Episode 3 of Loki may have been the show's shortest episode yet, but that didn't mean there was any lack of important plot development.
In Episode 2, "The Variant," Tom Hiddleston's God of Mischief and Owen Wilson's Mobius get into a philosophical argument about the belief in their own creations. Loki asks Mobius, with skepticism, if he actually believes "[The Time Keepers] created the TVA, and everyone in it," including him, which Mobius deflects, throwing Loki's own fantastically unlikely origin in his face.
By the next episode, "Lamentis," Loki quickly learns the truth when Sophia Di Martino's Sylvie tells him the idea that everyone working for the TVA were created by the Time-Keepers is "ridiculous" and that they're all Variants "just like us" who used to be regular people on Earth. It paints a sad picture for many working at the TVA , including Mobius, but it also causes others to become a bit more sinister, such as Gugu Mbatha-Raw's Judge Renslayer .
"HIRING" NEW TVA AGENTS
Thinking about it, what is even the point of the TVA holding trials for Variants? The propaganda video from Miss Minutes doesn't even explain the reason, only that Variants must "stand trial for [their] offenses." In that same episode, one Minuteman casually pruned a Variant who simply didn't have a ticket, so why doesn't the TVA prune every Variant on sight?
Why bother arresting a Variant of Loki when Mobius even mentioned that they'd pruned his Variants the most? Considering the latest revelation in the newest episode, these aren't actually trials being held—it's job interviews.
Looking back at Loki's trial, Judge Renslayer's final sentencing is curious: "The court finds you guilty, and I sentence you to be reset." Loki is obviously confused and panics hearing this verdict, believing he will be vaporized like the gentleman in the queue area. Many viewers thought that was going to be his fate too before Mobius stepped in, but this scene has a drastically different context with this new information.
Was Loki going to have his memories suppressed and put to work at a desk for the TVA, like Eugene Cordero's Casey? Is that what being "reset " means? Renslayer could have sentenced Loki to be "pruned" or "deleted," two terms that have been used frequently on the show when referring to the killing of a Variant, but she used "reset."
As to why Loki wasn't sentenced to be pruned instead, Mobius told him that he wasn't a "particularly dangerous" Variant and that, in comparison, he's "a little pussycat."
So, it would certainly make sense as a way for the TVA to replenish analysts and Minutemen after many of them are forced to face deadly Variants like Sylvie. However, the second episode did potentially point to those who have been reset not being a one-and-done.
In "The Variant," Minutemen manage to find Hunter C-20, who's in a catatonic state after Sylvie invaded her mind. Mobius attempts to get information out of her, but one agent tells him that "She's off the dial." Is this agent simply saying C-20 has lost her mind or something more specific? What does it exactly mean?
At least in terms of appearance, the offices of the TVA aren't nearly as futuristic as one would expect, with much of the technology still analog in nature. Rotary telephones are still being used and all the computers look like they were taken from the 1960s.
Perhaps this agent is referring to the dial of a clock, with C-20 being out of synch with time. How are "off" dials on a clock typically fixed?
It could be a common problem in the TVA that some Minutemen go "off the dial" occasionally and have to be reset again. Possibly multiple times, if Sylvie is to be believed about C-20's mind "being messed up" with "everything clouded."
Unfortunately, there is some potential evidence that Mobius himself has been "off the dial" too.
MOBIUS HAS BEEN RESET MULTIPLE TIMES
After Mobius is nearly tricked by Loki at the renaissance fair, Renslayer reprimands him in her office, and during this scene, Mobius displays clear gaps in his memory.
He starts the meeting by complimenting her office, "Is it just me, or does this office keep getting better and better?" As if he hadn't already been in it regularly by that point. He even points out several items on her display he doesn't recognize.
Mobius asks Renslayer, "Where'd you get that one, the snow globe?" and mutters to himself, "I love those." Almost as if he's trying to recall something. While Mobius doesn't remember bringing it and several other items to Renslayer, she tells him, "You're not the only analyst working for me," with Mobius suggesting that he's at least still her favorite.
The meeting continues with Mobius putting down his cup on a table marked with multiple water rings. Renslayer gets annoyed and Mobius defensively tells her, "those rings were already there," only for her to retort that, "And they're all from you." Perhaps he's been in her office before, but his memories that have been reset included the ones where he caused the rings on her table.
So, he "forgot," just like with the many trinkets in Renslayer's office.
Mobius ends up complying and puts down a coaster, muttering to himself again, "Maybe it's from your other favorite analyst." This is something that highly suggests it's Mobius himself, as Renslayer never confirms that he isn't her favorite.
Renslayer even shows signs that she knows Mobius more than he knows himself, such as when she suggests that he has "a soft spot for broken things," which he denies. It's as if she expected him to grow attached to Loki from the start, almost implying he'd done something similar before.
These inconsistencies in memory seem to point to Mobius having gone "off the dial" previously and reset, which would explain the gaps in memory. As to how or why he went off the dial, it could be that he discovered something he shouldn't have or began to recall his previous life on Earth like C-20.
Regardless, all of this leads back to Judge Renslayer, who, aside from the "Time-Keepers," is the highest authority in the TVA.
THE TRUE NATURE OF RENSLAYER
In an interview with The Hollywood Reporter , Gugu Mbatha-Raw hinted at Renslayer's true nature, saying that when she's in the field and not in her office, "we get to see a whole other side of her. So there’s a lot of secrets. There’s betrayal. There’s lots of layers of Renslayer to come.”
So, taking that and everything else discussed into consideration, including her connections to Kang the Conqueror in the comics, Renslayer looks incredibly suspicious. She is likely fully aware that everyone in the TVA is a Variant, especially if Mobius has indeed been reset multiple times.
As she's essentially the leader of the TVA, it wouldn't be surprising if she was in on the big secret. This could be the case particularly with Renslayer seeming to be the only person in the TVA who has actually met face-to-face with the Time-Keepers, who might actually be Kang himself.
The most obvious connection she has with Kang in the show is her affinity for collecting trophies from across time. In fact, Mobius literally called them "trophies" when he was in her office. Is this perhaps a hobby she picked up from her lover, who has had similar collections in the comics?
When Loki asked what she even did at the TVA, it was "Dictate the proper flow of time according to [the Time-Keepers'] dictations." However, those dictations could easily come from someone who isn't the Time-Keepers. Does Renslayer know that? Will she be the betrayer or the betrayee?
She might know the truth about everyone else in the TVA being Variants, but does she know everything? Is she herself a Variant and not know it? If so, why was she of all people put into such a position of power? And by whom?
In the comics, Kang saved Renslayer from death by plucking her from the moment she drew her last breath, but as a result, she was forced into stasis. She wasn't quite alive, but she wasn't dead either. Kang would toil away to find a solution to save Renslayer from her ultimate fate, so perhaps Mbatha-Raw's character is in a similar scenario.
She was originally meant to die in her timeline, but Kang saved her, causing her to become a Variant. It's a matter of whether Renslayer is aware of this fact or not. The "Time-Keepers" certainly consider Renslayer to be important enough to be second-in-command and put on desk duty instead of dangerous fieldwork.
No matter what stage Kang's relationship is with Renslayer, one thing she made clear in the first episode is true, "It's not your story, Mr. Laufeyson. It never was."
It was always theirs.