Loki review: Tom Hiddleston and Owen Wilson charm their way through mind-bending Marvel show
Loki review: Part workplace comedy, part time-travelling epic, Marvel Studios' latest series is a great showcase for the collective charm of Tom Hiddleston and Owen Wilson.
Everyone’s favourite ‘mischievous scamp’ is back from the dead with his very own television show, Loki. Marvel Studios’ third streaming series for Disney+ is a stupendous showcase for star Tom Hiddleston’s leading man charisma, and yet another stylistic leap for the MCU.
After the mind-bending WandaVision and relatively rooted The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, Loki struts cockily into the ‘multiverse’ phase of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Two episodes (of six, in total) were provided for preview. And if the back half of WandaVision taught you anything, you should treat this as a review of two episodes only.
Watch the Loki trailer here
Episode one begins with a scene from Avengers: Endgame; the one in which Loki steals the Tesseract and teleports himself the heck out of dodge. Almost immediately, he is arrested by a bunch of sinister-looking soldiers from the Time Variance Authority (TVA). Think of the TVA as The Adjustment Bureau from the Philip K Dick short story, or the Improper Use of Magic Office in the Harry Potter books — bureaucratic organisations tasked with keeping things in check.
The TVA, specifically, ensures that no one deviates from their pre-determined paths. Loki’s escape in the Battle of New York wasn’t supposed to happen in the life laid out for him, and so, he is apprehended and made to stand trial for his crimes. At a facility that seems to be stuck in the 1960s, he meets Agent Mobius M Mobius (Owen Wilson, enthusiastically earning the plum ‘and’ billing in the end credits).
While the TVA would much rather take the easy route and simply ‘reset’ him — like he is an iPhone — Mobius senses that Loki could be put to some use.
Realising that free will is a myth, and also witnessing his delusions of grandeur disintegrate before his eyes, Loki accepts an offer to join the TVA as an informer. His task: to help them track down another ‘variant’ — someone who has been disrupting the ‘sacred timeline’ by yanking it in different directions at crucial moments in history. And so Loki and Mobius embark upon an inter-dimensional manhunt. Not only does this make for solidly structured episodic storytelling — none of that ‘it’s a six hour movie’ nonsense here — but it also lays the foundation for future Marvel properties.
Creator and ‘head writer’ Michael Waldron — there is no showrunner in these Marvel series — is also involved in the upcoming Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness. It stands to reason that the film shares DNA with Loki. But stylistically, director Kate Herron paints the show in the tones of a procedural -- the films of David Fincher, she has said, were an inspiration.
While the first episode is devoted mainly to setting the ground rules — the TVA is established, the stakes are explained, supporting characters are introduced — episode two takes on a more swashbuckling tone as it ventures outside the office facility. Loki, the show, appears to be part workplace comedy and part time-travelling epic. I don’t know about you, but that sounds like a killer set-up.
And in the steady hands of its two stars, the show is consistently engaging. It’s such a delight to see Owen Wilson rediscover his enthusiasm for his job, just like Mobius himself; in many ways, Wilson was the Hiddleston of his time. Both actors have an off-hand charm that is difficult to duplicate, and indeed, direct. This show is as much a two-hander as The Falcon and the Winter Soldier was.
Hiddleston brings a unique mixture of entitlement and empathy to the enigmatic Loki. He is a ‘broken object’, as one character describes him. Remember, this is pre-Thor: Ragnarok Loki; his morality is still murky. But that’s what makes him such a compelling character. “I’ll do what I want to,” he petulantly tells Mobius in one scene. Notice the subtext-laded drawl with which Wilson delivers his response: “Sure.”
But if everything is pre-determined — including Loki’s death, as directed by the Russo brothers — then what about the stakes? That, sadly, is something that most fans of the Marvel Cinematic Universe have already learned to live with. Death in the MCU is merely an excuse for a character to get their own spin-off — a tremendous deal for actors like Hiddleston and Scarlet Johansson, but nothing more than a shrug in the face of audiences who wept when Loki and Black Widow perished in a film that ironically had the word ‘endgame’ in its title.
Watching Loki, the show, is like time travel in its own way — we’re witnessing the God of Mischief’s ‘missing years’, more informed about his true nature than even he is.
Creator - Michael Waldron
Director - Kate Herron
Cast - Tom Hiddleston, Owen Wilson, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Wunmi Mosaku
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The author tweets @RohanNaahar
Loki streams in India on Disney+ Hotstar Premium