Marvel Cinematic Universe Phase Four Re-Watch. Loki, part 1

It’s been a year since I last did a rewatch, ending Phase Three with Spider-Man: No Way Home. Now that the Infinity Saga is over and Thanos has turned to dust, our surviving heroes have moved on… with various degrees of success. Phase Four incorporates both Cinematic releases and television programs. For the television programs, I am limiting each article to three episodes each

Title:  Loki

Characters created by:  Stan Lee, Jack Kirby, Larry Lieber, Don Heck, Walter Simonson, Paul Cornell, Mark Brooks

Returning characters (for the series):  Loki

Episode one: “Glorious Purpose”

Director:   Kate Herron

Writer:   Michael Waldron

US Release Date: June 9, 2021

Summary:  During the Battle of New York in 2012, Loki escapes with the Tesseract, creating a branched timeline. At the Gobi Desert, he is quickly arrested by officers of the Time Variance Authority (TVA) and brought to their headquarters, where he cannot use his magic. TVA mascot Miss Minutes tells Loki that a past multiversal war between timelines was ended by the Time-Keepers by establishing a singular timeline and that to prevent another such war, the Time-Keepers created the TVA and its employees to maintain this timeline, the “Sacred Timeline”. The TVA does this by “resetting” branched timelines and the “variants” that cause them.

Loki faces trial for “crimes against the Sacred Timeline”, with Ravonna Renslayer as the judge. He initially does not take the proceedings seriously, before blaming the Avengers, whose own time-traveling caused him to come into contact with the Tesseract. Renslayer dismisses these claims, explaining that the Avengers’ actions followed the Sacred Timeline while Loki’s did not. She finds him guilty and sentences him to be reset, but TVA agent Mobius M. Mobius intervenes as he thinks this variant Loki could be of use to them. In the Time Theater, Mobius questions Loki’s past misdeeds and revisits moments from Loki’s life, such as his defeat at the hands of the Avengers. Loki says he wants to rule so he can free his would-be subjects from the burden of making wrong choices. Mobius questions if Loki enjoys hurting others, but Loki rails against the TVA’s control of the timeline and insists that he has the power to make his own choices. Mobius reveals that in Loki’s intended future, he inadvertently causes the death of his adoptive mother Frigga.

Loki attempts to escape but discovers that the TVA has amassed numerous Infinity Stones, which do not work at TVA headquarters. Overwhelmed by the TVA’s power, he returns to the Time Theater and views the rest of his intended future, including his improved relationship with his adoptive brother Thor, the death of his adoptive father Odin, and his own death at the hands of Thanos. Loki realizes that he cannot return to his timeline, and agrees to help Mobius hunt the killer of several TVA officers, who has been stealing the technology they use to reset timelines. Mobius reveals that this fugitive is another variant of Loki.

MCU Continuity Nods:  This first episode shows events from Avengers, Thor: The Dark World, Thor: Ragnarok, Avengers: Infinity War, and Avengers: Endgame, however since Loki was removed from the time line during the Time Heist, he never experienced anything after Avengers. When Loki arrives at the TVA there is a skrull at the reception desk

Easter Eggs: One of the structures in the TVA has “T-282” written on it. This refers to “The Mighty Thor #282”, which featured Immortus, an incarnation of the time-travelling villain Kang the Conqueror

Episode two: “The Variant”

Director:   Kate Herron.

Writer:   Elissa Karasik

US Release Date: June 16, 2021

Summary:  Loki joins a Time Variance Authority (TVA) mission to the site of an attack by the fugitive variant of him in 1985 Oshkosh, Wisconsin. They find that TVA Hunter C-20 has been kidnapped, but Loki derails the mission by stalling and attempting to bargain his way into immediately meeting the Time-Keepers, who supposedly created the TVA and the Sacred Timeline. He also requests assurances that he will not be killed after the Variant is caught. TVA analyst Mobius M. Mobius realizes that Loki is lying about the Variant being nearby, so the TVA resets this branched timeline.

Back at TVA headquarters, TVA judge Ravonna Renslayer objects to Loki’s involvement, but Mobius convinces her to give Loki another chance. After researching TVA files and learning of Asgard’s Ragnarok, Loki theorizes that the Variant is hiding near-apocalyptic events where they can go undetected by the TVA because nothing they do can change the timeline there. Loki and Mobius prove this possibility by visiting Pompeii in 79 AD, where Loki warns locals about the coming eruption of Mount Vesuvius without changing the timeline. Using a clue previously garnered from 1549 Aix-en-Provence following one of the Variant’s attacks, Loki and Mobius deduce that the Variant is hiding during a hurricane in 2050 Alabama. At superstore Roxxcart’s hurricane shelter, Loki, Mobius, and TVA agents are ambushed by the Variant, who uses enchantment to possess the bodies of Hunter B-15 and other locals.

While Loki engages the Variant, the other agents find a distressed C-20, who reveals she had disclosed the Time-Keepers’ location. The Variant reveals themself as a female incarnation of Loki and rejects his offer to overthrow the Time-Keepers together. Instead, she activates and sends several stolen time reset charges to various locations and points along the Sacred Timeline, creating numerous new branched timelines and throwing the TVA into disarray. She teleports away, with Loki following her.

MCU Continuity Nods:  The destruction of Asgard by Surter is discovered by Loki and the Revengers are noted. The Revengers is the name Thor gives his group that includes himself, Banner, Loki, & Valkyrie in Thor: Ragnarok. Roxxcart is a reference to the infamous Roxxon Corporation. Roxxon, a corporate front for Hydra, has appeared in various forms in Agent Carter, Daredevil, Iron Man, and even the Thor prequel Marvel One-Shot: A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to Thor’s Hammer. At the end of the episode you can see several locations from the past of the MCU on the screen including Vormir, Xandar, and Ego among others.

Easter Eggs: The Variant in this episode is based on Lady Loki (a female version of Loki from the Marvel comics), and Sylvie Lushton (a version of the Enchantress who was given magical powers by Loki).

Episode three: “Lamentis”

Director:   Kate Herron

Writer:   Bisha K. Ali 

US Release Date: June 23, 2021

Summary:  Before Loki and the Time Variance Authority (TVA) arrive in 2050 Alabama to apprehend her, the Variant, also known as Sylvie, projects an emulated memory into her captive TVA agent, Hunter C-20, to collect information about the location of the Time-Keepers, the TVA’s supposed creators. Sylvie and Loki arrive at the TVA from Alabama. She attempts to visit the Time-Keepers while he tries to apprehend her. However, TVA Judge Ravonna Renslayer appears and attacks them both. Loki uses a TemPad to teleport himself and Sylvie away.

They arrive at 2077 Lamentis-1, a moon that is about to be crushed by a planet, but neither can escape due to the TemPad having run out of power. They agree to work together because Loki has magically hidden the TemPad while only Sylvie knows how to recharge it. The two surreptitiously travel on a train bound for the ark, an evacuation spaceship, intending to use it to recharge the TemPad. However, Loki gets drunk and draws attention to himself, leading to guards fighting him and Sylvie. She follows him when he is thrown off the train and both discover that the TemPad was broken as a result. The two change their plan, traveling on foot in hopes of commandeering the ark to escape.

During the journey, Sylvie tells Loki that the TVA employees are all variants. Loki realizes that the TVA employees do not know this, as he was previously told that they were creations of the Time-Keepers. Loki and Sylvie fight their way through guards while avoiding a meteor shower trying to board the ark, but it is destroyed by a meteor before they can board it, leaving them stranded.

MCU Continuity Nods:  Loki throwing his glass on the floor and shouting “Another!” in the drinking scene is a callback to the first Thor movie where Thor does the same thing after he finishes a drink he likes in the diner scene with Jane and Darcy.

Easter Eggs: Private Hudson and Corporal Hicks are a tribute to Michael Biehn and Bill Paxton’s characters in Aliens.

My Take:  So much to like here. I love the whole mid-century look of the TVA. I have always loved the idea the evil can be banal. The entire Miss Minutes sequence was brilliant, like a Shag drawing come to life. Lies spoonfed with sugar.

This whole show works because of Hiddleson playing off Wilson, and pairing him with Di Martino. You’re rooting for the bad guy.