Clearly inspired by Mad Men, Marvel’s stunning Disney+ series kicks off as the god of mischief finds new, glorious purpose and Owen Wilson’s Agent Mobius enters the fray
Hello and welcome to the Loki recaps. I’ll be picking through each episode of the latest Marvel/Disney+ series as I did with The Falcon and the Winter Soldier and doing my best to find hints and clues for what lies in store for Loki and the wider MCU.
Let’s start at the beginning, which makes the most sense at this point. Loki is all about time – time management, alternative timelines, time travel, time looping – so things might get complicated if we did it any other way.
The episode opened in 2012 after the battle of New York first seen in Avengers Assemble, then revisited in the time-heist section of Avengers: Endgame. We’re spared a full rerun, but as almost anyone watching will know, Loki goes on to take the Tesseract during the kerfuffle with Tony, Ant-Man and Thor, vanishing into a portal, thereby creating an alternative timeline and version of himself. A version of himself that didn’t go on to inadvertently cause Frigga’s death in Thor: The Dark World (lucky him, skipping out on that one), or fight alongside his brother and earn a shot at redemption in Thor: Ragnarok. And perhaps most importantly for the purposes of this series, he didn’t get his neck snapped by Thanos at the start of Infinity War, either.
After a brief interaction with the Time Variance Authority – the sterile, omnipotent body charged with preserving the sacred timeline, as decreed by the Timekeepers – Loki is repeatedly beaten, rewound and pelted with home truths by agents including Wunmi Mosaku’s Hunter B-15 and Owen Wilson’s Agent Mobius.
At this point, it looks highly likely that the on-screen chemistry between Tom Hiddleston and Wilson will be Loki’s most powerful weapon. As Mobius showed Loki his past misdeeds on a big screen and gently probed for explanation while already being in full possession of the facts, he earned Loki’s trust, while making him see that he wasn’t born to rule, but is merely around to help others realise their potential. Mobius also posited the notion that Loki has done so many terrible things not because he enjoyed it, or because he’s the god of mischief, but because he has to – because it’s part of his illusion, “a cruel, elaborate trick conjured by the weak to inspire fear”. Self acceptance, identity and destiny, dealt with in the space of a scene. And to think people believe these shows are just CGI fights.
That’s not to say Loki will be without those. Responding to yet another TVA situation, Mobius travelled to a church in 16th-century France, where he encountered a young boy who pointed to a stained glass window seemingly depicting the devil when asked who had committed the latest time atrocity. Throughout WandaVision, Mephisto was expected to make his MCU debut, but it never came to pass. That image in the glass looks distinctly like the extra-dimensional demon, but Hiddleston has said Mephisto rumours are unfounded. Of course, he would say that. Or is Mobius right that the variant he needs help catching is Loki himself? Those horns do look like Loki in full Asgardian regalia, as seen in Avengers Assemble.
After phase one of the films, Marvel landed on the idea that superhero films work best when they’re not superhero films at all, but genre movies that happen to have superheroes in them – something that, in my book, makes reductive arguments about Marvel’s output seem more inaccurate with each passing film. Captain America: The Winter Soldier, for example, is a 70s conspiracy thriller (it even stars Robert Redford, as if to hammer the point home). Black Panther is, by his own admission, Ryan Coogler’s take on a Bond film, while Ant-Man is a heist caper, Captain Marvel is the MCU’s version of an 80s actioner in the Top Gun mould, and so on.
It’s an idea carried over on to the small screen, too, with WandaVision being an avant-garde supernatural sitcom hybrid. Here, the writers Eric Martin and Bisha K Ali appear to be trying to answer the question: “What would Marvel’s Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy look like?” A beautiful, surreal, mid-century modern bureaucratic nightmare designed by Dieter Rams is their answer. And I simply can’t wait for more.
- The DB Cooper snippet was perfect. Loki’s mid-air bifrosting was in the trailer, presumed to be part of some death-defying, pivotal-to-the-plot action sequence. But no, it was a little joke stating that Loki was DB Cooper, the unidentified man who, in 1971, hijacked a Boeing 727 over the US, demanded $200,000 (which he collected), before parachuting from the plane and disappearing. The FBI only closed its investigation in 2016. I enjoyed this playful subplot, not least because it nods to Mad Men, a clear stylistic influence on Loki, and the fact that armchair sleuths theorised Don Draper was DB Cooper for some time before that show’s finale.
- Whether you enjoyed this episode or not (I loved it, if you can’t tell), it’s hard to argue with its aesthetic beauty. I’m now scrolling through images of the Atlanta Marriott Marquis, which doubled as the TVA HQ.
- Let’s salute the British talent on display here, Hiddleston, Mosaku and Gugu Mbatha-Raw, who will hopefully have a bigger part to play as the series goes on.
- I could easily sit through an entire season of Marvel explainers drawn in that Friz Freleng/Pink Panther style. In fact, I could probably watch just about anything.
- I thought the infinity stones being used as paperweights as a demonstration of the TVA’s power was a masterstroke; the thing that finally made Loki see that what he’d been craving all along was futile.
What did you think? Do you enjoy the premise? What does “fine Asgardian leather” feel like? Was that Mephisto hiding in the church window? Have your say below in the comments