Perhaps no Disney+ Marvel will make fans quite as aware of the backstory necessary to dive in as Loki. Its exposition clocks in at roughly the full first episode, but the characters and setting alike make it worth viewers’ time.
The series opens on the Avengers: Endgame scene that disrupted the timeline. Loki (Tom Hiddleston) makes off with the Tesseract to parts very quickly known, then runs headfirst into the Time Variance Authority. Our first introduction to the formidable TVA is Hunter-B15 (Wunmi Mosaku), who overpowers the Asgardian easily.
That’s how the audience knows who they’re dealing with, and it doesn’t get any easier for the God of Mischief in the first two episodes. The firm judge Ravonna Renslayer (Gugu Mbatha-Raw), insightful analyst Mobius (Owen Wilson), and clueless receptionist Casey (Eugene Cordero) fill out the known associates of TVA. None of them feel quite like any character we’ve met before in the MCU, and it’s a very good thing.
It’s also probably a good thing that Loki hasn’t been seen onscreen since 2019, otherwise there might be a bit of tonal whiplash. This series doesn’t have quite the zany zest of Thor: Ragnarok or the impossible urgency of Endgame. Instead there is a new combination that seems fitting for this new version of the character: introspective about the past, but testing the limits of the future. (Oh, and did I mention confirmed genderfluid by the credits?!)
The creative team’s approach to the apparent Big Bad also feels like a midway point between WandaVision and The Falcon and The Winter Soldier. While the name of the villain is dropped in the first episode, neither face nor motive is revealed – raising questions about whether the wool is being pulled over Loki’s eyes in the second. It’s quite disconcerting to see such a powerful character so out of their element, but it also adds excitement to the adventure.
As previously mentioned, the characters really make the show stand out. And no dynamic is more fascinating than the one between Loki and Mobius. Those expecting the usual buddy cop routine may be surprised to find it’s a lot more sobering than that. Sure, Wilson makes sure Mobius has his quirks – but he’s more concerned with understanding his captive (colleague, whatever label you prefer) than making a quip.
Being relentlessly yet patiently questioned by Mobius brings out Loki’s self-doubt, but the Asgardian mischief maker is sure to question the TVA’s entire operation in turn. The ensuing philosophical debates may not add to the action, but they certainly bring up issues relevant to both the Marvel Universe and our own. And aren’t Marvel stories best when we can theorize about them while also using them to reflect on ourselves?
The first of 6 Loki episodes drops Wednesday, June 9 on Disney+.