(This review contains spoilers for all episodes of Loki, now on Disney+)
Loki is the third MCU show to release this year and it is certainly one of their most ambitious concepts and undoubtedly their best show yet. While WandaVision and The Falcon and the Winter Soldier opted for more personal and introspective stories surrounding their characters, Loki pushes the overall MCU narrative forward and delivers some universe shattering reveals and twist that are sure to leave an impact for the rest of Phase 4 and beyond. In spite of the MCU connections, Loki delivers a fun and exciting adventure centered around new ideas, characters, and concepts that keeps the franchise fresh and entertaining. Even though it falls into many of the universe’s pitfalls, it remains the MCU’s strongest addition since Phase 4 began.
I started to review Loki episode by episode since I was having a lot of fun discussing the implications of the TVA and the mischief our favorite god was up to. However once episode 3 came around (an episode I considered to be the worst of any Marvel show), I thought it might be better to see what the show delivers in the end with its reveals as opposed to continually being carried along through meaningless side quests. Thankfully, the last 3 episodes of the show went a long way to redeem the season which culminated in a finale that serves as the MCU’s best episode of television to date and makes me all the more excited for the newly announced season 2.
Tom Hiddleston is as strong as ever in this show, captivating audiences with the same charisma and mischievousness that made him such a beloved character. Loki is charming, funny, dramatic, whimsical, surprisingly a romantic, and undergoes quite a character arc for himself throughout the six episode season. While the show never truly makes full use of the fact that this is the same Loki who lost to the Avengers in the Battle of New York, you soon forget about where this Loki has been and are more interested on where he is going. The decision to bring back Loki from the dead (again) is earned, and part of that is due to the excellent writing and chemistry between himself and the supporting cast.
Owen Wilson’s Mobius is a shining beacon in this show who is an excellent foray to Hiddleston. Mobius is someone who doesn’t put up with or fall for any of Loki’s antics which keeps the show from running stale because we get to see how flabbergasted and bested Loki feels in an environment where he doesn’t come out on top. Wilson and Hiddleston have excellent chemistry together which makes it a joy to watch them on screen in their buddy cop investigational type of drama. In fact, the show works so well with these two that it ultimately suffers in episode 3 when Wilson isn’t present at all and instead replaced with Sylvie. The show doesn’t make great use of him beyond episode 4, but I do hope that they utilize him more when it comes to season 2.
Sophia Di Martino’s Sylvie was something of a mixed bag for me. Episode 3 was a perfect opportunity for us to learn more about her character while also establishing her relationship with Loki, however it is all replaced with a meaningless side quest and little is truly learned about her by the time we reach the show’s conclusion. We know that she is a Loki variant and that she was plucked from the timeline by the TVA forcing her to be on the run isolated and afraid, but we never truly empathize with her or root for her mission. The show was more interested in using Sylvie as a vehicle for Loki’s character development as opposed to developing her into a more three dimensional character. Thankfully she will stick around for season 2 and hopefully more can be done to flesh her out in the long run.
The show deals with two main themes that are explored through Loki and his interactions with other characters and those are the concepts of trust and free will. The show constantly keeps Loki on his toes with him constantly deliberating whether he can trust others and whether others can trust himself. Being the God of Mischief doesn’t exactly invite a lot of confidence, especially when he is notorious for stabbing others in the back. Loki’s relationship with Sylvie especially tests this dynamic as he begins to truly trust and confide in someone which is entirely new feeling. Hiddleston sells these warm and tender scenes delightfully and adds a new dimension to a character we thought would always betray others in the end. That bond is tensefully tested in the season finale where Loki comes face to face with the concept of free will.
The TVA is revealed to be a complete hoax and all in service of a mysterious figure known as He Who Remains (more on him in a second). The TVA have stripped people of their free will and forced them to obey The Sacred Timeline. Sylvie and Mobius are both victims of this instrumentation which makes their plight more understandable in the latter few episodes. While the show never takes a definitive stance on the issue of free will vs predestination, it did allow for some fun discussions and tense confrontations when it came down to the finale.
As I said, the season finale is arguably the best episode of all of the MCU shows as it trades action packed, CGI, and dull spectacle for tense, engaging, and marvelous dialogue supplemented by a strong new character introduction. It is revealed that the Timekeepers are fake and the one behind the construction of the TVA and the balance of the Sacred Timeline was a man known as He Who Remains. All though the show hints at his true name, most comic book fans know that this is a variant of Kang the Conqueror. From the comics, Kang is a time traveling villain who served as a huge antagonist to the Avengers and even the Fantastic Four. He stands toe to toe with Thanos of being one of the most formidable enemies Marvel heroes have faced, and his introduction here in Loki is just a small teaser of what could possibly be the next big antagonist after The Avengers defeat of Thanos.
This version of Kang is a little insane from being at the end of time, but he fought his way here by destroying all of the other variants and preventing an all out multiverse war. Johnathan Majors plays this character excellently as he captivates the audience in addition to Loki and Sylvie’s attention. The camera work and cinematography in these scenes help hone in on the tension of this scene as we see Kang is ten steps ahead of them but offering a choice of continuing to rule the TVA or unleashing much more evil and sinister variants of himself inciting a new multiverse war. Even though I knew what was going to happen because of the next MCU projects scheduled to release, I was still entranced in the scene and fearing what these characters might do. After two finales that ended in boring CGI fights, it was a breath of fresh air to see Loki end on a more dramatic note that takes place almost entirely in a singular room.
Sylvie ends up killing this version of Kang, which throws the Sacred Timeline out of whack and brings about the multiverse for MCU. With movies like Spider-Man: No Way Home and Doctor Strange: Into the Multiverse of Madness reportedly dealing heavily with the multiverse, its exciting to see the beginnings of this event actually unfold. There is a lot that Marvel can do with the multiverse concept both with future movies and in Loki Season 2 and frankly I am on board for whatever they can throw at us. We are entering a new era of superhero movies and its going to be a true treat to see what happens next.
I can’t write a review for Loki without talking about Natalie Holt’s haunting and magnificent score for the show. It provides the right amount of mysticism, drama, and intrigue for the moments in the show and serves as a character in its own right. The music supplements the emotions of our characters while also keeping the tension elevated. Whether or not she continues for season 2 remains to be seen, but the show would be idiotic to drop her now.
Overall, Loki ended its first season on a marvelous high note which ushers in a new era for the franchise as a whole. Its season is bolstered by excellent character dynamics and intriguing concepts that keep the MCU fresh while also setting the stage for what’s to come. Hiddleston shines throughout the course of the season, justifying the decision to bring him back from the dead for a third time. All though it falters in pacing in its middle two episodes the show is restored with a brilliant character introduction and the consequences of the future. I can’t way to see more from Loki when he returns for a second season. If you have skipped out on Disney+ so far, Loki is an excellent argument to subscribe and come along for the ride!