Jun. 10—***SPOILERS AHEAD FOR BASICALLY THE ENTIRE MARVEL CINEMATIC/DISNEY PLUS UNIVERSE***
Let me start by saying I feel I can speak confidently for all of us Marvel fans with day jobs, in roundly denouncing Disney Plus's decision to release its new series episodes early in the day.
We're now forced to avoid nearly any entertainment and pop-culture website we'd typically visit on our lunch breaks, because every professional critic has already watched the episode and put their hot take out there.
And honestly, all is forgiven. Because this new "Loki" show looks like it's going to be awesome.
The last time we saw Loki in the MCU, he was about to be taken into custody after his 2012 attack on Earth in the first "Avenger" film. But a time-traveling group of those same Avengers in "Endgame" accidentally handed him the Tesseract, which he promptly used to escape.
That's where "Loki" kicks off. But in nearly no time at all, the Asgardian God of Mischief has been handcuffed (neck-cuffed, technically), stripped of his magical powers and left in the hands of the Time Variance Authority, who can control time itself and are caretakers of "the Sacred Timeline." They exist outside all time and space and were created by the Time-Keepers, astral beings who protect the proper flow of time through all universes.
If that sounds weird, you haven't been watching the last few Marvel offerings.
I wrote last month about how the MCU's measured progression into weirdness over the past decade has helped prepare more-casual viewers for wild comic concepts like the multi-verse and astral beings.
As a matter of fact, Loki himself has a hard time accepting the Time Variance Authority, with its outward appearance of a stuffy bureaucracy, complete with office decor that seems to be both futuristic and dusty at the same time, a weird combination of deliberately outdated 1960s mod and the furniture from "The Jetsons."
"Time works differently here in the TVA," says Mobius M. Mobius, in what may be my favorite Owen Wilson role in at least a decade.
Playing a put-upon bureaucrat who can literally rewind Loki at will using a tiny remote control, Mobius is investigating a series of attacks on the TVA's officers, and he takes a special interest in "this Loki variant," which is the way the TVA refers to "time criminals" who violate the Sacred Timeline.
Unconvinced that the TVA has any authority, Loki attempts to escape, only to end up back where he started, watching the full film of his timeline, including his redemption in "Thor: Ragnarok" and his death at the literal hand of Thanos in "Infinity War."
There's a lot of good deadpan comedy in this first episode. Wilson and star Tom Hiddleston bounce well off one another as Mobius slowly reveals to Loki that even his god status makes him "a pussycat" offender in the eyes of the TVA.
In fact, this series pulled a few of its own Loki-like tricks on the audience before this episode even aired: Disney Plus tricked us with its surprise announcement that new episodes would be airing on Wednesdays instead of the customary Fridays.
And the trailer made it look as though the TVA wanted Loki to help fix the timeline he screwed up. But a TVA officer is able to do that in a matter of seconds with a small device.
Mobius wants Loki to help track down the person who's attacking the TVA. And who is it? Well, "it's you," Mobius tells Loki shortly before the episode ends.
But is it? The ending shows one of these attacks on a group of TVA officers. But it doesn't reveal the killer's face.
That's very Marvel of them — and I have questions.
First off, let's talk about "the Sacred Timeline" and what it might mean for the future of the MCU.
In the PSA-style video Loki watches as an introduction to the TVA, he's told that the TVA was created in order to prevent another "multi-verse war," a thing that happened once upon a time. But we learned in "Dr. Strange" that the Sorceress Supreme and her brethren were already guarding this universe from outside threats. It seems like the TVA's purpose is to keep individual universes from accidentally spiraling into their own multi-verses.
Enter Wanda Maximoff.
At the end of "WandaVision," we saw Maximoff, now fully empowered as the Scarlet Witch, paging through the Darkhold, a book created by one of the oldest evil forces in the Marvel canon, and she appeared to be headed on a mission through time (or through universes via magic?) to rescue the children she spontaneously created in her grief.
If that mission ends up fracturing the universe and creating a new multi-verse, well, just think of the possibilities. You'd now have a "Multiverse of Madness" story in which Dr. Strange, the Scarlet Witch, the TVA, possibly this 2012 version of Loki, and any Avenger who's hanging around could be teaming up to try and save the Sacred Timeline.
But that brings us back to Mobius asking Loki to hunt himself down. If there are two Lokis, where is the other one from? Mobius says it's another variant who escaped. That implies it's a Loki from another universe.
I won't pretend to know enough about the Marvel comic multi-verse to speak intelligently about what that might imply.
But I'll sure be tuning in to find out next Wednesday — after avoiding basically the whole Internet for most of the day.
Sorry, couldn't help myself.
Patrick Varine is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Patrick at 724-850-2862, email@example.com or via Twitter .