Plot summary: Loki finds himself a prisoner of the Time Variance Authority for his actions in disrupting “The Sacred Timeline”, but Agent Mobius has other ideas for him.
Episode Title: ‘Glorious Purpose’
Air Date: June 9th, 2021
Directed: Kate Herron (1)
Written: Michael Waldron (1)
D.B. Cooper was a real plane hijacker from the 70s who was never caught and was described as wearing sunglasses and a tailored suit. This is a nod to the fan theory that Don Draper of Mad Men would become Cooper.
The tape of Loki’s life is labelled ‘ETH-616’. Earth-616 is the designation of the ‘main’ continuity of Marvel comics. Fitting given the MCU is heading down the path of a Multiverse, with this show said to tie into Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness
Mobius drinks some Josta soda, one of the earliest brands of energy drink sold by Pepsi from 1995 to 1999 and discontinued for unknown reasons.
Likewise, Casey’s drawer of confiscated items contains a Honus Wagner baseball card, an infamously rare and valuable card worth up to $3 million as fewer than 200 were ever printed.
Speaking of Casey, “I’ll gut you like a fish, Casey” is – intentionally or not – a line from Scream.
After the scene from Avengers: Endgame where Loki escapes with the Tesseract, we see him crash down on the Gobi Desert where he tries to intimidate the locals. Only to almost immediately get his ass kicked by agents of the Time Variance Authority thanks to their superior technology.
He is brought into the TVA headquarters and processed, having to sign off on everything he’s ever said, that he is an organic creature with a soul and to take a ticket and get in a line… of two.
While waiting he’s treated to a briefing video, explaining there was once a vast Multiverse engaged in never-ending war, until “the all-knowing Time-Keepers” merged everything into a single, “Sacred” Timeline, which the TVA militantly protect from variants… such as Loki.
The God of Mischief balks at the idea, but complies after the other person in line is ‘reset’ for arguing.
In 1500s France, Agent Mobius investigates an ambush of TVA ‘Minute-Men’ by “him”, the sixth such recorded attack. He pacifies a little girl who wanders in, and when asking who was behind the murders, she points a stained-glass window depicting a horned devil…
He also notices she has blue teeth, producing a pack of Kablooie gum clearly gifted to her by the culprit. Mobius and his men prepare to leave, setting a “reset charge”, but another TVA agent hands Mobius Loki’s paperwork.
Loki stands trial before a judge and attempts to shift the blame to The Avengers and even use his powers, but neither work and he is sentenced to resetting. Mobius interrupts and arranges to take him under his charge instead.
After being taken aback by the infinite sprawling vastness of the technological wonder of the TVA headquarters, Loki is taken to the Time Theater where he again fails to overcome their technology.
Reluctantly he submits to questioning about his true motivations and is shown clips from moments of his life, starting with his past with the events of The Avengers and hi-jacking a plane as D.B. Cooper.
Still defiant, Mobius instead shows Loki moments from his future, from his imprisonment on Asgard to Frigga’s death. He is left alone for a moment due to another reported lost unit, and when Mobius returns he is gone.
Making his way to the confiscated Tesseract, Loki is crestfallen to learn that the TVA have dozens (if not hundreds) of Infinity Stones in their possession, all powerless within their walls. Returning to the Time Theater, he winds forward through the events of Ragnarok to his death in Infinity War.
Dejected, he is at last honest with Mobius that he hurts and kills to instil fear to compensate for his innate weakness. Mobius reveals he wants Loki’s help to hunt a dangerous variant… Loki, who we ostensibly see in a cloak murdering more TVA agents to close the episode.
Personally I’m a sucker for these old timey American windowless offices that are devoted to the supernatural but treat it with utmost mundanity. It’s clichéd to call something Orwellian, so instead I’ll say you see it a lot in video games, particularly Control and Portal 2, and I eat it up with a spoon every time. The typewriters, the pneumatic tubes, the oranges and browns, the dot matrix printers, the ‘rudimentary’ animation of the briefing film and the faux friendly tone of the ‘motivational’ posters. All that. So if you aren’t charmed by that, and you aren’t engaged by the acting two-hander (see below), then you probably won’t get an awful lot out of this pilot. I would wager you’d also be the type of person who gets zero out of Easter Eggs, so the TVA being stuffed with them won’t float your boat either. Personally, a huge fan of Infinity Stones being used as paper weights.
Mobius showing Loki the story of his life was the highlight for me, as it both serves as a way to on-board people who don’t watch MCU movies (I know several people who watched WandaVision without ever having seen a Marvel film before), and as a believable way to set the still evil Loki on a crash course towards redemption, though of course watching the events rather than living them ensures he’ll remain that little bit more devious (aka fun) in the show.
They picked some great moments, as I have always maintained that the death of Frigga and Loki’s reaction to it almost redeems Thor: The Dark World on its own. Hiddleston himself suggested Odin’s farewell, and that was another understated character moment in a movie predominantly known for its absurdist (by Western standards) humour. I love the idea of Loki initially dismissing the reel as a trick, but going back to the room alone during his failed escape attempt to ‘see for himself’. Also not for nothing, but it gets you appearances by Anthony Hopkins, Rene Russo and the Avengers.
This might be the most representative of what the MCU is good at of the Disney+ shows to date (as well as the best directed); from the environmental storytelling/world-building of the TVA headquarters and the technology of their agents, to capitalising on the emotional cache built up in audiences for their most enduring characters like Loki, to quirky humour, and of course their best-in-show carrot on the stick teasing of future events.
Finally, it’s the kind of thing that doesn’t get talked about in most shows, but I like their choices of graphics and fonts for giving dates and locations, as well as the opening title treatment.
Most Marvellous Player
Voice acting living legend Tara Strong brought Miss Minutes (an homage to Mr. DNA from Jurassic Park) to life in superb fashion, tackling the dense sci-fi mumbo jumbo without dropping her thick accent because she’s a freakin’ pro. Part of me wants to honour The Matt Signal, my Batman the Animated Series recap column, by giving to her…
But Owen Wilson came to play. The announcement of his casting raised a few eyebrows, and in fairness you don’t always know what you’re going to get from him. But he’s perfectly cast as Agent Mobius, a deeply sad little fellow who maintains an air of childlike curiosity that appears to have been entirely crushed out of his colleagues at the TVA. You fully believe that this character is fascinated and bemused by Loki, and his delivery of the line about Loki limiting himself to ruling was the best in the episode for me.
Hiddleston is game too, though his role is a little more limited for now due to him having to mostly be reactive to the strange situation. He’s good and petulant in his attempts at resistance, and some of his reactions to the film reel are excellent, in particular his response to his parents’ deaths. Some of his post-Avengers appearances as Loki have been a little half-hearted in my opinion, and my hope is he signed up for the show as the long-form and main character status will allow him to show more range/dig his teeth into something meatier.
Much like WandaVision, this is ostensibly more interesting for not having a clear villain yet.
Loki has been plucked from the height of his evil at the end of The Avengers, still a cutthroat intent on betraying and usurping anyone and everyone. Thus his interrogation of ‘what next?’ and ‘why?’ by Mobius is fascinating to me, because we never see these questions asked in fiction. Why? Because there’s rarely a good answer, and the villain ends up looking like a silly child… exactly as Loki does here, facilitating his shift toward protagonist.
And even without the show being named after him, we can’t help but feel somewhat sympathetic as he is the hapless prisoner of a shady government-adjacent entity in The TVA, whose cop-like agents – led by Hunter B-15 – play dirty pool and suppress everyone’s powers.
And any time there’s a mysterious faceless entity built up with hushed tones as a mystery box, one assumes they’re evil. It’s almost certainly going to be a Wizard of Oz situation with the Time-Keepers actually being some bumbling halfwits making it up as they go. There is also room for them to be cast as the Norns/Fates, or to do both! They do exist in the comics and look as they look in the video, and ally with some villains, but that would be the boring route to go).
You have to figure that the cloaked figure will be either an older Loki, played by Richard E. Grant or a female Loki, played by Sophia Di Martino, as both actors have been cast in mystery roles. In fact I would wager both will appear, but obviously only one will be under the hood, and that’ll be the one Mobius has recruited Loki to stop. I can’t say I’m enthusiastic about Loki hunting himself at this stage, but it’ll depend entirely on the quality of the writing. I know that’s true of most things… but ya know. For the briefest of moments I feared we were getting yet more teases of Mephisto and groaned, so I’ll take this over that at least.
Check out The Matt Signal, in which I recap episodes of Batman the Animated Series every Saturday and Sunday. This weekend Joker strikes it rich and Robin meets a mysterious girl in trouble.
At last, a new episode of Mike & Matt’s X-Cellent Adventures is dropping this week but not on the long-promised third season of Legion, but instead New Mutants!