Its shift to television may have soothed the required quarterly dose of super serum into our veins, but it’s only taken a weekly scan of Twitter trends to learn that Feige’s fleshed-out MCU took some hits in its televisual transition this year. Prior to Loki and regardless of the 23 nominations WandaVision received, fans weren’t pleased that their theories crumbled under the weight of a dick joke and a lack of Mephisto. As for Falcon and the Winter Soldier, sure, seeing the shield passed to Sam was a hair-raising moment, but it’s safe to say that the show was off-balance tending both to the winged avenger and his grumpy brother-in-(metal)arms.
With two so-so shows done and dusted, it was up to the God of Mischief to put things right (or wrong, depending on the grand scheme of things). Could the future of the MCU and the standard of its TV turn really be placed in the hands of one of its most duplicitous characters? Well, while a certain hero with a hammer might question the choice, it turns out Loki is the grandest of the MCUTV shows so far, and it isn’t just the anarchic Asgardian we have to thank for it.
Starting seconds after Hiddleston’s scheming anti-hero pinches the Tesseract in Avengers Endgame/Avengers Assemble, Loki is quickly nabbed by the mysterious TVA (Time Variance Authority) for crimes against time. By evading capture and a trip back to Asgard as was already executed way back when, Loki has unknowingly messed with the fabric of time, which needs to be rectified ASAP. Naturally, the horned-helmet wearing trickster tries everything he can to get out of trouble, only to be saved by TVA vet Mobius (Owen Wilson without a ‘wow’ in sight). From here, a partnership is formed and a bargain made; to avoid punishment for his crimes, Loki must help in capturing another wrong’un that is skipping in and out the centuries and bring them to justice. It’s a job that shouldn’t be too hard – given that the person they’re looking for is Loki himself. Or at least, a version of him.
If Endgame was Marvel’s practise test to understand the timeline and the rules applied to it, Loki is the final exam that asks its audience what we’ve learned and then gives you a whole lot more. It’s an incredible effort from Sex Education director Kate Herron and the show creator, Michael Waldron. Feeling downright Who-vian with a bigger budget, Loki swaps a TARDIS for a MIB-like organisation, with Hiddleston playing a less bitey Hannibal at Owen Wilson’s side. Out of the three superhero shows we’ve had so far, Loki doesn’t waste a single frame showing that this is where the big infinity stones were spent. This really is some of the best set design the MCU has had the pleasure of hosting, and it’s great seeing characters run around in them, particularly two key cogs to this ticking cop show that you’d never have imagined seeing together.
From the off, the chemistry between the company man and the ‘would-be-king of Asgard’ is effortless, really focusing on the two opposing views that are gradually meeting in the middle. It feels almost fitting that in a show about time travel and manipulation, every second of seeing Wilson’s seasoned agent clash with his new pal feels like it needs to be savoured. This frankly bonkers buddy cop pairing gets better with each episode, with Wilson chipping away at the law-abiding Variant and Hiddleston managing to once again bring a new layer to Marvel’s greatest villain that isn’t purple. It’s a progression also strengthened by his other partner-in-crime and a newcomer to the MCU, Sophia Di Martino. Another variant of our leading man and almost outperforming the original Loki in a fashion that Matt Damon could only dream of, Di Martino’s brings an equal and exciting bit of friction to clash with the poster bad boy. Together they keep the momentum running smoothly for the most part, but even two wrong’uns can’t always make things right.
As epic and adventurous as Loki feels compared to the shows that preceded it, there are occasions when talk of variants and the timelines they’re playing around in might feel a little much for some. Excluding a moment involving some salt and pepper shakers, some in-depth explanations feel like they need more room to breathe and can’t. So much so that one surprise character, while scenery chewing throughout their debut, is there for one massive info dump that is clearly meant for the grander scheme of the MCU, rather than the show they appear in. It’s precisely the issue this now billion-dollar franchise is etching closer and closer to, turning each series or big-screen instalment into a puzzle piece designed for a grander picture, rather than just focusing on the oddly shaped segment itself.
As things stand, Loki may not be the victorious MCU TV show for some, but there are certainly arguments to put him there. With Hiddleston having an absolute ball and Marvel confirming that he’ll be back for a second season, we can only wait to see what glorious purpose is meant for Loki in the future, or past, or whenever.