In a time-bending and genre-defying Season 1 Premiere, Loki delves deeper into the God of Mischief’s past, future and “glorious purpose”, revolutionising the MCU and showing us a new, self-aware side of the beloved villain.
The Season 1 Premiere of Loki is out, and it’s been exactly ten years since Tom Hiddleston‘s Loki entered our lives. He made his first appearance in Kenneth Branagh‘s Thor as the titular character’s mischievous, plotting brother, and reappeared many times over the course of Marvel’s Phase One, Two and Three. During these ten years, we’ve seen the God of Mischief attempt to do a whole lot of things – from replacing his father Odin (Anthony Hopkins) on the throne of Asgard to using the Tesseract to rule over Earth; from deceiving The Avengers to defeating Thanos. Though our unlucky villain nearly succeeded but ultimately failed in pretty much all his endeavours, Loki also did much more than that, holding our attention with his magnetic screen presence, surprising us with his crafty schemes, and inevitably winning us over with his clever disguises, quick comebacks, and some of the most hilarious, iconic dialogue in the history of the MCU.
But what do we really know about Loki, besides the fact that he likes to trick and deceive others, he’s very good at surviving even the most hopeless situations, he seems to be obsessed with making people kneel before him and he is “burdened with glorious purpose”? Over the course of his many appearances, we’ve seen the beloved antihero be cunning, form allegiances, switch sides, and be his adorable, troublesome self, and yet we don’t really know that much about who he really is, underneath it all. Loki ‘s Season 1 Premiere uses our lack of knowledge of its titular character to its advantage, delving deep into the villain’s motivations, and showing us a God of Mischief like we’ve never seen before.
We’ve last seen Loki stealing the Tesseract and disappearing into a mysterious cloud in Avengers: Endgame, and that’s exactly where Loki ‘s Season 1 Premiere picks up, taking us to New York City, 2012, when the Avengers have gone back in time to try and prevent “The Blip” from happening, and our titular villain has taken advantage of the situation to regain possess of the Tesseract. So where did Loki go when he disappeared into nothingness with the four-dimensional cube? The show immediately gives us the answers we’ve been anxiously awaiting since Endgame, and, in doing so, it strips away all the familiarity and nostalgia of its first few minutes, replacing it with delightfully absurd, surprisingly philosophical twists and turns. (Spoilers ahead).
And so, we follow our favourite God to the Mongolian Desert, where he finds himself surrounded by strangers. And what else could our hero have done if not the most Loki-like thing of all, replicating a scene from The Avengers and letting them know just how “burdened with glorious purpose” he is? Understandably, his audience is confused. But just when Loki is about to adapt to the situation and come up with another trick, mysterious portals start to appear out of nowhere, and we begin to realise that not only is Loki going to defy our expectations with another WandaVision-style, genre-bending adventure, but it is also going to revolutionise the MCU itself, starting from its foundations.
In fact, we soon find out that, when he stole the Tesseract, Loki did something he was not supposed to do, unwittingly creating an alternate Timeline and alerting the “Time Variance Authority“, an organisation whose purpose is to ensure the “Sacred Timeline” of the universe never strays from its “predetermined path”. And so, Loki is taken to the TDA’s headquarters, and quite literally falls deeper and deeper into a rabbit hole where time functions according to its own rules, people in uniforms use disquieting devices and refer to him as a “Variant”, and nothing is quite what it seems. But just when all seems to be lost for our confused protagonist, a stranger comes to the rescue, providing more questions than answers and forcing Loki to confront his true self.
The stranger in question is Agent Mobius (Owen Wilson), a Matrix-reminiscent character who assumes the double role of Loki’s saviour and psychotherapist-of-sorts. Though Mobius has his own reasons for rescuing Loki, he also seems to be genuinely concerned about the fate of the God of Mischief, and it’s with his arrival that the episode changes tone, replacing wonderful absurdist moments involving signatures, TV commercials, robotic creatures, and an abundance of infinity stones with unexpectedly meaningful dialogues and revelations. In fact, as the two characters begin to talk about past memories and future events that may or may not happen again, two extraordinary, unexpected things happen.
The first is Mobius finally voicing the doubts we’ve been having on the show’s titular character for years, as he points out that Loki’s “glorious purpose” doesn’t seem to be so glorious, after all, as what seems to motivate him is a simple desire to rule. The second is Loki not denying Mobius’ observations, but using the conversation as an opportunity for some much-needed self-reflection. And it is, indeed, a surprisingly self-aware Loki that we discover in these scenes: not only does this God of Mischief not shy away from admitting that he knows he wasn’t born to be king, but he also reveals that hurting people is not something he enjoys doing, but something he does out of necessity, provoking fear in others in order to conceal his own weaknesses.
The Loki we meet in the series is both unmistakenly familiar and completely different, and, behind his signature humour, we also (finally!) find a well-rounded, complex character who knows exactly who he is, and whose constant refusal to let his story end comes from a desperate ache for love and acceptance. There’s room for intrigue and laughter in Loki ‘s Season 1 Premiere, but there’s also room for introspection, and Tom Hiddleston‘s multilayered portrayal of this thoroughly surprising character calls for more than one moment of raw emotion that show us just how much we’ve yet to discover about a character who’s not just mischievous and astute but also tormented, self-aware, alone, and torn apart by grief and regret.
“You weren’t born to be king, Loki. You were born to cause pain and suffering and death, […] all so that others can achieve their best versions of themselves.” Mobius’ brutally honest explanation of Loki’s real role in the MCU reflects the narrative function of the antihero archetype, a character who only exists in function of the hero, and who is ultimately destined to fail in order for the hero to succeed and become a better person. Loki is certainly one such character, but by fully exploring his traditional role as a villain and, at the same time, questioning his purpose in the MCU, screenwriter/series creator Michael Waldron (Rick and Morty) and director Kate Herron (Sex Education) enable the character to grow a great deal over the course of this first episode, possibly anticipating a more significant evolution during the rest of the show.
When Loki is instructed to verify that a pile of documents contains everything he’s ever said, he implicitly takes responsibility for his own words and actions; when a scanner clerk (Boss Level‘s Aaron Beelner) asks him to confirm that he’s an “organic creature” and not a robot and Loki actually considers the possibility that he might be a robot and not be aware of it, not only does he question his reality, but also his own identity. When Mobius finally confronts him about his lack of purpose, letting him know that everything he has ever done has been “predetermined”, he brings the matter of free choice into the equation. Judging by this episode alone, significant changes might be in order for our titular character, and it’s safe to assume that his journey might have only just begun.
But Loki ‘s Season 1 Premiere is not just revolutionary for its clever approach to its titular character. By introducing the existence of “Time Keepers” who preserve the correct flow of time, ensuring that no one strays from the “Sacred Timeline”, Loki finally introduces the Multiverse. When Loki is awaiting his trial at the TDA, he watches an instructional video where he becomes acquainted with Miss Minutes (Tara Strong, of Batman: The Killing Joke), an animated clock described by director Kate Herron as the show’s version of Jurassic Park’s Mr. DNA. The character gives him a crash course on a “multiversal war” that happened “long ago”, where unique timelines fought one another, ultimately resulting in “the total distruction of, well, everything”.
As Miss Minutes explains, that event led to the creation of the Time Keepers, whose role is to prevent people from stepping off their predetermined path, becoming “Variants” and creating a “Nexus event” – an alteration to the timeline – that could lead to “madness”. If you think the word sounds familiar, it’s because WandaVision foreshadowed it by means of a hilarious fake commercial for an anti-depressant that was supposed to “anchor you back to […] the reality of your choice”. Keeping in mind our newfound knowledge of the existence of Variants and Time Keepers, as well as the fact that the upcoming Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, also co-written by series creator Michael Waldron, is supposed to initiate Phase 4 of the MCU, it’s not unlikely that a “multiversial war” is exactly what awaits us in Loki‘s upcoming episodes, and that one or more Variants of our favourite antihero will have something to do with it.
The episode’s ending leaves us with much to think about, starting from the shocking discovery of the identity of Loki’s future adversary. Judging by this captivating, promising first chapter, it’s safe to say that anything can happen in the series. Not only has Loki ‘s Season 1 Premiere given the God of Mischief a second chance at life, but it has enabled him to grow from the archetype of an antihero to a fully fledged character with his own complexities and motivation, giving Tom Hiddleston room to work his magic and bring incredible depth and emotion, as well as impressive physical acting, to the series’ protagonist. Hiddleston and Wilson are a delight, their chemistry evident in every scene they share, made all the more memorable by the show’s gorgeous cinematography (Autumn Durald, of Palo Alto) and accurate sound design (David Acord, of The Suicide Squad).
In one episode alone, Loki has proven to be a genre-bending, intriguing series that constantly defies our expectations, keeping our eyes glued to the screen with enthralling storytelling while also ensuring its protagonist’s growth from an archetype to a well-rounded character who is capable of change – all while introducing the Multiverse and revolutionising the MCU. Loki might just be Marvel’s best series so far, and we can’t wait to be proven right.