Loki: Episode 1 – Glorious Purpose (Review) – Sets Up Plenty Of Mischief To Come

DIRECTOR: Kate Herron

CAST: Tom Hiddleston, Owen Wilson, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Wunmi Mosaku, Eugene Cordero, Tara Strong

RUNNING TIME: 51 mins

CERTIFICATE: 12A

BASICALLY…: Having escaped with the Tesseract, an alternate timeline version of Loki (Hiddleston) is imprisoned by the Time Variance Authority…

 

NOW FOR THE REVIEW…

And to think, Tom Hiddleston originally auditioned for the part of Thor (seriously, that footage exists somewhere on the Internet). Not that he would have done a bad job, but after being cast instead as Loki, the MCU God of Thunder’s mischievous younger brother, it’s impossible to see him as anyone else, and the actor has done such a great job over the years of bringing the long-standing character’s deviousness and arrogance to life, that it almost feels wrong to even think he was seriously being considered for Chris Hemsworth’s role.

Such is the power of audience love for Loki, and Hiddleston’s portrayal of him, that he finally has his own Disney+ show, where the God of Mischief can let loose and be the meddling conniver everyone knows him for – but, as shown in the first episode (titled Glorious Purpose), therein lies a twist, as it’s not quite the Loki we’ve become familiar with from certain points onwards, and he’s also got on his back a whole new corner of the Marvel Cinematic Universe that’s immediately fascinating.

The Loki that we’re following here is the one that got away with the Tesseract during a failed time-travel sting in Avengers: Endgame (just after his plans for world domination in the first Avengers movie ended with his fantastic beat-down by the Hulk). He’s almost immediately arrested by agents for the Time Variance Authority, a bureaucratic organisation that exists outside of time and space, and dedicates itself to maintaining the singular timeline and erasing any “variants” that somehow forge their own path. Loki is one such variant, having strayed from his original path, and is quickly put on trial for his crimes; however, at the last minute, he’s saved from certain doom by TVA agent Mobius (Owen Wilson), who has ideas on how to use Loki’s expertise for a time-spanning murder case – but first, he needs to figure out what makes his godly opponent tick.

Of the introductory episodes for Marvel Studios’ shows thus far, also taking into account the ones for WandaVision and The Falcon and The Winter Soldier, this one for Loki is perhaps the most exposition-heavy, but it’s a major credit to not just writer and series creator Michael Waldron but also series director Kate Herron that even the constant explanation of things is kept wildly entertaining. The episode even goes as far as to explain the TVA’s backstory and ultimate goals via a traditionally-animated educational video, as hosted by an anthropomorphic clock named Miss Minutes (voiced by Tara Strong), in a short which has the look and feel of an old Peanuts or Pink Panther cartoon. It’s a rather fun way of being introduced to this entirely new concept within this cinematic universe, as well as the organisation’s heavily 70s-influenced décor and bureaucratic eccentricities that rival Terry Gilliam’s Brazil, and for fans of the comics there are plenty of neat little easter eggs to spot and identify at the same time as they’re learning all about this rather interesting new (literal) dimension.

Though Glorious Purpose is primarily about setting up this new organisation, how it works, and what sorts of time-bending gadgets that agents like Owen Wilson’s Morbius can use against opponents (a weapon that slows down someone’s speed to 1/16th of a second, while also letting them experience pain in real time, is both funny and pretty cool), the episode never forgets about its title character. As always, Tom Hiddleston is having plenty of fun as Loki, and it is nice to see the return of this diabolical version of the character before his redemptive arc from Thor: The Dark World onwards; he also has a great rapport with Wilson, who establishes a very likeable presence from his very first scene, and treats the role like he’s some kind of world-weary bureaucrat who still has a fair amount of humanity left in him. They honestly do the whole “mismatched pair” routine better than Sam Wilson and Bucky Barnes in The Falcon and The Winter Soldier, mainly because their dialogue is a bit stronger and the actor have slightly more electric chemistry, and going forward it will certainly be interesting to see where their uneasy alliance will take them as they inevitably travel across time together.

There are also aspects to the character of Loki which the episode really dedicates a lot of time to exploring, resulting in some very emotional developments which ultimately make this variant a lot more interesting than anyone might have realised going in. Without giving too much away, it’s oddly compelling to see this character literally have his entire life shown before his eyes, and the knowledge that he acquires makes you curious about how he’s going to use it to his advantage over the next five episodes, which – in pure Loki fashion – makes things wildly unpredictable. Having seen the familiar paths that past Marvel series have taken, though, it’s cautious to assume that things will perhaps work out in a much more straightforward direction, but given that this is a series about one of Marvel’s most – if not the most – unreliable characters, I’m willing to bet that there will be a fair number of surprises in store, and this first episode, along with its many surprises in the emotional scenes, heavily hint that this will be a Marvel show unlike any of the others.

For something that only exists to provide the viewer with exposition about certain new things and organisations, this first episode of Loki is far more enjoyable than it has any right to be. It sets up everything in typically entertaining fashion, establishes new worlds and characters with their own degree of charm and charisma, and of course it gives us plenty of Tom Hiddleston to go around. Who knows where – or when – the God of Mischief will take his tricks next, but things already look to be off to a characteristically mischievous start.

SO, TO SUM UP…

Loki: Episode 1 – Glorious Purpose is a strong introductory episode that neatly establishes new worlds and characters through exposition that is made both fun and entertaining by writer Michael Waldron and director Kate Herron, but always keeps the firm focus on Tom Hiddleston’s Loki, who here forms a great rapport with Owen Wilson’s likeable Morbius, and sets up plenty of mischief going forward.

Loki: Episode 1 is now available on Disney+. Episode 2 will be available next week.

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