With the wild success of The Mandalorian on Disney Plus many have been waiting for a Marvel show to have a similar impact. Loki is a valiant effort to recreate The Mandalorian effect and does come close with strong acting, directing, and music. With that said, unrefined story structure, and sometimes rough animations get in the way.
Loki follows a alterternate dimension version of the God of Mischief (often referred to as a Variant within the show) and his journey of self and world discovery within a time based police squad called the TVA. I’m going to stop there to avoid spoilers.
There’s a lot to like in Loki, especially with it’s dialogue. Lines are constantly strong and do a good job keeping the audience entertained. The show is developed by a former Rick and Morty writer, Michael Waldron, and I feel like his work is even better here (at least going off of the work I know he did for Rick and Morty). Other writing members do a fantastic job as well in delivering scenes that are both thrilling and entertaining.
The show’s direction is also consistently strong. Kate Herron does a great job of directing Loki’s misadventures even if some scenes feel like they need to cut corners in post production.
Now it’s into the big highlights, The acting in this show is fantastic. I think we all thought that Tom Hiddleston would bring some fantastic charm to the show but there isn’t a miscast role here. Gugu Mbatha-Raw as Renslayer, Wunmi Mosaku as B-15, and Tara Strong as Miss Minutes were all great. There are many other performers and characters that I would like to bring up but I can’t due to spoilers. Just know that some of the big reveal characters are fantastic. The biggest standout star is that last person I expected. Owen Wilson as Mobius is fantastic. Not only is his chemistry with Tom Hiddleston strong but he does a great job of playing both a funny and tragic character. The show is almost worth watching just as a reminder of how great Owen Wilson can be.
Lastly, my favorite thing about Loki season one is the music by Natalie Holt. While the soundtracks of classic rock from the Guardian movies have always had a soft spot in my heart, most of Marvel’s original compositions have never really stood out. Not to say that they aren’t good scores, they’re just not the first thing I think about when it comes to Marvel film reflections. Natalie Holt brings a perfect mix of science fiction synth like music that meets with some choir based epic fantasy music. I’m listening to the music as I write this. I can’t get enough of Holt’s fantastic score.
As good as the show can be there are some glaring issues with Loki’s first season.
Firstly, fans of the action in Falcon and the Winter Soldier will not be impressed by what Loki has to offer. Action can often feel more stagy and doesn’t have that much of an impact. In Loki’s defence it never striked me as an action orientated show. I can imagine it’s hard not to expect strong action going off of previous Marvel outings but as the story progresses I do think it’s an easy hurdle to get over.
Visual effects can often be a blunder for the show. While there are some gorgeous moments when it comes to art design and CGI it’s hard to feel like that the show didn’t bite off more than it can chew. Luckily the bigger and more important moments make it out fine. It’s really the smaller details that suffer. There are moments where it feels like there is a distinct difference between what’s caught on camera and what’s caught on a computer. Certain cause and effect physics don’t make that much sense since with transition from real to digital coming out as painfully obvious. There was a scene where two characters were walking on a wet surface that they left no trail. This led to me thinking that the characters were floating over the surface despite them taking clear steps. It’s these little things that can take you out of the show. It is important to remember that budgets between movies and TV shows are very different but it’s still a little disappointing coming from a show that obviously wants to replicate a movie size budget.
Lastly, the biggest issue is the story structure within the first three episodes. After I watched the first episode I was impressed with the story progression, after the next two I realized that the first half of the season came across as a first story act. Not a lot of progress is made in the first three episodes and the progress that is made feels largely thrown out by the time episode four comes around. Though the decisions made about who the villain is pays off by the end it’s hard not to feel like the show pulled a bait and switch within regards to the antagonist. Marvel has had an issue figuring out how TV works with Falcon and the Winter Soldier and it looks like that issue did spread to Loki. The first half of the show feels like the first thirty to forty-five minutes of a movie stretched into three episodes. While Loki feels like it has things mostly figured out by episode four I’m likely to skip the first half of this season on repeated viewings. I don’t know if this issue is due to writing or if it’s producers demanding that episodes be a little too serialized, but it’s something that needs to be sorted out at Marvel TV.
Despite a rocky first half and some rough CGI, Loki is never bad. Even at its worst the dialogue, acting, and music still pulls it through. I think fans of the Loki character will be more than happy. If you aren’t a fan of Marvel’s more comedic centric sci-fi (i.e. the Guardian movies or Thor Ragnarok) then this might not be for you. Even with its flaws I can see Loki gathering a large following. If you haven’t gotten on the Loki train yet now is probably better than ever as the show is better binged. I was more than happy by the time I finished the last episode and I’m very excited for season two. If anything I just wanna see Owen Wilson and listen to this music again.