Thursday, July 29, 2021

‘Loki’ Season 1 Review: Marvel Delivers Its Best Series Yet

This review contains spoilers for Loki season 1.

loki
Chuck Zlotnick/Marvel Studios

When Marvel Studios announced their first slate of series to air on Disney+ at San Diego Comic-Con in 2019, none were more anticipated than Loki. Fans were thrilled at the prospect of seeing the God of Mischief again, especially after his death in the opening sequence of Avengers: Infinity War in 2018.

Tom Hiddleston returned to the character, now a decade into his MCU tenure, and he brought along a few new players to the Marvel courts. Newcomers Owen Wilson, Wunmi Mosaku, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Sophia Di Martino, and Richard E. Grant all joined the crew in Marvel’s whackiest project to date.

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Directed by Kate Herron with a writing team led by Michael Waldron, Loki began the journey of redeeming Loki once again after his escape in Avengers: Endgame. The skeptics were on high alert, already upset that the redemption arc from his previous films was wiped clean, but what we got was better. From Loki’s development to confirmation of his bisexuality and gender-fluidity, this series brought him to life in a whole new, fantastic way.

A key factor of Loki’s original character arc is typically forgotten, a factor that plays a very important role to what we saw play out across the 6-episode series. Loki was never truly evil. Hurt, emotionally battered, a victim of a cruel father, but his actions in The Avengers stemmed from one cause: manipulation from the Mind Stone (this is MCU canon). Keeping those details in mind, Loki was a fantastic dive into what makes Loki truly tick.

loki
Marvel Studios

Loki explored facets of Loki’s character that could never have fit into the grand MCU films. His desire for acceptance, to do good, and to redeem himself all finally got fleshed out in more detail than his previous redemption. This made the fact that we were virtually starting with a new Loki-slate even more enjoyable. His friendship with Mobius was a welcome change to Loki’s usual aloofness, and seeing someone accept him for who he is without feeling the need to change him was a highlight of the series.

Also, I have to mention that seeing Loki use his magical abilities as much as he did was such a treat for comic fans. Speaking of comics, the Easter eggs in this series were top notch. The Thanos copter, Throg, Lævateinn (Loki’s sword), Kid and Classic Loki, and the entirety of Sylvie’s inspirations outside of being a Loki left my comic-loving heart very happy. Where WandaVision‘s Easter eggs felt almost bait-like, Loki‘s seemed to be just what they intended: a nod to the source material. Bonus to Kate Herron for shutting down the Mephisto spiral before it began, too.

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The TVA’s oxymoronic setting of a modern-retro police station set the stage for an unsettling look behind the scenes of time. Loki questioned every aspect of life as we know it, freewill and the very principle of choice included. The sets were disconcerting in the best of ways, making it known that this defies all logic, sense, and reality. The lighting, particularly on Lamentis-1 and the Citadel, were some of Marvel’s best works to date.

loki
Chuck Zlotnick/Marvel Studios

The finale exceeded the standard set by its predecessors. It was nuanced and visually stunning. Its intricate web of trust and betrayal, good will versus vengeance, made up for the lack of Marvel epic battle. The ultimate betrayal of Loki by Sylvie was a perfect mirror to Loki’s first appearance in Thor. While we’ve seen Hiddleston’s Loki go through two redemption arcs now, it was Sylvie’s turn as a Loki to let vengeance consume her, just as Loki had before her on the rainbow bridge. It was a perfect mirror, solidifying her as a Loki despite her relatively un-Loki-like past.

I will say, I was not a huge fan of the Sylvie-Loki romance. However, I do understand the character qualities that bore those feelings. He is, after all, a narcissist and someone who has only ever been able to rely on himself. So, Loki falling for another version of himself is actually on par with some of those deep qualities. Plus, it made that betrayal at the end all the more heartbreaking, seeing Loki heartbroken and alone once again. (Don’t even get me started on the emotions that bubbled up when Mobius’ memory of Loki had been wiped, either.)

As always, Tom Hiddleston played the role of Loki to perfection. He’s nuanced and so well-versed in everything that is Loki. He’d never allow anything to go wrong. His role as executive producer also gave me much more faith in the project before we’d gotten any official word. Find me someone who loves a character they play more than Tom Hiddleston loves Loki … I’ll wait. However, the series proved that Hiddleston isn’t the only person who could play Loki well.

There wasn’t one casting faux-pas in this series. Sophia Di Martino proved to be an exceptional Sylvie/Loki Variant, finding a perfect blend of the Loki we knew and brand-new one, one all her own. Richard E. Grant was another unanticipated beloved performance, playing a Classic Loki looking like he came straight off of the pages of the comics. He was so charming and endearing, very unlike his comic counterpart, and it was such a lovely thing to see. His portrayal also solidified that Loki is not evil, just lonely and very much wayward.

Owen Wilson as Mobius was shockingly perfect. When it was announced they’d cast Wilson in the role I was skeptical, despite being a longtime fan of the actor. I just couldn’t see him fitting into the MCU, and I am thrilled to say I was so wrong. He was the perfect balm to Loki’s fire, a cool, calm, collected opposite to the grit and snark of his counterpart. Gugu Mbatha-Raw and Wunmi Mosaku also played brilliantly off of each other as the two opposing forces within the TVA. Renslayer and her unbreakable oath to serve, and Hunter B-15 with her quest for the truth. Watching both of their journeys to acceptance about the organization they’d served so dutifully brought that aspect of the story to life vividly.

However, the true breakout star for me was Jonathan Majors. His portrayal of a Kang Variant (likely Immortus) was just so captivating and energetic, it was almost palpable. He made that finale into what it was, taking the words off the pages and molding them into something so beyond incredible it only casts great hope onto his hopefully longtime future in the MCU as Marvel’s next Thanos-level bad. We’ll see him next in Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania, but as an entirely new Variant.

Marvel Studios

Pleasing every viewer is impossible, and this series may have had the biggest challenge of the three so far. The themes, characters, and the absolutely universe shattering implications that the series has on the MCU as a whole was no easy undertaking, but beneath the pressure a diamond was formed. Loki delivered on what fans of the trickster God had been hoping for for over a decade: magic, mischief, and a dive into one of Marvel’s best characters’ hearts.

There was no better news than seeing that season 2 is confirmed, especially after that ending, proving that even after 10 years with the right actor and creative team, a character can still be interesting and able to hold an audience.

You can watch all of Loki season 1 now only on Disney+.

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Kaity
Kaity started with Harry Potter in second grade and it’s been a losing battle ever since, or maybe a winning one ... She lives in New England with a small herd of cats, two dogs, three chinchillas, and one daughter. Her main fandoms are Marvel, The Umbrella Academy, Star Wars, and Lord of the Rings, with special emphasis on one vibranium shield-wielding Super Soldier. Contact: kaity@nerdsandbeyond.com

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