As put simply and eloquently by Neil Gaiman, “Loki makes the world more interesting but less safe.” It’s this sense of mischief and intrigue that runs through the premiere episode of the trickster god’s new Disney+ series.
The biggest compliment I can pay to Tom Hiddleston is that he makes you forget that Loki is a villain. His performance crackles with such sleazy charm that by the time he’s swept you off your feet, you hardly notice the knife in your back. That’s saying a lot for such a “no-name” to quote the now infamous article on Thor’s original casting.
My how things have changed since 2009. Reminds me of that age-old industry advice: Be kind to the nobodies you meet on the way up, because in 12 years they will have a prestige series on Disney’s streaming app.
Picking up with Loki’s escape from authorities in Avengers: Endgame, we find the god of mischief being apprehended by the Time Variance Authority (TVA). Now, this show involves multiple variations of characters traveling through time in a multiverse, so yes — you can expect a few exposition dumps. Funnily enough, much of this explanation comes in the form of cheesy, Hannah-Barbera-style cartoons. It’s like the Mr. DNA sequence in Jurassic Park. Honestly, most things are best explained through vivid animation.
The important thing to know is that the trio of all-powerful Time-Keepers established the so-called Sacred Timeline and the TVA to maintain order in the multiverse. Loki is taken into custody by the TVA for fracturing the Sacred Timeline during his escape from the Avengers.
The organization’s bureaucracy is played up for comedic effect. One fun scene during Loki’s orientation involves him stepping through a machine that will atomize him if he is not an organic being. This leads Loki to briefly question whether or not he is a cyborg that lacks true self-awareness. It’s a fun little sci-fi moment.
Standing trial for his time crimes, Loki points out that the Avengers used the timeline like their own personal Uber service. This, according to the Time-Keepers, was supposed to happen. Loki escaping was not.
TVA Agent Mobius (Owen Wilson, “Oh wow”) enlists Loki to pursue a dangerous individual who has broken from their set timeline. Mobius walks Loki through his previous villainous exploits, which we saw take place in the previous Marvel films.
And, as a brief aside, we learn that Loki was the mysterious thief D.B. Cooper, who successfully escaped a flight after stealing a duffle bag of cash. This revelation doesn’t even affect anything. Loki says he just lost a bet to Thor and needed some money. This is an odd flex, but whatever.
In an interesting use of lore, Loki agrees to comply with Mobius’ request after discovering a TVA office worker with a desk drawer littered with Infinity Stones. Some employees use them as paperweights. Loki believes he may have found the center of the greatest power in the multiverse. He also learns that if he returns to his previous timeline, he will die at the hands of Thanos (as seen in Avengers: Infinity War).
So what makes Loki so vital to this all-powerful time cop’s efforts? Well, Mobius is tracking a time fugitive that keeps killing TVA agents. Twist! That fugitive is another variation of Loki from another part of the multiverse. The stage is set.
Looking forward, it’s easy to see why, out of all the other Marvel series, this one has the greatest implications for the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU). We can expect multiple variations of well-known characters, time manipulations, and more revelations about the MCU’s most omnipotent beings.
Also, we might see greater liberties being taken with the MCU characters we already know. If you take a peek at Loki’s case file, you can see his sex is listed as “fluid.” This is likely a reference to Loki’s time spent as a woman in the comics, but I’m hoping this gets fleshed out a bit more in the series.
If you look back to my WandaVision wrap-up article, I suggested that we should see a bit more representation in the MCU, as well as a bit more Jack Kirby-style weirdness. To quote my favorite man of letters (myself), I called for the MCU to become more of a “big, queer, space opera full of demons and androids and angst.”
With this in mind, a pansexual Loki working with super-powered time cops to capture himself is the type of stuff I’m looking for in my entertainment. I guess the term “pansexual” works here. Loki’s genderswap aside, the time he spent as a female horse is what really strains most labels available to us at the moment. And perhaps makes a good argument to do away with them altogether.
As Bert Cooper once told Don Draper on Mad Men, “A man is whatever room he is in.” And sometimes that room is bisexual or exists outside our preconceived notion of time. We’re going to have fun with this one, folks. See you for next week’s episode of Loki.