When life gives you timeline lemons - make multiverse lemonade! It is not in Loki's character to give up when devastation and humiliation ruins his grand plans. Not even when the god of Asgard stares death in the eyes does he give up the dream of claiming his birth right: to rule with an iron fist in all its glory. But when, after the escape scene in Avengers: Endgame, he ends up in the clutches of strictly bureaucratic time-fixers, he not only sees new opportunities to hold the universe in the palm of his hand; he also sees the chance to put himself in a new perspective and change himself as a person, and I do not mean in regard to his aptitude to change shape.
The Falcon and the Winter Soldier started out very promising, only to lose its quality as the season progressed, so I choose to be cautiously optimistic about Loki's solo adventure so far. Unlike that series, however, the concept in Loki is much more fun and more creatively appealing so far, where TVA - which stands for Time Variance Authority - is a small but powerful pocket dimension that at all costs ensures that the timeline does not branch out and create new alternative universes. Against this backdrop, we also get a kind of supernatural police thriller that occasionally lets the viewer solve old mysteries such as DB Cooper's disappearance and jumps between devastating natural disasters through the ages.
Already in its concept, it feels like the screenwriters have found an entertaining and original angle that delves into Loki - a beloved Marvel villain who until now has only had an hour and 17 minutes of screen time in the MCU - and who also hints at a return visit to his childhood in Asgard. Without telling too much about the plot, Loki finds a new purpose in TVA when the agency desperately chases a bigger time threat than the title character himself and soon the narcissistic god loses himself between time and space, which of course leads to major consequences for the primary timeline.
Owen Wilson plays Morbius, an extremely patient bureaucrat who alternates between being a good cop / bad cop, and who is as fascinated by Loki's essence as Loki himself. Wilson is, as usual, charming and it's fun to see the comedy actor try something out of his comfort zone - even if the role itself is of the more anonymous kind. Wunmi Mosaku and Gugu Mbatha-Raw are some promising new additions, but the one who of course steals the show is Tom Hiddleston himself as the charismatic fan favourite. The character, who has recently taken a more comical direction with his brother Thor, is working here to get a new face and much of the pilot episode is just about trying to redefine the character's identity. Who really is the man behind the garb of power that Loki so desperately wants to convince everyone is his true self? Who is Loki when he is not ignored by his brother? Although I have not always liked the direction that the villain has taken in the films, I am thankful that the main character can act as an anti-hero and antagonist in his own story, which actually has plenty of potential.
The length of the episodes and the pace are less of a positive, as this crime mystery does not really possess the depth required for the viewer to sit with excitement for 50 minutes. There is a lot that is stretched out unnecessarily here. Still, there is a lot to say about the series' first two dialogue-heavy episodes, such as the focus on the main character and its playful premise. These Marvel shows, however, start mostly well, and then end up in uneven slumps like WandaVision or plunge like the belly flop that was The Falcon & The Winter Soldier. Usually there is a lot of potential that is just wasted. Can Loki break Marvel's protracted TV structure, let go of the austere Marvel drama and wallow in elaborate time paradoxes? Maybe, but then again, maybe not.
The Marvel franchise is currently in a strange vacuum purely cinematically, where interest in the next big Marvel event has not really materialised yet and where smaller stories in TV format are allowed to fill in the gaps for the next phase - stories that haven't always managed to reach the greatness of the films. This is even more obvious now as Marvel looks to create a new generation of heroes, experiment with its format and at the same time introduce the multiverse concept to the big money collectors in cinemas, but the question is whether Loki can manage to bridge the gap between Endgame and the next film phase. So far, it feels like it, but it remains to be seen.