Josh Reviews Loki Season One!
Loki picks up the thread of the alternate Loki who, in Avengers: Endgame, picks up the Tesseract and escapes after our heroes bungle their “time heist.” This “Variant” Loki quickly finds himself apprehended by the TVA — the Time Variance Authority — a bureaucracy tasked with keeping the timeline secure and correct. TVA agent Mobius (Owen Wilson) attempts to convince Loki to help the TVA track down a villain who is attacking their agents — who is apparently yet another Loki variant.
Marvel Studios’ third TV show for Disney+ is another winner, and at this point I have completely accepted these TV shows as essential pieces of the larger MCU. I feel rather spoiled, actually. Now, instead of waiting months and months between new MCU feature films, we can get new installments on a weekly basis? I am completely in.
Loki is a delight. I think it’s my favorite of the Marvel Disney+ series so far! (Though I’ve really enjoyed all of them, so there’s not an easy winner.)
The show was created by Michael Waldron, who wrote several of the episodes. (Mr. Waldron was a writer for Rick and Morty and wrote the script for the upcoming Doctor Strange: In the Multiverse of Madness film.) All six episodes were directed by Kate Herron. I was very impressed by the writing and direction of this series. Everything seemed to click, even better than they did in WandaVision and The Falcon and the Winter Soldier. This was an impressive achievement all around. I love that we’re getting feature-film quality product each week in Disney+!!
Tom Hiddleston was great right from minute one (the first Thor movie) as Loki, and he’s only gotten better and better — and the character richer and richer. Because this Variant Loki begins as the villainous version of Loki from the first Avengers film, I worried that we might lose some of the wonderful development the character has gotten in subsequent films. Thankfully, the show finds a way to quickly make this Variant Loki the most interesting version of the character we’ve seen to date. I love the journey Loki goes on in these six episodes. It’s fun to see him challenged and put in his place — Mr. Hiddleston is fantastic at showing Loki getting his bluster punctured — while still remaining the slightly dangerous character he’s always been. I’m glad they didn’t file away all of his sharp edges.
Owen Wilson is a magnificent addition to the MCU as TVA agent Mobius. He is an absolute delight pretty much every second he’s on screen. Mr. Wilson’s comedic timing serves the series very well. At the same time, he gives Mobius a depth of both competence and melancholy that makes the character interesting. He has terrific chemistry with Tom Hiddleston’s Loki. There’s a lot of fun to be had, just watching these two characters bounce off of one another.
I’ve been a fan of Gugu Mbatha-Raw ever since that wonderful Black Mirror episode “San Junipero” (and she was also terrific in the under-seen sci-fi drama Fast Color), and so I was delighted that she’s joined the MCU here as TVA judge Ravonna Renslayer. The series keeps her true story under wraps for much of the season, so we don’t get to know her character nearly as well as we do Loki or Mobius. Still, Ms. Mbatha-Raw is a wonderful presence onscreen. I hope this is just the start of this character’s journey.
It’s difficult to describe how overjoyed I was to see the TVA make it into the MCU. The TVA is a very obscure concept from the comics, but they appear in one of my all-time favorite comic book stories, Walt Simonson’s run on Fantastic Four (FF #337-352, from 1990-91). The TVA is perfectly brought to life here on this show. The idea of a boring bureaucracy in the middle of a superhero universe is a great source for comedy, and the show mines the setting well. There are a lot of great comedic bits in the premiere as Loki is driven to frustration by the dull bureaucracy of the TVA (waiting in long lines, filling out forms, etc.). I love the 1970’s look of the TVA on the show. I loved the offices, I loved the costumes, I loved Loki’s “Variant” jacket. All of the production design is terrific.
Overall, I really dug how fun and funny Loki was, while also maintaining serious stakes, both emotional stakes for the main characters, and galaxy-threatening stakes for the MCU at large. Finding this balance has been one of the key secrets to the success of the MCU, and it’s definitely central to why Loki works as well as it does. This is a show that’s unafraid to get silly and weird in a major way. All of the TVA stuff, of course… and also things like the multiple Lokis living in the Void. (Seeing Richard E. Grant in a Loki costume that looks like it’s ripped right out of the original Marvel comics made me so happy!!) And speaking of going weird in a big way: “He Who Remains” from the finale episode!! I’ll get back to him in a moment.
I don’t want to say too much about Sylvie, the character played by Sophia Di Martino, because the mystery as to the true nature of this character is a big part of the season. I will say that I really enjoyed how the show explored her character and her story, and I really loved the surprising connection between her and Loki. Ms. Di Martino was terrific in the role; I can’t wait to see more of this character. Wunmi Mosaku (who was terrific as DS Halliday in the fifth season of Luther) is great as Hunter B-15. I really enjoyed the way her character developed over the course of the six episodes. I was also very happy to hear the voice of Tara Strong (who played Barbara Gordon/Batgirl in the later episodes of Batman: The Animated Series, when the show was renamed The New Batman Adventures) as Miss Minutes, the TVA’s helpful animated Clock character.
At only six episodes long, Loki sped right along at a terrific pace, with no dull filler anywhere I could see. The only down-side of the show’s run-time (it’s shorter than WandaVision and The Falcon and the Winter Soldier) is that I wanted more!! And so I was delighted that the final episode ended with an announcement that there will be a season two. (I believe this is the first season two of a Marvel show that has yet been announced. I really wanted The Falcon and the Winter Soldier to come back for a second season, retitled The Falcon and Captain America, though it looks like that story will be continued in a fourth Captain America film, which also suits me just fine!)
While I loved both WandaVision and The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, in my reviews I mentioned that I thought both shows stumbled a bit in their season finales. (I also felt that way about the finales of both seasons of The Mandalorian, leading me to wonder if something in the way these Disney+ shows are being made is leading to unsatisfactory or underwhelming finales.) Happily, I felt that the sixth and final episode of Loki broke that bad streak. I really loved the finale. There were some gorgeous visual effects — I really liked the way the creepy domain of “He Who Remains” at the end of time was depicted. I thought it was a bold choice to have so much of the episode be devoted to a long conversation between Loki, Sylvie, and that newly-introduced mysterious character. It worked, mostly because of how fun and unexpectedly bizarre Jonathan Majors’ depiction of that character was. (If you don’t want to be spoiled for anything in connection to this character, skip the next two paragraphs!!)
It’s pretty clear to me that “He Who remains” is, in fact, the classic Marvel Comics time-traveling super-villain Kang the Conquerer. I was surprised they didn’t refer to this character by that name here, but I enjoyed how the one reference to him being a “conquerer” was there for the fans to notice. (Also, for anyone who remembered that last year Jonathan Majors was announced that he’d been cast as Kang for the upcoming third Ant Man film.) I love how all of the business in Loki regarding the timeline (and possible branching thereof) have nicely set the stage for what looks to be a lot of multiverse fun in upcoming Marvel movies. The upcoming Spider-Man: No Way Home seems to be a story about Peter Parker’s being trapped in the multiverse (with actors and characters from both previous versions of Spider-Man movies — the Tobey Maguire series and the Andrew Garfield series — rumored to be appearing in the film); then there’s the next Doctor Strange film, subtitled In the Multiverse of Madness (which seems to follow from the good Doctor’s appearance in Spider-Man: No Way Home); and then, of course, there is Kang’s apparent return in Ant Man and the Wasp: Quantumania. I cannot wait to see where this all goes.
For now, I can say that I loved Jonathan Major’s super-weird version of Kang that we saw here, and I enjoyed the ambiguity to the choice given to Loki and Sylvie as to whether what “He Who Remains” was doing was right or wrong. I do hope that future stories (be they any of those upcoming movies or the second season of Loki) will ultimately clarify that. But in terms of the Loki season finale, I didn’t mind the ambiguity and I quite enjoyed the drama of Loki and Sylvie’s debate as to what was the correct choice to make.
Other comments on Loki:
* I loved the look of the Time Keepers, when we finally saw them — just like those weird-looking characters from the comics!
* I loved seeing Frog Thor (from a classic Walt Simonson Thor comic-book story — I love me some classic Walt Simonson comics!!) in the alternate-timeline wasteland of the Void.
* I enjoyed how well the series built upon and developed what we’d seen of Loki in the various movies in which he’d appeared. None more so than the meal the show made of his “glorious purpose” line from The Avengers. That was great!
* I really dug the animated cartoon explanation of the TVA in the opening episode.
* When Loki and Mobius review the events of Loki’s life (and death) in the opening episode, they discuss the death of Phil Coulson. This conversation appears to me to confirm that Agent Coulson remains dead in the MCU, thus rendering all of the Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. show to be out of continuity, despite how that show was advertised when it began its run on ABC. I found that very interesting!
* I was pleased that in a throw-away comment in episode three, Loki confirmed that he’s bi-sexual. The show doesn’t make a big deal of it, but I like seeing that aspect of the character acknowledged.
* The biggest question the show left me with concerns Sylvie’s bombing of the “sacred timeline” at the end of the second episode. Didn’t that act create the Multiverse?? (Or re-create it, since “He Who Remains” tells us that there was a multiverse, at war with itself, before he pruned the timeline down to just one single timeline.) It sure seemed so at the end of that episode… and yet, for the remaining four episodes, it felt to me like the characters — from the TVA to “He Who Remains” in the finale — all acted as if the one “sacred” timeline still existed. What did I misunderstand here??
Loki was a pleasure from start to finish. I am all-in on these Marvel Disney+ series. I can’t wait to watch What If…? and I hope we don’t have to wait too long for the second season of Loki!
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