Maisie Lockwood and Sylvie: How to Advance Plot Without Sacrificing Character Growth (Part 2 of 2)

In Part 1, I showed how two franchises advanced the growth of two main protagonists, Claire Dearing (Jurassic World) and Loki Odinson (Marvel) while still ushering in terrible world events. These two characters grew while still maintaining active participation in the story moving forward. The growth required from both Claire and Loki was that they show restraint where they previously had not. Both characters passed the test and chose to limit themselves.

However, if they had been the only players on the board, the terrible events would have been stopped right then and there. Which is great in a real-life scenario, but not so great for a fictional story that requires conflict to keep moving. The storylines in both the Marvel and the Jurassic franchises needed terrible events to happen in order to move forward.

This is where Maisie Lockwood and Sylvie come in. They are what I like to call “the innocents”.

Maisie Lockwood takes the role of “the innocent” in Jurassice World: Fallen Kingdom. She also fills that vital child role that exists in every Jurassic installment.

Look at that face! So much sweetness and fresh life!

Maisie Lockwood is the granddaughter of Benjamin Lockwood, who was apparently John Hammons’ business partner back in the pre-Jurassic Park days. A difference of beliefs separated the two and is our “convenient” explanation for why we have never heard of Lockwood before. Maisie is about 10-11 years old. She’s sweet, playful, curious, and has the beautiful sense of wonder that all of the child characters bring to the Jurassic series. The themes of the Jurassic franchise are never more clear than when we see how they affect children.

One thing we discover about Mr. Lockwood that is different than John Hammond is what Lockwood does with genetic technology. Lockwood decided to use genetic cloning technology to create a clone of his beloved daughter, who was tragically killed in a car crash. Maisie is not actually Lockwood’s granddaughter, but a genetic recreation of his daughter. The ethical questions involved there raise the roof to a whole new level. As I said in Part 1, every Jurassic installment is always engaging with the important theme of how we value life.

Maisie discovers Eli Mill’s evil plan to exploit the dinosaurs instead of saving them. She is caught by Mills when trying to investigate further, and he locks her away in her room and then murders her grandfather. Maisie finds her dead grandfather and has to escape where she blessedly crosses paths with the good guys, Owen and Claire. During the evening they are hunted by Eli’s latest pet project – the Indoraptor (your worst nightmare of a dinosaur). To put the cherry on top, Eli drops the bombshell that Maisie was created the same way the dinosaurs were. She’s a genetic clone that he had hoped to maintain control over. God only knows what he might have done with her if she hadn’t escaped! This revelation trumps any birds and bees or puberty talks any of us have ever had. Try processing that kind of information when you’re having the worst day ever!

The day ends in the control room where Claire has to make a horrible choice between letting the dinosaurs die, or setting them loose on an unsuspecting population. She wants to, but she cannot, so she walks away from the button in tears as she watches the beautiful creatures in agony. It’s awful…but then…

The light goes green, and the doors open releasing the dinosaurs to the wilds of California outside. All adults in the room turn around to the control panel to spot a tearful Maisie, her hand on the button. She has let the dinosaurs go.

Maisy I had to. They’re alive, like me.

Imagine having just learned you were created the same way these dinosaurs were?

It’s a uniquely triumphant moment for every dinosaur lover watching, even as we know there will be consequences in the end. The beauty of this scenario is that the dinosaurs were let loose, but we cannot actually feel anger towards the person who released them. Why? Because she is innocent, and from her perspective we understand her decision.

Maisie is a young child who has been through the most traumatic day imaginable. Her grandpa was murdered. An evil man wanted to control her. She was almost eaten. Everything she thought she knew about her life was wrong. She doesn’t even have a biological mother and father. Can you imagine getting hit with all of that in one single day when you are only 10 years old?

Children have very straightforward and honest logic. Sometimes it makes more sense than adults’ logic. And sometimes it has the best of intentions and the worst of consequences. They’re alive, like me.

In Maisie’s mind, the only right and moral decision is to release the dinosaurs. If she is alive and has value, so do they. Her value for life is strong, untainted by greed or bitter life experiences. Her heart was in the right place, even if she doesn’t yet have the wisdom or maturity to think beyond this moment and understand what she has just done.

Claire could not push that button and maintain her character growth, she knows better. But Maisie had to push that button to explain and advance hers. It’s all understandable and we follow the emotions and motivations perfectly. The Big Bad Thing has happened without compromising the growth of the characters who knew better. But Maisie doesn’t know better, and in every way possible she believes this is the right choice.

And who can blame her? Who in her life has ever taught her otherwise? The writers get their cake and get to eat it too!

Sylvie is female Loki variant who was stolen from her happy life as a child.

Sylvie was probably about the same age (in Asgardian years) as Maisie when she was kidnapped. She was committing the terrible crime of being a happy little girl, playing with toys in her own bedroom when a door from the TVA opened up and a Hunter came through and stole her away. They gave a timeline reset charge, and just like that, Sylvie was erased from existence. Scheduled to be pruned – KILLED, IT’S CALLED KILLED, PEOPLE – Sylvie made a brave escape and has been on the run from the TVA ever since.

She is a powerful woman in her 30s now (in Asgardian years). Her entire growing-up experience was about trying to hide throughout the multiverse and stay one step ahead of her pursuers. Revenge is what raised her. On the outside, she is beautiful, intelligent, cunning, witty, and bitter. On the inside, she is still that little girl who is devastated, terrified, and asking the obvious question -WHY?

Why was she removed from her happy life? What had she done that was so wrong it was okay to try kill her? WHY???

Observe. This is a child. A CHILD! The TVA just grabbed this child from her own bedroom floor, shoved her around like a criminal, and judged her worthy to be pruned. Not a single tear shed, not a single person listening to her cries for help. This is sick!

Loki falls in love with this vulnerable and aching place in her. Not because he can exploit her, which would have been the old Loki’s approach, but because he has compassion for her. Because he wishes he could restore that sense of peace, safety, and beauty of life that was stolen from her. I think he also finds her fight for life refreshing. The odd contrast between them is that Loki actually had a semi-decent life and often squandered it. He missed what was right in front of him and held true relationship at arms length.

Sylvie dreamed of getting to have that life but it was stolen from her without any decision on her part. Loki kind of deserves a lot of the crap he gets, Sylvie deserved none of it.

One of the most devastating moments to me in all of Loki was when Sylvie confronts Ravonna Renslayer, the judge who ordered her to be pruned as a child.

Sylvie Do you remember me?

Ravonna Renslayer I do.

Sylvie Why did you bring me in?

Ravonna Renslayer What does it matter?

Sylvie It was enough to take my life away from me.

Ravonna I don’t remember.

Ravonna’s dismissal of the pain she’s caused Sylvie is sickening. But then when Sylvie and Loki fight back against their TVA captors, Ravonna faces off against Sylvie with bitterness in her face.

Ravonna Renslyer This time I finish the job!

This time. This time, as opposed to last time when Sylvie WAS A CHILD ABOUT TO BE MURDERED?!? Ravonna regrets she wasn’t able to kill Sylvie sooner. This scene makes me ill. Ravonna wishes she had succeeded in murdering an innocent child. That’s so sick.

And yet, this belief system is alive in our world today. People justify the killing of unborn children, the elderly, or the disabled for a variety of reasons. “You wouldn’t belong in our world”, “You don’t fit our definition of perfect”, “You will have problems and might have a hard life”, “You will get in the way of someone/something else more important,” “You didn’t belong on The Sacred Timeline.” Etc.

The same, sick, twisted justifications that we see with glaring clarity in Ravonna are fed to men and women in the real world every day. We are fooled into destroying precious lives (young and old) by the same evil logic.

I do not say this to condemn anyone, but to condemn the lies and root of the evil itself. Life is PRECIOUS, this is a theme we see upheld in both Loki AND the Jurassic series.

When Loki and Sylvie reach the End of All Time and see He Who Remains, it’s clear to the viewer that there really isn’t a nice or safe option. We can figure out that the story probably needs He Who Remains to die. We also can figure out that the Sacred Timeline and the measures taken to protect it are evil. But is there a right choice here? That Multiversal War, whew, that’s a hefty price! The enormity of the choice sounds just dreadful.

Sylvie is right, you have to set things free. You cannot control everyone and call it “love” or “compassion”. True love does not control, this is a truth from God Himself. Loki is also kind of right, freedom and free will is a two-edged sword and there are sometimes dark consequences for it. Our own world has startlingly clear evidence of both of these facts.

Sylvie’s motivation and the intended goal remain focused. She’s going to destroy this man who destroyed her life, and in doing so she’s going to protect others from enduring the same suffering she’s had. Sylvie has had one thing to keep her alive, one purpose in life for who knows how many centuries: revenge. Destroy the people before they destroy her.

After seeing the horrors of the TVA firsthand, I can totally understand her motivation. It’s a heck of a better motivation than Loki ever had.

When I look at Sylvie, I don’t just see a woman. I see a terrified little girl trying to survive. Every time I stare into her big eyes, I see that raw fear and torment. I see her saying, “Somebody help me!”

Nobody ever tried to help Sylvie, so she had to help herself.

If I were in her shoes, who knows, I might do the same thing and feel entirely justified in doing so. Even so, enough information is shared by He Who Remains to give Loki himself major pause. Hold the phone, sister, we should think BEFORE we stab!

Loki is “right” in what he is saying. Most importantly, the hesitation and restraint he shows with both finesse and compassion are RIGHT for his character arc. Loki says “no” and I couldn’t be prouder!

Sylvie is also right. Both characters sort of face a no-win scenario in this scene. You don’t know what is going to happen, but either way, it’s going to be awful and messy. I loved that Loki said no, and I also understood why Sylvie said “yes”. She first removed Loki from the situation, and then followed through on her intentions to destroy He Who Remains once and for all.

She sees this moment as saving lives while avenging her own. She’s seen the waste and destruction of human life, and the trampling of freedom across the universe as she’s waged this one-woman war. Sylvie never had someone to fight for her. But she believes she can fight for others and spare them the grief she has suffered.

It makes sense, and it needs to happen. Marvel needed a bigger problem than the Purple Abomination Himself. A multiversal war should do the trick, and Sylvie was the perfect choice to stab that door open.

And now? Well, now we watch all of our characters face the consequences of choices made in the past and in the present.

…..

Well-crafted characters who are “innocents” should not be stupid or consciously rebellious. Many stories have made use of foolish or stupid characters to create trouble for the smarter characters to solve, and it gets obnoxious very quickly. An example of this would be every single scene with Frances in Disney’s classic The Swiss Family Robinson. That kid is anything but innocent, he’s a brat who almost gets his family killed time and again. His reasons for getting into trouble are not compelling or defendible, they are just foolish.

No, a truly innocent character has a legitimate and “logical” reason for the decisions they make. They may be naive, uninformed on some things, or unaware of the full consequences of their choice – like Maisie Lockwood. She’s an orphan child with a great deal of courage and a very simple sense of morality. You understand her heart and love her for it even while you know she is wrong.

Some innocents like Sylvie began as helpless victims caught in a whirlwind that they now seek to undo. This type of character can easily morph into a monster who believes any and all means justify the ends. They can become as evil as the thing/person they seek to destroy. One of the saving graces of Sylvie’s story is that it’s so incredibly twisted up, complex, and confusing, that you really can’t find a firm ground beyond one thing – all lives matter. Sylvie does fight and sometimes kill, but that’s usually after she’s attacked first. When she enchants Hunters to use for her purposes, she leaves them with a clearer mind and a memory of who they were before. Is every choice Sylvie makes good? No, I wouldn’t say that. But I understand many of them.

We see the evidence of a tender heart in Sylvie in the candy that she gives to the small French child Mobius interrogates. Or the comments Sylvie makes regarding a woman who is in love with her husband. We see it in how she looks at Loki when she kisses him before shoving him through a portal. Sylvie believes 1000% that what she is doing will bring greater good to the universe, and she will follow through on that even if it means losing a relationship with Loki.

…..

Complex and well-crafted stories can be intimidating to storytellers. I guarantee you that these stories are not as out of reach or impossible to create as you might think. The best stories are grounded and driven by beautiful, human characters.

Claire, Maisie, Loki, and Sylvie are some prime examples of brilliant storytelling and character development that we all can learn a lot from. When you create characters like these, it’s not hard to have your cake and eat it too!

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