On its face, the premise of Marvel’s latest limited series is awfully complicated, relying on branching timelines, alternate versions of beloved characters and introducing a whole new layer of reality to the cinematic universe. But the only thing that really matters is that Tom Hiddleston’s trickster god Loki, who was killed in the opening scenes of Avengers: Infinity War, is alive and well and at the centre of his own show.
Hiddleston’s bright-eyed, slightly slimy charisma made Loki the single best character in Marvel’s roster, and this version of him—plucked from the first Avengers movie thanks to time-heist shenanigans in Endgame—resets the Asgardian usurper to his more cunning, less charitable version, which is to say the best version. And in the first two episodes, the Loki series sets up a conflict worthy of him: someone is skipping around history, killin
Loki, a variant himself (never mind) is recruited by TVA Agent Mobius (Owen Wilson) to hunt down the fiend, but Loki would really rather undermine the good guys to amuse himself, and maybe take a run at crowning himself lord of all time and space. The absolute power of the TVA is more impressive than any silly Infinity Stone, after all. Except that by the end of the second episode, it’s clear the stakes are higher than even a long-term planner like Loki could have imagined.
The initial marketing for the show made it look like a riff on Doctor Who, but writer-producer Waldron and director Kate Herron have created the sci-fi version of The Blacklist or Hannibal, with (time) cops recruiting a master criminal to hunt down an even worse threat.
Owen Wilson’s Agent Mobius, with his hangdog bearing and a retro moustache that tells us everything we need to know about the character’s self-image, is a fine foil for Hiddleston’s default mode of prissy arrogance. The smartest thing the show does is just place those two actors in the same room and let them exist, as weird as that seems.
Because once that simple trajectory is established, everything else snaps into place and we can just sit back and enjoy the ride, and appreciate the amazingly on-point '70s production design and a supporting cast that includes Gugu Mbatha-Raw as some sort of time judge, Year Of The Rabbit’s Wunmi Mosaku and American Honey’s Sasha Lane as TVA enforcers, Eugene Cordero as a desk jockey, and the voice of Pretty Hard Cases’ Tara Strong as…well, you’ll see. If nothing else, it’s a pleasure to see Hiddleston annoying each and every one of them.
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