Sustained continuity is the foundation of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. It binds together the stories, characters, and worlds as one singular organism that audiences can ingest as though it were one story. The team at Marvel Studios under the carefully guided hand of Kevin Feige keep a firm grip on their ever-expanding Cinematic Universe, ensuring that each film or television series does not break this line of continuity. And much like the villainous TVA (Time Variance Authority) portrayed in this show, Marvel Studios have strived to keep their Cinematic Universe neat and tidy. Until now.
Enter Loki, a devious fork within Marvel Studios Phase 4 lineup, one that promises to cause as much mischief as the trickster god himself. Producer Kevin Feige regards this show as “tremendously important” to the future of the MCU, and after viewing the finale of this series, those words are truly put into perspective. Loki is perhaps the most pivotal Marvel story since Avengers: Endgame (2019), primarily because it truly paves the way for Marvel’s potential new saga, consisting of 23 live-action films and television shows, just as their previous Saga was (The Infinity Saga). Loki is in many ways the gateway to where it all begins, a variant of sorts to The Avengers (2012) – of course, structurally, these two narratives are nothing alike, but what they represent is the true beginning of it all, where events are set in motion. And motion, they most certainly are in.
Loki distinguishes itself as a series of Marvel prestige, with a focussed and punctual plot that immediately sets the stage for the mind-games that follow. Creator Michael Waldron was wise not to continue the trend of cons and betrayals that the character of Loki has been known for; instead opting for the writing itself to be the ultimate trickster. In this, we are given a story that contains just as many genuine twists and turns as there are timelines that we visit. These twists aren’t cheap, they’re earnt; Loki feels like a series that moves from revelation to revelation, unraveling and untangling the mysteries as they unfold – unlike the similar mystery-driven show WandaVision that had a tendency to move from question to question – creating a somewhat frustrating viewing experience. Episode to episode, Loki keeps a pace of setup and payoff that allows for a consistent stream of satisfying story beats, making the mystery feel larger as it goes along, not smaller. It’s clear that there was great effort put into the structure of this show and the results truly pay.
Reprised by Tom Hiddleston, the character of Loki clearly lacks that same cunning bite you’d expect from a god that just turned New York upside down – and that’s because this series quickly finds a way to discard the Loki of The Avengers (2012) with the more enlightened version who has experienced all the trauma of the Infinity Saga. All through the use of clever storytelling techniques, a valiant workaround is used to align this Loki with the more morally sound version that died at the hands of Thanos. However, there’s a distinct feeling in the air that the heroic persona of this Loki feels a little too quickly developed, a tad unearnt. But it is in the supporting characters that this show truly reaches its heights, as their chemistry with Loki results in him butting horns in an attempt to outplay them. In particular, the role of Mobius by Owen Wilson has a friendly disposition and clever wit that makes him a fantastic pairing with the character of Loki. The role of Sylvie by actress Sophia Di Martino adds an additional layer of mystique to the series, as well as providing a character for audiences to unravel, as Loki himself is, for the most part, an already fully developed character.
Costume designer Christine Wada outfits the Loki with unique flourishes while keeping a consistent the aesthetic we are familiar with, Loki himself retains the green and gold colour scheme, and sometimes the iconic horns make a reappearance. The costuming for Sylvie also delightfully represents her character’s inspiration from the comics. We are introduced to the TVA in Loki which is now a new dimension to the Marvel Cinematic Universe. The grand mid-century architecture designs in the TVA seem to be inspired by Blade Runner where it utilised imposing large metropolises illuminated by dark oranges over a vast black background. In the series third episode we travel to Lamentis-1, a moon on the brink of being destroyed – here some of the show’s visual flaws show their face, as the vast environment proves too challenging to render in convincing detail, despite the saturated colors doing much of the heavy lifting. Though any inadequacies are quickly snuffed out by the series final two episodes, which output truly jaw-dropping visual effects.
Loki’s visual aesthetic is undoubtedly different to what we are accustomed to seeing in the MCU. While Wandavision and The Falcon and the Winter Soldier had those moments where the CGI just didn’t gel well with what was happening on screen, Loki, for the most part, has CGI moments that rival what you’d see on the big screen. The visual hand drawn illuminated design of Miss Minutes interacting with real life characters should be a blue-print for any film that is wanting to incorporate cartoon characters and live-action subjects. We are also introduced to a host of new camera techniques in Loki that aren’t often seen in many of the MCU films. The most notable one is the stunning one take shot of Loki and Sylvie running through Lamentis-1 as they barge their way through the larged panicked crowds in order to be saved from the moon’s demise. Much like most comic book contents nowadays Loki is jammed packed with subtle and clever easter eggs which will have die hard comic book lovers rewatching the show to find them all, much like Guardians of the Galaxy.
The MCU is home to some fantastic themes for its characters, some of which are iconic. Loki has solidified itself as the best original score of the entirety of the MCU. Natalie Holt’s tremendous work provides our protagonist with a fitting theme while establishing a deep sense of tone throughout the series. The mixed usage of analog synthesizers and Scandinavian instruments used allow for a dark and ominous gravitas to the tone and character. The various clock sounds play into the time element throughout the entirety of the series. These pieces of music support the tone and shape the emotions of the entire series. The entire palette of music and sound in this series builds a strong sense of atmosphere in a way that we haven’t seen done in the MCU yet.
Loki retains all of the trickery and style that makes this character so much fun, all without sacrificing much of anything. The gates are open, Phase 4 of Marvel’s greater narrative plan has truly begun with this landmark series. Loki narratively outperforms some of Marvel Studios best films while building a larger story that is still being written – if this show is any metric for the quality of storytelling Marvel has planned, audiences are in for a fantastic next two years of content.