Disney Plus launched Loki, the third official Marvel Cinematic Universe TV series this week, and it’s immediately refreshing and involving. Both WandaVision and The Falcon and the Winter Soldier succeeded at attracting audiences early on because it wasn’t at all clear what was really going on or where they were headed, and that’s absolutely true with the latest MCU TV offering. But what may be most appealing about Loki is that the title protagonist is just as much at a loss as audiences, and he’s far less amused by the unexplained nature of his situation. Fortunately, that only adds to the entertainment value for viewers, since the more irritated Loki becomes, the more delightfully watchable he becomes.
If indeed there exists a cross-section of TV watchers who are interested in this show but haven’t yet seen Avengers: Endgame, which opened in theaters two years ago and is widely available to view at home, including on Disney Plus, beware spoilers for that film. Just as Vision didn’t survive in the movies and his existence in WandaVision was a mystery, Loki isn’t meant to be alive at all since he was killed by Thanos at the beginning of Avengers: Infinity War. Yet the time-traveling Avengers in Endgame accidentally created a scenario in which Loki was able to steal the Tesseract, and therefore would live on to have more misadventures.
Rationalizing and making sense of time travel is no easy feat, and some shows, like DC’s Legends of Tomorrow, apply loose rules but doesn’t bother to base them in defensible fact or tightly-regulated consistency. Loki imagines an organization known as the Time Variance Authority, which swiftly apprehends Loki and arrests him for the alleged crime of upsetting the timeline. The TVA is deadly serious about its business, but this show’s portrayal of the organization is anything but. The casting of Owen Wilson as an agent who takes an interest in utilizing Loki to help track down a violent criminal is one indicator that comedy is key, and Wilson’s performance is actually remarkably reserved and restrained, opting for deadpan humor rather than easy jokes.
Tom Hiddleston, who plays Loki, has always been an amusing part of the MCU, and that continues here as he fails to accept the reality of what is happening, certain that he remains more powerful than the beings that monitor the timeline and are well aware that his very existence is an anomaly. His banter with all the other actors is terrific, not that he needs a scene partner in order to make the most of any dialogue. Two other series regulars, who make only brief appearances in the pilot, are equally superb: Gugu Mbatha-Raw (The Morning Show) as a fast-talking, easily-annoyed judge and Wunmi Mosaku (Lovecraft Country) as a no-nonsense soldier with little patience for Loki’s antics.
Part of the joy of watching this show will be discovering, with Loki, how he can continue to live despite time having no place for him, and hearing his unending arguments about why he deserves to not only exist but to rule over all beings and planets. Revelations that come throughout the first episode are extremely enticing and make the weeklong wait for season two feel like an eternity, but with only six episodes in this show’s first season, spacing out the satisfaction is probably for the best. The vision of a timeless space with a mix of futuristic and archaic technology is captivating, and though many questions remain, there are a handful of answers offered in this show’s first episode to ensure that too much intrigue doesn’t lead to frustration.
The first episode of Loki is now available to stream on Disney Plus, with new episodes premiering every Wednesday.