That mischievous scamp.
Loki, who slithered and slunk his way into our hearts in 2011’s Thor, has managed to somehow get looped in this illusion that we don’t love him the way we do. Naturally, he’s gone back to the beginning of his love affair with us, the Marvel faithful, and found a way to get us talking about him again. And we do it because, despite ourselves, we love him. And we love doing it because Loki’s debut season was burdened with glorious purpose and delivered.
We join our loveable narcissistic God of Mischief moments after he has teleported to the Gobi Desert in Mongolia in the 2012 timeline. If you’ll recall from those harrowing and chaotic moments of Endgame, the Avengers have just captured Loki after the Battle of New York. Loki’s been Hulk smashed, knackered and silenced with a mouthpiece, and the 2012 Avengers are ready to pack it up at Stark Tower while the 2023 Avengers are skulking around trying to acquire the Space Infinity Stone. But the Time Heist engineered by the 2023 Avengers has gone sideways. Within the confusion of the Hulk entering the scene in a complete rage, the Space stone is scattered and somehow lands at Loki’s feet. He seizes his opportunity for freedom, grabs it with all his might and teleports from the scene, thus ruining the Avengers’ attempts to temporarily borrow that stone. We all know what happens in Endgame after that, but where Loki managed to get off to was the question at the time. That’s answered in the fantastical world of his summer timeslip.
In the opening moments of this vaudeville delight, we’re reintroduced to the devil. This isn’t the Loki that we’ve come to love and mourn in Infinity War. This Loki is one who hasn’t quite redeemed himself. He doesn’t know who he really is just yet. He’s still at the beginning of the journey without the lessons learned. And this is where Loki shines. The introduction of the Time Variance Authority by way of Hunter B-15 — the wonderful Wunmi Mosaku — sets the tone immediately and gives the first clue that something is different. And everything is different, because we’re not in the MCU main timeline anymore, Toto.
The first episode alone steals the beatings of the heart by showing Loki — and us the viewer, by extension — the journey he should have taken. The TVA’s ruling power over the Sacred Timeline is mighty and powerful, and the true concept of the multiverse begins here with this one storyline beat. Years of buildup have prepared us for this, and it does not disappoint. Each beat of the story — multiple timeline branches, different universes, multiple versions of each character, time branching instead of being linearly shaped — hit one after another and it’s so much to take in. But this is the rub: It’s so expertly crafted here and done with so much care and nuance that months later, we’re still talking about all six episodes and what they mean for the future of the MCU. There are so many story branches opened now because of this that the dizzying nature of the multiverse slips in unnoticed to seep into later episodes and blow everything wide open.
And yet, even with its open nature, the show also has an isolated and insular draw. One of the core strengths is its ability to be humorous and thought-provoking with in-universe gags, easter eggs and references.
Somehow, Loki managed to be a miasma of questions about the implications of time travel and free will on the MCU while hilarious. No other show could feature a biting and witty villain who jumps through disasters in time (Category 8 hurricane in 2050, what?) with a bureaucratic pseudo-governmental agency represented by a time clock with a Southern drawl, who finds out he’s got female, child, future, supreme liar and alligator versions of himself, have them work together and tie it together as a subtle discourse on climate change.
There is no shortage of eclectic shenanigans going on in Loki, and it’s hilariously on point always. As is the soundtrack, because let us state this right now: Composer Natalie Holt outdid herself. The soundtrack is phenomenal and so well done in the way that it epitomizes what it means to be Loki. The themes used here could have easily been used in any Marvel theatrical release with Loki and they would have done well.
But let us not opine that everything in Loki going beautifully according to plan wasn’t also made possible with quality performances. Tom Hiddleston, at this point, is Loki. There’s no question that the dark brat prince of the MCU has cornered the market on our hearts through Hiddleston’s portrayal. Who else could make us simultaneously hate the Asgardian fool and love him so fiercely? The delicate touches he places on Loki’s motivations will have you rooting for the character from the moment he crashes into the Gobi Desert.
And along for the ride is, surprisingly, Owen Wilson. He’s a good actor, but in the confines of Loki, he’s in another echelon: Great. Wilson’s believable skepticism bleeds through and we’re all nodding our heads at his totally in-universe disbelief of the foolishness that is unredeemed Loki. He sees it through to the end, and he is the needed pin to tone things down to a believable state of affairs. Sophie Di Martino and Gugu Mbatha-Raw are refreshing and fun to dissect, given the nature of their characters. And the Loki variants — played by the equally fantastic Richard E. Grant, Deobia Oparei and Jack Veal — are important pieces of the puzzle who raise the bar of the cast exponentially.
And, let us devote a moment of reverence for Jonathan Majors as He Who Remains. Majors’ appearance is a master class in character development through exposition and narrative, moving the story forward while reminding you where it’s come from. He needed no crazy props, just charisma and charm, to explain not just who he is, but also why he is. His appearance in the sixth and final episode — For All Time. Always — is the most pristine entrance ever done in the MCU, and quite frankly, the most exciting in television in a long time. Majors delighted and enthralled us, luring us out to the precipice and having us hanging on his every word and action. We are unfathomably excited to see where he is going with the variant Kang the Conqueror in the upcoming Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania.
Loki, long known to be equally parts vexing and enthralling, will return in Season 2. We are burdened with glorious purpose to be there from the beginning. Because after all, with one of the best scripts, best casts and best in-universe introduction, the sun is guaranteed to shine on its creativity and brilliance yet again.
Overall score: 28.5/30 or 9.5
HOW WE GRADE
We score the properties in three categories: Casting (or voice acting in cases of animated), plot and similarities to its source material. Each category receives points out of the maximum of 10 per category and 30 overall. The percentage is the final score.