NOTE: Full spoilers for this episode of, “Loki” are present in this review
Marvel Studios’ brand new Disney+ series arm continues to grow at an exponential rate, with the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s highly-anticipated villain dramedy, Loki finally premiering this week, following on from WandaVision and The Falcon and the Winter Soldier. Whereas those shows are both reported to be miniseries that are being designed to lead into a specific upcoming movie however, Loki is apparently the MCU’s first ongoing series made for Disney+, one that allegedly already has a second season in early development. This could indicate that Loki is not being designed as a specific companion for any one movie, and will instead explore deeper background ramifications for the MCU at large, over the course of potentially years. I can’t say I’m complaining either, because Loki’s first episode is positively brilliant, quickly leaving the also-great debuts for WandaVision and The Falcon and the Winter Soldier firmly in its dust!
Right from the jump, Loki presents a very inspired premise, one that was initially teased during the 2012-era Loki’s unexpected escape during the events of Avengers: Endgame. Having gotten away with the Tesseract thanks to the 2023-era Avengers intervening in the past, something that was not supposed to occur in the MCU’s history, Loki ends up being quickly apprehended by the Time Variance Authority, a formerly unknown, ultra-resourceful faction that’s been managing background events in the MCU since the beginning of time itself. Amazingly, every event in the MCU’s past, present and future has been dictated and approved by the Time-Masters (including the Avengers’ time traveling in Avengers: Endgame!), god-like beings that manage the MCU’s timeline, and founded the TVA to help ensure the integrity of ever-fragile history. Think The Doctor from Doctor Who, if The Doctor was an entire organization of god-appointed secret agents.
Loki however represents the first legitimate break from the MCU’s, “Sacred timeline”, making him a ‘time variant’, one that must be put on trial and sentenced by the TVA. Virtually this entire first episode of Loki, which spans a beefy 50-minute runtime, is thus designed to establish the weird, highly imaginative world of the TVA, a world so strange that it even puts WandaVision’s meta eccentricity to shame at its best! Loki’s processing through the TVA’s incredible bureaucracy is loaded with wacky imagination, some of which cutely mimics the Sakaarian ‘processing’ that Thor underwent during the events of Thor: Ragnarok, only with more head-scratching paperwork. As you can imagine, this seemingly defies Loki’s billing as a drama series, and has it soaring out of the gate as an off-the-wall comedy. Fortunately, if you’re coming for the silliness, Loki’s many brilliant moments of zany, winking humour will have you tickled pink!
It’s no wonder that Loki’s story can’t be logically contained to just one six-episode season. The immensely creative world, technology and characters of the TVA naturally lend themselves to several seasons’ worth of content, with viewers likely barely scratching the surface of the TVA’s many tricks at this point. The TVA are so all-encompassing and omnipresent in fact that even Infinity Stones are useless in their world, with one especially brilliant gag having Loki witness several variant Infinity Stones in a TVA pencil pusher’s desk, to which the man responds that some of the TVA employees like to use them as paperweights. Unsurprisingly, Loki is completely out of his element within the TVA’s territory, where even the Tesseract is little more than a doorstop, and where he can no longer talk his way out of trouble, nor can he rely on even the most powerful sorcery and artifacts in the MCU to escape and return to his timeline.
As a slight caveat to such a lovably amusing introduction to the TVA, Loki’s first episode can be a little bit dense, and some viewers may find it initially overwhelming. You might need to watch this episode twice or more to fully absorb all of the heaps of information and newly-established MCU lore within it, even if you’re a devout Marvel fan and/or MCU follower! The establishment of the TVA gets especially complicated with the introduction to a ‘timeline war’ that supposedly took place during the MCU’s distant past as well, which is how the MCU’s home universe, Earth-199999, eventually designated one ‘sacred timeline’, to avoid another multiverse war. Obviously though, a multiverse war appears to be exactly what’s coming in the MCU’s near future, with Avengers: Endgame, WandaVision and even Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. (again, assuming that show is still canon), all effectively foreshadowing that the MCU is about to throw open the doors to the Marvel Multiverse, and all of the infinite realities and timelines that come with it.
Fortunately, as much as Tom Hiddleston effortlessly dominates this series, with Loki now in a well-deserved starring role, we also have Owen Wilson excelling as Loki’s own proper introduction to the world of the TVA, Mobius M. Mobius. Mobius is a detective for the TVA, one that happens to be investigating a series of mysterious attacks across the timeline, all perpetrated by someone that appears to be wielding a mysterious bladed weapon. The end of this episode seemingly reveals the identity of this perpetrator as well– Another version of Loki! It turns out that escaped 2012 Loki is not the first time variant Loki that the TVA has had to try and manage, and whatever form this other Loki takes, they’re a nasty one! This other variant Loki has murdered quite a few TVA agents in fact, all seemingly in a bid to steal their time-resetting devices for some unknown purpose.
This immediately creates a compelling mystery for Loki’s initial six episodes, which I imagine will entail Loki hopping across history with Mobius to chase himself down. Even then however, at its deepest foundations, Loki excellently echoes the persistent conflict that has defined its eponymous character throughout the MCU’s entire history. The MCU’s Loki is, at his deepest core, an unhinged wannabe with an enormous chip on his shoulder, one that plays at being a god because he’s never felt truly in charge of his own destiny. This premiere episode puts that into brilliant focus by having Loki witness the future that MCU fans have already seen unfold across several movies, including Loki’s accidental hand in Frigga’s death during Thor: The Dark World, his time watching his father die with Thor during the beginning of Thor: Ragnarok, and ultimately, his own death at the hands of Thanos during the opening of Avengers: Infinity War. Just like that, Loki sees that the, “Glorious purpose” he constantly purports to carry isn’t actually real, and that he simply exists as a motivator for the MCU’s flagship heroes, one meant to cause nothing but misery, be defeated, and eventually die a thankless death at the hands of a much more powerful and dangerous threat.
For the first time however, Loki gives its titular subject the chance to break free and truly embrace his own destiny, for good or for ill. Hell, this parallel Loki that Mobius is after has already done that, ironically proving that Loki can in fact achieve, “Glorious purpose”, simply by breaking away from the preordination that he’s now witnessed first-hand. It’s a lot to take in, sometimes to a fault, but Loki’s first episode is nonetheless a wild, delightfully bizarre ride through yet another formerly unseen, thoroughly distinct new corner of the MCU. Suddenly, even the threat of Thanos and the Infinity Stones feels small in contrast to the TVA and its ever-present fight to preserve the MCU’s ‘sacred timeline’, representing yet another inspired boost to the MCU’s consistently growing scope. Naturally, Loki’s production values are also once again stellar to boot, packing in lots of colourful, imaginative and visually stunning environments and technical flourishes, along with some of the coolest, most unique musical compositions that the MCU has delivered to date. Seriously, composer, Natalie Holt has knocked it out of the park with Loki’s superb soundtrack!
Glorious purpose, indeed.
- Imaginative, memorable introduction to the TVA
- Exceptionally explores Loki's ever-present struggle against his fate
- Exciting foreshadowing of a multiverse-scale conflict
- The huge dump of TVA lore may be a bit dense for some