In the wake of the Secret Invasion finale last week, things looked bleak for Marvel fans. The Disney+ series’ sixth installment was met with near-universal derision from both critics and fans alike, and the show’s overall mediocre quality left many bemoaning the current state of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Whether it was in response to negative reviews or a mere coincidence, Marvel subsequently surprised fans on Monday with the first trailer for Loki Season 2, which already looks miles better than Secret Invasion.
Loki’s first season still ranks high among the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s recent TV outings, and the show’s forthcoming episodes appear to pick up right where Season 1 left off. But as good as Loki Season 2 may look, it’s hard to shake the feeling, which Secret Invasion firmly reinforced, that most of what happens in the MCU just doesn’t matter anymore.
Part of the reason why Secret Invasion failed so spectacularly is because the show never convinced viewers its stakes were real. The Skrull vs. Humanity conflict never felt truly dangerous, and its finale’s decision to make a character as flat and undeveloped as G’iah (Emilia Clarke) into the most powerful hero in the entire MCU only made the events of Secret Invasion feel all the more negligible. What are the chances Marvel fans will even see G’iah on-screen again anytime soon (if ever)?
To be fair to Secret Invasion, this has become a growing problem in the MCU over the last few years. 2021’s Eternals ended with a cosmic god partially emerging from within the Earth itself, and that event has yet to be seriously addressed in any of the titles that have followed it. Even Loki Season 1 succumbed to this unfortunate fate. That season’s finale, after all, ended with the demise of He Who Remains (Jonathan Majors), the widespread splitting of the multiverse, and the arrival of an infinite number of Kang the Conqueror variants.
Despite that fact, it’s taken two years for Marvel to follow through on the Loki finale’s Kang promise. And in the meantime, Marvel’s alleged new big bad hasn’t made much of an impact on the rest of the MCU. That’s why, as exciting as it is to see Loki return this fall, it’s hard to take its trailer’s warnings about the “timeline running out” all that seriously. Marvel has, unfortunately, given fans no reason to believe that the events of Loki Season 2 will matter any more than the events of so many of its other Phase 4 and 5 titles.
In the years leading up to Avengers: Endgame, Marvel did an exceptional job of making every new movie feel necessary to the overall story. That not only drove up the MCU’s popularity but made it easier for viewers to become invested in the growing roster of heroes because they all felt important. The MCU was a franchise that could be relied upon to make Captain America wielding Thor’s hammer the pay-off to a seemingly inconsequential conversation in Avengers: Age of Ultron that no one even knew they wanted.
But ever since Endgame hit theaters in 2019, the MCU has expanded at an untenably fast rate. This hurt its overall visual quality as VFX artists were pushed too far, and also made it impossible for Marvel to actually invest enough time into developing the interconnected nature of all of its titles. As a result, the MCU has begun to feel increasingly disconnected and unnecessary. At this point, is it difficult to understand why viewers found the climactic moments of Secret Invasion so laughably bad? They were not only poorly brought to life, but also utterly weightless, which just made the seriousness of the finale feel all the more misplaced.
All of this is to say that it was somewhat jarring to see Marvel follow up the Secret Invasion finale with a Loki Season 2 trailer that desperately wants viewers to buy into the importance of its story. The MCU has simply lost the must-watch quality that once made it unique and powerful, and it will take a whole lot more than Loki Season 2 to get that back.