Now that you’ve watched the first episode of Loki, now streaming on DisneyPlus Hotstar Premium, you know what to expect. The show leans heavily into the villain’s past appearances in his six Marvel Cinematic Universe films in order to help us, and him, arrive at a deeper understanding of who is now. It’s a lot of backstory and viewers who come unprepared might find that the emotional core of the story doesn’t resonate as strongly. Then there’s all the additional information the show packs in — Loki’s (Tom Hiddleston) been captured by the Time Variance Authority, an organization devoted to maintaining the proper and sequential flow of events. Its motives and backstory are explained through a Jetsons-style animation sequence, and its vast reach alluded to several times by the other characters. That’s a whole lot of expositional dialogue, so brace yourself.
Why has Loki run afoul of the TVA? Well, when the Avengers travel back in time in Avengers: Endgame (2019), they inadvertently hand the Loki from the first Avengers movie a means of escape. So this Loki never experiences the events of Thor: The Dark World (2013), Thor: Ragnarok (2017), Avengers: Infinity War (2018) or Avengers: Endgame (2019). Instead, he’s tasked with helping TVA agent Mobius (Owen Wilson) travel through time in pursuit of a mysterious foe. Despite the massive info dump, however, Loki’s pilot is undoubtedly the strongest of the three MCU shows released this year. It wrangles several genres — buddy comedy, time travel, drama, thriller — into a solid start that only grows stronger with episode 2. Here are three reasons to watch it:
It’s a deeper look into a character we love
In a sea of disposable MCU villains, Loki’s had the longest staying power. Across the six movies he’s appeared in, he’s gone from a son desperate for his father’s love to genocidal maniac to begrudging ally to someone who finally finds some semblance of family. It’s a great character arc made even deeper by the show. So far, Loki’s sense of identity has always been defined in relation to others — his inadequacy stems from his father favoring Thor, plus the fact that he’s adopted makes him feel like he doesn’t quite belong. This show is the first time Loki acknowledges how he sees himself, on his own terms, with no external influences. A speech he gives at the end of episode one is the most nuanced take we’ve got on him yet. Loki might plot and cheat and backstab, but the one character he can’t lie to is himself. And the show knows exactly how to wring the emotions out of that truth.
Mobius and Loki have great chemistry
Given the absence of Thor, Loki writers have had to come up with another character who could figure out exactly which of Loki’s buttons to push. Enter TVA agent Mobius. He isn’t entirely altruistic — he needs Loki to help him fulfil a mission — but it’s obvious that he cares about the character. While Mobius has spent years studying Loki in an attempt to understand what makes him tick, he also pushes Loki into understanding himself. Their push-and-pull relationship is the heart of the show, anchoring a fantastical premise in real humour and warmth. Both of them think they’re 10 steps ahead of the other, neither are quite right. It’s the start of a beautiful friendship.
The time-travel shenanigans are great fun
Loki is DB Cooper. In one sentence, part of a throwaway gag, Loki answers a question that’s puzzled observers for years — where did Cooper, a criminal, go after he hijacked a Seattle-bound plane in 1971, collected $200,000 from passengers and then parachuted off? He was never found, which the show explains as Loki simply jumping off the plane and taking the bifrost back to Asgard, part of a bet with Thor. Loki’s also at the destruction of Pompeii, inappropriately cheery for the end of the world. The writers mine the fun inherent in this blend of real and reel life and tease the exciting possibility that Loki might run into another of his variants in the field.