Back in ‘the day’ the Marvel multiverse was kind of a fringe thing. In that you could be a big fan of Spider-Man, or, I dunno, Nova, and not really have to deal with thinking about different timelines or different universes much. This changed with Marvel’s Ultimate universe, which, with characters like Miles Morales, became very popular. This was always the difference between Marvel and DC. Marvel just kind of ignored the passage of time and the Peter Parker in comics today is the same one who was introduced in Amazing Fantasy #15. As opposed to DC, who introduced Earth-1 and Earth-2 very early, so to read DC comics you really did have to have a working knowledge of how that all worked. Which became such a mess it culminated in Crises on Infinite Earths that was designed to get rid of all the nonsense multiverses. So it’s kind of weird that multiverses went from, “well how do we keep our characters young?,” to, “Maybe this is just a cool thing to do.”
The first two episodes of Loki, streaming on Disney+ starting on Wednesday, basically serves as an instruction booklet to the MCU opening up the multiverse. See, this is where I get nervous. I still have the DC mentality that it’s better to have everyone in one universe than making confusing different timelines and different Earths. And the multiverse was created out of necessity and not “fun.” But, here’s a fun fact: I don’t get a say in this and this is what’s going to happen.
God bless Owen Wilson. He plays Mobius M. Mobius, a lifer desk jockey for the Time Variance Authority (TVA). Wilson is tasked with explaining a lot to Loki (Tom Hiddleston) about how time travel, and alternate realities, and magic space timekeepers work, which means he’s explaining it to us, the viewer. He is Mr. Exposition, but also he’s Owen Wilson so of course he can make this entertaining. This really is inspired casting. Also, it’s really something to watch Wilson not playing a free spirit, drifting through life and the story we are watching. His job here is order. His literal job is order. He’s here to make sure there’s only one timeline and to nip in the bud any new timelines that may happen because something did not go as planned, like Loki picking up the Tesseract in Avengers: Endgame and transporting himself to who knows where. Well, we learn “where” quickly in Loki and the Time Variance Authority shows up very quickly to take care of business and make sure Loki doesn’t create a whole new timeline. So Loki is brought to the TVA, which feels kind of like a big DMV where powers don’t work and there seems to be a lot of paperwork trying to keep everything in order.
So Loki is branded a “variant” very quickly (the real Loki died in Avengers: Infinity War), but Wilson’s Mobius saves Loki – from Wunmi Mosaku’s Hunter B-15, who seems determined to kill Loki and seems to be having a lot of fun trying, and from Gugu Mbatha-Raw’s Ravonna Renslayer, who basically plays a galactic time judge – because he thinks Loki might be able to help track down a villain who’s been causing a lot of problems for the TVA. So, with that it becomes kind of (*kind of) a 48 Hours buddy cop comedy with a cop and a criminal trying to chase down a worse criminal. (*Owen Wilson is not the ornery cuss that Nick Nolte played and Tom Hiddleston is bringing something different to the table than Eddie Murphy. So, no, it’s not a great comparison, but you get the point.)
So far the most interesting thing about Loki is how it deconstructs the character. Loki, in this world of the TVA, has no powers, so he’s faced with a lot of questions from Mobius about his actions. Did he enjoy killing people? Did he enjoy betraying people? Did he enjoy literally stabbing people in the back? His answers are revealing, though at this point we don’t know if Loki is really doing some soul searching or if he’s just telling Mobius what he thinks Mobius wants to hear. Both things can be true at the same time.
But, at least so far, it seems the purpose of this show is to explain to people what a multiverse is. And, you know what, if I were hell-bent on bringing the multiverse to the MCU (I would not be, but, again, they do not ask me; I know, weird, right?) I would for sure make a series like Loki. Where rules could be established going forward in what seems like will be, let’s say, some unruly future plots. Look, I get it, after Thanos what do you do? Galactus? Yeah, maybe? But isn’t Galactus’s end goal about the same as Thanos? In that in the end a lot of people die? (I know the difference, I do not need tweets explaining the difference between the two.) But, cinematically, to up the ante, yeah, I get why the multiverse is appealing. We are going to see some weird stuff. Involving actors and characters we never thought we’d see again. I hope it works! But, I dunno, it just all seems like a lot.
But, in the meantime, we have our ol’ pal Loki to ask the questions we have about how this all works and another ol’ pal, Owen Wilson, to answer. As a primer, for something I’m not very excited about, well, at least this part is pretty entertaining.
‘Loki’ begins streaming via Disney+ on June 9th. You can contact Mike Ryan directly on Twitter.