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Welcome to the first Loki Wednesday!
The God of Mischief is back and burdened with glorious purpose in a big way this week, taking centre stage in his own Disney+ show. Where in his previous MCU appearances the Trickster has always had to share the limelight with his big brother Thor and others, here the focus will be predominantly on him, which I’m sure is just how he likes it.
The premiere episode gave us a lot to discuss, so here’s some thoughts on its biggest talking points.
Allow me to reintroduce myself: my name is Loki
The first question Loki had to answer is where exactly did he teleport away to when he picked up that Tesseract in 2012? The answer turns out to be the Gobi Desert in Mongolia. In addition to being one of many funny moments, Loki immediately trying to establish himself as their ruler is a nice reminder that we’re dealing with a version of the character who is still very much in arrogant villain mode.
Loki’s inaugural address is interrupted by the arrival of Time Variance Authority agents led by Wunmi Mosaku’s Hunter B-15, who promptly capture the Trickster with some neat tech and take him back to their HQ.
That’s where things start to get interesting, and a little weird…
Welcome to the Time Variance Authority
Our introduction to the Time Variance Authority is Loki getting acquainted with his new circumstances as he goes through processing and orientation. For the TVA, this is routine stuff. For Loki, it’s a shock. For an audience who has grown accustomed to the Asgardian God being the smartest and sometimes strongest guy in the room, it’s an amusing and surprising resetting of the status quo. To that end, the fact that Infinity Stones – once thought to be the greatest power in the MCU – are merely paperweights here only underlines how formidable the mysterious TVA are.
It helps that we get an explainer on the TVA courtesy of a cartoon voiced by long-time Harley Quinn actress Tara Strong. It outlines how three “all-knowing time-keepers” created the organisation to protect the flow of time in the Sacred Timeline against “variants” like Loki who have veered from their paths.
Watch: Meet Owen Wilson's Agent Mobius
In essence, it’s part of a big exposition dump (there’s a lot of it in this episode), but it never feels that way because of how it’s being delivered. When it’s not fun cartoons, more often than not it’s Owen Wilson’s Agent Mobius. He steps in just before Loki is sentenced to execution to recruit the Asgardian so that he can help him hunt down a dangerous fugitive who has been killing squads of agents.
This eventually leads us to the premiere’s best scene…
Loki, this is your life
One advantage of the MCU’s interconnected storytelling is being able to reference its history to enhance other entries in its canon. This is done to brilliant effect when Mobius sits Loki down to recap some of his highlights, as well as offer him a glimpse into his future. The Loki we’ve come to know over the last few years did the work, broke his cycle of villainy and destruction, and earned some measure of redemption. What effect will having the knowledge of his fate have on Loki 2.0?
Mobius hits Loki with some hard questions – “Do you enjoy hurting people?” “What makes Loki tick?” – and the immediate answers feel significant. It already feels like Loki is being more introspective and self-aware in this episode than he has been in any MCU entry to date. Hiddleston is superb in this sequence, allowing some rare vulnerability to peak through Loki’s brash veneer.
It doesn’t last long however, because Loki is still gonna Loki. The mischievous schemer eventually gains the upper hand over his captors, nabbing Mobius’ time-rewinding device and outsmarting Hunter B-15 in a bid to escape. Once it becomes clear that that’s impossible – Loki gets his hands on the Tesseract, but just like his magic it doesn’t work in the TVA – his goals reset, and he reluctantly agrees to comply with Mobius and join their hunt. But there’s a catch…
Loki vs. Loki(’s)
The premiere episode ends on a tantalising cliffhanger: the variant whom Loki has been enlisted to track down is… himself. Not that we get to see him – he (she?) is shrouded in darkness as the TVA agents unlucky enough to cross his path are barbecued alive. What exactly the endgame is for this variant is unclear, but the prospect of our Loki going up against different versions of himself is just one of many intriguing ideas on this series’ plate.
Exactly how much fun will it be? Only time will tell. But this is a strong start.
More low key observations
This premiere has a really great balance of exposition, story, and character work that bodes well for the season. There’s only six hours to play with, and it already feels like this series will have more narrative propulsion episode-to-episode than WandaVision or The Falcon and the Winter Soldier.
Tom Hiddleston and Owen Wilson are absolutely delightful together. It feels like there was more natural buddy comedy hijinks in this episode than there was in the entirety of The Falcon and the Winter Solider, and I’m here for every single second of it.
I’m a huge Gugu Mbatha-Raw fan, so I was super excited when she was cast in the series. There’s not much of her Judge Ravonna Renslayer in the premiere, but here’s hoping she gets more of a spotlight in later episodes. A quick thought: if “time-keepers dictate the flow of time”, and “Judges dictate the flow of time according to the time-keepers dictations”, who dictates the dictators if/when they step out of line?
Natalie Holt’s delightfully quirky music for the series is superb. Loki isn’t as weird as I thought it would be yet, but the score more than makes up for it. Can’t wait to hear more.