Loki "has proven that not only can the MCU work on television, it can thrive on it," says Adam B. Vary. He says that Loki "looked unlike anything I’d ever seen in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, an increasingly difficult prospect given there are now 26 discrete iterations of the MCU — soon to be 27 with the impending debut of Black Widow. As the show has progressed, that feeling has only grown more acute as Loki, in its exploration of its title character’s identity, managed to carve out its own unique personality not just in the MCU, but also in the grander landscape of sci-fi storytelling." Vary adds: "Marvel Studios’ first Disney Plus series, WandaVision, was a fabulous first step onto TV, proving that the MCU, itself an experiment in creating an episodic series of blockbuster feature films, could shrink itself down to the scope of an American sitcom. Its exploration of grief and the restorative power of comfort TV could not have been more relevant to an audience enduring a devastating pandemic. But as it unfolded, the escalating mystery of what was actually happening on WandaVision — Evan Peters showing up as Pietro-but-not-actually-Pietro, Kathryn Hahn hiding in plain sight as Agatha, Elizabeth Olsen unwittingly responsible for almost everything on the show as Wanda — began to overwhelm it. Fans and major entertainment news outlets alike began wildly theorizing each week — it’s Mephisto! it’s Magneto! — and the pressure to achieve a Marvel-sized scale, service a wide ensemble of MCU characters, and resolve all its narrative strands made the final episodes of WandaVision feel, to some, misshapen. Marvel’s follow-up series, The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, meanwhile, was at once more conventional and more ungainly, with five separate antagonists (John Walker, Karli Morgenthau, Helmut Zemo, Sharon Carter and Valentina Allegra de Fontaine) operating at cross-purposes and overshadowing the two title characters meant to be at the heart of the show and the exploration of being a Black man in America meant to drive it. Loki avoids all of that, because it’s the first MCU show that understands to its bones that the best television is about its characters first, and its story second. The lasting pleasure of longform storytelling is allowing the audience a far deeper understanding of who is on screen than a two-hour movie can allow. That sensibility is already woven into the MCU: Watching Tony Stark, Thor, and Steve Rogers grow and changed over multiple features has been central to the franchise’s unprecedented success. But while Marvel’s conviction to make their shows the same way they’ve made their movies makes sense, it’s also had the paradoxical effect of making WandaVision and FAWS feel too overloaded with their characters doing stuff than just letting them be. Each episode of Loki does just that."