Loki is back! To all those who mourned the loss of the Asgardian God of Mischief at the beginning of Infinity War, and those who were hopeful during the Time Heist of Endgame, the wait is over. Loki, directed by Kate Herron with Michael Waldron as head writer, explores what happened to the Loki variant who got his hands on the tesseract when the Avengers managed to bungle one of the missions during the Time Heist.
The following review is based on the first two episodes of Loki, this review is intended to be a spoiler-free review.
It is notable that when Loki was announced and the general public learned that the Loki of 2012 aka Loki from The Avengers would be starring in his own series, there was a mixed response. Many were excited to see Tom Hiddleston return after a devastating loss in Infinity War, some were reluctant because the Loki of The Avengers had a lot of character developing and growing to do before he became the Asgardian who tried to kill Thanos to save his brother and the universe in Infinity War. It felt like a shame to throw away all of that delicious development, but Loki offers some solace to those who are concerned.
Loki, at its best, exudes style and slick charm just like its eponymous protagonist. Hiddleston is partnered with Owen Wilson‘s Mobius, who is essentially just playing himself in the MCU. The two pair up together after Loki is apprehended by the Time Variance Authority for his “crimes against the timeline”. Wilson and Hiddleston have a good amount of chemistry with each other and Mobius’ dry wit is a fair match for Loki, in all his smarmy trickster glory. He quite literally opens the series up trying to monologue to a bunch of strangers in a desert, classic Loki.
The series is also good at balancing its overall themes of determinism and fatalism. Loki, being the god of mischief and an agent of total chaos, meets his match in the TVA, an authority that is the pure embodiment of order. The timelines are fixed, the mysterious Time Keepers dictate what will happen, your past, present, and future are already written. Mobius and Loki’s conversations about this fatalist multiverse, especially in the first episode, are full of great moments, especially for the viewers who love a bit of psychoanalysis.
However, the concern is will the series be able to pull off an ending that will satisfy without being too predictable or too out-of-left-field? After two episodes, it is clear that Loki is going to be one for the reddit deep-divers, the red string theory people, the crazy conspiracists. When we’re dealing with multiverses, it comes with a territory. But MCU fans have been burned before, see Mephisto theorists in Wandavision. There is so much potential in Loki to set up not only the rest of Phase 4, but Phase 5 and beyond, but that is a lot to burden this show with.
The power behind the series is how quickly it plunges you into the world of the TVA. On minute you’re in the Gobi Desert, the next minute you’re in a beige and orange washed banal futuristic mega-office, wearing a jumpsuit and signing away everything you’ve ever said. The set design and Natalie Holt‘s score of the series sets the tone perfectly. Holt’s style feels like it draws influence from Delia Derbyshire of Doctor Who theme fame, which feels very apt given the show. There is a blend of mid-century modern with retro futurism that feels immediately accurate to a mysterious association like the TVA. The workers inside are pencil pushers who might feel at home at a Dunder-Mifflin, except in this case they’re working for the most powerful force in the multiverse.
Full of sharp and funny one-liners and quotes, this feels like the most giffable series to date. Seriously, within the first two episodes, I’ve wished that I could make gifs and screenshots because it is just so memeable. On the same note, this feels like the series with the most potential for merchandise. Will Disney be releasing a whole line of TVA merch during the run of this series? I’m sure people would purchase it. On one hand, this all feels like low-hanging fruit. Some of the lines Loki delivers feel like they’re intended to be zingers that people will populate their Twitter feeds with. On the other hand, isn’t that kind of what we signed up for when it comes to the MCU?
And that take us to some of the flaws. Being a Disney+ MCU production, it’s safe to say that I never really expected Loki to break the mold. We’ve already seen a sort of template emerging with these Disney+ series, and it’s hard not to be concerned that the series might feel formulaic. Even with an unpredictable trickster god, there is a pattern. Major twist that kicks off the series within the first couple of episodes (check), some one-liners and buddy cop shenanigans (check), a fake twist around the 60% point (tbd), an impactful penultimate episode (tbd), and a rather lackluster finale that sets up the rest of the MCU future (tbd).
Is it bad to be formulaic? Not necessarily, the entire MCU is built on the back of a formula that’s tried and true. Can it also be a bit tiring? Yes. I was hoping for experimentation when it came to these Disney+ series and it remains to be seen if Loki will innovate or fall in line. This is not to say that Wandavision and The Falcon and the Winter Soldier were identical shows, but a big production company like Disney falling back on something tried-and-true wouldn’t be a surprise.
Another disappointment comes at the end of episode 2 and it is another one of those moments where Disney is trying to prove that they are progressive, but it falls woefully short. While it’s not clear if this moment is a red herring or not, for now, it feels like they went with the path of least resistance to try and earn brownie points with its audience. I’ll reserve my full judgment until more is revealed, but safe to say that it was a rather disappointing twist, and one many probably saw coming.
Despite these problems, I have high hopes for Loki. Maybe it’s the vibe of the show, maybe it’s the power of Owen Wilson and Tom Hiddleston, maybe it’s the slow moments that give me glimmers of hope, but I’m excited to like Loki. After starting off with Wandavision‘s brilliant wackiness and getting grounded in reality with The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, it’s fun to dive into the weird again. When literally anywhere in time and in the universe is open, Loki very well could be the most experimental and exciting series. It’s just about whether or not Marvel takes the leap of faith.
Loki premieres Wednesday, June 9th on Disney+.