‘Loki’ Review: Opens up the Marvel Universe to a Multitude of Possibilities

In the 13 years since the inception of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, the Avengers have galivanted all around space, but even the most recent films and shows have barely scratched the surface of the concept of time. Loki changes all of that. In fact, in terms of its wider implications, Loki changes everything. It may sound cynical to lead a review of a Marvel and Disney show by praising the further stories it sets up, but aside from giving screentime to one of the franchise’s most beloved characters, on the whole, Loki has been surprisingly uneven despite its intrigue. 

In the aftermath of Avengers: Endgame, Loki (Tom Hiddleston) is caught by the mysterious TVA shortly after stealing the Tesseract. The Time Variance Authority is tasked with protecting the ‘sacred timeline’ – the rightful flow of time as dictated by the omniscient Timekeepers, which does not allow for any variation or free will. Loki’s apprehension leads to his meeting with the likeable Agent Mobius (an unusually serious role for Owen Wilson), and another fugitive variant of himself known as Sylvie (Sophia Di Martino). Together they unravel the secrets of the TVA and discover who is pulling the strings of time itself, and why. Creating intrigue and an endless list of questions is something this series has no problem with. 

Of course, the main draw of the show in the first place is the return of Tom Hiddleston, long a fan favourite Marvel actor. He does not disappoint, and the script of Loki allows him to gleefully explore the full range of the mischievous anti-hero. The fact that this Loki is dialled back all the way to his self in Avengers Assemble means that we get to experience his character arc all over again, this time in just six episodes. The joy of this is seeing Hiddleston flit from angry, self-interested tyrant to compassionate, self-sacrificing hero in this condensed time. The downside is that with the exception of a few details, we’ve seen this character development before. Still, Hiddleston is clearly having fun with the role, sinking his teeth into his banter with Owen Wilson and joyously parodying one of Chris Hemsworth‘s memorable lines from Thor. 

Another thing the series gets absolutely right is its production design and music. The first of the Disney+ shows to be fully science fiction, Loki flaunts its budget in its settings and special effects. It provides exactly the variety of locales you would expect. From neon-lit planet Lamentis, to Pompeii, to the endless offices and libraries of the TVA, it is always visually exciting. With the latter especially, the production design is smart and creative – the TVA’s offices are both glaringly futuristic and nostalgic with their vintage-style technology. The score plays up the show’s sci-fi elements – not only is it catchy and full of dramatic flourishes, it has just enough synth to evoke the 1980s – a move that is admittedly unoriginal and ridiculously common, but that’s because it works. 

For all of its stunning visuals and time devoted to its characters, Loki often drifts away from the plot and gets bogged down in exposition. Loki might excel when he is talking his way out of a situation, but the dialogue seems to make up the vast majority of both the first and last episodes of the season. At times it feels (dare I say) dull, but the air of mystery and our eagerness to have our questions answered implores us to stick it out. It’s then disappointing when, after Sylvie’s big reveal in episode two, the next instalment feels a lot like filler. Yes, the point of Loki and Sylvie’s diversion to Lamentis is to give them time to bond, but it just feels like there could have been better ways to do this than temporarily ignoring the plot. Especially when Loki’s episode count is low, to begin with. When it gets back on track, though, the show is thrilling and well-paced. 

The series finale is as dialogue-heavy as its premiere, but it is saved by having perhaps the most terrific production design of the show. Its true saviour is the special guest star – Jonathon Majors. A character who could outtalk the God of Mischief, Majors’ big bad is as charismatic as he is enigmatic, though it is easy to hazard a guess as to his comic character identity. Despite the heavy implications his character brings, Majors’ plays down his importance by talking in a calm, conversational way that paints him as ‘just another guy.’ For some, this might be a disappointing reveal, but sometimes a villainous performance can be most menacing when there is no overt menace at all. Either way, Majors’ is clearly playing a big part in the MCU going forward, and his debut is extremely memorable.

Excitingly, it looks like we’ll be getting more of Loki (the character) and Loki (the show), with its cliffhanger ending setting up a forthcoming second season. The finale has left us with some answers to our questions, but also with more queries as the future of Loki, Sylvie, and Mobius remains unclear. The series may have struggled to find its feet, but it has brought us likeable characters that are easy to invest in, as well as some stellar performances and wonderful sci-fi production design. The multiverse is full of infinite possibilities, and we shall see which direction Marvel goes in next.

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