Few could have predicted just how big a phenomenon WandaVision would become when it launched on Disney Plus at the beginning of 2021, despite the fact that it was the first post-Endgame show to tie into MCU continuity. The fact that it was the first post-Endgame content (aside from Sony/Marvel team-up Spider-Man: Far From Home) we’d had since 2019, thanks to the pandemic screwing up release plans for Black Widow, Eternals and other MCU-related content also played a part in its popularity. The fact that it was so damn good, with a true mystery to unravel at its core and a compellingly clever sitcom parody structure – that evolved every week – also ensured that it rapidly became the kind of water-cooler, shared pop culture moment that’s rarely seen in an age of binge-watching and increasingly diverse selections of TV shows, for all tastes, available at any time.

Then came Falcon and The Winter Soldier; though far more traditional in structure and more recognisably MCU-styled in tone, it nonetheless featured a great many jaw-dropping moments that sent social media abuzz and a surprising amount of heartfelt, relevant social commentary, though it had an issue that afflicted many an MCU story: a villain problem.

With the arrival of Loki, we have one of the MCU’s strongest characters and – at times – definitely one of the Cinematic Universe’s most compelling villains, resurrected and given his own series thanks to the time-hopping, timeline-altering shenanigans seen in Endgame. Will Asgard’s God of Mischief be another excellent show to add to the MCU’s impressive – albeit small so far – roster? On current evidence, very much so.

We last caught sight of Loki in an alternate aftermath of the battle from 2012’s Avengers movie, stealing the Tesseract from the clutches of SHIELD and escaping through a portal to who-knows-where. He’s soon picked up by the Time Variance Authority – a sort of temporal Men in Black who police time itself – and saved from erasure by Agent Mobius, who needs assistance with a mystery that is unfolding across the ages.

The show’s production design is astonishingly beautiful – the TVA’s HQ evoking classic futuristic designs of 60s and 70s sci-fi and speculative fiction, with a hilariously mundane, bureaucratic feel to everything we see. This extends to the amusingly deadpan staff, who’ve clearly been having to deal with the dull reality of their positions for a very long, indeterminate and perhaps variable amount of time. There’s a brilliant piece of exposition, delivered in a classic 60-style animated form, that brings us – and our mischievous, annoyed protagonist – up to speed with who the TVA are and where they’ve come from. Just this small piece of the puzzle opens up so many possibilities for the future of the MCU – it’s intoxicating stuff, but perhaps a bit too early to get excited about, given how the rug has been pulled from under us before with potentially-universe expanding teases (Evan Peters as Quicksilver – in WandaVision – being a recent and very disappointingly resolved example). Still, the whole aesthetic and tone shows an absolutely incredible attention to detail, in much the same way that WandaVision brought different decades of sitcom styles to our screens so meticulously.

As is to be expected from Tom Hiddleston’s appearances throughout the MCU, it’s genuinely funny too – Loki is just such an engagingly egotistical presence and Hiddleston is brilliant in the role he was clearly born to play. Owen Wilson’s Agent Mobius has great chemistry with Hiddleston as well; his world – or perhaps time – weariness playing well against Hiddleston’s smartest-guy-in-the-room egotism.

The central mystery set up here is an intriguing one too; though there’s quite a bit of exposition to get through until we get there – and a readjustment of Loki’s attitude that needs to be engineered, with yet another rehabilitation of MCU black sheep Thor: The Dark World’s events – it’s all confidently, competently and compellingly done, in a show that once again demonstrates the range of tones and styles that the current MCU can offer. Though the big screen Marvel stories are back this year, it seems to me that their most interesting sagas are unfolding in a much shorter space and over a different span of time to the movies that allows them to breathe a bit more. We’re able to spend a lot more time with characters that haven’t had the space to develop as much as we would have liked before; though Loki has been afforded a bit more time on-screen than, say, Sam Wilson or Bucky Barnes ever got before they got their own series, it’s still a joy to see him return and get a deeper insight into his character.

Loki is certainly continuing that off-kilter vibe that WandaVision started to bring to the MCU too – hopefully it’ll continue to build on the groundwork laid by the excellent first episode over the course of the series. One thing’s for sure – it’s certainly shaping up to be a fun ride already. Glorious Purpose indeed.

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