Synopsis: After stealing the Tesseract during the events of Avengers: Endgame, an alternate version of Loki is brought to the mysterious Time Variance Authority who give Loki a choice: face being deleted from existence due to being a “time variant” or help fix the timeline and stop a greater threat.
Stars: Tom Hiddleston, Owen Wilson, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Sophia Di Martino, Wunmi Mosaku, Richard E. Grant, Sasha Lane
Director: Kate Herron
Running Length: ~50 minutes
TMMM Score: (7.5/10)
Review: Can you believe it’s been nearly two years since the last Marvel film was released in theaters? It’s true, not since 2019’s Spider-Man: Far From Home have we seen one of our favorite superheroes on the big screen. Fans of the Marvel Cinematic Universe may have missed out on their chance to see Black Widow in theaters this past year when it was delayed due to the pandemic, but in 2021 we’ll make up for lost time as that film is released along with a whopping three others, Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, Eternals, and Spider-Man: No Way Home. It hasn’t been too quiet in Marvel’s world, though. We’ve all had our fair share of consolation prizes in not one, but two well-received television series that have premiered on Disney+.
The streaming service watched the quirky WandaVision become a bona fide hit with its tonal differences from the previous films. It had its moments where it reared its more Marvel-y moments but by and large this felt like a self-contained bit of creative freedom that wouldn’t have been possible outside of Disney’s weekly platform release structure. This was followed fairly quickly with The Falcon and The Winter Soldier mere weeks after WandaVision concluded its 9-episode run. The Falcon and The Winter Soldier’s 6-episodes, by comparison, were much more like the traditional Marvel movie. Not that that was an all-together bad thing. Allowing supporting player Anthony Mackie (Anthony Mackie, Pain & Gain) to rise to leading man status was welcome and if Sebastian Stan (I, Tonya) didn’t do as much to forward his character as I would have liked, the duo proved to be a smart pairing.
Now comes Loki, the third Marvel series to debut on Disney+ and it appears to be the most ambitious one to date. But wait, you may be asking, didn’t Loki, you know, perish in Avengers: Endgame? Well, that’s where the storytellers in the big Marvel warehouse have worked some magic and come up with an interesting way to keep Loki alive, but as a “variant” of himself. In fact, according to the Time Variance Authority (TVA), there could be multiple timelines that we follow if we aren’t careful and that’s why they are there, to help police the master timeline and ensure it is proceeding as intended.
When he steals the Tesseract in Avengers: Endgame, Loki (Tom Hiddleston, Only Lovers Left Alive) upends the timeline and sets into motion a series of events that puts him in front of Ravonna Lexus Renslaye (Gugu Mbatha-Raw, A Wrinkle in Time) from the TVA who prefers that he be “reset”, i.e. zapped, for his infraction. She’s persuaded by TVA agent Mobius M. Mobius (Owen Wilson, Bliss) to release Loki to his watch because he needs the trickster’s help in solving a mystery currently confounding the TVA. Apparently, someone has been jumping through timelines and getting rid of any TVA security detail that comes looking for them. Agreeing to help Mobius but planning his own escape by infiltrating the TVA from within, Loki becomes an unlikely ally to combat a most unexpected villain.
Above and beyond the production design for the series which has a retro vibe from the late 60’s/early 70’s mixed with a dash of steampunk (not the annoying kind), there’s a boldness to Loki that feels like another step forward for Marvel where their television endeavors are concerned. Further, it’s totally different than WandaVision and The Falcon and The Winter Soldier, showing that Marvel is having fun experimenting with their style as well as their substance. Director Kate Herron keeps the vibe fresh and fun, allowing Hiddleston free range to let his Loki grow in stature without making the villain too unlikable. It’s also a great showing for Wilson, who takes the role just seriously enough to be convincing but not overtly dry.
Time-travel shows can be a tough sell because it’s easy to play fast and loose with the rules. At times during the first two episodes there are some head-scratching moments where the action can be tough to track, but that is what the rewind button is for. Still, I wouldn’t want to keep having to think too terribly hard over the remaining four episodes about how the timelines merge together but trust that it will all line up by the finale. Loki proves that Marvel is running a solid three for three. Still to come in 2021 is an animated series (What If…?) and two more live-action entries, Ms. Marvel and Hawkeye. Based on the track record so far, the bar is set awfully high for what’s next.