We warmly welcome back the God of Mischief to the MCU, following an alt-timeline Loki’s escape during the time-travel shenanigans of Avengers: Endgame – this is a short-lived escape however, as he’s immediately apprehended by the Time Variance Authority (TVA), and that is where creators Kate Herron and Michael Waldron begin our story. In his fleeting moments, Loki’s rough landing in the desert feels like a visual call-back to Tony’s own landing in Iron Man, the beginning of his rebirth – after all, this is technically a rebirth for Loki too. Resurrection is a sticky plot device, so pinching ‘The Avengers’-era Loki is a clever work-around, but it also means it’s not the Loki we know. This Loki is a blank canvas for Herron and Waldron to paint upon, reinventing what it means to be Loki, which is a main focus of the show as a whole.
It’s evident that the TVA is unlike anything we’ve seen or heard of before in the MCU – it’s a vast cornucopia of retro-futuristic technology and charmingly sleepy bureaucracy – something Loki is very easily dismayed by. The DMV was cited as a key inspiration for the TVA’s conceptualization, and from the ticket machines and laboriously long queue lines, it’s not hard to spot. The actual landscape of the TVA beyond its bureaucratic innards feels like a blend of the Fifth Element and Blade Runner’s cities, reflecting infinitely off into the distance like one of Kusama’s Infinity Rooms: majestically all-encompassing. Waldron wastes no time building his world, peppering in past and present MCU references, with a genius use of some particularly important items serving to shape their Loki into something fresh and exciting and emphasize the unique world of the TVA at the same time. We also hear mentions of the Nexus, the Multiverse, and a troublesome Madness is mentioned – it’s a return to the MCU’s seed-planting in other projects, giving fans little crumbs to chew on whilst maintaining a curtain of secrecy.
Because of Loki’s blank slate, our debut episode is dedicated to answering the question ‘Who is Loki?’ It’s an introspective psychoanalysis into the character, breaking him down and reconstructing him in a different avenue to his original development, emphasizing Loki’s inherent antihero nature by undermining his attempts at true villainy. Owen Wilson’s Mobius M. Mobius serves as a delightful foil to mischievous Loki, with an immeasurable chemistry to the two – you could sit and listen to them argue about anything for hours and never get bored. Wilson brings a more reserved, thoughtful performance to Mobius, at times Loki’s therapist while other times closer to a buddy-cop, the dynamic is constantly shifting between the two and it’s brilliant, quite possibly one of the most unexpected big hitters of the latest MCU castings. Our introspective breakdown of Loki seeps into every aspect of the episode, as our orchestral score is tied to his emotional state, bringing us closer to the unavailable troublemaker without undermining his roguishly trickster nature. Particularly in the debut episode, Herron keeps us close to Loki in some way or another – while it begins as a comical man-on-the-run escape act, it ends in a sombre reflection on his own mentality and modus operandi for life, and the emotional punch is fully packed from Herron’s expert touch.
Where the first episode feels slower and more concerned with unravelling ‘Who is Loki?’, the second answers ‘How does Loki fit with the TVA?’ His adjustment into the TVA feels like a natural development of our psychoanalytic breakdown, and there’s still some Original Loki flavour as he gives his grand speeches and impresses his grandiose self-important nature, but of course Mobius has tasted more than enough Original Loki. He’s cooking up something new. Waldron continues to impress with his intricate understanding of Loki as he continually brings the show’s narrative goals and aims back to Loki’s arrogance narcissism – we understand exactly why Loki goes along with the TVA and why the TVA allows him a degree of influence; dedicating yourself to a character’s nature without being enslaved to it can be tricky, but Waldron has no trouble.
We get a little taste of TVA life, with some gorgeously dazzling set-pieces, our eyes aglow from the cyberpunk neon and battalion of rain crashing down against one another, popping out of the screen as though we were being sucked in. Our mystery grows its legs as we begin to understand Loki’s role in the TVA’s current case, and without giving anything away, we’re left with a lot of plates spinning in the air. If it can pull it off, it has potential to be one of the most exciting and cosmically creative endeavours the MCU has undertaken, they just have to commit to the cosmic and Nordic weirdness that Loki has within itself – as long as we get more of that, then this could be one of the best shows of the year.
Loki will debut with its first episode available to stream on Disney+ from Wednesday, June 9th.