Long merely the sidekick or annoyance to Chris Hemsworth’s Thor, Tom Hiddleston’s Loki finally gets some clear air and deserved screen time. This third series in the Disney / Marvel franchise on Disney + sees the Asgardian trickster thrust into a mind-bending journey. While the series once more uses time-travel as its central device, it’s actually a lot cleverer than you might expect.
Loki, as we know from the movies, is the god of mischief. He likes causing havoc and saving his own skin. And you might recall he doesn’t mind a bit of time-travel. That brings him to the attention of the Time Variance Authority or TVA. This shadowy organisation aims to keep the “sacred timeline” intact by tracking down and dealing with “variants” – beings that have stepped outside the regular flow of time. When a variant is captured, they set off a series of “time grenades” to basically wipe out the unauthorised timeline and return things to normal (a version of the mind-zapper from Men in Black).
Now, you may recall from the Avengers movies that Loki pulled some shenanigans with the Tesseract. And that’s where the series starts. Loki’s actions lead to the TVA capturing him. At TVA headquarters (which seems to be stuck in the 1950s), TVA Agent Mobius (Owen Wilson) interrogates him. It’s hardly a brutal grilling though, and it looks like Mobius might be something of a kindred spirit. The thing is that Mobius has bigger problems than Loki. A powerful and dangerous variant has not only been disrupting timelines, but killing TVA agents in the process. Mobius thinks the killer might be another “Loki” – a mischievous being who’s gone too far. With the danger growing, Mobius desperately needs Loki’s help.
Loki the series is the brainchild of Michael Waldron, who serves as showrunner and writer. His most significant work to date has been on the TV series Rick & Morty; but he’s heavily involved in the upcoming Dr Strange movie. Waldron has obviously done his homework on the character and his backstory. His writing deftly picks up threads from the Avengers and other Marvel films to weave into the plot. And that plot gets pretty bonkers.
The Marvel streaming offerings to date have been the brilliantly wacky WandaVision, and the rather dour Falcon and the Winter Soldier. Loki falls squarely into the brilliantly wacky camp. The magical elements of the story allow the plot to flit around to sometimes mind-bending places. If you were able to follow Dr Strange or Thor: Ragnarok, you shouldn’t have too much trouble. Like many series in this streaming era, Loki feels a bit like an extended movie. But with only six episodes, it’s hardly an effort to get through.
But importantly, this isn’t just a time-travel jaunt. Waldon and director Kate Herron use the premise to touch on deeper subjects – like asking just how in control of our lives we really are?
Hiddleston maintains the charming rogue character he created in the movies. Owen Wilson (Wonder) provides a neat foil as the slightly dishevelled (but smarter than he looks) Mobius. The series also features Gugu Mbatha-Raw (Summerland) as the wonderfully-named Ravonna Renslayer, and Sophia Di Martino (Yesterday) as the mysterious Sylvie.
Although it requires a little mental gymnastics to get into the initial premise, Loki the series is a lot of fun. Herron and Waldron have created a fantastic and wildly enjoyable ride. Get on it.
Other reviews you might enjoy:
- WandaVision (Disney +) – streaming review
- Maniac – streaming review
- Girls5Eva (Stan) – streaming review
David Edwards is the editor of The Blurb and a contributor on film and television