There’s never been a better time to be a Marvel fan.
They’re spoiling us with content, honestly. Black Widow released smack dab in the middle of Loki’s run, and we have another Disney+ TV series coming in just under a month. And when you think of the sheer amount of films they have planned for the future…hoo boy.
But today, I’m here to talk about the first season of Loki, which changed the game of the Marvel Cinematic Universe yet again, introducing the Time Variance Authority, which is perhaps “the greatest power in the universe,” according to the Trickster God himself.
First of all, I’ll be discussing major spoilers in this review — I don’t know how I’d cover this show with mentioning some key plot points. If I discussed anything specific beyond episode one, I’d be branching into that territory, so I just figured I’d go full send, no holds barred. It’s what Loki would want.
I’m fresh off the season finale, so excuse any recency bias I may have. One thing that I can be sure of, confidently, if that Loki is the most creative MCU series thus far. WandaVision (which had the benefit of being first) did something completely different, and The Falcon and the Winter Soldier returned to the more straightforward MCU procedure. Loki once again threw away the playbook and elected to forge its own path…and damn, is it glorious.
First off, let’s talk about Tom Hiddleston. The man is clearly having so much fun returning to this role, and it shows. He’s at the top of his game here, playing a version of Loki that has to speed through his Dark World/Ragnarok/Infinity War character development over the course of one episode to get into a mindset that audiences will recognize and feel more comfortable with. He’s essentially playing the same character, but now with a different path, freeing him from his previous obligations with no clear destination ahead. That, I believe, is best for the character of Loki — despite what the mysterious villain in the end of episode 6 tells him, he is forging his own destiny, and I can’t wait to see what he does next.
The multiple “variants” of Loki that are introduced create fun roadblocks for the central God of Mischief, but also serve to indirectly characterize the Loki we all know and love. Unlike most characters in TV and film, Loki’s internal dialogue is now external, and he can learn more about himself from interactions with his alternate selves. The series may focus on the concepts of humanity and free will, but the introspectiveness of the main character(s) is almost as valuable. Loki can do what most of us only dream of — quite literally confront his problems head-on.
Speaking of variants, I couldn’t properly review this season without mentioning Sylvie, the self-renounced Loki. Sophia Di Martino does a stellar job in playing a character that’s just similar enough to Tom Hiddleston’s Loki, but has varied from age and experience. Her inclusion is arguably the most interesting part of the show, with her basically getting entire bottle episode (the third, “Lamentis”) to establish herself as a character. I read online that the director believes Sylvie’s pain puts her in a similar headspace to Loki in the original Thor, which definitely makes sense — as a variant abducted as a child, she wouldn’t have lived through those events, and so her path was different. But as we see with our main Loki, even though the path is different, sometimes the destination is the same.
It was clear from the beginning, though, that the heart of the show would be the interactions between Loki and Mobius M. Mobius, the TVA agent who takes Loki under his wing. I was disappointed that it was chiefly in the first two episodes, until Sylvie’s introduction. While Hiddleston and Owen Wilson are great fun to watch on screen together, I wish we could have seen more. Once Loki goes off with Sylvie, the show essentially becomes about them and their relationship; Mobius only pops in from time to time, saving the day or attempting to be intimidating. I love Owen Wilson to death, but goddamnit, give him that jet ski already. Or at least a more important role in the story than your average expositor.
As much as I like Gugu Mbatha-Raw, I do have my problems with Ravonna Renslayer. She begins as an enigmatic judge in the TVA, and ends essentially the same way. Her relationship and backstory with Mobius is teased (nearly every episode), but never followed through on. Maybe they’re saving her best moments for the second season, but for now I feel the character didn’t leave the impact she should’ve.
Any negatives aside, Loki is clearly Marvel’s best Disney+ show thus far. After introducing an engaging, season-spanning mystery, It ties into the general MCU, much more than its predecessors, and features some of the best Marvel performances I’ve seen in a while (Florence Pugh in Black Widow aside). The visual effects, production design and music are only getting better — at this point, after all these years, Marvel still has nowhere to go but up. [Grade: A+]
Other fun inclusions include Jaimie Alexander’s cameo as Lady Sif (making her first MCU appearance since a 2015 episode of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.), highly accomplished voice artist Tara Strong as the TVA mascot Miss Minutes, Richard E. Grant as Classic Loki (an old teacher of mine commented that this was Disney’s way of shortchanging him in The Rise of Skywalker), and comedian Eugene Cordero in multiple roles, among others. Standouts Alligator Loki and Throg (voiced by Chris Hemsworth!) get their own sentence. Marvel Studios continues to be goddamn creative, and I’m all here for it.
Starring: Tom Hiddleston, Sophia Di Martino, Owen Wilson, Gugu Mbatha-Raw