Director: Kate Herron | Screenwriter: Michael Waldron | Cast: Tom Hiddleston, Owen Wilson, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Wunmi Mosaku | Distributor: Disney+ | Running Time: 50 min. |
Tom Hiddleston’s character of Loki receives perhaps one of the most lore-heavy and perplexing of Marvel series. The series takes place after the events of Avengers: Endgame, when a Loki from an alternative timeline acquired the Tesseract and fled the timeline. It was a major lingering threat from the film about just what happened to that other Loki. In his own series, it apparently appears he went onto become a time-travel cop (sorta).
The first episode finds Loki’s time-distortion antics attracting the attention of the TVA, a temporal creation corporation and law-enforcement agency. Having messed with the timeline, Loki is imprisoned and stands to face trial for his actions of damaging the prescribed timeline of events. Of course, the cocky trickster believes that he is the master of his own destiny but that doesn’t seem to be the case when he is placed under TVA restrictions. His case seems open and shut with his type of nature warranting prosecution. That is until the time detective of Mobius M. Mobius (Owen Wilson) asks that Loki be taken aside and be used as a valuable ally in tracking down an elusive skipper of time who is assaulting the TVA.
Naturally, Loki won’t agree so easily to be the Hannibal Lecter to Mobius’s Clarice Starling. The first episode finds a great way to get Loki to play ball by essentially appealing to his quest for power and showcasing how fruitless his efforts are for his timeline. Mobius tries to walk him gently through this process but it’s only once Loki starts trying to break free of his time-altering shackles where he learns the truth; that he’s not as powerful as he once thought. His destiny is entirely in the hands of these keepers of timelines. So if Loki hopes to not repeat the mistakes of his other timelines, he’ll be willing to play ball for however convenient it is for the trickster god.
By the second episode, Loki zooms right into the role of a cop tasked with catching a criminal as mysterious and mischeivous as he is (or WAS depending on how you pereceive time through such a Doctor Who style staging). It’s during this episode where dynamic between Hiddleston and Wilson really takes as their mismatched buddy-cop antics proceed with a subtle yet progressive charm. I especially dug just how excited Loki gets when he believes he has a lead on the time bandit, plowing through records and ready to explain his theories on time-travel distortion with demonstrations of food.
There’s enough mystery bubbling at the end of each episode to make one pine the next chapter considering how quickly the story develops between these two episodes. Episode one ends with a possible lead that’s a real twist for Loki to catch and episode two switches it up with a surprisingly different antagonist revealed. But what I dug the most about the show is it’s own world building of this time-keeping organization that is a mix of an authoritarian force and a stuffy bureaucracy. The slow reveal of Loki having to sign paperwork and take tickets for his court case are brilliantly absurd, as is the bullpen of other time agents who reside in a mildly futuristic police station, brimming with holograms and artifacts as well as trenchcoats and ties.
Compared to WandaVision and The Falcon and The Winter Soldier, Loki’s ambitions feel more intriguing and less like empty promises of what the character may become. What helps is that our central protagonist is a trickster villain who has no qualms about rattling cages in his quest for ultimate power over everything, not merely bound to his destiny. It also helps that as a villain we more or less know his own timeline doesn’t end well and that there’s a chance to switch something up in this tale rather than just have Loki make his usual grab for the bigger throne. There’s more hope for this series that it’ll better stick it’s landing when there’s nothing required of this timeline to ensure that Loki is locked and loaded for another Marvel movie. That may be the ultimate goal but the whole multiverse angle to this series gives it a lot of wiggle room to play more outside the tighter box of the standard Marvel Cinematic Universe timeline.