Loki 1xo1 “Glorious Purpose,” brings Tom Hiddleston’s Loki to the forefront of an MCU project for the first time and faces the character with the question of whether free will is an illusion or not. Loki’s actions in Avengers: Endgame lead Loki right to the source of the answer to that existential question: The Time Variance Authority. It is with the introduction of the TVA that the MCU brings yet another organization into the mix. This time, this one could uproot the fabric of everything from the franchise’s past, present, and future.
Can the TVA Be Trusted?
This episode is exposition-heavy, but only because it needs to be. With high hopes, I imagine the information dumps will be less heavy-handed as the series progresses. “Glorious Purpose” gets a lot of the necessary facts about the Time Variance Authority out of the way so that the series can advance into a richer story outside of the Earth-toned walls at the TVA.
It’s virtually impossible to trust the TVA right now. Similar to Loki, I am dubious about believing anything they’re trying to sell us. The MCU has a pattern with big organizations and institutions, and it usually doesn’t end well. More often than not, they’re easily corrupted like SHIELD and SWORD. That’s always a possibility. So it only makes sense that the TVA’s confidence that they would be immune to such forces would foreshadow their eventual downfall.
This episode may give a clear picture of the TVA, but it only does so from the organization’s perspective. There is a bias there that can’t be overlooked, as the other shoe will surely drop with this all-powerful institution at some point. If not, it would be a little uneventful for the TVA to resist all change or challenges throughout the season.
“Glorious Purpose” is the beginning of a much larger story with many twists turns that can only come with time travel on a reality-bending show. It embodies the unease that something is waiting around the corner from start to finish. Part of that is from the incredible set design that makes the TVA appear as something that’s been there since the beginning of time and exists somewhere in the far future. It’s that duality that makes identifying with Loki’s evident discomfort all the easier.
Holding Out for a Hero
This understanding is crucial on a show in which Loki will be the most familiar touchstone, and even then, that’s not entirely the truth of the situation. This version of Loki looks and acts like the one we last saw in The Avengers because it is him, meaning this is not the same one we lost in Avengers: Infinity War. That Loki (the one from 2012) is more difficult to identify with on the surface, which is about as far as that movie allows us to go with him. Joss Whedon depicts Loki as a power-hungry dictator whose only true fulfillment will come by ruling people.
“Glorious Purpose” knows this and uses that as a way to reinvent this character again. It’s through the brief moments of vulnerability (before that scene; I’ll get there) that let us root for a character that is willing to do the worst of things to get his way. These are the moments like when the TVA strips (literally) Loki of his “fine Asgardian leather” and the fear that flashes in his eyes when the TVA essentially evaporates another person for not taking a ticket.
Loki finds a way to lace these moments with equal amounts of seriousness and humor so that it feels like Thor: Ragnarok Loki could be somewhere inside of this Loki, well, because he is. This sentiment holds a double meaning because it is hilarious that it gets better with every watch, but it’s also a brilliant display of Loki’s growth since his introduction in Thor.
Loki temporarily squashes my doubts about the TVA with the introduction of Owen Wilson‘s Agent Mobius. At first glance, this character feels like a means to prove that not everyone in this organization is willing to wipe and reset everything and everyone that doesn’t involve with the original timeline. That could be true, and it does for the most part in this episode. Mobius is kind to children and Loki, but that can’t be all that’s at play here.
This earnest being created by space lizards has to have an ulterior motive, right? Agent Mobius would be the perfect distraction from the TVA’s ulterior purpose. There has to be a reason why the other Loki variant is attacking Minutemen other than trying to preserve their life, right?
It’s so easy to want to believe the best of Mobius because of the way he approaches Loki. He’s not judgemental; he’s curious. One of the most telling moments is when Loki touts his knowledge, declaring himself smart. Mobius doesn’t deny him of that but agrees by simply saying, “I know.” Wilson’s tone at this moment is so confident that it almost sounds intimate. Mobius studied Loki’s past and knows him, knows him even better than he may know himself.
Mobius doesn’t back away from Loki’s wits but stands up taller in response to them. He asks intrusive questions in such an endearing way that the many layers of Loki start to peel away right before our eyes.
One of the biggest concerns about having Loki be about 2012 Loki is that the show would have to take on all the character’s development after The Avengers. It does, but it’s doing so much faster than I anticipated. Loki will surely turn to his mischievous ways when it’s least expected to keep us on our toes and to allow himself a little fun. But, the way Mobius can get through to him in the first episode of this series bodes well for the remaining episode.
There’s already a relationship of thinly veiled trust blossoming between these men. It’s so thin you can see it coming apart at the seams because there’s much room for them to grow, together and separately, but that’s what makes the rest of the series so exciting. Loki has met his match in Agent Mobius.
Loki’s Glorious Purpose
This premiere sees Loki up against the reality that free will is only an illusion. The TVA shocks him with the revelation that even the mischief he chooses to cause as a means for control is predestined. This is a difficult concept for anyone to grasp, especially Loki, who admits to killing people as “a desperate play for control.” Of course, that’s not an excuse for his actions, but it is a way to understand his motives better.
Interestingly, Mobius chooses to tell Loki he’s not a villain, even though this Variant is one for the time being. This Variant comes into the TVA’s offices fresh off the heels of the Battle of New York. Free of Thanos’ influence, Loki still did plenty of villainous things before that day. Although, for the show’s sake, deeming Loki a villain and being done with it doesn’t leave room for an exciting TV show. It’s all too simple, and Loki is not simple.
Loki is a much more fun character when he resides in the gray between hero and villain. Unfortunately, The Avengers does too much of the latter. So now Loki has to find a way to balance the two or choose a side of the coin. There’s more of a possibility than ever that Loki can find purpose in his mischief after seeing his life in an MCU highlights tape from his TVA file.
This scene is the standout from the episode because it lets Tom Hiddleston be the mesmerizing performer we know him to be. The emotional range that Loki experiences in just a few short minutes as everything from Frigga’s death to his death plays out before him is astonishing. The shocked laugh that escapes him before a small smile arises on his face when he hears Thor say that he’d want to hug Loki is heartbreaking. It is genuinely moving to see Loki watch and mourn the life he’ll never get to live.
It’s also in that montage that Loki can see what immense damage his mischief can create but also the immeasurable good it can do, too. Loki can bring death to his people, but he can also save what’s left of them by standing up to a Titan. The Sacred Timeline version of himself sees the repercussions of both of those truths. Hopefully, this Variant can do the same.
Loki contains multitudes that are still only recently being discovered and explored on screen. Tom Hiddleston has always done wonders with what he’s given. It’s his performance that makes wanting Loki to be something more than a villain possible. Hiddleston plays that inner tension on Loki’s sleeve with ease. He’s done it for nearly a decade, and Loki allows Hiddleston to do it on a whole new scale.
Other Glorious Moments:
- Starting with the events of Avengers: Endgame is a smart way to remind people what happened and encourage people to watch that movie again.
- The title card is in yellow and gold, and it is perfect.
- There isn’t enough of Gugu Mbatha-Raw or Wunmi Mosaku in this episode.
- The whole bit of Loki not knowing whether he is a robot or not is the funniest part of this episode and maybe one of the funniest moments of the entire MCU.
- When are the Mephisto theories going to start now that we’ve seen a depiction of a devil?
- What the Avengers did was supposed to happen? Okay, does this refer to the time heist or Steve’s solo trip? I have a headache.
- It was so lovely to see Coulson again. Can the MCU find a way to rope him back into all of this?
- Loki being D.B. Cooper because he lost a bet to Thor is so good.
- We’re all protecting Casey from the TVA. He doesn’t know what a fish is, so he needs to be protected.
- Loki using the Time Twister on Hunter B-15 shouldn’t be as funny as it is, but I genuinely cackled.
- The Infinity Stones thing is funny because it makes everything with The Avengers seem so small in the grand scheme of things. They use the Infinity Stones as paperweights at the TVA. That’s power. Or it’s unethical and irresponsible? I haven’t decided yet.
- This uncertainty could be because I’m bitter that someone’s paperweight could have, theoretically, saved Natasha from Vormir or revived Vision.
- How cool is it that Tom Hiddleston is an Executive Producer on this show?
What did you think of “Glorious Purpose?” Let us know in the comments below!
New episodes of Loki stream Wednesdays on Disney+!