This review is based on the first two episodes of Loki.
With the debut of Loki, there seems to be a central theme among the three Disney+ shows debuting this year as part of Phase 4 of the Marvel Cinematic Universe – redemption, and in some ways, the redemption of a villain.
In WandaVision, Wanda Maximoff (Elisabeth Olsen) had to deal with the repercussions of her rather un-heroic actions (she brainwashed the whole town for crying out loud), and deal with her pain. In The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, it’s the redemption of Sam Wilson (Anthony Mackie) who gave up the shield, and of former Russian assassin Winter Soldier aka Bucky Barnes (Sebastian Stan).
But it’s the return of the God of Mischief where the theme truly hits at the core of the character, not because Loki is and always has been the villain, but because this is the first Disney/Marvel show that focuses exclusively on an insane killer and megalomaniac, brought to television glory by none other than Tom Hiddleston in what is one of the Top 5 Best Casting Decision in the MCU, and likely the only villain on the list.
And this is not the Loki who supported his brother in Thor: Ragnarok, or found redemption of sorts in Avengers: Infinity War. No, this is the dimension-hopping variant, as the series calls him, who lost the Battle of New York in the original Avengers film, but could escape due to the time traveling machinations of the heroes in Avengers: Endgame. In other words, he hasn’t gone on the rollercoaster ride that turned the evil brother in Asgardian saviour. Yet.
Loki starts off right where we last saw him in Endgame, when the handcuffed villain gets a hold of the Tesseract and disappears into thin air. As teased by the show’s synopsis and trailers, Loki zapped his way into the hands of the Time Variance Authority, an organization ruled by ‘The Timekeepers’ that monitors the passage of time, and tracks every event that will occur in the timeline is in accordance of how it was meant to be. Think less control, and more fulfilling of one’s destiny. Naturally, there are those who don’t stay on their timeline, or act out of accordance to what life has planned for them, and these variants have to be managed.
Which, as part of the series, is great background, but if you think about it, it opens up the MCU to greater cosmic possibilities, because the things that have happened, were meant to happen, including the last two Avengers movies, time travel and interference and all. Loki escaping his cuffs wasn’t meant to happen, and whilst that means yet another demise for the beloved character, Agent Mobius M. Mobius (Owen Wilson) comes to the rescue and enlists him to assist in a case.
From here on, Loki shapes up to be a cop-buddy series where Loki is Mobius’ consultant like how Lucifer Morningstar is to Detective Decker in Lucifer, or rather when Hannibal Lecter was taken aboard to help FBI Officer Will Graham catch a serial killer in the drama series Hannibal. And like in Lethal Weapon, it’s the on-screen relationship that makes the partnership work, and Hiddleston and Wilson are the best at mouthing off, and being snappish yet supportive of each other.
The buddy cop genre isn’t new, but this approach is certainly a new direction for Marvel, who has continued to place emphasis on superpowered beings putting a stop to a big bad villain. Now, we see a villain working together with (who we presume to be) a good guy. It’s still rather early to see where exactly this series will be heading towards, because from what we learn in WandaVision and The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, the Disney+ Marvel TV shows absolutely love to build up to a twist. Episode 2, however, reveals exactly what Loki and Agent Mobius are up against, and it’s a dozzie, so maybe Marvel won’t take too much time to build the overall narrative arc.
Each episode of Loki runs for around 50 minutes and instead of building on the suspense (WandaVision) or action (The Falcon and the Winter Soldier), Loki does what it does best with its leads – an extremely talkative God versus an extremely talkative agent of Time. In fact, Loki is a lot of talk and then some, with little action here and there. Whilst a good representation of the character himself, it might not be for everyone, unless you’re here to see a Tom Hiddleston one man show. It is, however, incredibly nice to see Hiddleston give a big grin and cheeky wink every once in a while.
So far, Hiddleston carries the series on his handsome British shoulders, with cast members Wunmi Mosaku (Lovecraft Country) as TVA’s Hunter B-15 potentially coming in as a close second as Loki’s biggest non-fan. Wilson keeps up with the desperate cop with a hunch act rather well, but it’s hardly a wow-ing performance, especially since he has his performance in the 2004 hit-comedy cop movie Starsky & Hutch to live up to.
When it comes to action, Loki starts off light – there’s no shield tossing or magic flying around, and when it does go all out in the Marvel-styled action, Loki’s fighting sequences and combat are also different from what we’ve seen before in previous movies.
With the understanding that the God didn’t have his fancy costume and is stripped of his magic and powers, Loki’s fighting style in the show thus far depends on hand-combat and the mischievous ways he uses items around him to hit and block attacks ala Jackie Chan. It is expected of Loki to be smart and cunning, but it’s also the exact expectation we have of Loki to deliver more of the God’s shape shifting, flying, illusions and psychokinesis abilities to the forefront, which make the few fight scenes in this series a tad more underwhelming. Fingers crossed that this will change again in the later episodes, since the action in WandaVision only picked up closer to the end of the season.
Lining it up against all the other TV series that comes before it, Loki is indeed a unique take visually and in style. The colours in the show are more muted, dark and almost dusty. It looks like how a crime movie would look – like Seven for example, with the charm and wit of Hiddleston to liven up the mood a little bit. Luckily, the series is focused on time-travelling and dimension hopping so viewers aren’t stuck with the same old drab as we’re brought to different locations to discover in every episode.
An especially nice touch is how the show has awkward cuts, jumps and pauses in between casual conversations, as if the events are being played back or manipulated. It’s not a major trick but it’s noticeable enough to make you wonder if your TV screen is glitching. It’s tricks like these that make viewing Loki more exciting, because you never really know what you’re getting yourself into.
As a whole, Loki is a rather enjoyable watch for those who are fans of the misunderstood villain. The first two episodes really takes its time (pun not intended) to build up this new world that non-comic book readers may not be aware of and as mentioned, has an exciting reveal at the end of episode 2 that will push the series to a whole new level of action, banter and excitement.
Mayhem awaits in this time-travelling, dimension-hopping series, we’ll just have to be patient and wait.
GEEK REVIEW SCORE
Mayhem awaits in this time-travelling, dimension-hopping series, where Tom Hiddleston’s return as the God of Mischief Loki takes the cake. Now all it needs is a little less lip, and more action.
Story - 8/10
Direction - 8/10
Characterisation - 9/10
Geek Satisfaction - 9/10