The delightfully strange and occasionally perplexing “Loki” is the third foray into streaming television for the Marvel Cinematic Universe. First there was the homage heavy and magic filled “WandaVision”. It was followed by the scattershot yet stage-setting “The Falcon and the Winter Soldier”. Then along came “Loki”, a six-episode mini-series that I can safely say has practically nothing in common with the previous two shows. It is completely it’s own thing which is part of what makes it work so well.
The enigmatic “Loki” was created by Michael Waldron who set out to make a time-hopping adventure that would constantly subvert audience expectations. Marvel Studios president and producer Kevin Feige brought in Kate Herron, a big fan of the Loki character, to direct all six episodes. Their creative efforts would result in a show that Feige said would have “more impact on the MCU than any show so far” and “lay the groundwork” for the MCU’s future.
So was he right? Well, in a nutshell YES. It’s true that we don’t know for sure how things are going to play out, but “Loki” is a genuine game-changer and its events are certain to reverberate throughout the entire MCU. One thing’s for sure, “Loki” has a style all its own (both visually and narratively) that feels unique within the MCU catalog. It’s also brazenly bizarre at times which is one of its biggest strengths. As usual some episodes are better than others, but overall there’s more than enough fun and offbeat ambition to make this a must-watch for any Marvel fan.
To no one’s surprise, a key ingredient that makes the whole thing work is Tom Hiddleston reprising his role as the titular god of mischief. I feel like we say this a lot about the MCU’s stellar casting, but Hiddleston has been a perfect fit and he has truly made the character his own. Like many, I was surprised to hear that Marvel Studios was investing in a Loki series. I was even more surprised to see how fun and wildly original it turned out to be. And not just that, but it is the first Disney+ series that I would call essential viewing for anyone following the MCU. Both “WandaVision” and “TFATWS” set up some things for the future but nothing as far-reaching as what we get here.
The series begins with Loki being snatched up by the Time Variance Authority (TVA), an secret bureaucratic organization tasked with monitoring and protecting the “Sacred Timeline”. Loki threatened the timeline with his hijinks way back in the first Avengers movie. While in custody he is questioned by Agent Mobius (an absolutely delightful Owen Wilson) who reveals that Loki is what’s called a variant, a term that suddenly carries a lot of weight in the MCU. Essentially a variant is someone who branches off of the pre-ordained Sacred Timeline, disrupting its flow and creating an alternate path. The TVA then apprehends the “criminal” variant and restores the timeline.
To no surprise Loki doesn’t buy it, but Mobius can be pretty persuasive especially when showing off just how powerful the TVA really are. Standard procedure would be to eradicate Loki. Instead Mobius recruits him to help catch a rogue variant who has been killing TVA agents and wrecking havoc across the timeline. Over time Mobius takes a liking to the cunning trickster. Hiddleston’s manic energy along with Wilson’s goofy charm brings a fun buddy time-cop vibe to some of the earlier episodes.
Not everyone at the TVA is as convinced as Mobius that Loki can be an asset. Namely Mobius’ friend and superior Ravonna Renslayer (Gugu Mbatha-Raw), a high-ranking TVA judge overseeing the Loki investigation. She has a lot on her plate with running the TVA and reporting to the Timekeepers, three all-knowing ancient beings who basically write and preserve the Sacred Timeline. Loki wants an audience with the Timekeepers in exchange for his help catching the rogue variant. Renslayer doesn’t trust him and is only allowing him to help because of her friendship with Mobius. So there are several interesting dynamics at play.
But then a wild card is added to the mix – a pivotal character named Sylvie (Sophia Di Martino) whose identity is best left for you to discover for yourself. She turns out to be a major piece of the story going forward and has discovered some damning revelations about the TVA that makes her a threat. Di Martino and Hiddleston have a sparkling chemistry that’s a nice mix of humor and dramatic tension. And the relationship between their characters has a surprising amount of depth and nuance.
To say anymore about the story or character arcs would be a disservice. Just know you can expect all kinds of time-hopping shenanigans, fun character moments, and some wild unexpected flourishes that you never see coming. There is one stray episode that’s slower and less compelling than the others. But even it move things forward by focusing on and building up one of the story’s central relationships. And then you get to the end, a surprising and welcomed departure from the MCU’s usual action-fueled finales. Instead “Loki” finishes with an mesmerizing dialogue-rich showdown that’s sure to have MAJOR implications.
There’s even more to like about “Loki” including Natalie Holt’s beguiling score, the terrific production design (highlighted by the eye-popping TVA headquarters with its ominous blend of Soviet brutalism and neo-futurism), and the truly zany turns it takes in the later episodes (episode 5 introduces a certain scaly caiman variant that more-or-less steals the show). It all adds up to the strongest MCU series to date. Not a perfect one, but a show that feels important, is full of surprises, and adds a spark that the MCU roadmap needed. All six episodes of “Loki” are now streaming on Disney+.