Loki is a 2021 TV show produced for Disney+ by Marvel Studios. Written by Michael Waldron and directed by Kate Herron, it has been already renewed for a second season.
The events of Loki happen exactly after the movie Avengers: Endgame. In it, when the Avengers go back in time to retrieve the Infinity Stones, they accidentally cause Loki’s escape. This creates an alternative timeline, different from that of their present days.
This is where the TVA (Time Variance Authority) comes into play. It’s an organization, set outside time and space, that monitors the events of the so-called Sacred Timeline. The escaped Loki of Avengers: Endgame is a Variant of himself that shouldn’t exist because it endangers the smooth running of events. The TVA then offers him two options: to be erased from existence or to help them stop a dangerous threat.
The character of Loki was born first as a villain in Thor and in Avengers. He then had his development as an anti-hero (or anti-villain) and a transformation arc that made him redeem. An arc that culminates in the death of the character and his attempt to stop the worst of all, Thanos.
There would therefore have been no compelling reason to bring Loki back to the screen.
But there’s actually a simple one: Loki is one of the most loved characters in the entire MCU (Marvel Cinematic Universe). Thanks to the casting (Tom Hiddleston gives space to many different character nuances) and to the moral and psychological complexity of the character, the audience wants to know more about him, empathizing with his numerous and morally questionable struggles – after all, despite being his ‘better’ version, Loki is still the God of Mischief. Disney and Marvel could not miss the opportunity of listening and indulging their audiences’ desires.
Anyway, the show is not just about Loki. A great contribution is given by the involvement, for example, of Owen Wilson. The chemistry between his character (Mobius) and Loki is one of the most successful choices of the show.
Waldron also worked on Rick & Morty, and this helped in writing the dynamics of a duo that happens to travel through time and space.
The existence of an organization like the TVA raises philosophical questions about free will: does it really exist or is it just an illusion and everyone acts by carrying out actions that someone else is predetermining for them?
Even Tom Hiddleston (who is also an executive producer of the show) gave his opinion to The Verge:
“Free will is such an interesting, forever question. I think human beings have been asking to what extent we have the power of self-determination, self-realization, choice over our actions, and whether we can govern the course of our lives. It goes back to evolutionary or psychological arguments about nature and nurture and why we are who we are. Perhaps it’s the journey of a lifetime to figure it out, to truly take the wheel of your own life. […] That’s a complex answer. It’s a complex question. So I hope so. I hope truly free will is possible. But for all of us, I think it can be a long journey of self-discovery.”
In addition, the character of Loki is the best way to convey the theme of the show. As he is ‘reset’ to his bad version, another arc of transformation begins, deeper than the one in the movies. He must learn to be better of course – a pretty obvious thing for a character who’s born as a villain – but also to understand that everyone is the architect of his own destiny and can decide to change, grow, learning to accept and love himself.
Director Kate Herron (also known for Sex Education) has embraced the theme by making it her own, adding her original, personal inspiration into it.
The Marvel’s Doctor Who?
The many references that can be found in Loki are quite intuitive. But their creators have cleared any doubts anyway. The TVA is a rather retro-futuristic world. It controls the past, the present and the future, but the style of architecture, clothing and furniture is that of the 1970s. TVA’s employees use antiquated tools (projectors, typewriters or printers), but with futuristic elements such as holograms. So dated that it feels timeless.
There’s a little bit of Doctor Who, a little bit of Wes Anderson‘s quirkiness, some of Terry Gilliam‘s influence from Brazil and even a little bit of Stanley Kubrick. It’s an unprecedented style in the MCU.
The TVA’s structure looks a bit like The Big Brother of 1984 with some Mad Men aesthetic. They believe they are good and stylish.
As for the main antagonist, an inspiration to the mechanics of The Wizard of OZ is strong: who is behind the curtain? A mysterious character, who has here a fun Willy Wonka attitude, but who, in the future, will have an impact on the new phase of the MCU movies.
Not a perfect show, but a turning point
From the other two Disney+ shows, Loki takes on the one hand a bit of the ‘buddies‘ side from The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, and on the other WandaVision‘s weirdness, amplifying it to create something completely new. Like them, even Loki is not perfect and lacks some ingenuity, but it’s an enjoyable show in spite of small plot holes and some little influencing events on the main plot. However, it looks like a turning point in this superhero TV era. With Loki, a new phase of the Marvel Cinematic Universe officially begins.