Travis Leamons // Film Critic
The premiere episode is now available to watch exclusively on Disney+. New episodes in the six-chapter first season release on every Wednesday.
Time. Too little, never enough, hard to manage, and harder still to manipulate. Take it from Agent Mobius M. Mobius (Owen Wilson). He’s seen everything. As an agent of the Time Variance Authority (TVA), his job is to investigate and apprehend time criminals. Move over, Van Damme; there’s a new time cop on the scene.
The TVA is a bureaucratic entity that’s as new age as it is retro – arriving somewhere in between MAD MEN and MEN IN BLACK. Clerks are pushing around carts of collected trinkets, talking on rotary telephones, and processing paperwork as flying vehicles zip by outside its confines. The TVA exists to monitor a timeline that has been preordained by the three Time Keepers, the custodians of time.
Why Mobius and the TVA matter is because as Earth’s Mightiest Heroes were working to steal time OCEAN’S ELEVEN style by retrieving all the Infinity Stones to reverse the “blip” Thanos caused, the Loki of 2012 made off with the Tesseract as he escaped the Avengers’ clutches. Loki’s (Tom Hiddleston) freedom is short-lived, however, as the God of Mischief is apprehended and brought to the TVA and to our televisions thanks to Disney+.
Our Trickster God is now a “time variant” who has no place in the world. But while TVA sees a reason for erasure, agent Mobius sees potential in Loki in helping him stop a greater threat. Once a mischief-maker and able to control others, Loki is now a prisoner of his own making. His only chance to get any reprieve is to help the hard-nosed detective with a crook in his nose.
WANDAVISION made a statement about the dangers of nostalgia and not being able to let go, while THE FALCON AND THE WINTER SOLDIER paired race with legacy. LOKI seems to be about reassessment, where our titular character confronts the ugly truth about his actions. Loki may be the God of Mischief, yet all he seems to do is cause pain. This is very apparent as Mobius plays time-variant Loki’s Greatest Hits, which includes events he has yet to experience (i.e., his mother’s death).
The opening episode plants the seed of reflection and identity as Loki’s transgressions are laid out by the TVA. Whether or not the TVA does this for all apprehended time criminals is uncertain. The only other awaiting criminal never makes it through booking on account of a lost ticket.
The world-building and exposition established in the pilot is a lot to take in, but the fantastic second episode ups the interplay between Tom Hiddleston and Owen Wilson. It is most delectable. Wilson’s nonplused attitude, opposite Hiddleston’s jabbering, creates a most unexpected bromance.
Loki’s modus operandi has always been bent on control and using duplicity as he cycles through having people trust him only to stab them in the back. Though, he vehemently denies this. “Loki, I have studied almost every moment of your entire life. You’ve literally stabbed people in the back like fifty times,” Mobius declares. To which Loki rebuts, “Well, I’d never do it again!” Classic Loki.
Paired together, they try to unravel the mystery surrounding another variant’s plot at disrupting the timeline. Doing research in the TVA library archives as Bach’s “Air on the G String” plays my mind drifted to the library scene in David Fincher’s SEVEN as Morgan Freeman researches the seven deadly sins. Purposefully done by music supervisor Dave Jordan, I’m sure.
Rather than be predictable and drag out the variant’s identity for an a-ha reveal, they outright state who the variant is. Because when the TVA has dossiers on every manmade disaster, epidemic, and everything you’ve ever said, it’s pretty hard to stay an enigma. That’s the advantage of working at an establishment that values time above all and predetermines everything that happens within the MCU.
Sounds like a buzzkill.
What’s not a buzzkill is having Gugu Mbatha-Raw as Ravonna Renslayer, the judge overseeing the Loki variant investigation and trying to keep Mobius in line. And then there’s Wunmi Mosaku, who fans of HBO’s LOVECRAFT COUNTRY will recognize as “Hunter B-15” with the TVA. Hopefully, their presence will increase over the course of the six episodes.
OK, after the two-episode sampler, I’m digging the vibe. Get through the world-building and up to speed about the TVA’s existence, and you can enjoy the bromance you never knew you wanted with Owen Wilson and Tom Hiddleston. If agent Coulson died so the Avengers could come together as a team, maybe agent Mobius will be Loki’s agent for change.
We shall see.