AMSTERDAM: “Loki” has issues. That’s true of both the central character — a not-so-evil-really villain desperate for paternal approval and maternal affection — and the show itself.
The main problem with the first couple of episodes (all that were available for review of the six in the season) of Marvel’s latest TV show is that there’s so much explanation required as to why it exists in the first place that it can seem at times as though the viewer is attending a lecture on theoretical physics.
Loki, Thor’s brother and the Norse god of mischief, is played here — as he was in six Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) movies — by Tom Hiddleston, Robert Downey Jr.’s closest rival in the MCU for quick-witted repartee.
In “Avengers: Infinity War” (spoiler alert) Loki died, but was ‘resurrected’ in 2012’s “Avengers: Endgame” before escaping in a farcical mix-up involving the portal-creating Tesseract stone. That’s where this series begins.
Appearing in a different time and place (the Gobi desert), this particular variant of Loki is quickly captured by soldiers from the Time Variance Authority (TVA) — an organization tasked with ensuring that the one true timeline (the Sacred Timeline) progresses as intended without pesky variants like Loki running around messing with the TVA’s plans. He is captured and taken to TVA headquarters (an amusingly bland and bureaucratic place, but also, crucially, a location where Loki’s — or anyone’s — magical powers have no effect).
There, he is set to be wiped from history until Agent Mobius M. Mobius (Owen Wilson) steps in to suggest that Loki may, in fact, be of some use to the TVA in helping his team apprehend a rogue variant who is murdering TVA members during their time-jumping missions. A variant he believes to be… Loki.
So, you can see why the first episode, in particular, is so exposition-heavy. Fortunately, Wilson is in fine form and his long dialogue scenes with Hiddleston — in which much of the heavy lifting is done explanation-wise — zip by, thanks to the clear chemistry between the pair and their individual confidence in their own abilities. Whether that’s enough to carry the series remains to be seen.
There are signs of some genuinely interesting themes emerging — particularly an exploration of Loki’s true nature: Is he a murderous egomaniac? A misunderstood, misguided anti-hero? Something in between? And what use is a Norse god whose powers are removed (as in the TVA’s world)?
Finding out, as long as Hiddleston and Wilson continue in the same vein, should at least be fun.