Time can be a tricky little rascal, especially in the wrong hands. Marvel and Disney’s Loki, debuting June 9, entrusts the space-time continuum to the most mischievous possible candidate, and the result is a kooky adventure through time, space, and the will of the universe.
Loki is not quite about the character you know and love from the Marvel Cinematic Universe; it’s about 2012 Loki after he attacked New York and escaped with the Tesseract in Avengers: Endgame. Creator Michael Waldron wrote the first episode, directed by Kate Herron.
2012 Loki is immediately apprehended by the Time Variance Authority (TVA), an organization tasked with preserving “the sacred timeline” and punishing “variants” who disturb it. Instead of being vaporized for his crimes by Judge Renslayer (Gugu Mbatha-Raw), Loki catches the interest of Mobius (Owen Wilson), to help him and Hunter B-15 (Wunmi Mosaku) track down an antagonistic variant — with a little mischief on their side.
Where WandaVision deliberately shifted tone from week to week and The Falcon and the Winter Soldier struggled to pin one down, Loki busts out with a confident, chaotic voice. The first episode’s pacing jumps from light-speed exposition to almost tediously slow, with Hiddleston and Wilson doing their mightiest to keep us in their grasp. The timing could be tighter, but the show firmly establishes a consistent sense of humor a lot like Thor: Ragnarok‘s (it’s almost like they’re…siblings). The TVA feels like something out of The Good Place or Miracle Workers, with nine-to-five desk workers whose job is to keep the world on track. The jokes are strange and specific, in the best way — Eugene Cordero (also from The Good Place!) wins best line of the episode for a response to Loki’s death threats — and somber moments land thanks to Hiddleston’s layered performance.
Despite being a fan favorite, Loki was never the strongest point of the MCU. His most compelling arc is still 2011’s Thor, when the truth of his parentage and insecurities about Thor drove the younger Odinson to betray his family. His first death in that film should arguably have been his last, but Hiddleston’s charisma resurrected the God of Mischief again and again. Loki picks up with the character at its weakest: out to extinct humanity and rule Midgard for reasons that Loki tries to explain, lightly mocks, and then wisely moves on from.
Loki has to reckon with his past, present, and future before complying with the TVA, and that’s a lot to face — but the most interesting character moments of the pilot show him doing just that, often in silence, not soliloquizing about power to those he sees as beneath him. These moments tie back to the MCU and Infinity Saga while unrooting Loki from the life he and we knew — toward new purpose, maybe even a glorious one, once he figures it out.
With the TVA untethered in time and space, production design looks like something out of another Disney franchise in a different galaxy. It’s enough to wow even a native Asgardian, and hopefully future episodes explore this arena as much as regular stints on Earth. Composer Natalie Holt’s score knocks it out of the park from the first eerie notes that replace the Marvel fanfare in episode 1, setting the tone for this uncanny escapade.
The show doesn’t shy away from Loki-the-idea, a fantasy that extends far beyond the MCU thanks to internet culture. There are nods to iconic moments and lines, and some out-of-character but delicious moments of fan service. “Glorious purpose” was a one-time utterance for this character, but the minds behind Loki know you’ve got it on a t-shirt somewhere.
Like Loki himself, Loki the series is a little cocksure, reliant on this fan favorite to carry the story like so many Marvel properties do. But also like Loki, they’re not wrong. The show’s eccentric charm makes up for what it might otherwise lack in direction, because the ride is already too fun.