prone the branching timeline, and bring the Variant back to their extradimension city/giant burueacracy to be tried and then erased from reality.
Most of this is explained in a very cute orientation video that Loki is forced to watch early in the first episode.
Pruning the branches from the timeline isn’t always as easy as the opening scene of the episode makes it appear. And the viewers learn that there is someone who is ambushing the crews of heavily armed time agents, killing them, and stealing the reset charge.
But much of this episode involved Loki trying to figure out how to get out of this predicament. One of the best recurring bits is he keeps making his grand eloquent speeches about how he is the God of Mischief and to be feared, and absolutely none of the bored looking pencil pushers he keeps meeting even bats an eye.
One time agent, Agent Mobius, wants to spare Loki from immediate erasure because he thinks Loki might be able to help them with the new problem. Mobius is played by Owen Wilson, and he seems to be the perfect foil to Hiddleston’s Loki in this episode.
Mobius tries to explain how in the main timeline, Loki did not escape, and he is destined to go on to inadvertently cause his mothers death (Thor: The Dark World), and die by Thanos’ hand without ever achieving the glory he’s always believed was his. The title of the first episdoe, "Glorious Purpose" is a phrase Loki used in the first Avengers movie when he began his attempt to conquer the world.
Hiddleston isn’t limited to generating laughs. There’s a point in the episode where he tries to escape, and winds up hiding out in the room Mobius had been briefing him in earlier. He watches those parts of his future Mobius told him about that he didn’t want to believe. The look on his face when he sees his mother’s death, and then later is own was just heart wrenching.
Loki realizes that he is powerless in that place, that the infinity stones are also powerless, and that the glorious purpose he always believed was is is just a pile of bitter ashes.
Before the episode ends, we see one of the groups of time agents get ambushed and killed, and we see a mysterious cloaked figure take the reset charge.
Presumably Mobius is about to try to pit Loki’s wiles and scheming against the mysterious cloaked figure. How will that work?
I’m really looking forward to finding out!
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It’s the fifth anniversary of the worst mass killing of queer people in U.S. history. Before the 49 victims of the Pulse massacre, the worst single event had been the UpStairs Lounge arson attack on June 24, 1973 in New Orleans.
I see that certain news sites and deplorables are once again trying to push the narrative that this event was a hate crime directed against queer people. I explained why they are wrong last year: Four years after the Pulse massacre and don’t feel the need to re-hash everything, other than to point out the the shooter’s own father was one of the people who thought the club had been picked because of how much his son hated queer people and that his son had ranted a lot the week before the shooting about how marriage equality was proof that American culture had embraced evil.
On this night five years ago, a lot of people were at Pulse celebrating Latinx Night as one of several Pride Month activities at the bar. They went out to have fun, to dance, to be with other queer people. To celebrate life. To celebrate Pride. To celebrate the concept that love is love.
Forty-nine of them never came home that night. I don’t personally know any of them, but when I am reminded of that night, I cry just as hard as a did when I was first reading news reports of the even the next morning. Because queer people are my tribe. Queer people are my community.
And the biggest fear I have had since realizing I was gay, is that some day a hater is going to kill me or someone I love because we’re queer.
Four years later, the Pulse massacre is still a gut punch.
In their timezone it’s already past midnight, but I am really happy that we have a First Lady who I’m not ashamed of, so: Happy 7-0 To Dr. Jill Biden, The Best First Lady Since Michelle Obama!
As often happens, the Wonkette captured my thoughts perfectly!
So, there’s a blog post about writing and plotting that I keep not finishing in no small part because I keep going on digressions that quickly turn into fractal rabbit holes and the next thing I know I’m writing about something so unrelated to the original subject that even when I stop and re-read the string of digressions I have a hard time understanding how I got there.
I decided that this particular digression was worth it’s own post. And maybe if I get the rant out of my system I’ll have one less digression to avoid in the other post.
I have mentioned many times how my mom, who is a both a science fiction and murder mystery fan, would read aloud to me from whatever book she had checked out of the library for herself and picked up at the used bookstore when I was a small child. From a very early age, therefore, I heard a lot of Agatha Christie murder mysteries, and a lot of Andre Norton sci fi and fantasy, and so forth.
Because of the Christies, I have always had a great fondness for murder mysteries, police procedurals, and the like. Which means that I usually watch at least the first episode of any new series in that vein, to see if it might become my new obsession.
But I also have a few pet peeves, and one of them is the serial killer. Some series seem to decide to throw in a serial killer when other plotlines in the series are fizzling out. Some series can’t seem to go a month without throwing in a serial killer plot.
Why do I almost always dislike serial killers in these shows? First of all, fictional serial killers are almost always portrayed as super geniuses who have been getting away with it because no one can keep up with the blazing brilliance. That doesn’t match reality, at all. Most serial killers range from borderline intellectual functioning /(well below average intelligence/) to just a bit above average intelligence.
The reasons that most serial killers manage to rack up sometimes mind-boggling numbers of murders before they get caught are much more mundane. According to FBI statistics, on average only 58% of murder investigations result in an identification of a perpetrator. In a number of cities, that percentage is lower, less that 50%. So the odds are already pretty good that a serial killer will get away with it for a while.
Another big reason is that a lot of serial killers target strangers. There is no social connection between the killer and their victims. Police investigations always focus at the beginning on people who knew the victim. One reason they do this is because it’s easy, once you know who the victim is, to compile a list of neighbors, relatives, and co-workers. Then you got investigate all of them.
The second reason that police investigations always focus on people who knew the victim well first is a kind of confirmation bias. To explain in, I’m going to go on a planned digression.
Several years ago the place I was employed at at the time experienced a number of workplace thefts. Thousands of dollars in hard drives alone was walking out the door somehow. They brought in a consultant to give us all pointers in how to secure our work areas and so forth. This consultant turned out to be one of these guys who is really good at sounding like an expert but not really that bright. And he had apparently never given his presentation to a room full of computer engineers and other kinds of math nerds before. Early in the presentation he had a slide that included a statistic that at most 5% of the perpetrators of workplace theft are ever caught. Sometime later in the presentation he said, "Nine times out of ten the workplace thief turns out to be an employee."
A zillion hands shot up. "But you just said that only 5% are caught, that means the 95 times out of 100 we don’t know who the thief is. At best, you can only so that 4 times out of 100 the perpetrator turns out to be an employee."
It became really painful to watch, because the guy didn’t understand the flaw in the statistics. At all.
That example applies to the cliches that a number of police believe about murders. "It’s also the boyfriend!" or "It’s almost always someone who knew the victim well." Those beliefs are the a result at looking at that 58% or less of the murders that are "solved." I put solved in quotes because the FBI statistics don’t require an actual conviction to designate a murder case as having been cleared, and they don’t take into account the growing number of wrongful convictions that are being discovered through testing of DNA evidence that wasn’t tested at the time.
The important thing is that if we accept the 58% number as a rough estimate of how many murders get solved, that means we have absolutely no idea how many of the unsolved murders were committed by someone the victim knew. At best, it seems that a little over half time someone is charged, it’s usually someone the victim knew. That that’s 51% of the 58% solved, which is less than 30% of all the murders.
Meanwhile the serial killer has gone back to their normal life and never gets looked at by the cops.
A third reason that a lot of serial killers get away with it a lot is not just that thereis no prior known social connection between the killer and the victim, is that a significant number of serial killers target people in various marginalized communities. It’s not just that a number of police don’t think the victims are worth the time and effort (though that is a factor), but that other prejudices and facts of systemic bigotry makes a lot of potential evidence essentially invisible.
The most famous example of this is one of Jeffery Dahmer’s victim. The young man was clearly injured, had escaped the clutches of the cannibal Dahmer, and was begging for help. Except he spoke almost no english. The police who found him handed him back over to the cannibal, because Dahmer was a white guy who spoke well, and he convinced the cops that the young asian man was simply his boyfriend and they had had a lovers spat.
Another example are some of the known victims of Toronto serial killer Bruce McArthur. They were closeted gay men, several of them either immigrants themselves or the children of immigrants. They led double-lives which meant that for those that were reported missing, the families simply didn’t know a lot about their lives. At least one victim was never reported missing because his family feared deportation.
There are a lot of other myths about serial killers that almost always are used in these shows, but this evil genius myth is particularly irritating to me. Now, I get it. If the writers’ wrote a serial killer case truthfully, the cops wouldn’t arrest anyone and not get to be shown as heroes. That’s not as fun a story to write.
One easy solution to that problem, in my opinion, is not to write about serial killers at all. Find other ways to put your characters into difficult situations. There are millions of other possibilities. Give them a try.