Marvel fans have been blessed so far this year, with Black Widow (2021) finally in theaters and WandaVision, The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, and now Loki dominating streaming on Disney+. The year is only going to get better for Marvel fans as we are slated to get three more D+ shows (What if?, Ms. Marvel, and Hawkeye) and three more films (Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, The Eternals, and Spider-Man: No Way Home), and after the conclusion of Loki there is no telling the madness we have in store. Often in Marvel marketing, you’ll hear something along the lines of “This will change everything in the Marvel Universe,” and more often than not, it really doesn’t alter anything enough for it to be “required viewing”. Loki, however, has singlehandedly changed the future of the MCU. The question, however, is despite its major significance in the MCU, how great did the show actually end up being?
Loki follows the Loki (Tom Hiddleston) that escaped from the Battle of New York in Avengers: Endgame (2019), and due to his escape being against the timeline we have watched over the past 13 years, he is taken into custody by the Time Variance Authority (TVA)—an agency outside of time and space that ensures variants to the “sacred timeline” are pruned in order to keep the universe from unraveling into a multiverse. In order for our variant Loki to not get pruned, he strikes up a deal with Agent Mobius (played by Owen Wilson) to help the TVA hunt down another Loki variant (played by Sophia Di Martino) that has been causing nexus events—events that cause the sacred timeline to branch—all throughout history in order to bring down the TVA and the Timekeepers that oversee it.
As my synopsis gives away, this show is steeped in heavy science-fiction. As a life-long Marvel comics fan I LOVE where Loki is taking the MCU with these very big multiverse concepts that are very important throughout comic history, but this show is definitely a brainteaser for the comic book layman. As the show begins, the showrunner of Loki, Michael Waldron, did a fantastic job of introducing these fantastical ideas and setting the stage for what’s to come. That said, the further along this show goes, the more likely non-comic book readers are going to get lost. For me, as a comic book reader, this progression of complexity is not an issue as I was understanding the implications, but a big weakness of this show is that, as I have found through social media reactions and word of mouth, it lost a lot of people; as Loki is a big kickoff as to the next MCU saga, this is very concerning.
I’m going to go ahead and get my other complaints out of the way before I start raving about how much I enjoyed the show: the pacing of this show is very clunky. I do not know if pacing issues were perpetuated by production delays caused by COVID, but Loki‘s storytelling was very hit and miss. Episodes one and two were absolutely phenomenal in their buildup, and then episode three slows everything to a crawl with the storytellers only having one or two moments that further the story and character development of Loki and Sylvie (Di Martino’s Loki variant’s name). Episode four picks it back up and might be one of the best episodes of television out of all of the MCU Disney+ shows so far, and then episode five comes and is filled with tons of Easter eggs and an incredible scene at the end (no spoilers here), but in terms of story, it was pretty disappointing for a penultimate episode. Then, the finale hits and no spoilers as to what exactly happens, but I will say this is where many people are going to be left with a mixture of confusion and disappointment (the finale goes all-in on the sci-fi concepts and the way it’s portrayed/told is not very exciting). Overall, the show never really found its footing in terms of good episodic pacing and it caused several episodes to lack narrative substance.
Normally, I start off with my positives, but for Loki, I thought it was important to give the heads up on the insane sci-fi deep dive that the show plunges Marvel fandom into. So, all those negatives out of the way, as an avid comic book reader, I greatly enjoyed Loki. The performances of Tom Hiddleston and Owen Wilson were fantastic, and the chemistry these two have with each other is the heartbeat to this show. The way Hiddleston plays off of both Wilson and Di Martino, gives us a new character journey of the Loki character that is familiar, yet refreshing and new, and that is the overall story of this first season: Loki’s rise to overcome himself. Another standout was guest star Richard E. Grant; not saying what role he played, but every scene he appeared in, he stole the show. The visuals, costuming, and, especially, the score of Loki were all standouts and elevated the show so much as well.
Without getting into spoilers, Loki changes everything about the MCU moving forward: expect to see the ramifications of what happened to begin popping up everywhere (we already know it’s going to directly affect Spider-Man: No Way Home, Doctor Strange and the Multiverse of Madness, and Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania). However, despite its importance to the future of Marvel, it casts a sliver of doubt as the craziness that happens, lost many audience members as its pushing the boundaries of verisimilitude further than Marvel has ever done before. Between the over-complexity of the themes and story points, and the overall clunkiness of the narrative structure of the season, I have to say that this is probably the least enjoyable of the three Disney+ shows so far, but that said, this show is still wildly entertaining if you love the Loki character and sci-fi.
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