When Marvel brought Loki to life in their cinematic universe, they likely didn’t know that their trickster god would quickly become one of the fan favorites and most enduring characters. But the spectacular portrayal done by Tom Hiddleston gave them a dilemma: do we redeem our bad guys? And, if so, how? So, other than the core Avengers, Loki has been the most seen character in the MCU. So it wasn’t surprising that Marvel announced a show with Loki cast at the center of it. But given that we have seen Loki sacrificial death when Thanos attacked his fellow Asgardians, how will it move forward? What or which Loki are we getting?
Recap of Loki, S1E1: “Glorious Purpose”
Thanks to a quick flashback, we are reminded that Loki was able to pick up the Tesseract, the blue cube of immense power in Avengers: Endgame when the Avengers themselves botch an attempt to use time travel to collect all the pieces of the Infinity Gauntlet. And that is the Loki we will be following as very shortly after arriving at the desert of Mongolia, he is intercepted by a group from the TVA, or the Time Variance Authority and he has created a variance. While he initially laughs at the idea of them taking him into custody, once he is hit by one of their special time weapons, Loki winds up collared and de-powered and headed off to answer for his crime of messing with the timeline.
Now in their custody, Loki is booked, including a scene with a handsy robot that eventually just dissolves his clothes, a printout of everything he has ever said that he has to sign and then a sharply dressed little man, who verifies he isn’t a robot before pushing him through a scanner, which gives his “temporal aura.”
And while in the lobby to be processed, Loki sees a welcoming cartoon, done almost in the style of the 1960s Hanna -Barbera cartoons, which serve as an excellent exposition dump. The highlights are basically that the Time Variance Authority exists because once there was a multiverse war until the all knowing Time Keepers emerged and created the Sacred Timeline, which the TVA protects. When something happens like you picking up a Tesseract that you aren’t supposed to have, you become a “variance” and have to be dealt with, so another crazy multiverse doesn’t come into existence.
And once we get an idea of who the Time Variance Authority is, we get a chance to see them in action, only it is even more ominous: a team of theirs, responding to a routine nexus event in Aix-En-Provence, France in 1549 was ambushed, killed and the time grenade like device that they use to restore time was taken. The lead detective (played by Owen Wilson) is able to talk to a key witness, a youngster who has blue teeth from gum and identifies the perpetrator, who stabbed all the TVA. And it is revealed that this is the sixth such attack in a short time. And who do they identify? A red headed devil in stained glass window in the church where the attack happened.
But the detective, who is named Mobius, winds up showing up at Loki’s trial. Loki works hard to try and get the Avengers blamed for their timeline changes, which the judge reveals was an acceptable use of the Sacred Timeline that was supposed to happen. In the end, Loki is found guilty and seems to be headed to an ending when Mobius, who clearly has a relationship of some kind with the lady Judge, takes him into custody. And Loki finds himself in awe, as he is able to see the place in full as they head back to Mobius’ desk.
Once arriving there, Mobius sets up and shows Loki his past, using clips from previous Marvel movies. And Agent Mobius seems to be dedicated to having Loki do a self-evaluation and, in the end, answer this one final question: “Do you enjoy hurting people? Do you enjoy killing people?”
At this point, there is another issue and Loki manages to get out. While he has the ability to roam the TVA facility, he finds Casey, the office worker that took his Tesseract earlier. After threatening Casey, he discovers something even more shocking- all of the pieces of the Infinity Gauntlet; in fact multiple pieces and Casey says there are even more. So many so that they use them as a paper weight. Loki then makes his way back to the office and when watches his own final acts, including his death at Thanos hands.
At this point, the guards catch up to him and he manages to get his collar on a guard and has fun using the time dial. But ultimately Mobius shows up. Loki has realized that he cannot go back to his timeline. And so he confesses that he doesn’t enjoy hurting people; he does it because he has had to, because it is a part of the illusion of strength and control. And Mobius offers him a chance to work, hunting the variant that has been hunting the TVA. And that villain turns out to be…Loki.
In the closing scene, we see a TVA group arrive in Salina, Oklahoma in 1858. There is a shovel from the 3rd Millennia and when they find oil on the ground, they assume someone came back in time to dig it up and be rich. But a lone figure in the distance shows up and burns the field and the TVA soldiers, taking their time grenade device
Thoughts on Loki, S1E1: “Glorious Purpose”
Knowing that Loki is a six episode show, this first episode has to do a lot of work in doing a variety of tough tasks. First, it has to establish which Loki we are dealing with. Using the flashbacks and discussion with Mobius is interesting because it allows the show to take Loki in multiple directions. Will he live into what he ultimately became when he stood down Thanos? Or will he reject it and go a different way? And by exposing this Loki to his own timeline, including his mortality, what character changes might that get for him?
Second, it has to establish this mega-force Time Variance Authority in such a way that makes it plausible and secretive. Plus, it cannot be anti-all time travel or else it would need to rumble with the Avengers, who used it to save the world from Thanos. The trick is in the cartoon. By making it of that style, it does this weird thing where it makes it seem older and more authoritative. If they had done it in a modern animation style, it would have almost been easier to write off. Instead it added to the exposition that it had to do as well.
Third, it had to create the buddy-cop relationship between Mobius and Loki. Clearly, these two have some hijinks in their future as they are going to hunt this other Loki. Owen Wilson’s style of comedy applied here seems to strike a fun tone that will serve the show well if they lean into it.
Fourth, it had to leave some secrets. Yes, an immense amount of exposition had to happen and be believable but there is also so much we don’t know. What is the TVA is really like the Wizard of Oz, run by one crazy person who has told the story and kept people in the dark? (The Casey not knowing what a fish is when threatened by Loki is too unusual to just be a detail to me.)
Some other notes: man, alive is this show beautifully decorated! I am an HGTV nerd in addition to my official Marvel nerd duties and the mid-century modern vibes that this show embraces is unreal. So, so beautiful and fully embraced for all of TVA’s headquarters.
The quick DB Cooper section of Loki’s life was a fun little bit to add in as well. It could have easily been a throw away piece but it gives us more insight into Loki and where his mischievousness can lead.
And looking ahead: the writer of this show is also the writer of the upcoming Dr. Strange movie, that, if you haven’t heard, is going to deal with a little thing called…the multiverse. Going to be curious to see how this show, the Spider-Man movie and the Dr. Strange vehicle all work together!