Loki on Disney+ Review: Six Episode Therapy Session with Owen Wilson

Pop Culture

August 02, 2021

They're really milking the cow with this one, aren't they?

Credit: Animated Times

Before I get snapped out of existence by the Marvel Gods, hear me out.

I enjoy Marvel movies. I haven't seen all of them — I stopped at season 34, episode 18 — but those that I have seen I enjoyed for what they are.

Escapism. Superhero flicks with a winning formula — shirtless enhanced super-soldiers + sky beam + quipping = a billion-dollar box office success. And that's fine.

We all need to put food on the table. Even the Marvel Studios.

I was holding back on reviewing any of the Disney+ Marvel shows because I had not noticed any big idea or a big picture that would warrant an entire Oped. I started watching because WandaVision had promised an interesting concept in the trailers, and I got curious. So I jumped back on the bandwagon. Until eventually, I did notice a common thread.

There is a new trend on the block of Marvel Cinema.

Marvel decided to venture out into “serious writing” and prove the great director Martin Scorsese wrong.

Of course, the number one reason why Marvel's still going is to keep making bank. Like I said, that's fine.

Shoving a heavy-handed social commentary down my throat in an attempt to qualify projects about purple aliens from space collecting rainbow glowing rocks that protect the reality as “serious cinema”, is not fine.

In case you missed it, some two and a half years ago, Martin Scorsese described Marvel movies as “not a real cinema” and compared them to “theme parks”. And then instantly backed the statement up with Irishman (2019) to drive the point and Loki's daggers straight into Marvel's fragile ego.

Marvel took it so personally that they graced us with the former terminator, one of the most intimidating boss characters aka the Winter Soldier crying around a fire and going to state-mandated occupational health treatment. Then there was the Scarlet Witch enslaving a town because she was sad and now the ruthless Norse God of Mischief talking about his feelings in a prolonged six-episode therapy session with Owen Wilson.

And he never says “Wauuuhw” once, which was like the only hook that I kept waiting and watching for. And it never came. I want my money back, Disney+.

Credit: Marvel.com

Just a side note, this is not the “ten reasons why I hate you” kind of review. There are some positives to be given credit to, and I will talk about them.

The plot is as follows:

Loki steals the Tesseract aka the blue cube that nobody knows what it really does to this day for the millionth and the third time in the Endgame movie and escapes imprisonment. By doing so, he messes with something called the sacred timeline, disturbing the proper flow of time — so the institution responsible for guarding the sacred timeline, the Time Variance Authority (TVA) that happens to exist in a space that inconspicuously looks like a government office of the Soviet Union Russia with agents dressed in suits from the 1970s Soviet Union Russia, apprehends him.

They strip him shirtless within the first five minutes of the first episode because he is now a Marvel hero and must adhere to the same rules as all Marvel heroes do.

(This is how you do equality, you guys. Instead of quitting objectifying women, we will start objectifying men, too. You go, Hollywood feminism. You go.)

They intend to kill him until one of the agents played by Owen Wilson decides that Loki might in fact land them a hand in arresting a dangerous criminal — a version of himself from a different timeline.

Let us begin.

Credit: Disney + from Giphy.com

Thumbs up: Tom Hiddleston

After twelve years, I am still not any closer to deciphering what Tom Hiddleston is doing in these movies. He's a classically trained actor, has some heavy-hitter theater, (Hamlet, Betrayal) Television (The Night Manager) and Film (War Horse) credits behind his belt, yet he still said yes to this project. Sure, Loki was his big break, he did a tremendous job with it, made the world fall in love with him, including myself...

Ehm, that's not the point.

However, Loki's profound villain to hero arc ended in Infinity war. Anything else after that is redundant, senseless, and ignorant to the legacy they have built for the character.

But alas, anytime Tom's on screen, I feel what Loki feels, I cry when Loki cries and laugh whenever his sarcasm pops up. Thank your casting directors, Marvel, if it weren't for Tom, nobody would be watching your self-indulgent, self-important splashes of psychoanalytical insight bulls**t that nobody asked for.

Credit: Disney+ from Giphy.com

Thumbs Down: The Plot

There was a huge elephant in the room that tooted really loudly anytime I tried to enjoy the show — and it would have been even if the writers were more subtle and did not remind me of it in almost every line of dialogue Loki has:

We're dealing with a version of Loki from the first Avengers movie.

He has not experienced the guilt of being responsible for his mom's death yet. He has not gotten closer to Thor yet, he has not fought alongside Thor to save Asgard yet, he has not felt the need to atone, to re-think his life purpose.

So how do we solve the “twelve-year character development we just flushed down the toilet” problem?

We sit Loki down and have him watch a YouTube video reel of his life.


Wouldn't it have made a lot more sense to have Wanda split the timeline and then introduce a “redeemed hero Loki” version from another universe we are familiar with now?

Frankly, I'm at a loss as to how I would solve this problem because you really can't. You can't rush character development. You can't have Loki turn on a dime because he sees his death play out in front of him or reads about the destruction of his home planet in a file. It's stupid, it's cheap, and it doesn't work.

Anytime I start to mildly ease into it, the writers have him say stuff like: “They're going to let all these people die.”

Well, what the [censored] does he care? He just killed a bunch of people in New York like two days ago.

Thumbs up: Cinematography

Marvel movies always look gorgeous. They get really creative with the planets the protagonists travel to, the mixing of colors, and the set where the story happens. Everything looks real and cool, the transitions between locations are smooth sail.

Episode three where Loki finds himself on a planet called Lamentis-1 is one of the most aesthetically pleasing Marvel works I've seen. Hats off to the VFX artists who designed it.

Thumbs Down: the Costumes

So, here’s the thing.

I lived through eighteen years of my life with gray, colorless, ill-fitting Soviet suits and all about them being a mandatory curriculum. I'm over it. And the last thing I want to see in a Marvel show is Loki dressed in one throughout the entirety of the series. Costume designer Christine Wada revealed in the Film School Reject article that they wanted to “strip Loki of his armor”, that's the reason he wears the same suit all the time.

Okay, if they wanted to keep the armor off and make him more human and sympathetic, how about designing a cool new leather suit that would incorporate his signature greenish/blueish colors like in the Thor: Ragnarök? It did not feel like I was watching Loki fight the TVA, it felt like watching Vladimir Putin in his olden-golden KGB days fight the Nazis. Props to Christine Wada for adjusting Sylvie's costume so the actress Sophia Di Martino could breastfeed comfortably in between the takes, but that's as far as the praise goes when it comes to a costume department. This brings me to ...

Thumbs Down: Loki is not the star of the show called “Loki”

At the end of episode two, they introduce a female variant of Loki from a different timeline that goes by the name Sylvie. And from that point on, our Loki is just there to play the second fiddle to her storyline. It's one of the dumbest, most self-destructive, most contradictory creative decisions I have ever seen the Marvel writers make. If you're really capitalizing on our love for Loki, monetizing the fact that he's one of the most if not the most popular character in the franchise — why the [censored] would you give the main storyline to a person we know f**k all about?

I'm fine with giving him a love interest, and honestly, making him fall in love with (technically) himself makes the most sense out of all the options. Especially since the theme of the show is identity and the perception of self.

But Sylvie overtakes the show completely. It destroys the tension, pivots our attention away from what's important, and creates a terrible slew of continuity issues. One being — our Loki's powers are more inconsistent than the USPS delivery service.

He is too clever and too powerful, so they up and down the gas on his abilities to fit into whatever the plot requires him to do for Sylvie's sake instead of him calling the shots and using his wit and magic the way we are used to — consistently and purposefully.

Sure, let's have Loki get drunk for no reason other than manufacturing an unnecessary conflict in the plot that already makes no sense. Or do we need him to suddenly remember he's a God? Let's have him lift a falling building using his telekinesis powers. Ugh.

Image Credit: Disney+ from Giphy.com

Thumbs up: Mobius

I've always liked Owen Wilson and recognized that he was a decent actor all the way back when he was the leading man in Midnight in Paris. Coincidentally, Tom Hiddleston was his co-star back then, too. But for anyone who thought that Owen was just a goofball, here’s your proof to state the contrary. Owen Wilson can act.

Mobius is easily my favorite character in the show, he has fantastic buddy-comedy chemistry with Loki, and if the series was just about the two of them going on an adventure and opening up the multiverse of madness, this entire review would not have happened.

Mobius is one of the TVA agents hunting down dangerous time variants. He's focused, he has a purpose and a moral code, he's intelligent, funny, and doesn't make a big deal out of anything. Most importantly — he understands Loki better than he understands himself. It perpetuates amazing back and forth, and it's generally a lot of fun to watch.

What spoke to me the most is the way they portray a power of thought. Mobius is convinced that the TVA's incentives are virtuous even though they do atrocious things. He believes he's right in his mission. To keep everyone safe and for the greater good — the end justifies the means.

But then Loki comes along and makes him ponder whether the TVA are truly the good guys. Loki plants a thought in Mobius´ mind which ultimately leads him to uncover all the lies. That's how you make a character watch a video and change his whole perspective on life — good job, writers.

Thumbs Up: The Humor

Did we need to see President Loki? An alligator Loki? No.

Does it do anything story-wise? No.

Is it the funniest thing I've seen all year? Yes.

This is what I'm talking about when I say that I don't need a psychological thriller that takes itself way too seriously from Marvel. I don't need a social justice lecture from a man who fights aliens with a Frisbee made of metal that does not exist in real life.

It's uncalled-for, and it's silly. Seeing an alligator with a golden-horned helmet bite off President Loki's hand is not silly in a show about space Gods. It's exactly what we've signed up for.

It shows our version of Loki how incredibly petty he used to be and that a quest for a throne was a tremendous waste of time in the grand scheme of things. He could be more. Fight for something more than himself.

Comic relief and a character development moment all wrapped up in one brilliant scene.

Thumbs Down: The Never-Ending Therapy Sessions

Well, we come full circle and wrap up where we originally started. There.Is.So.Much.Angst.In.This.Show.

And it's all (not)resolved by talking. The show is so self-aware they state in the first episode how much Loki likes to talk, and that's somehow supposed to correct the problem. Nevertheless, they never justify why everyone else talks so much. And not in engaging, leading-edge dialogue, but a freaking Taylor Swift diary entries.

They sit, and they talk about their feelings, except it's not them paying a therapist, it's me paying a subscription to Disney+.

I'm not saying that characters are not allowed to have quiet moments, but when the fifteen-minute therapy session sequences happen every episode, it puts me to sleep.

Moreover, Loki likes to talk for stalling. When he talks, he talks because it's strategic, not because he wants to tell strangers he had known for five minutes all about his childhood, his dead mother, and his trauma from being adopted. Even when he was on the precipice of finishing up his original storyline in Infinity War, approaching Thanos to — I don't know?

Kill him with a butter knife? That part of the plan remains a mystery to me — there was no big, heavy-handed outburst of self-depricating guilt.

He quietly said: “The sun will shine on us again, brother.”

The closest we got to an emotional self-reflecting moment was in Thor: Ragnarök when he subtly hinted at why he went bonkers in the first place: “Hurts, doesn't it? Being lied to. Being told you're one thing and then learning it's all fiction.”

Well, where the [censored] did that Loki go? Pompeii? Alabama? Lamentis-1?

It's a fist to the eye every time he opens his mouth and says something out of character for the personality they had been painting for twelve years.

Then we have the finale where they reveal the villain going forward and setting up future movies. And what does the master of time, the conqueror, the instigator of all events, the “He Who Remains” do?

Well, he sits. And then he talks. About his feelings. He's tired of managing the sacred timeline, you guys.

Someone, take over, please, he's tired.

Props to Jonathan Majors for acting the [censored] out of the ambiguous morale of Kang the Conqueror and having a lot of fun with it, but still.

It's a solid thirty-five minutes of talking.

If you're asking whether I do recommend watching this series or not, I'm leaning more towards negative rather than affirmative for a simple reason — I could forgive all the flaws if I had fun when I was watching. And I was not having fun.

Image Credit: hoppip from Giphy.com

And do not get me started on that stupid blue cube ...

Zara Miller
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Writer since Oct, 2020 · 20 published articles

Zara Miller is a published author, writer, and blogger. She is a graduate of Middlesex University London where she studied International Relations. Her debut YA novel I am Cecilia attracted the eye of prominent speaking conferences such as the Career Grad Festival and Association of Writers and Writing Programs and was nominated for a Reader's Choice Award.