Loki is back, baby! And in his new TV show, appropriately titled Loki. The first episode in the Disney+ series throws a whole lot of world-building and timey wimey stuff at us in a fun, effective way, and we get some good Loki character development to boot, courtesy of writer Michael Waldron and star Tom Hiddleston.
Read on for our spoiler-filled recount of the first 51-minute episode, where Loki runs into the powers of the Time Variance Authority (TVA), finds out what ultimately happens to him after the first Avengers movie, and learns there’s someone else out there trying to wreak havoc on the timeline.
Loki is still burdened with glorious purpose…and the bureaucracy of the TVA
We start out seconds after the events of Avengers: Endgame, where the 2012 version of Loki — the one still bent on conquering Earth inThe Avengers — steals the Tesseract and disappears to somewhere unknown.
In the first minutes of the series, the unknown location is revealed to be the sands of the Gobi Desert, where we see Loki sprawled out in the desert sand in an apparent homage to the beginning of Iron-Man.
A little sand, however, hasn’t deterred him from his career goal of ruling Earth. Just as he goes into his usual spiel, however, the Time Variance Authority steps in.
The TVA has a very special extra-temporal ambiance
The Time Variance Authority, specifically TVA officer Hunter B-15 (Wunmi Mosaku), has other plans for Loki. Before the god of mischief can take up his burden of glorious purpose once again, B-15 captures him and takes him back to TVA headquarters.
TVA central is, in a word, weird. Its weirdness has its own vibe going on, however, and we get a sense of it as Loki is processed through the organization’s labyrinthian bureaucracy. The monolith, concrete-laden New Brutalism-inspired architecture, and the dot matrix printers, color schemes and low lighting give it an Office Space circa 1950s feeling.
Loki’s processing experience also does a great job of providing us exposition on what the hell the Time Variance Authority actually is. According to the friendly cartoon played while Loki awaits his judgement, the TVA was created by powerful beings called the Time Keepers. The Time Keepers, as their name suggests, manage time. According to the informational video narrated by Miss Minutes (Tara Strong), long ago there was a mulitversal war, where several timelines battled for supremacy. The Time Keepers won, and created a single timeline, descriptively called “The Sacred Timeline.” Those that veer off their path on The Sacred Timeline are deemed variants. If left unchecked, these variants cause a Nexus event, something that Miss Minutes says “could branch off into madness.” (And, I’d wager, the next Doctor Strange movie).
Infinity Stones: They’re good for more than just wiping out half of the universe
To keep things on the proper timeline, the Time Keepers created the TVA and all who work there. Loki finds out firsthand that they’re insanely powerful — he’s unable to do magic there. There’s no magic there at all, in fact.
Which brings us to that metal desk drawer full of Infinity Stones that Loki finds when trying to escape. No magic means that Infinity Stones are no better than paperweights in the TVA.
“Is this the greatest power in the universe?” Loki asks before heading back to his interrogation room. Probably!
Loki gets around, and so does the TVA
One thing that seems likely to be a recurring feature of the series is how the TVA and Loki jump to different times and places. In the first episode alone, we go to the Gobi Desert, Aix en Provence in 1549, Salina, Oklahoma in 1858, and a Boeing 727 in 1971.
That airplane has Loki as D.B. Cooper, the real-life person who highjacked the Boeing for a $200,000 ransom and then jumped off the plan via parachute. In the lore of Loki, it was a young god of mischief doing a bit of his namesake on Earth after he lost a bet to Thor.
The whole D.B. Cooper scene was a delightful side note to the story, but the other locales follow TVA Minutemen trying to correct “sequence variations” that a big bad variant is setting up to ambush and kill the TVA agents. It’s these cases that cause TVA employee Mobius (Owen Wilson) to recruit Loki — maybe the god of mischief can help catch the killer.
What is free will if not the TVA controlling the Sacred Timeline?
Loki, however, is more than following the god of mischief’s adventures through space and time. The series delves into deep stuff, such as whether free will exists (spoiler: it doesn’t seem to, as long as there is a Sacred Timeline). It also explores Loki’s motivation, specifically how control and who exerts it are crucial to Loki’s identity and “glorious purpose.”
After Loki realizes the power of the Time Keepers, he gets up to speed on what happens to him on the Sacred Timeline (AKA his journey in the MCU after The Avengers). It has an understandable effect on him. Who wouldn’t be shaken, after all, by seeing the death not only of one’s mother and father, but also oneself? We see Loki take it all in (and Hiddleston really sells this moment), and come to the conclusion that he can’t go back and change his destiny. At least not directly.
Or can he? He tells Mobius, now his TVA handler, that he’s now a team player, but Loki doesn’t seem like one to give up control over his life or his quest for power so easily. What has changed is understanding of who holds the most power in the universe — the Time Keepers can render Infinity Stones worthless, and my guess is Loki wants to gain control of the TVA.
Turns out Loki’s biggest nemesis is himself, and not just metaphorically
And so Loki claims to become a team player. Mobius recruits him to help hunt down another variant who’s been killing TVA officers across the timeline. The big reveal at the end of the episode is that big bad variant is another multiverse version of Loki. And what better way to track down that variant, Mobius thinks, than to use our Loki to track him down?
Will Loki continue to play nice with the TVA? Will he discover another glorious purpose for himself? Or will he, perhaps, come face to face with the other Loki variant? There are five episodes left in the series, and the premiere successfully sets up the world, the stakes, and the character-driven journey of our god of mischief. We’ll have to wait until next week to see where (and when) it all goes.
New episodes of Loki air Wednesdays on Disney+.
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