WHEN|WHERE Starts streaming Wednesday on Disney Plus
WHAT IT'S ABOUT In "Avengers: Endgame," Loki (Tom Hiddleston) grabbed the Tesseract — think glowing cube with infinite powers — then disappeared. In the opening seconds of his new eponymous series, he reappears in the Gobi desert, where he tells the befuddled locals that he is "burdened with the glorious purpose" of taking over their world. But as soon as the words come out, a handful of soldiers appear, arresting him for "crimes against the Sacred Timeline." Loki is taken to some place called the TVA — Time Variance Authority — a vast bureaucracy charged with making sure all of the universe's conceivable timelines are kept to just one. Loki — charged with disrupting the "proper flow of time," thus making him a "variant" — is hauled before a judge (Gugu Mbatha-Raw) who is just about to pass sentence, when Agent Mobius M. Mobius (Owen Wilson) intercedes. Loki, he explains, is needed for an extra-special mission.
MY SAY Over six (or so) "Avenger" films, Hiddleston's Loki evolved from a megalomaniac with delusions of universe-vanquishing grandeur to a mother-always-loved-Thor-best antihero with a sensitive side and penchant for decency. (Thor is his adoptive brother, and the better looking one at that.) Loki even turned out to have a sense of humor, or at least of repartee — a Dr. Evil with hair, and brooding entitlement.
Hiddleston's Loki, in short, is multifaceted, and viewers will see most of those facets in "Loki," plus maybe a few surprise facets thrown in. Stuck inside the vast bureaucracy of the TVA, a felon about to be booked, he has to answer dumb questions from bureaucrats, while bargaining for the timeline that he believes is rightfully his. Wilson's Mobius M. Mobius baits him with his own quips — so, you want to be "King of Space," huh? — while Loki helplessly volleys back ("Mock me if you dare"). Together, there's not quite the core of a winning comedy team here, but there are the potential ingredients for a decent buddy cop series.
In fact, Disney Plus offered the first two of six episodes for review and those tease something a little more convoluted than a mere procedural. Long an MCU obsession, alternate timelines allow the potential for any outcome, and for any do-over, which conceivably Loki will get here as well. But what sort of do-over, which is another way of asking who is the real Loki? And will Loki have any agency in controlling that outcome? That's not entirely evident from these two episodes, although fan sites have speculated that a gender-bending Lady Loki, played by Sophia di Martino, will turn up at some point.
"Loki '' really is really just a character study of one particularly complex and — as Loki fans will attest — fun character. Moreover, a second season has been ordered, so the potential for "variant" timelines — and do-overs — multiply from there.
But from this early glimpse, what's good about "Loki'' is what was so good about the other Disney Plus "Endgame" spinoffs, "WandaVision'' and "The Falcon and the Winter Soldier." You don't need to be a Marvel expert, or know that Frigga was his mother, or that he had (has?) mother issues. For us, even for Loki, this is a clean slate, a whole new world, or worlds. We're all at the beginning together. This Loki, and those worlds, those mothers, look intriguing indeed.
BOTTOM LINE Loki fans will be much pleased.