Probably the Marvel Studios Disney+ show I was least initially interested in, Loki, like Black Widow, felt like something we should have gotten years ago when it was first announced back in 2018. Much to my surprise, not only has Loki quickly become the most positively received Marvel Studios series, but it is easily my favorite of the three we have gotten so far. Loki has all of the charm common in Marvel Studios’ best productions, but when combined with its romantic flair, lust for the completely wacky and brilliant character-work, it becomes one of the best science fiction series I have ever seen.
Loki follows the version of Loki that stole the Tesseract in Avengers Endgame during the Battle of New York due to a few missteps from the Avengers when they went back in time to steal it themselves. Having altered the “sacred timeline,” Loki is abducted by an organization known as the TVA (Time Variance Authority) to stand trial for his “time crimes.” During his trial, Loki is taken by Mobius, an enforcer for the TVA who is currently tracking a particularly dangerous Loki variant that is killing the TVA enforcers that manage to find them. He decides to spare Loki from execution as long as he helps Mobius and the TVA track the other, more dangerous, Loki variant.
Loki is easily the most unique of the Marvel Studios series so far, and much of this is due to the mysteriousness of the TVA. If you haven’t seen Loki yet, I cannot recommend this series enough. However, I cannot truly review this show without discussing characters, relationships and directions taken throughout the series that were not shown in promotional material before the release of the show. Because of this, I will be discussing major spoilers for the show ahead!
Loki’s decision to follow the female Loki variant, Sylvie, completely changes the direction of the show. Suddenly, it grows from a simple science-fiction detective drama, to a star-crossed romance between two broken people who are forced together due to a desire for freedom from the TVA’s rule and the “Sacred Timeline” dictating their destiny.
Loki is able to balance the multitude of genres present due to the variety of characters within its story. While Loki and Sylvie are just trying to survive long enough to find the creator of the TVA, Mobius and Hunter B-15 have their view of the world around them shattered by Loki and Sylvie. Loki begins with Mobius shattering Loki’s view of the universe by bringing him to the TVA and showing him what his destiny was, only for Loki to do the exact same for Mobius by revealing to him that everyone person working for the TVA is a variant that was stolen from their timeline and had their freewill stripped from them, just like Loki’s was.
Kate Herron’s direction of Loki is absolutely brilliant. The utopian perfection of the TVA, coupled with its uniformist office-space style design. Production designer Kasra Farahani was able to make such a modern-looking space feel futuristic and mysterious, even without the visual effects layered on top of it. However, the production design and visual effects teams seemed to find perfect symbiosis with the designs for Lamentis and the Void. These worlds on the verge of ruin hold environments that feel straight out of a horror movie, with a perfect blend of extraterrestrial and fantastical elements to make them feel at home within Loki‘s story. The constant race to survive within both episode 3, “Lamentis,” and episode 5, “Journey Into Mystery,” elevated the tension of the series. The designs of both worlds, as well as the direction and storytelling present in the episodes that featured them, echoed pieces of Steven Moffet’s era of Doctor Who in the best way possible.
Natalie Holt’s score also brings this classic sci-fi mystery feel to the series that feels like a merge of Ron Grainer and Delia Derbyshire’s original theme for Doctor Who, as well as Murray Gold’s more recent work on that series. It is also clear that the slow build up of the TVA theme was likely inspired by Bernard Herman’s work on The Twilight Zone as well, especially with the ticking clock-style beat present throughout the piece. The design of the title card seems to echo this as well. However, the single-most recognizable track from the series is probably the “Loki Green Theme,” an immensely suspenseful track that consistently weaves between horrifying and mysterious throughout. The darkness of the track, seemingly representing the evil aura surrounding the TVA, and initially Sylvie as well, fits Loki‘s tone perfectly. However, it is the seemingly melancholic or deceptively peaceful tracks from the soundtrack, such as the theme that plays when Loki first sees the true size and wonder of the TVA in the first episode, that show Holt’s true range. She will definitely be a composer to monitor closely in the future.
Doctor Who is far from the only major science-fiction franchise Loki seems to take inspiration from. The writing of Loki and Sylvie’s dynamic echoes the relationship between Rey and Kylo Ren in Star Wars: The Last Jedi as well. Loki acts as the one desperate to prove the world is not as dark as Sylvie sees it, desperately trying to get her to trust him despite her inability to trust anyone due to the darkness in her own heart. Loki seems to hope for the best from her, only for her to seemingly disappoint him in the most vital moments. The Last Jedi made me realize I am an absolute sucker for these complicated romance stories between two people with deeply tragic pasts, and it is amazing to see it executed so well thanks to Kate Herron’s direction and the combined efforts of the writing team. Eric Martin and Michael Waldron, especially, did an amazing job developing their dynamic.
However, the production team are not the only ones responsible for the execution of the romance, as Tom Hiddleston and Sophia Di Martino have boundless chemistry together. Hiddleston has always been a delight as Loki since he first appeared on screen back in 2011, but we never quite got a full redemption story for the mischievous trickster. More than any other piece of the MCU, Loki is built on discovering who Loki is as a character, shattering the box he was always kept from him and actually growing him as a character through the TVA’s attempts to keep him inside that box. Hiddleston’s representation of Loki’s growth through his acting is utterly astonishing from the first episode alone. This series is the hero’s journey Loki was always destine to have, and that is shown perfectly through Hiddleston’s scenes with Di Martino, as well as the chemistry he has with Owen Wilson’s Mobius as well.
Sylvie has experienced the darkest of the darkness any Loki could have. On the run since she was discovered by the TVA as a child, Di Martino represent every piece of that tragedy and the drive that came with it. When Loki meets Sylvie, she is letting her path of vengeance consume her, much like Loki’s desire for the throne in the first Avengers. Di Martino plays Sylvie’s tragic character so perfectly, both oozing enough charisma to rival Hiddleston’s, while also brining an intense layer of drama to the character that feels unique. It is clear from her introduction that, while Loki and Sylvie fulfill the same role within their host universes, they are far from the same person despite their journeys as characters lining up almost perfectly.
For the general public, Owen Wilson is seen as more of a traditionally comedic actor due to his roles in Meet the Parents and Night at the Museum. Loki is one of his few mainstream roles to bring out his talent as a dramatic actor alongside his comedic chops, something he has brought to the myriad of roles he’s held in Wes Anderson’s films. The charm he brings to Mobius throughout the series operates as a blunt weapon against Hiddleston’s boundless charisma. Mobius not only acts as the audience’s view of the TVA, but as what they should be at their best. Mobius is a character that seems to want more out of his life than working for the TVA, but doesn’t know how to achieve it before his budding friendship with Loki. Wilson manages to bring all of the emotions that come with that desire through his performance, especially in episode 4, “The Nexus Event.”
As amazing as the main cast of Loki is, it is the secondary cast that somehow manages to steal the show almost every time. Wunmi Mosaku as Hunter B-15 is able to bring this resilient and devoted character, displaying the moment that façade crumbles in episode 4 so brilliantly that I can only imagine the potential Mosaku has gained because of her role in the series.
Loki is also somehow able to utilize Richard E. Grant better than both Star Wars and Doctor Who with his time as Classic Loki in the fifth episode. He feels perfectly cast as an older version of Hiddleston’s Loki, longing for companionship and purpose despite his lack of hope due to his experiences with the TVA. The moment where he finds his “glorious purpose” is the most memorable scene from that episode and that is a testament to how wonderful Grant’s performance was.
However, the king of Loki’s secondary cast is easily Jonathan Majors as He Who Remains, a character heavily inspired by Marvel’s Immortus from the pages of Fantastic Four. Majors channels the energy of Hollywood’s greatest exposition givers with his monologue in the finale. He has seemingly endless energy with his performance as a crazed survivor who has lived for eons keeping time in check. This is the most significant use of a formerly Fox-owned character so far and I am incredibly excited to see how different Majors’ performance is as Kang the Conqueror, whether we see him in the second season of Loki or Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania first. Marvel Studios’ casting director, Sarah Finn, has done it again.
Not only is Loki one of the best science fiction I have ever seen, but it is my new favorite piece of the large universe of entertainment that makes up the MCU. This series feels like it was tailor-made for me as a viewer. I liked Wandavision and The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, but neither of them were able to completely hold my attention like Loki was able to for all six episodes of its first season. I could not be more excited for the second season. It is mostly up to the second season to stick the landing that this first season left off with, but it is as close to perfection as a single season of television can get with a cliffhanger like that. You can watch the entirety of Loki‘s first season on Disney+.