The first two episodes of Loki embody what the character is all about: mischief, mystery and mayhem.
Directed by Kate Herron and written by Michael Waldron, Loki is the third live-action MCU series on Disney Plus, set to debut tomorrow. It follows on from Avengers: Endgame's time heist, kicking off with Loki being captured by the Time Variance Authority (TVA) – an organisation which oversees the order of the different timelines across the galaxy.
Like other Marvel series on Disney Plus, it uses the opportunity to get experimental. Think of it like a crime detective show, except it's set in the intersection between space and time, and the narrator is a very unreliable one. This show is not afraid to get weird – Bonnie Tyler’s ‘Holding Out For A Hero’ accompanies one of the major fight scenes.
Loki is one of the longest-standing characters in the Marvel universe, but usually has either been the sidekick, and/or the sort-of villain that mainly features to help serve the plot of other characters. To see a storyline from the God of Mischief's perspective is refreshing, and brings a slightly darker feel to the MCU.
Tom Hiddleston steps back into a non-redeemed version of Loki from The Avengers (2012) like he’s putting on a familiar old coat. This Loki has you consistently questioning what his next actions are going to be, and even puts the audience in doubt over who else we can trust.
The star of the show is also an executive producer on the series, and Kate Herron spoke to Entertainment Weekly about how he educated the creative team on the mythology of the Norse God in his own ‘Loki School’. The love and attention to detail Hiddleston has for this role is abundantly clear through his stellar performance.
The protagonist is vastly different compared to Wanda, Vision, Sam, and Bucky, as Marvel audiences are more intimately familiar with who Loki is and what makes the God tick. However, as Loki’s personality is so complex, his behaviour is also the hardest to predict, and thereby the most interesting to follow.
When paired with Owen Wilson as TVA agent Mobius, you have a great dynamic duo. I was a bit sceptical about Wilson's casting considering his history of playing very similar roles. However, thus far he’s managed to deliver that exasperated investigator feel with a touch of charm.
It's also nice to watch someone who is capable of not just catching a Loki curveball, but serving one back. I’m eager to see how Mobius’s character progresses and connects with the Asgardian.
The opening episode very much emulates the quick-witted style of Taika Waititi and James Gunn. The pacing feels the most natural of any opener thus far – a right balance between the information cramming of The Falcon and The Winter Soldier and the super slow-burn of WandaVision.
As this Disney+ show has been confirmed by Kevin Feige to have the most impact on the MCU as a whole, there's a lot of time spent establishing how the TVA fits into the overarching narrative in episode one. However, as this also ties into Loki’s emotional narrative and motive, it doesn’t feel like an exposition dump.
What this does mean is that episode two can focus more on the time travel, the reluctant bromance between Loki and Mobius, and drop some huge reveals for the future of the series. This is definitely the stronger episode of the pair, and I can only hope that the story continues to progress from here.
Loki also does a very good job when it comes to world building. The TVA's setting isn’t exactly easy to imagine, but the environment which Marvel creates stands on its own as an iconic location.
I will however say that the special effects and CGI are on occasion a little ropey – it's likely that some of Disney's budget went on some of the spectacular stuff seen in other Marvel shows earlier on this year.
The score is not only a standout of the show, but a gem in the whole franchise. This is composed by Natalie Holt, who previously created music for BBC’s Wallander and has worked on titles including Victoria and Paddington. The clashing notes of the strings create a unique and memorable sound that fits the bizarre and intriguing nature of Loki.
The Falcon and The Winter Soldier was a return to the easy-to-watch and safe Marvel structure that works for audiences both old and new. Loki, however, is a gem for fans of the superhero series – but will likely be hard to follow for new viewers.
There’s lots of references and easter eggs that had the superhero fangirl in me squealing, but if you’re not familiar with Loki’s trajectory as a character – and the interweaving timelines in the MCU – then this show won’t hold your hand. It does recap plot points central to Loki's arc, but the references to Infinity Stones and Asgard cannot be explained away in a line or two.
The themes of purpose, identity and belief are seeded very quickly in the debut of the show. Hiddleston told Empire that the core of Loki explores "the many selves that we are" and takes Loki’s shapeshifting physique and personality to a whole new level.
But it’s not just about how you’re perceived to other people – it's about how you perceive yourself. It's a bit of a mind-boggle to see Loki grapple with the many aspects of his identity, and ultimately decide how those traits shape his actions in the world around him.
For fans of Marvel, Loki has probably the strongest opening so far. To see the stories we know so well retold from a more anti-hero perspective and explore how the God’s unique powers influence both the MCU timeline and history as a whole is an absolutely joy.
If you’re someone who is just getting into the Marvel Disney+ hype and aren’t that familiar with the films, then this may be a slightly harder show to get your head round. It relies on narratives seeded in three Avengers movies, and also alludes to the Thor trilogy.
Nonetheless, the Marvel Disney Plus shows are at their strongest when they ditch the traditional formula and embrace the weird – and Loki is the perfect example of that. The more mischief, the better.
The first episode of Loki debuts tomorrow on Disney+ at 8am BST/12am PST. You can sign up for an account on the Disney Plus website, read more news about Loki here and check out the Loki episode release schedule and how to watch here.