Can you feel that? The leaves are turning orange, the air is getting a bit chilly and Kevin Feige is knocking on your door letting you know there is another Marvel Studios release. Time to blow the dust off my Disney+ account to watch Loki's season two premiere.
For those of you who didn’t follow Loki’s first season stint, the beloved Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) character Loki leads this Disney+ Original after his third death, and consequently, his third resurrection.
First introduced as Thor’s evil brother, Loki, played by Tom Hiddleston, has been a constant in the MCU and is one of the only characters to have appeared in all five phases of the franchise. After his introduction, Loki quickly became one of the most likable characters in the franchise, even with his journey from villain to anti-hero through a long redemption arc.
Set in a space outside time, Loki follows its namesake character through his experience with the Time Variance Authority (TVA), which he is sent to after escaping from the hands of the Avengers in Avengers: Endgame. Long story short, Loki travels through time and leads viewers on a journey of self-discovery, mystery and mischief. It’s cool.
The season premiere, directed by Justin Benson and Aaron Moorhead, was originally released on Oct. 6th.
Through a technical lens, the first episode surpasses expectations: The cinematography is incredibly gratifying and unique. The episode’s eccentric editing shines through as some of the best of the MCU.
Ke Huy Quan carries this episode with a genius and convincing performance as a newly introduced character, Ouroboros, who is the episode’s namesake. He is introduced to the story as a TVA agent who’s sought out by Mobius, Loki’s former rival turned ally, and Loki after the latter keeps disappearing out of thin air against his will. Ouroboros, or O.B., is a quirky, passionate and comedic character who emanates relatability and an immediate sense of likeability. With this performance, it is clear Quan is gunning for an Emmy to add to his collection of accolades.
Tom Hiddleston’s Loki feels familiar. This show is a testament to Hiddleston’s passion for Loki and his love for the craft, which bleeds through his emotional performance throughout this episode.
But the cinematography and passion of the actors’ performances can’t save this show from its many issues.
Loki’s first issue comes as a consequence of the actors’ (SAG-AFTRA) strike. Marvel is a brand that relies heavily on the promotion of their works by the actors. Think of all of the interviews, sit-downs and commercials that came with Avengers: Endgame and Spiderman: No Way Home. Because of the strikes and the inability of the actors to promote their work, Loki has been considerably under the radar compared to other Marvel projects.
Another issue with this season's debut is that Owen Wilson’s performance of Mobius feels strange compared to the previous season. When put next to Tom Hiddleston’s Loki, their usual subdued and alleviating banter falls short. The key to this difference could be the lack of screen time they share, but it can also be accounted for by the lack of the usual push-and-pull between the characters. Their past struggles with one another made their interactions exciting, but at least in this episode, their relationship feels too common and comfortable.
This brings up the issue at the core of the Loki series: the show is always desperately trying to use a beloved character to hold up what would otherwise be a considerably uninteresting television show.
If this show were created with another production company, didn’t use the same actors and was cut away from the Marvel Cinematic Universe, then you would have nothing more than a boring show that would have been canceled after the first season. The thing that holds this show together and keeps it interesting is the withering connection between Marvel and its audience. Without the rest of the MCU, this show would not have any stakes.
When watching Loki, it’s impossible to ignore it for what it truly is: a last-ditch attempt to capitalize on a character whose story has clearly come to an end.
As much as I love Marvel (which the posters on my walls can attest to), I am disappointed. Sure, it is just the beginning of the season, but this is a key time for Marvel. With declining favorability toward the franchise, this is an imperative time for Marvel to prove its relevance to its audience. Having only a single released episode that doesn’t hit the right notes doesn’t help their quest.
In some ways, the character of Loki represents the MCU as a whole, a once-beloved character whose constant resurrections and battle to stay relevant overshadows the ingenuity we were gifted with at the beginning.
So, what can we expect for the rest of the season?
Emotional moments? Maybe a predictable plot twist here and there. Maybe we’ll get to see crocodile Loki once again. Who knows? All I know is, that as much as I’m disappointed, I will be watching and waiting to see what other tricks Loki has up his sleeves.