In comic mythology heroes die all the time. It's just that it doesn't seem to stick. Death, it appears, does not become a successful franchise character.
This goes a long way to explain why this week I settled in to watch the first episode of Marvel's new series Loki, a show centred around a character who has died at least twice - and faked a third - in the intertwined and entangled Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) series of movies.
Loki's return from the grave here is explained away by simply not having him die in the first place. Well, I say "simply", but as that explanation involves a flashback to 2012, events from two MCU Avengers movies, a rampaging Hulk and an opportunistic escape into time, space and the Mongolian desert for our now not-dying-in-the-future hero, I may be short changing the word. But hey, no one said time travel isn't (wasn't?) complicated.
Those complications multiply when Loki, now free from his superhero captors, is immediately arrested by the time travelling cops of the Time Variance Authority (TVA) who charge him with the cartoonishly righteous-sounding, "crimes against The Sacred Timeline".
What this actually means is that Loki's arrested for cheating his predetermined death and thus kickstarting a whole new reality and, presumably, a less-than-sacred timeline. This is something The Timekeepers, those in charge of our chronological running order, frown upon and why time cops were sent after him.
If all this is sounding a bit silly and convoluted you have to realise three things; 1) time travel stories generally are silly and convoluted, even the good ones, 2) so are MCU stories and 3) this all happens in the first five minutes of the show. Yes.
Fortunately, things become a little more straightforward from this point on as the show sets about explaining what's actually going on, to both the lead character and the audience. In an entertaining and stylistic exposition dump we see the confused yet indignant Loki being shunted through many scenes of TVA processing before landing in front of a no-nonsense judge who demands to know how he pleads.
"Guilty of finding all of this incredibly tedious?" Loki snaps back. "Yes."
However, this arrogant bravado quickly crumbles a minute later when he discovers his God-like superpowers are neutered in the TVA's HQ, meaning a second fortuitous escape is not on the cards.
But just as the judge is about to order him to be "reset", a TVA investigator named Agent Mobius speaks up and asks to take custody of the criminal. Although Loki may have inadvertently messed up the correct timeline, Mobius believes he can help him apprehend a properly dangerous criminal who is leaping through time, setting traps and murdering TVA agents.
Spoiler alert: after an endless amount of conversation and one flashy but low-key action scene we later learn that this big bad guy is also Loki, albeit one from another timeline.
This is the hook that Marvel hopes will snare you in. The gleefully malevolent Loki has proven to be one of the MCU's most popular characters so why not double down and have two Lokis in the show?
It's an interesting enough spin, although one that won't be entirely unfamiliar to fans of the time travel genre. But for my money the real hook of the show is its light comedic touches and the chemistry between its two stars. Tom Hiddleston has had six movies to master the god of Mischief's delightful sneer and here he's partnered with Owen Wilson who brings all his likeable and relaxed charisma to the role of Agent Mobius.
Together they're a formidably entertaining pair, verbally jousting and jostling through long scenes in what is essentially a bare room. In lesser hands these would have dragged. Here, they're sparkling and fun.
The show does attempt gravitas, diving into Loki's psyche, acknowledging his murderous past and asking him to if not atone, at least acknowledge his inner not-very-niceness while also pondering questions of free will versus pre-determinism. Being the first episode the show only scratches around the surface, but hopefully the scab will be picked off these topics in later episodes.
With Loki's commitment to freedom of choice, which is admitedly self-centred, and Mobius' maverick adherence to the Sacred Timeline there's plenty of opportunity for odd-couple drama to play out, especially if the time-travelling devil they're chasing doesn't end up being Loki at all.
For MCU fans the show's a no- brainer. For those just looking for something decent to watch, its intriguing premise, slick execution and entertaining and joyously fun interplay between Hiddleston and Wilson make it worth a shot.
It may not be godlike television but Loki is worth your time.