Series Review: Loki
Series Created by Michael Waldron
Premiering on Disney+ 06.09
It’s true that we went a whole year without a new Marvel movie. I would argue, however, that the three per year prior to that and the fact that Loki is the third—and not the last—limited-run series they have given us this year and that we still have three full-lengths features coming over the next five months kind of makes up for that. In fact, there’s only one thing stopping me from going on a rant about there being altogether too much Marvel, and that is the fact that I’m loving every minute of it.
Loki picks up right where we’d expect it to, with the moment where the title character (Tom Hiddleston) steals the Tesseract during the events of Avengers: Endgame. Loki—or rather, that alternate timeline, alternate variant of Loki—is captured and brought to the mysterious Time Variance Authority (TVA), a bureaucratic organization that exists outside of time and space, and monitors the timeline. There, he meets Agent Mobius (Owen Wilson, Shanghai Noon, Wedding Crashers), who specializes in the investigations of particularly dangerous time criminals. He gives the God of Mischief a choice: face being erased from existence due to being a “time variant,” or help fix the timeline by acting as a sort of Hannibal Lecter–style consultant to help catch someone who poses an even greater threat.
Director Kate Herron (Sex Education, Daybreak) quickly establishes a tone for the series that’s true to the character, but doesn’t feel quite like anything we’ve seen in the MCU before. If WandaVision was a sci-fi sitcom and The Falcon and The Winter Soldier was a buddy action story, Loki is a hardboiled detective story with a sly sense of humor that is downright mischievous, but it’s also the most interesting twist on time-travel sci-fi that I’ve seen in quite some time. Wilson is established in the first episode as co-lead equal to Hiddleston, and the chemistry between them is infectiously entertaining.
The two actors appeared together before, in Midnight in Paris in 2011. Hiddleston’s hilarious impression of Wilson on a talk show has become an iconic moment replayed ad nauseam on YouTube, so the serendipitous pairing here is a major part of the show’s appeal. Gugu Mbatha-Raw (Belle, Misbehaviour) as Ravonna Renslayer, a judge for the TVA, is terrific as always, but in the two-out-of-six episodes made available for critics, she’s not given a whole lot of screentime, as the story is focused on Loki and Mobius, both at the TVA and out in the field.
It’s made quite clear from early on in the series that Loki is leading us to Doctor Strange and the Multiverse of Madness, which is not a spoiler. This has already been confirmed elsewhere, but the specifics of how it starts to open doors to multiverse are quite fun indeed, and the writing is consistently clever. Cinematographer Autumn Durald (Teen Spirit, The Sun is Also a Star) gives the series a subtle noir-ish flavor without overplaying it, and the production design by Kasra Farahani (Bliss, Earth to Echo) is quite eye-popping.
But the best part of Loki is the unique nature of the story, which feels like the kind of alternative thread that can be explored in a single run of comic books, but is outside the boundaries of what Marvel can comfortably bank off with the big screen. This is what makes the Disney+ series’ so exciting: They have the freedom to get quirkier, more creative and more genre-bending than the movies are allowed to. They complement each other in a way that opens up the MCU to endless possibilities.
Loki is a spirited and goofy blast of manic energy that should prove to be a real treat for fans. It helps make up for the relatively low blockbuster count coming in June this year. It’s an inventive and captivating excursion that takes Loki to new places without forgetting that he’s hardly a hero, and it’s another big win for the Marvel creative team. I’m not ready to say it’s as good as WandaVision just yet, but that was a groundbreaking work of art that defies comparisons. Still, Loki has the makings of something special, so just sit back and get ready to make some mischief. –Patrick Gibbs