In the first few minutes of Loki we see the titular God of Mischief (Tom Hiddleston) steal the all-powerful space stone known as the Tesseract in a scene from Avengers: Endgame (which was actually set in 2012 during the events of Avengers: Assemble), reappear in the middle of the Mongolian desert, get arrested by time cops, and find out that he’s now an alternate variant version of himself who accidentally created an illegal universe rift that’s completely separate from the last 17 Marvel movies, but also isn’t.
If any of that sounds confusing, maybe this isn’t the show for you. Or maybe it is, since you don’t really have to understand any of it. In short, Loki is a shapeshifting supervillain who is now skipping through time like Bill and Ted. Or like Forrest Gump. Or, to read through the many, many influences that showrunner Michael Waldron has cited, like Steve Jobs, Catch Me If You Can, The Leftovers, Watchmen, Mad Men, Before Sunrise, Se7en, The Silence Of The Lambs, Brazil, The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy, Alien, Blade Runner, Jurassic Park, Teletubbies and Rick and Morty.
As you might expect, Loki looks like none of that and all of it – a mad mash of ideas that somehow still manages to feel unique in a fun first episode that’s dense with exposition, style and an oddball sense of humour.
Finding himself arrested for “crimes against the sacred timeline”, Loki spends the whole episode trapped in a mid-century admin office – stripped naked by a robot, forced to take a mugshot of his “temporal aura”, and left talking to Owen Wilson’s Mobius M. Mobius, an agent of the Time Variance Authority (TVA).
Miss Minutes, a talking cartoon clock, appears on a retro TV screen to give some helpful info about the timekeepers (alien lizard gods who dictate the proper MCU timeline and protect it from random acts of multiverse madness), and Mobius sits Loki down to show him his own greatest hits via a cinema screen.
“For someone born to rule, you sure do lose a lot,” laughs Mobius, just making Loki madder before he steals his time-skipping remote-control thing and tries to escape – getting a fun rewind-and-skip fight with Wunmi Mosaku’s badass Hunter B-15. Finally realising just how unavoidable his own fate really is when he finds a messy office drawer full of infinity stones (“we actually have a lot of those. Some of the guys use them as paperweights”), Loki sits back down and listens to what Mobius has to say.
As bad as Loki’s time crime is, it’s not the worst thing the TVA has to deal with at the moment. Mobius is tracking a criminal through history who keeps mysteriously killing his agents – from 16th century Provence to 19th century Oklahoma. To make things worse, Mobius reckons the criminal might actually be yet another variant of Loki himself, kickstarting what could be the weirdest concept for a buddy cop movie yet when he asks Loki to help him stop Loki from basically doing what Loki does best.
Is the hooded figure we see burning TVA agents alive at the end of the episode really Loki? Will (the other) Loki really help Mobius now that he’s seen his own death? Will we get more of Wunmi Mosaku’s angry agent Hunter B-15 and Gugu Mbatha-Raw’s Judge Ravonna Renslayer? Time will tell. Or not…
- Loki was D.B. Cooper?! In a weird example of the MCU crossing over into the real world, a brief flashback to a plane heist reveals that Loki was actually the man who famously hijacked a flight in 1971 and parachuted to freedom with $200k in ransom money.
- Files scattered over the end credits show a record of “The Battle of New York”, possibly just showing us how much the TVA has been paying attention, but also maybe suggesting another re-entry point to the MCU’s most decisive chapter.
- Mobius drinks a can of Josta – a very real ’90s energy drink with insanely high levels of caffeine.