As you can see due to the existence of this post, I have decided to review Loki on a weekly basis (as I did with WandaVision and The Falcon and the Winter Soldier). I won’t always be able to post right after the episode has aired, but will do my best to get the review out on the day of the release. Now, here’s your traditional warning that the following review/recap does include Spoilers and is meant to be read after watching the episode!
What was it about?
After stealing the tesseract during the Avenger’s time heist, Loki finds himself captured by the elusive TVA. What do they want from him and will he comply?
Loki, God of Mischief, has always been one of my favorite characters in the MCU. Tom Hiddleston has made the role his own early on, garnering a lot of sympathy from the viewers. I personally always enjoyed that we got character growth and depth to him, but it never felt like he was truly redeemed. It was always, always, always clear that Loki was unreliable and untrustworthy, even if he made better choices towards the end. With this show, we start back at square one though, because all of that development hasn’t happened to this version of Loki yet. He had just tried to conquer New York City and was stopped by the Avengers, so much of what we know about him was still to come, but then he escaped with the tesseract during the botched time heist.
Much like Loki, we get thrust into things without any prior knowledge of the Time Variance Authority or TVA (at least not within in the MCU). I’m going to do my best to break down what we have learned throughout the episode:
- After having escaped from NYC, Loki is quickly found by the Minutemen – field agents of the Time Variance Authority who capture variants (people deviating from their supposed time stream) throughout time. They have gadgets and technology that we get to learn more about throughout the course of the episode, but that also keep you guessing as to how exactly they work and what they do. Here are a couple examples:
- a device that slows down the person to 1/16th of their speed, although they continue to feel everything in real time.
- a reset charge, presumably used to reset a rogue time stream. We later find out that this is a device sought out by a particular variant, who doesn’t hesitate to kill in order to get them.
- a collar that allows the agents to control the person via a time switch.
- Our introduction to the TVA and their purpose was done quite humorously. In a brief educational video, which was beautifully animated in a nostalgic style of comics back in the 60s, the TVA’s “mascot” Miss Minutes – a talking clock – explains what’s going on. To summarize, the world was once in chaos, with various time streams in the multiverse all battling for dominance until the Timekeepers took it upon themselves to merge them all and create the sacred timeline.
Deviating from said sacred timeline could create a Nexus event, which could lead to madness and another multiversal war. If all of that doesn’t ring a decisive bell for WandaVision (Wanda being a nexus being) and the upcoming Doctor Strange movie (Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness) then I don’t know. We’ve been burned before by speculating too much, but this does seem like a convenient set up for future MCU content.
- With the TVA, there’s also an onslaught of new characters. We don’t really get to find out most people’s names, although Wunmi Mosaku, as a relentless agent, and Gugu Mbatha-Raw, as a TVA judge, are sure to continue playing important roles in that universe. I loved how Wunmi Mosaku’s character was having none of Loki’s nonsense and I could detect a certain entanglement of Gugu Mbatha-Raw’s character with Owen Wilson’s Mobius M. Mobius (the only one we get to know by name).
- Mobius is introduced by being on a case in France 1549. Another routine mission of Minutemen ended deadly for the agents and the TVA seems to know who was behind it. Incidents like this seem to have become a regular problem as of late, with the variant responsible always taking the reset charge after their crime (often characteristic stab wounds). When they interrogated a kid who saw what happened and he pointed towards a glass stain window depicting a devil, I thought they were trying to misdirect us to once again think Mephisto was behind it, but all of the previous comments they had made, pointed towards Loki being the culprit. But I’m getting ahead of myself.
- Back at the TVA, Loki isn’t very cooperative. It makes sense, because he doesn’t understand what’s going on and he didn’t knowingly break the proper flow of time. When he accuses the Avengers of being the real culprits during his hearing, it turns out they were always supposed to travel back in time, but Loki just wasn’t supposed to escape. He is found guilty and sentenced to be reset, until Mobius steps in and recruits him as his asset (against his colleagues reservations).
Interesting fact: During the trial, the TVA refers to Loki as Loki Laufeyson, while he called himself Loki Odinson in the final movie he appeared in (Infinity War). It took him a long time to come to terms with his identity and to see it all reversed was a little sad.
- From here on out, this is where we go deeper into Loki’s psyche. He tries to use all his old tricks, but Mobius is an expert on Loki’s life and not so easily fooled. Instead, he slowly takes the God of Mischief apart, questioning his life choices and showing him memories of Loki’s life, despite him not having lived those yet. It all accumulates in a couple fascinating realizations:
- There’s no magic at the TVA and even infinity stones are useless. Somehow, the TVA is the most powerful thing in existence and that humbles even the a god. There were several instances where he seemed in awe and impressed by the agency, which is no easy feat.
- Mobius told Loki that he was born to cause pain and suffering, so that others could achieve the best versions of themselves and that broke my heart. When Loki watches the death of his mother and father, his heart to heart with Thor and finally his own demise, you could see how it clicked in him that the “glorious purpose” he had always envisioned for himself was nothing but a scam. Losing your purpose like that, however silly it might have been, is usually an experience that changes you fundamentally.
- When Loki finally admitted that he didn’t enjoy hurting people, but used it as an illusion to mask his weaknesses, you could really see that Mobius understood Loki. He knew that about him all along and just wanted him to admit it so he could truly recruit him for his mission. They are going to be an interesting duo!
- One of the memories shown from Loki’s life, to especially convey his talent for extraordinary escapes, reveals that he was actually D. B. Cooper, a man who hijacked an aircraft in the 70s between Seattle and Portland and was never caught. While I’m sure they thought this was a little fun addition to Loki’s lore, it made little sense to me. He claimed that he did that stunt due to a lost bet with Thor, but when we first meet Thor, he doesn’t seem to know much about earthly customs or anything of the like. Why would he dare Loki to steal a bunch of earth cash?
- Ultimately, the big reveal was that the variant Mobius needs help with is a version of Loki. I guess he believes that only Loki can outwit Loki, but I didn’t find that reveal to be very shocking. As I mentioned earlier, I already guessed that he was the one they were looking for. When they then showed another team of Minutemen getting attacked in 1858 by a cloaked figure, I briefly thought “What if it’s Lady Loki?“, but they did use male pronouns to describe the variant. Then again, they also used male pronouns for the Power Broker and we all know how that turned out and that I was right …
Fun fact: The show made sure to honor Stan Lee by including him as one of the time keepers in a painting. If you pay attention to the background a lot, it also looks like an agent brings in Peggy Carter (or someone who resembles her quite a bit) at one point.
While there was a lot of humor in the episode (I truly can’t get over Loki questioning whether he was a robot or that one agent not knowing what a fish is), it was also surprisingly emotional. Tom Hiddleston knows how to bring a certain gravitas to his roles, even if they are eccentric and deeply troubled gods, which makes his more reflective scenes all the more believable. I really felt for him when he had to deconstruct his life and realize that his oh so glorious purpose was all just a big illusion. I’m so glad we get to see more of him on our screens.
With 52 minutes (including credits), the episode was on the longer end of what we have come to know from the Marvel shows. I don’t know why, but I somehow expected it to be shorter and along the lines of WandaVision, but you won’t see me complain about more content. The start of the series definitely has caught my attention, although it’s very clear that it was used to set up what we will be facing in the weeks to come. Much like with TFATWS, we had to establish where everyone’s head is at before we can jump into the real action, so I’m sure the best is yet to come. However, I also think this will work for the many new viewers, who might not be familiar with every movie, because we rehashed a lot of previous events.