Loki (Season 1)
The newest Marvel show proves to be the most intriguing and ambitious
Marvel’s dominance in cinema is spilling over to TV. After delegating a lot of their TV work in the past to ABC or Netflix, creative mastermind Kevin Feige has taken back the reins and is incorporating the new Disney+ shows into the larger Marvel Cinematic Universe. We’ve had two successful launches with the incredibly original Wandavision (2021) causing waves of fan theories (and 23 Emmy nominations), and Falcon and the Winter Soldier (2021) providing a necessary reflection on race and legacy in the cinematic narrative. Now Disney+ has released the last episode of the first season of Loki (2021-), Marvel’s first villain-centric show and its most ambitious to date.
Loki follows the famed Marvel villain and Norse God of Mischief Loki (Tom Hiddleston) who after escaping from the time-travelling Avengers in Avengers: Endgame (2019) has caused a divergent timeline and a parallel reality. It is because of this that Loki meets the Time Variant Authority, a bureaucratic out-of-time organization tasked with pruning any deviations from a supposed “sacred timeline” in order to prevent any parallel universes from taking hold. It is here that Loki begins to see the dimensions of the universe and begins to reconsider his entire existence.
Loki is created by Michael Waldron, already famed for ambitious and woozy projects such as Rick and Morty (2013-), which also play around with time-travel and parallel universes. However, Waldron doesn’t hold back when diving into the carefully crafted Marvel Cinematic Universe. Loki’s compact six-episode season one doesn’t waste much time wandering and drifting, but pushes its story forward and the very limits of imagination. Each episode truly ends on a frustrating cliff-hanger that made the week-to-week watch nearly unbearable. Waldron does take an episode to slow things down and put forth some character development in the middle of the season. This curiously might put viewers off, as it is a big slowdown from the pace that the show had set. Yet it is a necessary pause to raise the stakes and bring forth character development that can crest at the end of the season.
Hiddleston had been a standout in his previous Marvel appearances, proving to be one of the few convincing villains in the 20+ Marvel films and shows. No doubt the British actor’s natural charisma and relish with the role won him the right to his own show, and Hiddleston truly digs deep into his character. Accustomed to having been a side-character to Chris Hemsworth’s Thor, Hiddleston is able to shine in the more dramatic and deeper moments of Loki, shaving the overused comedic elements and making a more intriguing character. The show’s cast makes some fabulous additions as well. Owen Wilson as TVA bureaucrat Mobius tasked with handling Loki is a particular highlight, and he is able to use his celebrity likeability to make his character appealing in a short amount of time. However, there are also some strong turns from the likes of Sophia DiMartino in a winning if slightly monotone performance, and Wunmi Mosaku who could have easily faded into the background and yet brings more life into her character than had been written.
By shifting one of Marvel’s best villains into a more “heroic” role, Marvel once again struggles to come forth with a gripping opponent. Waldron is largely successful throughout most of the season by keeping the identity of his villain vague, working similarly to Jaws (1975), in making viewers project their own idea of a villain. The season finale does a lot of heavy lifting and largely lives up to a nearly impossible crescendo and hype that had been building in the previous five episodes. The ending to this season is certainly a bold disruption that redefines the MCU’s future, in a way that many believed Disney would be too cowardly to explore. However, Loki’s conclusion leaned a bit too heavily on simple expository dialogue, making it feel more like a set-up for future events than a culmination of the season. It’s reveal of a villain proves to be an inevitable let-down as well, as the build-up towards them would have been impossible to culminate. Thus, there is a slight feeling of incompletion with season one’s arcs, which perhaps suffer from the overly ambitious set-up that its wrap-up simply couldn’t incorporate gracefully.
Loki is a winning science fiction show. It could prove to be enjoyable viewers even if they’re not well-versed in the Marvel world, similar to the original elements in Wandavision overpowering the lore elements. The creative team behind Loki prove to be the kind of bold artists that many viewers hope studios give more opportunities. From the concise directing of Kate Herron, to a fabulous score from Natalie Holt, some the winning performances from a curious cast, and the ambitious writing of Waldron; Loki is the Marvel TV project to top.