Loki "Glorious Purpose" Recap

As the MCU returns to Disney Plus for a whopping third time in five months, I cannot help but notice the similarities to Phase One of the Infinity Saga. Much like the early days of the films, Marvel's television outings have been uneven, struggling to gain their tonal and narrative footing.

Now, that doesn't mean I haven't enjoyed Disney Plus's MCU shows. WandaVision was a triumph of imagination and originality, albeit one with a clunky ending. And you certainly cannot call The Falcon and The Winter Soldier a home run, but it had some intriguing ideas the MCU can continue to expand on in the future. Marvel just hasn't found the right formula from the television side to quite stick the landing yet.

If any character can change that, though, it is Loki. There is an exciting aura- a temporal aura, that is- surrounding the God of Mischief's venture to the small screen. After a better part of a decade, fans are excited to see how Tom Hiddleston's Loki will fare outside of the shadow of Chris Hemsworth's Thor.

So far, the early returns are promising, though one episode won't tell the whole story. At the very least, it seems Loki is the vehicle through which the MCU will transition from the Infinity Saga to the next phase, which should provide a multiverse...I mean a multitude of unique stories.

So let's dig in!

Loki opens with a return to 2012 and the Battle of New York. The Avengers have defeated the wannabe king and are taking him into custody. There is only one problem. Another set of Avengers from the future have traveled back in time to steal the Tesseract, and the botched attempt allows the cosmic cube to fall in the hands of none other than the God of Mischief himself.

If this sounds familiar, it is because this scene is pulled straight from Avengers: End Game, with a few minor tweaks for the show. But it is also our inlet to Loki's next adventure, as he uses the Tesseract to teleport to freedom in the Gobi Desert.

Unfortunately for Loki, that freedom is only temporary. In using the Tesseract, he finds himself in the crosshairs of the Time Variance Authority, or TVA for short. The TVA is responsible for monitoring the sacred timeline and act swiftly to reset it when necessary. By narrowly escaping the clutches of the Avengers, Loki has changed the set path of time, inadvertently becoming a variant - a time hopper creating chaos in the timeline.

It doesn't take long for the TVA's Minutemen to apprehend Loki and take him into custody. Once the episode moves to the TVA's headquarters, the show lets loose on absurd bureaucratic fun- an oxymoron if I ever heard one. The TVA is Parks and Recreation meets Mad Men, a weird conglomeration of '60s aesthetic and dull government work. Yet, it creates a rich world that I want to experience more of, even as Loki struggles to escape at every corner.

There is a lot of humor in the mundane, and showrunner Michael Waldron, who also served as writer for "Glorious Purpose," doesn't hesitate to drain that well dry. Loki's whole intake sequence is a comedy of procedure. He has to sign off on everything he has ever said, yet more documents continue to print as he stubbornly protests. Loki is concerned he may unknowingly be a robot as he cautiously steps through the equivalent of a metal detector, fearing the machine will tear him apart if he is. Then there is the dreaded number ticker, a favorite of every deli and DMV, that Loki begrudgingly takes despite being one of two people in line. And loosing your number has shocking consequences.

By the time Loki reaches the judgment for his crimes, the Asgardian has had enough of the torturous tediousness of the TVA. Besides, he didn't commit any crimes. It was the Avengers who jumped through time, allowing Loki to escape.

At least that is what Loki thinks. In reality, the Avenger's escapades through the quantum realm were supposed to happen. Loki's exit left was not. That is the thing about the TVA. They don't care about right or wrong. No, this mysterious organization only cares about preserving the sacred timeline. And at the moment, that timeline is under attack.

Enter Mobius M. Mobius. And yes, the M stands for Mobius. Well, maybe, a simple Google search yielded no real confirmation.

Mobius, played by the ever-delightful Owen Wilson, is sent to investigate a disruption of the timeline in 1549 France. It is the sixth attack against the TVA in a week, resulting in the death of numerous agents. In each case, the attacker stole reset charges meant to revert the timeline to its correct order. It's a tricky case for Mobius to crack, but after learning of Loki's arrest, he sees the potential for a valuable ally in his quest to break the investigation wide open.

There is a fun rapport between Mobius and Loki as they spar verbally. Wilson is particularly compelling as the tried and true company man Mobius, outfitting him with a genuine subtlety while tapping into his natural charm and wit. He is the perfect foil for the devilish Loki and is one of the few members of the MCU who manages to keep the smooth-talking god on his toes.

While Wilson is a standout, Hiddleston is more than capable of matching him beat for beat. After ten years of perfecting this role, it is easy to take for granted how good the actor is as Loki. If the premiere is any indication, though, there is more of the character for the Hiddleston to explore. "Glorious Purpose" provides Loki with little moments of solemn solitude and intimacy, allowing Hiddleston the opportunity to tap into some emotional layers not seen before.

As Mobius tries to recruit Loki to the TVA, he shows the Asgardian various clips of his life, including confirming Loki's identity as the notorious thief D.B Cooper. What follows is a compilation of Loki's greatest hits, moments and events the audience will recognize from various movies that this Loki has yet to experience. It all culminates in his death, his glorious purpose of becoming a king unrealized. This whole sequence is the true emotional crux of the episode.

Admittedly, I was fearful that utilizing footage from the movies would pull "Glorious Purpose" into the dreaded clip show territory commonly used in episodic comedies from the '90s. Waldron and episode director Kate Herron manage to balance the sequence nicely, though. They smartly keep the focus on Hiddleston, whose outstanding performance provided a level of emotional gravitas unfamiliar to the character. Somehow, the duo managed to condense nine years of character development into two sequences while simultaneously giving Loki an exciting new direction.

By the end, Loki is ready to acknowledge his life is a facade, a lie constructed to fool those around into seeing him as more important than he really is. Could Loki be playing Mobius to gain the upper hand? Of course, but there is a vulnerability in their exchange that makes me think he is truly a changed person.

With Loki seemingly onboard, Mobius lets him know the identity of the variant terrorizing the TVA: Loki. More than likely, this hooded Loki that shows up at the end to trample over the TVA is not the same as Hiddleston's version. Perhaps it is a Loki from a different multiverse or an older version of the character. Richard Grant's role in the show is still unknown. Could he be taking up the mantle of an older God of Mischief?

Either way, Loki appears poised to take on another version of himself. And considering Wldrons attachment to both Loki and Doctor Strange and the Multiverse of Madness, don't be surprised if that showdown integrates the multiverse in some fashion.

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