No surprises here, Loki Episode 1 is low key good

It's a bit theatre, but the all the world's a stage for the much maligned trickster.

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Loki (Tom Hiddlestone) was one of the highlights of the early-phase Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU), so it was quite a disappointment for many fans that his story came to an end in Infinity War.

However, Endgame dropped a massive ‘what if’ easter egg when Loki evaded capture through a timely interception of the Tesseract. This is where Loki the TV series comes in.

The first episode of Loki introduces the presence of the Time Variance Authority or TVA for short, an organisation that seemingly operates above the powers of reality, such that the Infinity Stones are a mere trifle compared to their raison d’etre. But the organisation prefers to keep operations low-key, kind of like if Men in Black preferred a retro workplace, and they’re filming a set of The Office: TVA edition on level 7.

Part of Loki’s charm lies in the fact that he was never truly evil; he was more man than god, susceptible to insecurity, delusions of grandeur and a desire to be loved. It helps that the actor hired to play him could sell you an IKEA sofa bed at a 10 per cent mark up, but hey, he’s a proper stage actor.

And that’s what the first episode feels like sometimes, a stage play. It’s especially the case in moments where Mobius (Owen Wilson) tries to get to the heart of Loki’s psyche; pretty much in the spirit of a two-hander. Their scenes together are immensely enjoyable – we’re watching an earnest (or remarkably shrewd) Mobius connecting with Loki in a manner that no one in the MCU has ever managed. The unlikely partnership produces the most revealing clues to Loki’s true nature, though I have misgivings that they’re giving away too much, too early. Perhaps they needed to establish his motivations to sell the premise for the series?

Although TVA deals with crimes regarding timeline abuse – protecting the integrity of the sacred timeline, as they put it – it did not intervene when the Avengers attempted their last-ditch, hail mary attempt to reverse the effects of the Infinity Gauntlet. The reasons were explained, albeit vaguely – it’s either they are hoping you would just gloss over that and move on, or it’s a smoking Chekov’s gun to set up another plot twist down the road.

The same could be said for the reason why Mobius approaches Loki for help. The true nature of TVA is deliberately obfuscated behind a culture of ‘need to know’ or an assumption that you already know. There’s also the question of what will happen to Loki when it’s all over as well since he ultimately meets his end in the canon timeline. It’s a whole episode of ‘because plot’, but not necessarily in a bad way. The primary antagonist (for now) was also revealed in this episode, and that too raises more questions – how did that happen, and how deep is this rabbit hole?

The pacing for Loki is on the slower side of things, but at least it’s not meaningless. It’s a dopamine hit for those who miss the resident trickster of the MCU, and to that end, episode 1 does succeed. We’re nicely set up for episode 2, though I suspect it’s going to be more of the same.

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