The Loki premiere sucks the fun out of its protagonist and its premise

(L-R): Loki (Tom Hiddleston) and Mobius (Owen Wilson) in Marvel Studios' LOKI, exclusively on Disney+. Photo courtesy of Marvel Studios. ©Marvel Studios 2021. All Rights Reserved.
(L-R): Loki (Tom Hiddleston) and Mobius (Owen Wilson) in Marvel Studios' LOKI, exclusively on Disney+. Photo courtesy of Marvel Studios. ©Marvel Studios 2021. All Rights Reserved. /

Between the massive phenomena that was Wandavision and the subsequent success of The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, Marvel and Disney+’s collaborations have proven to bring in some major returns for both companies – and with Avengers Campus recently open and Black Widow on the way, it’s a good time to be a Marvel fan. Riding the high of so much success and excitement, Marvel and Disney+’s latest collaboration, Loki, hits Disney+ today – but unfortunately, what should’ve been the franchise’s easiest sell is turning out to be its weakest effort so far.

Set just seconds after Loki disappears with the tesseract in the middle of Avengers: EndgameLoki follows everyone’s favorite Norse god of mischief as he finds himself at the mercy of the TVA – the  Time Variance Authority – for his meddling with earth’s timelines. Though he’s set to be executed, he manages to smooth-talk his way into working alongside time-traveling Agent Mobius (Owen Wilson) to track down a dangerous variant wreaking havoc across time and space – himself.

On paper, Loki has a near-perfect premise: after all, you can’t go wrong with a snarky beloved supporting character causing chaos and galavanting through space, right? That’s what we thought, heading into Loki, but what became very apparent very quickly is that the series seems to be doing everything in its power to suck the fun out of both its premise and its iconic protagonist. The idea of Loki bouncing around history and stirring up trouble is more than enough ammo for a series, but Loki makes the bizarre choice of bogging itself down under layers and layers of bureaucracy.

Instead of letting Loki breath and give Tom Hiddleston the space to work his mischievous magic, the series instead throws our favorite anti-hero into shackles and spends its entire premiere walking him around, over-explaining the mechanics of time travel, and introducing a gaggle of characters each blander than the next. Avengers: Endgame did plenty of explanation about the mechanics of time travel, but unlike that film, Loki spends too much time hand-wringing over making sure the audience is all caught up with the mythos of the narrative, and forgets to make the show fun.

Sure, we do get the brief bright spot of Miss Minutes – the perky animated clock – explaining the history of the timekeepers to Loki, but other than that, a staggeringly large portion of the premiere is devoted to Loki pretty much getting the workplace tour of the TVA. When he’s not being ordered around or saddled with more exposition, Loki quite literally spends the episode watching what amounts to a ‘greatest hits’ clip show of moments from the MCU.

It’s bizarre to us that a series premiere would spend the precious time of it’s premiere – the very first taste fans get of this new show – recycling footage we’ve already scene, and laying out rule after explanation after macguffin to lay the groundwork for the series to come. It’s not exciting, it’s not fun, it’s not even particularly interesting – just Loki (and the audience) having things explained to him, with little moments of dialogue to remind us that yes, this is the same character you know and love from the MCU films.

Speaking of the man himself, Loki shapes Hiddleston’s charismatic villain into a strangely passive protagonist, which results in Hiddleston not getting much wiggle room to truly shine in the series opener. Sure, he does a suitable job with the minimal material he’s given – and makes the most of the episode’s single impactful scene (which takes place amid the many clip show reruns), but the premiere doesn’t do Hiddleston many favors in establishing him as an exciting, interesting, or compelling leading man.

From the outside, one might expect that Loki himself is the charismatic oddball who injects life into the cast, where the rest play straight man to him, but in Loki, with the minimal material he’s given, the burden falls on the rest of the developing ensemble to inject life into the premiere. The most successful of the bunch is Owen Wilson’s Mobius. Wilson brings his signature offbeat delivery to the role, but also just the right amount of endearing charm to make him a compelling secondary protagonist.

Though the dynamic between Mobius and Loki is a little too murky and poorly defined to truly be considered a strong buddy-cop element, it feels as if the series is pushing them in that direction, and if they play their cards right, Mobius could be a wonderfully effective foil as well as an interesting character in his own right. As he stands now, though, it’s much of the same about how we feel on Loki – the charisma of an actor can only take you so far, and he’s in need of some strong writing to really shine going forward.

The rest of the cast exists in varying shades of uninteresting – Wunmi Mosaku’s Hunter B-15 is your standard tough-as-nails security chief, without much other substance to her. She works well enough as the solid, anti-Loki presence on the show, but when pretty much every other character the show also doesn’t like him, B-15 just feels like more of the same. Also frustratingly uninteresting is Ravonna Renslayer, played by the incomparable Gugu Mbatha-Raw.

Renslayer is the show’s third example of a boring character putting constraints on a talented, capable actor – though she exists as the show’s pseudo-police chief/head honcho, she’s just as bland, buearacratic, and uninteresting as the rest of the bunch. Granted, she hasn’t been given time to properly develop (nor has B-15, for that matter), but when two of your four main cast members are bone dry straight out of the gate, it doesn’t bode well for the rest of the series.

‘Boring’ is certainly a word we never thought we’d use in association with a character as well-known for causing chaos as the god of Mischief himself, but there’s no other way to describe the premiere of Loki. Disney+’s seemingly infinite pockets ensure that the series is well-scored and benefits from some interesting production design, but beyond aesthetic trappings, Loki is a major letdown. While it’s not outright bad, Loki is a major letdown – the worst possible thing that a series based on such a dynamic character could be.

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What did you think of the Loki premiere? Sound off in the comments.