TV Review – Loki
The first episode of Loki premiered on Disney+ this week. I don’t subscribe to that streaming channel, so I was pleasantly surprised to see screeners for the first two episodes in my inbox earlier this week. Having not watched WandaVision or The Falcon and the Winter Soldier but being privy to spoilers that no one can avoid if you are on social media, my first foray into a Marvel superhero television series felt odd. I was watching a character that I usually only see first on a large theatre screen. Loki (Tom Hiddleston) is a beloved and popular supporting character to his brother Thor (Chris Hemsworth), but giving him his own show and the lime (green) light allows fans to spend more quality time with the God of Mischief.
If you are like me and have forgotten where Loki’s storyline ended in Avengers: Endgame, the writers have your back. There is a brief replay of the scene in which the Avengers travel back in time, and Loki ends up with the Tesseract and uses it accordingly. If they had not traveled back in time, Loki would presumedly still be dead at the hands of Thanos (Josh Brolin). I had already googled the topic, but the replay and continuation of the story are appreciated.
Loki starts back in 2012 and continues from there. With his use of the Tesseract, he has diverged from his predetermined timeline and becomes an issue with the Time Variance Authority (TVA). The TVA are the keepers of the timeline and enforce any divergence from it. The TVA, to my knowledge, has never come up in any of the Marvel superhero films or television series. Please correct me if I am wrong. The world of the TVA opens a whole new universe to the world of Marvel, one that always existed. While throwing this new world that operates independently and unknowingly from any god, dictator, warmonger, etc., with it comes implications that everything that has happened was supposed to happen or a correction would have occurred. Furthermore, fate and destiny are idealized buzzwords, but those terms are actually completely true and valid in the TVA.
As the name of this new world suggests, the TVA deals with variants. Altered timelines of people that diverge from their expected path. The TVA enforcement ideally captures these variants, resets the timeline, and well, not much is known about what happens to the variants after that. Loki was not supposed to get the Tesseract, and thus the Avengers’ actions created a Loki variant, the main character of the series so far. This Loki has not made it to his expected actions or death. He is not supposed to exist, so why not use such a “superhero” to help clean up another mess at the TVA?
With the addition of a new world, the TVA allows the introduction of new main characters with minimal backstory. We are in the dark as much as Loki. First and foremost is Agent Mobius (Owen Wilson), not to be confused with Morbius, who enlists the Loki Variant to help find a distressing variant who is killing fellow agents and officers. Owen Wilson is not the expected actor you would think Marvel would enlist for such a role, known for mostly his comedies. While Mobius does have a funny bone, he is also cunning and mysterious. Ravonna Renslayer (Gugu Mbatha-Raw) is Mobius’ supervisor, for lack of a better term. She is one step below the Time-Keepers, and not everyone has seen these mysterious characters. She is doubtful of Mobius’ use of Loki to locate another destructive variant. Hunter B-15 (Wunmi Mosaku) is one of the enforcers of the timeline, a field agent tasked with capturing variants and resetting the timeline. Her mistrust of Loki and any other variant is evident.
The TVA itself is not created by magic, and therefore Loki’s superpowers do not work there. We are under the impression that everything is built by hand and evolving technology. Nothing here is showy; everything is functional. The feel of the production design and sets evoke both the 60’s and 80’s in different ways. It is the dullest office environment, horrible yellow fluorescent lighting, cubicles, and tube TVs. It’s about as lo-fi as you can get, but then there are those weapons that can vaporize people and time travel. It’s a quandary that I’m sure will unravel as the episodes progress.
As a viewer, nothing anyone is doing or saying can be trusted because we have no experience with the TVA and the Time-Keepers. We don’t know what their “endgame” is. It’s a weird feeling to be watching an MCU show and be entirely in the dark about the mechanisms and motivations that operate in the TVA. Yes, we have experience with Loki, but that’s about it.
As we jump in both location and time in Loki, a memory of playing a computer game as a kid popped into my head. The computer game (on floppy disks) was “Where in Time Is Carmen Sandiego?” The player has a time machine and has a series of clues that hopefully send you to the correct time and place to capture (eventually) Carmen Sandiego. Mobius, the TVA, and Loki are essentially doing the same thing, but they are in search of a deadly variant, not some woman in a red hat. While I am naïve as to how far off track from standard MCU material the previous television series ventured, the stage is set in Loki for an abnormal (in a good way) journey, analyzing the heck out of the Loki character and all his flaws, while adding in new characters that we will either love or hate. Mischief is all but a guarantee.