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Television

Loki Asks the Question: Was Kafka Wrong?

Rodrigo Arellano is back with more on Loki and Kafka.

Last time we talked about Loki I was screaming about this Czech guy who really didn’t like to do paperwork (you can read it all about it here). Today me and He Who Remains will ask you a question: What if Kafka was wrong? 

But first, a recap: After fighting their way through the TVA, “killing” the Time Keepers, being “pruned”, enchanting Alioth, and finding the master behind the sacred timeline, Loki and Sylvie walk into an office. They walk into a somewhat normal office complete with a bookshelf, a big desk, back windows. Yes, it’s in the middle of all of time and space but an office is just an office regardless of where it is. In that office is a man who controls all of that time and space and he has something to ask of our two heroes. What does the man in the office ask of Loki and Sylve? Well he asks them to take over the paperwork. 

Why? Why does He Who Remains ask the Lokis to take over his job? Why does he ask them to become the ultimate bureaucrat? Because the world, the universe, it needs order, it needs people that set limits and rules, it needs someone to organize it, in short, it needs the TVA and the TVA needs what any good bureaucracy needs: someone in charge. 

He Who Remains explains that if it wasn’t for the sacred timeline different versions of himself would wage war with one another and destroy everything, he says that even if he is evil, his variants are worse. So once again I ask you a question: what is worse than the bureaucrat? Well, the answer is pretty obvious: the conqueror.

He Who Remains (Jonathan Majors) in Marvel Studios’ Loki / Photo by Chuck Zlotnick, Photo Courtesy of Marvel Studios

By the end of the final episode, with he who remains dead, and the conqueror taking control of the TVA I asked myself “What would Kafka think about this?” “Did he hate order, or just the dehumanizing nature of bureaucracy?” “Was Kafka wrong?” Let me tell you, I love the guy, he’s one of my favorite writers of all time. His influence has led me to make big decisions (he’s even one of the reasons I study philosophy), so for me to ask these questions well, let’s just say that Jonathan Majors gave one hell of a performance.

But let’s concentrate on the matter at hand, is Kafka wrong? Is bureaucracy justified by the need for order and the prevention of violence? I don’t think that Kafka was a fan of order, but I don’t think he was against it per se; I think the thing he really hated was the way bureaucracy alienates us and entraps us. In the works he confronts the problem of bureaucracy most directly (The Process, The Castle, The Penal Colony) all those long trials, legal loopholes, and (you guessed it) paperwork limit the freedom of the character, it transforms their life into a meaningless list of steps, it makes them small, makes them like bugs (pun intended). 

But even in the stories that bureaucracy isn’t that present Characters are still trapped in a meaningless existence, doomed to live a life of suffering, to be pathetic human beings. George Samsa from The Metamorphosis was always a bug, even before his transformation. The artist from The Hunger Artist was always destined to fast because he didn’t like food. The man of Before the Law was always destined to stay in the first door. Kafka’s characters are always meant to live life in a prison… maybe he thought the same of himself. 

Sylvie (Sophia DiMartino) and Loki (Tom Hiddleston) in Marvel Studios’ Loki / Photo Courtesy of Marvel Studios

Sadly, the same is shown in Loki. Sylvie believes Loki will always look for the throne, and she does what a Loki always does, she betrays him. In a twist of events, even with the beginning of the multiverse, the TVA exists because it will always exist. Even without the bureaucracy things are going to happen as they should; the only thing that changes is that things get more violent and more sad. 

So maybe, Kafka was wrong, bureaucracy sucks, but it is necessary, because without it order prevails, but instead of it being buried in a mountain of forms and rules, it buries you, or in other words, it conquers you. 

But there is hope, or at least I believe there is. I say this because, well, let me confess something: I like Kafka, I like him a lot, but to be honest with you… to be really honest with you I think he’s a bit of a bummer and well, I think he’s full of shit. 

Don’t get me wrong, I really hate bureaucracy, I hate the trials and tribulations we make ourselves go through and I’m also not the biggest fan of order but in my mind you are only a bug if you let yourself be a bug, and your story is only written if you let someone else read it. 

There is a point in the episode where even the big almighty He who remains doesn’t know what’s gonna happen. The plan of the guy in the big chair only will always have a final step, and after that who knows things might change or they might not, but you won’t know until you get there. 

Sylvie (Sophia DiMartino), Loki (Tom Hiddleston), and Miss Minutes (voiced by Tara Strong) in Marvel Studios’ Loki / Photo Courtesy of Marvel Studios

The thing about Kafka’s characters is they give up too easily, they always stop fighting and even with his amazing writing skills my Czech friend can’t explain why. You may say this argument comes out of nowhere, you may think I’m just trying to be positive for the sake of it and that might be true, but let me ask you something; Wasn’t the Loki series renewed?

The story continues.

So let me leave you with this: you might have noticed that I’ve been asking a lot of questions, and that’s because I love questions; questions are doors (orange translucent doors), and as long as you keep opening doors, as long as the text ends with a question mark your story will continue. So now the question is, do you believe me?  

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