No, as of the moment this review was written, the title of the first episode of Loki was not made available. However, “burdened with glorious purpose” seems like an apt way of describing the situation at hand – as well as being Loki’s (Tom Hiddleston) first words in series. Ones often repeated, and which are followed by reactions varying from amusement to annoyance.
Perhaps moreso than either of the previous two Marvel series, Loki is tasked with opening the door to a whole new subset of the universe. Sure, WandaVision introduced fans to SWORD – but their exposition fit into a throwaway line or two. And yes, The Falcon and The Winter Soldier explored just how the Blip changed humanity, but it never really strayed from the Flag-Smasher’s chaotic agenda.
But Loki not only has the Time Variance Authority to introduce, it must also justify the Marvel Universe’s concept of time travel and clarify how and why branch timelines don’t exist and yet this other version of our favorite God of Mischief does. It’s no surprise that all this exposition takes nearly one full 50-minute (well, 40 minutes plus credits) episode and a few replays of previous Thor and Avengers movies. But fear not, it’s a fun ride down memory lane.
Crimes Against The Sacred Timeline
Poor Avengers (2012)-era Loki hardly has time to make any mischief before being properly taken down by a no-nonense agent of the Time Variance Authority, Hunter-B15 (Wunmi Mosaku), and taken to court before the honorable judge Ravonna Renslayer (Gugu Mbatha-Raw) for “crimes against the sacred timeline.”
The entire series of unfortunate events probably takes up half the episode, but it succeeds in acclimating both the audience and a bewildered Loki to a whole new organization that sees itself as having a religious calling to protect the One True Timeline. Ravonna seems to run the show put on before viewers, but even she answers to an authority higher than herself – the Time Keepers in charge of curating the timeline and “pruning” any unwanted branches, of which 2012 Loki is now one.
Every individual we meet within the TVA’s walls shares this hivemind-like sense of purpose, but their straight-laced deadpan approach to Loki’s attempted antics is half the fun. Acclaimed voice actress Tara Strong, who has previously given life to several animated DC favorites, even crosses over to Marvel in order to portray Miss Minutes. She’s essentially a narrative device meant to explain the new set of rules to Loki, and thus the audience, but her devotion to order sends both giggles to the throat and chills down the spine.
Casey (Eugene Cordero) might be the one member of the TVA who doesn’t take himself too seriously, and his comedic moments only add to the mystery of the place. Who is this man that doesn’t know what a fish is? And how can the so-called Time Keepers have created an employee who passes the Tesseract back to a dangerous Variant without a second thought? But perhaps it doesn’t matter, seeing as the TVA headquarters is somehow powerful enough to render Infinity Stones powerless.
King Of What Exactly?
The other piece of the Loki puzzle comes from France in 1549, where TVA field analyst Mobius (Owen Wilson) is investigating a particularly dangerous Variant (the name for someone not adhering to the Sacred Timeline, if that was unclear). The mystery of the six-part series thus becomes clear: someone is ambushing Minutemen at various Nexus Points in time and then escaping from the TVA’s sight.
Though he seems as mindless a devotee of the Time Keepers as the rest of his coworkers, Mobius does have a singular idea that is all his own: recruit 2012 Loki to catch the Variant instead of pruning this version off the face of the timeline. A bit of flirting – sorry, where there’s a ship, it’s going to get pointed out and squeed over – gets Ravonna to hand custody of the mischief god over to her favorite analyst. Now all that’s left is convincing Loki to cooperate.
That’s easier said than done, of course, and it requires replaying footage of lived experienced as well as some of the traumatizing experiences yet to be lived – Freya’s death and Loki’s own, to be exact. To all this, Mobius adds a fair bit of psychoanalysis, calling Loki a pussycat and questioning how much the self-proclaimed villain really enjoys hurting people. This is where the mind games get a bit physical, and Loki tries overpowering B-15 and taking off with the Tesseract. After failing, however, the Asgardian appears to realize the TVA is too powerful and submits to its will.
Or perhaps it just provides the next dream location to conquer, as the would-be king asks, “Is this the greatest power in the universe?” with a familiar glint. Regardless, the ever-so-understanding Mobius accepts the show of vulnerability and thus informs the audience of the strange yet obvious yet definitely-another-twist-to-this identity of the Big Bad Variant: another version of Loki.
And so the episode ends in Oklahoma in the year 1858, where some Minutemen find a time variance signature and come face to face with a hooded figure they have been led to believe is a Loki. They don’t get any time to explore that hypothesis, because the stranger sets fire to the field, attacks them with precision, and makes off with a reset charger – which is what they us to cleanse the timeline of branches. Sinister, right? It took awhile to get to the action, but Marvel knows it’s got everyone hooked by the end of that last scene.
- Loki’s case file in the ending credits sequence confirms the god to be genderfluid, as was already canon in the comics. Huzzah!
- B-15, and presumably other TVA officers, can use her weapon to make someone move at 1/16th their normal speed while still feeling pain in real time. That sounds horrifying, and raises the question of whether abuses of power will be incorporated into this series.
- Loki is asked to confirm he is not a robot, lest he be melted down from the inside out by what otherwise looks like a regular detector. He seems oddly nervous about the possibility: will there be a robot melting in the near future?
- Kablooie gum, left behind by the Variant on the run and featuring a blue horned devil on its packaging, sounds delicious in addition to being pretty obvious confirmation that the villain is a Loki. But is it a red herring?
- The TVA has existed in Marvel Comics since Thor #371 in 1986, but so far it seems nearly impossible to predict the trajectory of the show based on their comic counterparts of Mobius or Ravonna, for example.
New episodes of Loki drop Wednesdays on Disney+.