Warning: this Loki episode 1 review contains spoilers. If you have not watched the Disney Plus show yet, then bookmark this page and come back when you're all caught up...
Marvel’s foray into streaming television has allowed the studio to finally delve into the deepest, strangest depths of the comics to cherry-pick ideas that even Stan Lee may have raised an eyebrow at. Where WandaVision used different eras of sitcoms to analyze the Scarlet Witch’s grief, Loki introduces multiple timelines, universes, and alternate versions of Loki. In other words, things are about to get really, really weird.
However, before Loki (the God of Mischief) can go on the time-bending adventure that Loki (the Disney Plus show) promises, we (the audience and Loki) need to get onto the same page. First, that means spending five minutes with Miss Minutes, the oddly malevolent mascot of the TVA, or the Time Variance Authority, the office-based body in charge of keeping the Sacred Timeline in check for the Time Keepers. (There’s probably something philosophical to say about free will and determinism, and maybe Loki will give us another Ship of Theseus moment, but let’s not get into that right now).
After catching us up on the basics with regards to how the Marvel Cinematic Universe works when it comes to time and multiverserses and Nexus whatevers, we then spend another few minutes catching Loki up on what we – the audience – have seen before. This version of Loki has been snatched from the events of Avengers: Loki’s character growth has regressed back into someone who has not lived through Thor: The Dark World and Thor: Ragnarok, and died in Avengers: Infinity War.
The episode does a superb job of catching Loki – and non-Marvel aficionados – up with his journey so far. Sure, we’re basically watching Loki doing a reaction video to his own greatest hits, but Tom Hiddleston, on consistent amiable form throughout the premiere, sells his character’s emotions, helping make Loki’s fast-pass through events no longer lived all the more believable.
Admittedly, that’s all a lot of exposition, and really, the episode simply lays the groundwork for future episodes to build off. Yet, writer Michael Waldron and director Kate Herron keep the whole thing flying along, whether that’s having Loki literally fall into another room in the TVA’s mysterious headquarters, or Wunmi Mosaku’s hardened Hunter B-15 trying to vaporize Loki, adding some tension to proceedings. The WD-40 that keeps everything briskly moving forward, though, is the camaraderie between Hiddleston and Owen Wilson’s Mobius.
Considering Wilson’s on-screen presence has been fairly non-existent since 2017, minus the recently released (and not well-received) Amazon movie Bliss, and his career has essentially been a mixture of all-American comedies, Wes Anderson movies, and voicing Lightning McQueen in the Cars series, I’m not sure what I expected from an Owen Wilson character in the MCU. The result is Mobius, an immediately likable personality who gives the TVA a face and bounces perfectly off Hiddleston’s Loki shtick. Before this, we’ve only really ever seen Loki contend with arrogant Avengers, yet Mobius – an Alien being who deeply cares about doing his job right and protecting the space-time continuum – acts as an interesting and different foil. There’s no doubting that seeing this double act on screen for another five episodes will be a downright joy.
The question moving forward, then, is where does Loki go from here? The episode saves its ace card until the last minute, when it becomes apparent why Mobius desperately wants this Loki’s help: there’s another Loki variant on the loose, and they’re killing Minutemen. We’ve been promised a crime caper through time, and that appears to be exactly what we’re getting next – we just needed to see Loki’s highlight reel first. Prepare for things to get ever stranger as Loki takes us on a tour of the timelines, and maybe breaks the MCU in the process.