Loki is the latest Marvel show to hit Disney+, this one focusing on the MCU’s popular anti-hero. “Glorious Purpose” is the best opening episode so far for a Marvel show.
During the Avengers’ Time Heist a past version of Loki was able to escape with the Tesseract. However, Loki gets apprehended immediately by the Time Variance Authority (TVA) and taken to be put on trial. Mobius M. Mobius (Owen Wilson) one of the TVA’s best agents believes Loki could be of use to the organization and tries to convince the Asgardian to join them.
The opening episodes for WandaVision and The Falcon and The Winter Soldier had to set up their respective worlds and stories and Loki had to do the same. “Glorious Purpose” had to set up who the TVA were, their backstory, and why Mobius wanted to recruit Loki. It was a backstory that featured timeline/multiverse wars, Gods that maintain the sacred timeline and showing that there is a great threat that could destroy all reality. These ideas were so barmy that they made Guardians of the Galaxy look restrained.
This explanation of what the TVA were and why they came to be does raise some big questions. The TVA’s job is to keep the timeline running its natural course. This leads to the question ‘if everything predetermined does it mean free will doesn’t exist?’ Loki’s defense was that it was The Avengers who traveled back in time and altered the timeline but the judge, Ravonna Renslayer (Gugu Mbatha-Raw) stated The Avengers’ actions were meant to happen. The idea felt like it came from the Wheel of Time books because that’s a fantasy series set in a multiverse and fate is meant to go a certain way.
“Glorious Purpose” does set up an intriguing world and premise, what elevated Loki was the character drama. The key scene was when Mobius questioned Loki about what the villain wanted and psychoanalyses him. This Loki is a different one to the character in the MCU films. This Loki didn’t experience the character development of films where he turned from a power-hungry villain to an anti-hero, so the episode had to fast-track this. There was a wonderful montage where Loki watches all the tragedies from the MCU movies, and it breaks him. It was like the scene in Interstellar where Matthew McConaughy’s character watched his children grow up on a TV screen. Tom Hiddleston showed his ability as an actor because we got to see his world get shattered in this episode.
Owen Wilson also did well in the episode. I know Wilson mostly as a comedic actor, so it makes a change to see him in a more serious role, or at least playing a character straight. He is a bit older and grayer and he convinced as an experienced yet compassionate agent.
Loki had a great look. The production design had a retro-futurist look to it. There were big computer monitors, there was a use of old-fashioned film reels, and the decorations were garish. The TVA looked like they hired their designer from the ‘70s or ‘80s. The mix of retro-futurism and the bureaucracy within the TVA made it seem like the world from Terry Gilliam’s Brazil. The retro-futurism and the use of colors were also similar to the FX superhero show Legion. The score by Natalie Holt deserves a note because it sounded a lot like A Clockwork Orange.
“Glorious Purpose” was a great opening episode because it was able to balance out the world-building and character drama. It’s what an opening episode should be.