You can’t fool me. All of this time travel and Sacred Timeline/Nexus Event stuff is just more magic disguised as incomprehensible technology.
In this particular story, it doesn’t bother me overmuch, even though I’ve been honest about my semi-aversion to magic in past reviews. As I’ve said before, when it comes to swords & sorcery fantasy, I prefer to lean most heavily on the swords part of the equation.
But, when it’s necessary to have magic in a story, having it also include mythical Norse gods is a plus. They pair well, like a full-bodied Chardonnay with poached salmon in butter sauce.
Sure, I know that, in the MCU at least, the citizens of Asgard have been retconned to be just another alien race, not gods per se. Much of their “magic” seems to be couched in the aforementioned incomprehensible technology or dwarf craftsmanship. I accept this premise and choose to whistle past the things about magic and time-travel stories that always chap my hide. All of those extraneous thoughts fall to the side when the story is interesting enough.
I liked the first season of the Disney+ series Loki. Like WandaVision, it was a departure from the usual live-action comic-book superhero entertainment, proof that there is room for infinite artistic interpretations in the Marvel multiverse. Since I consider myself to be more of a meercat than an ostrich, I’m aware that both WandaVision and Loki are setting up a Phase 4 of the MCU that seems to be largely concerning the multiverse. Those cats at Marvel know how to set up the long game, and they are entertaining us while doing so.
The first season of Loki (there’s at least one more coming) is quite entertaining, in my opinion. It brings the Tom Hiddleston version of Loki (there are many versions, it seems) back to life, after he made the noble sacrifice way back in Avengers: Infinity War.
Love him or hate him, we didn’t want Loki to disappear from the MCU as a character. Through the mining of multiple timelines, the creators of this show figured out a way to introduce a version of Loki who hadn’t died yet. The premise is that Loki was culled from existence before he created a branch in the Sacred Timeline and was taken to an interdimensional organization known as the Time Variance Authority—or, simply, TVA. Here, we are introduced to, among others, a TVA agent named Mobius (Owen Wilson), who becomes Loki’s partner, of sorts, in this buddy-cop movie, ala 48 Hours.
The existence of the multiverse sets the stage for multiple versions of Loki, including a Classic Loki (Richard E. Grant) with the vintage four-color comics Loki costume with the improbable curved horns, a Kid Loki (Jack Veal), an Alligator Loki, and Sylvie (Sophia Di Martino), a female Loki variant.
Our Hiddleston Loki, ever the narcissist, predictably falls in love with Sylvie. Whitney Houston did sing that learning to love yourself is the greatest love of all, didn’t she?
While this series seems to be about a lot of things, it becomes apparent that the Loki/Sylvie relationship is our main focus. The show doubles down on the already pervasive fantasy elements and takes a hard left into fullblown Fantasy Quest Plot territory. The Dark Tower our heroes are searching for in this story turns out to be an actual dark fortress outside of time and space.
The fortress’s sole occupant turns out to be a villain that I never expected to see in a life-action superhero series or movie. I’m not going to ruin it for you, although I’d bet this person’s name would mean nothing to you if you weren’t already a fan of the comic books. The end of the season opens up myriad potential Phase 4 plotlines. It is an interesting turn of events for a gargantuan movie project that won’t allow itself to become stale.
As with the Thor movies, I can’t really compare this to the original source material. My primary exposure to classic Thor comics were those segments in the 1966 Marvel Super Heroes cartoon. In those days, Thor was also handicapped physician Donald Blake whose gnarly walking stick would transform into Thor’s mystical Uru hammer, Mjölnir. I understand that the character Sylvie in this series is based upon the comic book characters Lady Loki and The Enchantress. Perhaps the TVA and characters such as Mobius and the various hunters and judges are based on comic book characters as well. However, I have no direct knowledge about this.
Someone once said that ignorance is bliss. The fact that I don’t know who said it first should make me happy. But, I digress—
My lack of much specific knowledge about the comic books, in this case, may make me enjoy this streaming series more than I would otherwise. I experience zero cognitive dissonance while watching the story unfold. And I never grumble out an exasperated “Loki would never do that!” in the same manner that I’ve grumbled similar sentiments about other beloved superheroes, such as Superman and Batman. In fact, the Tom Hiddleston version of Loki is much more acceptable to me than the ridiculously horned Classic Loki.
The show injects the patented MCU brand of humor throughout without sacrificing the drama and spectacle that are equally important. I believe that the series is successful at fulfilling its mission statement. The viewer is entertained and distracted by mind-blowing concepts and effects while being manipulated to want to watch this next phase of the MCU. We’re willingly being sucked into the bigger picture.
It’s way too early to pass any kind of judgment on Phase 4. Well, too early for me, at any rate. I’m sure you could find plenty of others who don’t need to watch the rest of it to express their displeasure.
I’m liking what I’ve seen so far, though. I can say that without hesitation. It’s not the Marvel Comics I experienced in my own self-centered slice of the space-time loaf. Not necessarily. But, it remains familiar and somehow new, at the same time. A good trick, if you can pull it off. Kevin Feige and team are pulling it off.
Firewater’s I-Live-in-a-Suburb-of-the-Sacred-Timeline Report Card: A
I know that not everyone agrees with the grade I’m giving Loki here. That shouldn’t concern you any more than it does me. This was brilliant.