Loki is an interesting experiment, a transition of a supporting character from some big movies into the main character of his own TV show. To do this, the pilot episode has a lot of things it needs to do: it has to introduce Loki to new viewers who might not have seen him or the movies he appeared in, it has to catch fans and past viewers up on what he was up to since the last time he appeared in a movie. It has to establish what the show will be about and what story the character is now in. And most of all, it has to make you care about Loki and whether he succeeds in his new story.
Just so we're clear, this is not a review. It does not say whether the show is good or bad, whether we like it or not, or whether you want to see it or not. It is an examination of what goes into the script of an episode of television to be fit for a TV series.
The first episode of Loki isn't just a recap that features clips from his previous movie appearances. Showrunner Michael Waldon and his writing staff know that just delivering exposition would be dry and boring. It needs to set up the story and move things forward. Mobius (Owen Wilson) psychoanalyses Loki and breaks down his character to question him the way fans have been. It's a big writer's set-up trick: it deconstructs Loki and makes him state outright his character in order to rebuild him as a protagonist even as he's told he's only ever been a supporting character in other people's story.
It's meta on that level but also setting up the arc of whether he's truly redeemable, which is why most people want to watch the series. So instead of just presenting clips, the script has Loki seeing his past and his eventual in the movies, including his death in Avengers: Infinity War. By the end of the first episode, Loki is a different character from the baddie he was in the first Avengers and the self-sacrificing antihero who died. It's very meta – Mobius is like an editor molding the story, and Wilson is made up to look like a prolific and well-regarded Marvel Comics writer and editor, the late Mark Gruenwald. The script positions him as a new character who may or may not pick the redemptive path, and that question is what audiences are supposed to invest in and watch the rest of the series.
None of the above was an accident. Waldon knew what he was doing as he laid out it all out systematically. He did similar work on Rick & Morty when he gradually revealed Rick not as the crazed genius hero some fans thought he was but a deconstructed him to show him as a selfish, narcissistic creep who manipulated and neglected his family. Waldon and his writing team might be trying the reverse here, to deconstruct Loki the murderous villain into a redeemable antihero. And your investment in that story is up to you.
Loki is now streaming on Disney+.
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