With today’s episode marking the finale of Marvel Studios’ Loki, we are taking a look back at the entire six-episode run as a whole. Looking at the series as both an independent work as well as a chapter in Phase Four of the MCU, we will see what Loki has done successfully and where future Marvel Studios’ offerings on Disney+ could improve. Our initial review was based on the first two episodes of the series. Here, we will consider the entire show as a whole.
Of course, keep in mind this serves as a SPOILER WARNING for today’s episode “One World, One People”.
What did Loki do well?
More than The Falcon and The Winter Soldier and WandaVision combined, the storylines in Loki have immediate impacts for the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Over the course of the six-episode season, we were fully immersed in the concept of the Multiverse and how the branching timelines can affect the sacred timeline of the MCU. Seeing variants of Loki, some played by Tom Hiddleston and others by different actors, opens a door for the future of any and all Marvel Studios projects by not limiting a character to the actor who originated the role. This conceit is not new as Doctor Who has used a similar plot device for decades, but it allows Marvel Studios to continue their cohesive shared universe without convoluted explanations for cast changes.
Loki‘s finale also successfully introduced Kang The Conqueror (Jonathan Majors), the supposed main villain of Phase Four. While he looked nothing like his comic book counterpart, Majors delivered a unique take on The One Who Remains within his Citadel at the End of Time. In a very exposition-heavy finale, Kang explained how his existence has kept a Multiversal War from starting anew while also keeping the more evil versions of himself away. He offered Loki and Sylvie (Sophia Di Martino) his job as protector of the timeline and overlord of the TVA which ended with his death and a massive branching of free will across all the timelines. In short, Loki is the series that starts the Multiverse and not WandaVision.
Loki has been a weirdly wonderful series that never once felt like a superhero or comic book story. It also did not ape the Disney+ series that came before it. Creator Michael Waldron and director Kate Herron instead crafted a bizarre love story within the infinite realms of the MCU without needing to abide by the fictional laws or rules the franchise has been restricted by for a decade. Instead, we got to see Richard E. Grant as the Classic Loki we have all been asking for as well as Chris Hemsworth as Throg and even an Alligator wearing Loki’s crown. The biggest success of this series though is Sophia Di Martino who not only is an excellent variant of Loki but easily holds her own opposite Tom Hiddleston.
The series also did a great job of working as an independent series of the MCU while embracing the films that came before it. The sheer number of easter eggs crammed into these six episodes was astounding and easily eclipsed any MCU offering that came before it. A lot of reverence for Marvel is on display here while still making this a story firmly about Loki. But, the focus on Loki is also potentially the biggest weakness of this series as well.
What didn’t work?
The existence of Loki as a series completely undermines The Avengers. We all love a good antihero as much as we love a redemption story and Loki is the epitome of both. Since serving as the catalyst for the creation of the Avengers team as well as the first step in Thanos’ path to universal annihilation, Loki has never been the same. His sneaky and villainous nature has shifted towards being a hero even if he has not truly embraced it. That was until this series. While the tales centered on Wanda Maximoff, Sam Wilson, and Bucky Barnes have all continued their paths set from day one, this is the first MCU series focused on a bad guy. Tom Hiddleston proved instantly to be such a charismatic performer as Loki that this turn was inevitable, but it still makes it difficult to accept his role in the Battle of New York.
That quibble aside, the other biggest disappointment is the dialogue-heavy finale. I could just be spoiled by the more neatly wrapped up endings of WandaVision and The Falcon and The Winter Soldier, but the cliffhanger close of this episode capped a somewhat underwhelming plot twist. As much as I liked Jonathan Majors’ performance as Kang and the explanation of his master plan, the finale amounted to forty minutes of talking. There were two moments of tension when Loki and Sylvie’s swords clashed, but that was about it. Even Sylvie finally killing Kang was quiet and anticlimactic after the explosive five episodes that came before it.
All of that, of course, is justified by the fact the post-credit sequence promises that Loki will return for a second season, but when that will be remains to be seen. With the pandemic still hanging around and multiple other MCU films and series already coming first, will Loki’s second season slip in between somehow?
What comes next for the MCU thanks to Loki?
While the second season of Loki is now confirmed, when and where it fits into Phase Four is unknown. What we do know is that the Multiverse is now wide open for upcoming films and series. Jonathan Majors was previously announced as appearing in Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania which is slated to hit theaters in 2023. The second season of Loki could squeeze in before that, building Kang’s variants into a larger threat. More directly, we have Spider-Man: No Way Home and Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness coming in the next year which are both directly impacted by the timeline ramifications of this series.
From a different vantage, Loki also opens up a lot of storytelling options for Marvel Studios. All three of the Disney+ series thus far have taken dramatically different stylistic and thematic approaches that differ from anything the feature films have done. Loki. more than any of them managed to tell a romantic tale under the guise of parallel dimensions and time travel insanity. If this series was able to shirk the rules and still manage to be this much fun, the guardrails are off and open the MCU to infinite possibilities.
Loki was not what I was expecting and I am very happy about that. As a standalone season, the story feels incomplete. I wanted more out of Owen Wilson’s Mobius and Gugu Mbatha-Raw’s Renslayer while Wunmi Mosaku’s Hunter B-15 started to come into her own. Six episodes just felt too short for a story this massive, but I would rather take a half dozen solid episodes with advance planning for the next season rather than cramming filler to hit a 13 episode quota.
This season was likely not what many were expecting and did not have the massive set-pieces of any Marvel Studios story that came before it, but it still delivered on advancing the mythology of the MCU and giving Tom Hiddleston a showcase that he much deserved. Loki‘s glorious purpose may remain on the fringe of the Marvel universe, but he could easily continue telling stories from there for years to come. I for one will definitely be back to watch more.
What did you think of Loki overall? Are you happy with how this “six-hour movie” played out? Talkback below!