Loki did one thing outstanding: it made me overlook the remainder of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
That’s not the way it’s purported to work. The whole conceit of the MCU is that each story, whether or not it’s a blockbuster film or a streaming tv present, is in service to the larger narrative arc. You’re not simply watching what’s occurring to the characters on-screen but in addition hints of what comes subsequent. Loki doesn’t get away from that totally, significantly with its conclusion that units up the universe’s subsequent massive villain. However just like the variants who inhabit Loki’s world exterior of time, the six-episode first season carves out its personal timeline — a couple of of them, the truth is — making it maybe essentially the most standalone a part of the MCU thus far. You possibly can get pleasure from it as a part of the all-encompassing cinematic universe or as what it really is: a wonderful piece of science fiction.
Spoilers for Loki’s first season forward.
The present doesn’t appear that standalone at first. It opens with a scene from Avengers: Endgame when Loki (Tom Hiddleston) makes off with a robust system generally known as the Tesseract. From right here, the story diverges from what we’ve seen within the MCU. Loki is apprehended by the Time Variance Authority (TVA), which is kind of like a time-traveling FBI with one particular objective: to guard the “sacred timeline.” From the TVA, Loki learns that he’s a variant, which is an elaborate phrase for somebody who deviates from the timeline set out by a mysterious trio referred to as the Time Keepers, who manages the movement of time and create the TVA with the intention to keep its purity.
Sometimes, variants are pruned, a pleasant approach of claiming they’re killed with the intention to defend that timeline from diverging from the plan. However, the TVA has different concepts for Loki. One other variant has been terrorizing the TVA, showing at a number of durations all through time and area with the intention to kill their brokers. This variant additionally occurs to be one other Loki — making our Loki the right man to trace them down. It’s lots to maintain monitor of. There are parallel worlds and a number of timelines, to not point out the truth that it is a present starring the least-reliable narrator within the Marvel universe. The thriller of the TVA steadily grows over the course of the present; it looks as if everybody is aware of both lots much less or much more than they’re letting on.
Inside this framework, the present jumps throughout genres, beginning out a bit like a buddy cop collection. After Loki is processed via the TVA’s charmingly banal paperwork, he varieties an uneasy alliance with agent Mobius (Owen Wilson) with the intention to monitor down the killer variant. From there, Loki heads into extra express sci-fi territory; one episode takes place on a dying moon that’s about to be crushed by a planet, whereas one other is about in a void on the finish of time that appears to be populated totally by alternate variations of Loki. Issues transfer with an unimaginable sense of momentum. Hiddleston’s Loki is consistently on the run, ultimately switching allegiances to work with the variant he was meant to seize — who calls herself Sylvie (Sophia Di Martino) — as the 2 resolve to take down the TVA collectively. As soon as the TVA and its many complicated guidelines are established, this relationship between two Lokis, which begins out antagonistic earlier than turning into extra intimate, varieties the thrust of the present. There are a couple of pacing points, like a 3rd episode that ends on an irritating cliffhanger and a monologue-filled finale, however, for essentially the most half, Loki strikes alongside at a satisfyingly brisk fee.
The presentation touches on loads of lofty themes, like the thought of parallel worlds and whether or not free will may even exist in a multiverse. However, grounding all of it is Hiddleston’s tackle Loki. That is the deepest, most intimate look we’ve had on the character thus far, regardless of six-film cameos spanning a decade. Right here, he’s given an opportunity to develop throughout almost six hours of display time. Development isn’t one thing usually related to Loki. He’s a compulsive liar and a narcissist, somebody so single-mindedly targeted on himself that nothing else appears to matter. However within the present, that adjustments — in essentially the most Loki approach doable. He actually falls in love with himself. It sounds unusual, however, one of the crucial vital arcs within the present is the budding romance between Loki and Sylvie, two variations of the identical being. However, after all, Loki would lastly discover love in a variant of himself. However, after all, somebody with such a violently self-hating streak would solely discover actual self-actualization in a romance… with himself. He grows over the course of the present, however, he’s nonetheless Loki in any case
.The story of affection, betrayal, and self-determination is buoyed by a wonderful solid. Hiddleston provides a depth to Loki that we haven’t seen but — he slowly peels again the trickster persona to disclose who he’s when not inflicting bother — and he has magnetic chemistry with each Wilson and Di Martino; the previous is filled with playful banter, the latter a mixture of tender moments and fierce battles. There’s additionally an alarmingly easy bureaucrat (Gugu Mbatha-Uncooked), an off-kilter man backstage who makes consuming an apple look menacing (Jonathan Majors), a tough-but-conflicted TVA hunter (Wunmi Mosaku), and even a suspiciously pleasant Siri-like character referred to as Miss Minutes (Tara Sturdy) to spherical issues out. Everybody simply looks as if they’re having loads of enjoyable.
It’s additionally extremely charming — not solely the wonderful solid, however, the universe and aesthetic, from the 1970s-style retro-futurism to attractive alien worlds that seem like a Roger Dean portray come to life. Issues get fairly bizarre, like while you meet an entire gang of Lokis, together with an alligator and a Loki who really managed to outlive to previous age (performed by a Richard E. Grant who seems like he’s having the time of his life). Loki is a mashup of sci-fi influences — you may see the whole lot from Brazil to Hitchhiker’s Information to the Galaxy — that, whereas not totally distinctive, no less than feels distinct from the remainder of the MCU. It’s playful and heartfelt in equal measure, and all of it seems actually cool.
This concept of isolating from the remainder of the Marvel universe isn’t utterly new. It’s a part of what made WandaVision so interesting — no less than at first. The otherness of the present’s sitcom-inspired world was refreshing. However steadily, extra MCU-like parts crept into Wanda’s fantasy, till the present felt like what it really was: a continuation of the Avengers storyline. Loki is rather more of its personal factor. There are references to characters and plots, after all, however, they really feel secondary. And even when the present does reveal its larger objective throughout the machinations of the MCU (it introduces Majors’ character, Kang the Conqueror, who is about to look in Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania a couple of years from now), it doesn’t pull you out of the story. Should you’re not up on Marvel lore, you in all probability gained’t even understood what’s occurring. Somewhat it looks like a pure setup for the now-confirmed season 2.
Actually, in the event you’re in some way new to this entire Marvel factor, I’d suggest Loki because the place to begin. It’s the perfect of what the superhero style has to supply without the entire homework.