This article originally appeared on The Film Experience
The runaway success of the Marvel Cinematic Universe inevitably spread to television earlier this year. Following the smashing debut of WandaVision and the meh that was The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, Marvel turns their attention to everyone’s favorite God of Mischief, Loki.
Starring Tom Hiddleston as the titular God, the show picks up right where we last saw Loki alive: absconding with the space stone following the alternate timeline Battle of New York from Avengers: Endgame.
Let’s dive in on the first two episodes. Warning: SPOILERS AHEAD
Episode 1.1: “Glorious Purpose”
Loki finds himself in the middle of the desert and is arrested by the Time Variance Authority, a group dedicated to preserving the timeline and eliminating potential variants, like Loki. Our “hero” is comically processed through what looks like a 1970s airport terminal. He is checked to see if he is a robot, everything he has ever said is verified and he stands trial in front of Judge Ravonna Renslayer (Gugu Mbatha-Raw). Before he is sentenced, TVA agent Mobius M. Mobius (Owen Wilson) intercedes and tries to get to the bottom of how Loki is the way that he is.
The opening episode has a lot of groundwork to lay and utilizes clever tactics to get through the necessary exposition. It plays much like a therapy session between Mobius and Loki, with Wilson’s cozy patience playing superbly against Hiddleston’s high-minded righteousness. Hiddleston has always been the secret MVP of every Marvel film he appears in, so it makes total sense a show would be centered around him. His portrayal is as magnetic as ever.
The supporting cast is filled with familiar faces including Wunmi Mosaku (Luther, Lovecraft Country) as a no-nonsense TVA hunter and Eugene Cordero (The Good Place, Crazy Ex-Girlfriend) as a guileless receptionist who keeps running into Loki. Mbatha-Raw has only a few minutes of screentime, but hopefully her character will be expanded in the next few episodes.
The biggest feat the opening hour achieves is granting Loki the growth he needs to be the redeemable character he was by the time he was killed in Avengers: Infinity War. Loki enters the show as an agent of chaos with his evil purpose laid clear for the world to see. In the span of an hour, Loki reaches the humble depths we all aspired for him.
This doesn’t mean that all of this isn’t a blast. Mobius plays Loki’s greatest hits and turns out Loki was DB Cooper. Was this all a plan for world domination? More like a practical joke with Thor and Heimdall. One of the other breakout characters is an animated clock with a Southern accent who is the star of informational videos as Loki waits in line to be processed.
At the end of the episode, Mobius recruits Loki to hunt a deadly variant messing with the timeline – eventually revealed to be Loki himself from another timeline.
Episode 1.2: “The Variant”
Loki’s recruitment onto the TVA team is fully underway as he is tasked with finding the variant version of himself. Unfortunately, our hero botches his first mission by stalling for time and lying in an attempt to make his escape.
Loki’s entire characterization is based off the idea that he is completely untrustworthy, thirsty for power and will lie to anyone necessary in order to achieve his goals. Mobius is one of the few people in the world who recognizes this deceit and calls him out on it. Recognizing the deception too late earns Mobius a stern talking-to from Renslayer, which gives us a delightfully flirty scene between Wilson and Gbatha-Raw.
Mobius finally gets fed up with Loki and shows his true colors. He clearly states that he is either trying to appeal to Loki’s better nature or telling him what he wants to hear in order to catch the variant. His blunt candor is refreshing for a character who is supposed to be on the side of goodness and justice.
After putting in some time at the library, Loki discovers his variant hiding in various apocalyptic events. The team heads off towards one such event and Loki gets paired up with Hunter B-15. This gives Wumni a chance to play off Hiddleston as well as the opportunity for the variant to inhibit her body. The variant switches bodies back and forth in a tete-a-tete with Loki, all while the God of Mischief lays out his plan to take over the timekeepers and the TVA.
The variant Loki puts her plan in motion to disrupt the timeline while also revealing herself to be female. (Sophia Di Martino). As Lady Loki heads through a time portal, Loki looks back at Mobius before giving chase, caught between doing the thing he wants to do and doing the right thing.
The first two episodes of the six-episode run has explained enough without over-explaining and established a series of fun and interesting characters. Hiddleston and Wilson show what a great pair they are. Marvel has another hit on their hands.