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Runtime: Six 50-minute episodes
Director: Kate Herron
Cast: Tom Hiddleston, Owen Wilson, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, and Wunmi Mosaku
Release details: Streaming on Disney+ from 9 June
4 out of 5 stars
This review covers episodes 1-2 of Loki. New episodes premiere Wednesdays on Disney+.
It's incredible to see how Loki, the television show, is so similar to Loki, the character, since both defy categorisation. Just like how Loki switches facades smoothly to facilitate whatever nefarious scheme he's up to, the show also draws on aspects from different genres without easily being defined as one or the other. And with both, you can never quite tell what's going to happen, or if everything is as it seems at all.
Loki is a science fiction superhero series that takes place in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU). It follows the adventures of Loki after the events of Avengers: Endgame, where the titular trickster has escaped with a powerful artifact in tow. He soon finds himself running afoul of the Time Variance Authority (TVA), a seemingly all-powerful organisation dedicated to protecting the sanctity of time. However, few know what goes on in the mind of Loki, as alliances are easily forged and broken. Among other things, Loki is now the first canonically queer superhero in the MCU, his gender fluidity having been confirmed by Tom Hiddleston.
Like WandaVision, Loki is hard to pin down in terms of genre. It's a mix of action and comedy with superheroics (to an extent) and philosophical musings thrown in, all dressed up in the rather retro backdrop of the TVA, which seems to be a large bureaucratic organisation with architectural elements from the 1970s. It switches deftly between genres, immersing you in philosophical musings before yanking you out for some action, then dropping some exposition bombs on you. While it can sometimes be clumsily executed (like when a toy robot dog comes out of nowhere during a fight sequence), for the most part it is an unpredictable and enjoyable ride — just like its namesake character.
And Loki, despite his inscrutable intentions, is definitely portrayed as the hero here. Within minutes of the first episode, he goes through the rite of passage as a Marvel superhero. Fans get to see him go topless, a staple for every major character now. Tom Hiddleston's delight at playing this character is palpable on screen, and it's clear that he enjoys every minute of being able to show great range as Loki. It goes without saying that he is the protagonist of the show, and the series delves into some level of character exploration that sheds a bit more light on the character, although we can't be entirely sure how much of it is true and how much of it is the result of Loki's deception.
That's because the plot blazes past as the story twists and turns along with its main character. While there's a lot to take in, what with the new characters and a brand new organisation, the TVA, the show manages to avoid being an exposition dump by turning each new revelation into the basis for the next plot development. And then there are the cliffhangers — thus far, each of the two screener episodes provided by Disney+ has managed to end on a twist or reveal that are ripe for online discussions till the next episode airs.
The TVA itself, as an organisation, might feel a little familiar at first — such organisations seem to be a staple of most superhero and fantasy series, and it doesn't shy away from embracing those tropes. But that's where it gets interesting, since the more we learn about the TVA, the more something seems off about it. It's this mix of discomfort and familiarity that makes this organisation intriguing to watch, even as we discover more about it.
But this has to be said — the colour grading can be a little much at times. While the series tries to evoke the feel of the 1970s, it also overdoes the sepia saturation to a very distracting extent. It uses colours as a way to differentiate the different time periods, but a good portion of the show takes place at the TVA itself, which means we're looking at a sepia tint quite often. It's not a bad colour choice, just that it could have been more subtle in execution.
Loki has thrilled so far with its ups and downs and focus on the main character himself. With a cliffhanger at the end of each episode, this looks to be as exciting as WandaVision was, and is sure to spur social media discussions after every episode drops. And with a series that's as mercurial as its protagonist, we might never know what's the endgame till the final episode.
Here are more stills from Loki: