Warning - This article contains spoilers for Episode 2 of Loki, "The Variant."
Last week, Loki debuted and set the world ablaze with the most successful debut in the Disney+ era. The return of Tom Hiddleston as the God of Mischief was a welcome sight to MCU diehards across the board.
The premiere episode for Loki provided something that its mystery-driven counterpart, WandaVision, overtly kept away from audiences: answers. After a six-week gap between content after the double-header that was WandaVision and The Falcon And The Winter Soldier, a slew of answers is exactly what MCU fans needed.
Now that fans were caught up with the TVA, Time-Keepers, Loki's journey, and more, Episode 2, "The Variant," took the opportunity to launch those fans into a mega-scale time-crime mystery.
WHOSE STORY IS THIS?
It is worth pointing out the return of the classic Marvel fanfare to begin this episode. The familiar theme of the MCU sets an unprecedented tone every time it shows up, and it was no different in "Episode 2" of Loki.
"The Variant" takes immediate advantage of the heavy lifting done in "Glorious Purpose" and jumps right into the action with a squad of Minutemen hunting down the Loki Variant causing so many problems for the TVA.
Out of all the wild and weird places fans thought Loki was going to be headed, Oshkosh, Wisconsin in the mid-1980s was not one many predicted. And, even less predicted, a dark-lit but fast-paced fight scene set to Bonnie Tyler's "Holding Out For A Hero" was showcased. So, if there is one thing to be learned about Loki so far, it is unpredictable.
The fight features the first look at Variant Loki's puppeteer mind control powers as the commander of the Minutemen squad has her eyes filled with green and turns on her squad. The Variant Loki now has a zombie soldier on their way to take down the whole squadron, steal their gear, and kidnap the commander while escaping.
This scene does a great job showing off the deadly craftiness that Variant Loki processes. That is greatly counter-balanced by the following scene of the main God of Mischief of the show settling into his new role with the TVA. After some charming back and forth with the questionably sentient Miss Minutes, fans are given an intimate and relaxed look at Loki that has never been seen before.
LOKI, THE TVA AGENT
As Loki chats with Miss Minutes, Mobius, and a new Minutemen squadron lead by Hunter B-15, these characters are constantly elaborating on the rules and regulations of time travel and time travel management.
"Episode 1" excelled at clearly laying out the ins and outs of the TVA and its processes. That continues here as those processes are intertwined with Loki's curiosity to learn as much as he can to provide more for him to surely exploit in the future.
As the team returns to Oshkosh to investigate the most recent Loki attack, fans are treated to a battle of minds that rivals the Vision on Vision conversational battle in the WandaVision finale. Loki attempts to weave a web of deceit to position himself for an escape from his current situation, but he underestimates the verbal jousting abilities of Mobius. Much like in "Episode 1," Loki seems to have met his match in the game of wits he claims to play so well.
After Loki stalls for time in an attempt to gain the advantage (a note taken by Mobius for future bouts), Judge Renslayer has words with Mobius about the unconventional route he is taking to combat this terrorist variant. The two share a drink and discuss the pros and cons of trusting a Loki.
The biggest thing audiences learn here is that Mobius, despite being a seasoned and seemingly important TVA agent, has never met the Time-Keepers. The constant build-up of the Time-Keepers' burden of glorious purpose, along with Renslayer's seemingly defensive support of their mission, increases suspicion of the all-mighty trio.
THE SALT AND PEPPER SALAD THEORY
Mobius and Loki get to work in a last-ditch effort to use research and data to locate the dangerous Variant. Loki is given the task of reading files on the Variant as he discovers the file for Ragnarok. After looking over the death tolls and details of the destruction of his people, he realizes a potential loophole in the TVA policing system.
This leads to one of the most mentality stimulating conversations in recent MCU history. A combination of Luis telling a story and Tony Stark explaining a metaphor, Loki explains the theory of hiding in the timeline just before an apocalyptic event would cancel any \Variant activity the TVA may detect.
After a quick trip to Pompeii to test this horrendously creative and logical theory, Mobius and Loki have their first real lead to the Variant causing so much harm to the TVA. After a deep dive into Mobius's belief system, he adds in the variable of the Kablooie gum found in "Episode 1."
This revelation helps narrow the search to a RoxxCart in Alabama where the Variant Loki is in hiding moments before a catastrophic flood. The Variant uses this superstore environment to isolate the main Loki and uses his puppet mind control to talk to him through various characters in the store, including Hunter B-15.
This scene is a masterclass in introducing a character's personality. Through the vessels of customers, workers, and TVA agents, the Variant Loki shows the confidence, charisma, and knack for stalling that fans have fallen in love with the original Loki.
Viewers learn the Variant has no desire to control the TVA, but rather, the plan all along was to use the stolen Reset Charges and portal devices to purge various sections throughout the entire Sacred Timeline. As the plan begins to take place all around the store, the hooded Variant steps out of the shadows revealing Lady Loki, played by Sophia Di Martino.
As the timeline is sent into chaos, Lady Loki escapes through a portal, taunting the main Loki in the process. As Mobius rushes to contain the one Loki Variant he has in his custody, Hiddleston's Loki rushes into the portal, following Lady Loki in an assured attempt to find out more about her master plan.
Much like "Episode 1," the Loki/Mobius chemistry jumps off the screen throughout the show. Hiddleston and Owen Wilson have a way of talking around each other that makes for a charming banter that matches some of the best in the MCU.
Fans are seeing new sides to Loki that have never been seen. The more subtle, behind-the-scenes side allows for Tom Hiddleston to flex his charm muscles. Vulnerability was the emotion of the week in the premiere, but in "Episode 2," fans got to see a Loki at a lunch table talking about the existence of life. Considering all the character development throughout the Infinity Saga, Hiddleston is taking Loki to the upper tier of character depth in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
Owen Wilson had much more range in this episode as Mobius dealt with the fire of the job and the frustration of working with the God of Mischief. Wilson has a likability that makes the Mobius character almost separate from the rest of the TVA. This is something to keep in mind as the onion of the Time Variance Authority continues to be peeled.
The standout scene of the show from an acting perspective was the passing puppet mind control of Lady Loki. This new power provides some amazing creativity as six different actors had the chance to play Lady Loki, and each one supported the Goddess of Mischief vibe head writer Michael Waldron and his team was going for.
PRODUCTION — CINEMATOGRAPHY, MUSIC, EDITING, ETC.
This show continues the week one trippiness of a futuristic setting draped in a '60s aesthetic. From the suits people wear to the shapes of the screens, Loki has found a blend of old and new that caters to the confusion of time this show is meant to portray.
When the show gets intense, so do the shots that support the emotion. Dramatic lighting, close-up camera angles, and incredible acting provide the tension that carries the dramatic beats of the show. And, that is made to stand out even more by the mundaneness of the surrounding story. With a plot and script that gets so far out there, the decision by director Kate Herron to make this show feel slow and steady is constantly succeeding.
The music continues to provide X-Files vibes that really shape the wild themes and tones of Loki. The score is both epic and mesmerizing whenever the situation calls for it. The sudden needle drop of "Holding Out For A Hero" is sure to be a social media favorite for years to come.
Loki came out of the gate introducing new rules, concepts, and worlds that turned the MCU on its head. Through that decision, "Episode 2" was able to feel like a completely new show with time crime and espionage being the new themes. The ability to keep audiences on their toes with the overall feel of the show is something that will ensure weekly intrigue for Loki moving forward.
"Episode 2" is an incredible ride of theorizing from the inside and outside of the show. Being able to walk through the mystery of the TVA with Hiddleston's Loki allows fans to keep track of the wild events happening around them. Through chemistry, wit, and creativity, this episode moves at a great clip that packs a lot into 54 minutes without feeling crowded.
Moving forward, the mystery and excitement of it all were turned up to 11 in the final moments of the episode. Much like "Episode 1," this week's Loki brought the story to a completely new place that is so far from where it started in Oshkosh, Wisconsin that there is no telling where it goes next.
But, that is the appeal of Loki. While the rules and problems of the story are so thoroughly explained, there is still chaotic energy that leaves every single fan wondering the same thing: what is going to happen now?