Tom Hiddleston as Loki and Wunmi Mosaku as B-15. (Marvel Studios)
Directed by: Kate Herron
Written by: Michael Waldron
Starring: Tom Hiddleston, Owen Wilson, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Sophia Di Martino, Wunmi Mosaku, Richard E. Grant
Synopsis (Disney+): Marvel Studios’ Loki features the God of Mischief as he steps out of his brother’s shadow in a new Disney+ series that takes place after the events of Avengers: Endgame.
Let me tell you something. I have not been a fan of Loki.
I loved seeing Loki’s character development in the first Thor film in 2011. Unfortunately, since then, subsequent movies and their writers haven’t wowed me with their lackluster interpretations of the god of mischief. Instead of leaning into his impish qualities, most Marvel films have just turned Loki into a mustache-twirling villain. That’s boring. Therefore, Loki’s presence quit exciting me–instead, I’d sigh in frustration at what mediocre stunt he was trying to pull in his latest outing.
But, to borrow a phrase from Loki himself, Disney+’s new series about the god of mischief gives Loki renewed glorious purpose. Meticulous fans who love cataloging the events of the MCU will get gratification out of seeing where Loki’s disappearance during The Avengers: Endgame lands him in the unfolding events of Marvel’s Phase 4. While the series could potentially open up more questions than it answers–questions that are spoilers unless you’ve seen the first two episodes of the series–Loki does provide many clues as to what we can expect from the rest of Phase 4’s movies and TV shows.
While I am intrigued to see how the series will answer some of the glaring plotholes it opens up regarding the events surrounding the Blip and Endgame, I’m more interested in how writer Michael Waldron uses Loki as a way to discuss more existential questions. Why are we here? Is everything predetermined? Does God exist, and if God does, why do they allow some bad things to happen, allowing the good to suffer? To that end, what even is “good” and “bad” cosmically if there is such a thing as chaotic order?
Seeing how Waldron is still a human and not an all-knowing Timekeeper like the ones in Loki, I know he will not have all of the answers anyway. But some mental exercises, such as how we come to define ourselves to ourselves, hit closer to home. For example, the Timekeepers might have a different idea of “good” or “bad,” but the concept is critical to our self-perception on Earth. We can believe ourselves to be doing something to better ourselves and our standing in life, only to realize that you’re acting out from old emotional wounds. We can be both the heroes and the villains of our own stories. Loki’s journey revolves around this realization, and it’ll keep him churning forward through time as he discovers just how expansive, both literally and figuratively, his identity truly is.
Aside from the brain candy for viewers who love philosophical and psychological rumination, there’s a ton of eye candy for visual fans. The late ’60s to early ’70s aesthetic fits the Time Variance Authority (or TVA), the prime location for the series. Why the Timekeepers decided to create a bureaucracy that looks like a 1970s DMV is a great question that I hope has a great answer. But for us viewers, the orange and brown color scheme mixed with late retro-futuristic fonts and the old-school animated mascot Miss Minutes (voiced by Tara Strong) evoke that strange combination of emotions governmental buildings often give. There’s comfort despite sterility, productiveness despite an eternal waiting room, care despite workers who could care less about you or your feelings—all perfect descriptors of the TVA, which is emotionless by design.
But despite the authority itself being an emotionless entity, there is still warmth to be found in characters like Agent Mobius (Owen Wilson), who strikes that perfect characterization of a haggard detective who always knows more than he lets on. His war of the minds with Loki is entertaining to watch, especially since this role somehow allows Wilson to show his range more than some of his past work has. Gugu Mbatha-Raw gives a fun performance as the TVA’s Judge Renslayer, and it’s clear there’s more to see from her character than the two screeners showed. Eugene Cordero also gives a funny performance as a TVA employee. The one person from the main cast I was surprised by in a less-than-great way is Wunmi Mosaku as B-15, the leader of the Minutemen. After seeing what she can do in Lovecraft Country, I was shocked she didn’t immediately wow me with her characterization. Hopefully, she gives me more as the season progresses.
Overall, Loki has me hooked, and I can’t wait to see what else the series has to show us. This series is Marvel at its most experimental–even more than WandaVision. Thank goodness we’ve finally gotten to the multiverse so shows like Loki can explore different aspects of the human condition in creative ways.