by @holocronGeorge for @mar_tesseract
WARNING: This review contains spoilers for Loki – Episode 2: The Variant
After a stellar premiere episode, Loki propels forward in another intriguing, clever, and compelling installment. The Variant sees Loki and Mobius continue their investigation into the variant Loki wreaking havoc across the timeline as they uncover clues about the threat posed.
Two episodes in and it’s pretty clear: Loki is the best MCU series on Disney+ yet. So much brilliant exposition, narrative, character dynamics, and humor are packed into a tight 54 minute episode that simply flies by. A significant reason for the series’ success so far, as evidenced in The Variant, is the relationship between Tom Hiddleston’s Loki and Owen Wilson’s Agent Mobius. The two play off one another superbly and deliver screenwriter Elissa Karasik’s sharp dialogue to perfection. Hiddleston is such a commanding screen presence and continues to highlight why he’s the MCU’s best villain to date. Loki is tricky, devious, witty, and yet undeniably likable, which is no small feat given that this is the character who led an invasion of New York City just days ago. Owen Wilson’s Mobius serves as a worthy juxtaposition to Hiddleson’s character. Loki evokes a sort of maniacal confidence and egocentrism that is delicately balanced by Mobius’ calm, collected, and equally intelligent demeanor. Loki has clearly met his match in Mobius. Their relationship, especially given the organization of the TVA and sci-fi leanings of the series, feels like the MCU’s version of the relationship between Will Smith’s Agent J and Tommy Lee Jones’ Agent K in the Men in Black series.
Unlike WandaVision and The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, Loki doesn’t wait to dive head first into its central plot. The brilliant set-up in Glorious Purpose is capitalized on here as we see Loki and Mobius reluctantly team up to stop the variant Loki right from the get-go. Loki continues to draw upon Doctor Who, both aesthetically and narratively, while feeling like a natural next step in the sprawling MCU. And despite the speed at which we’re thrown into the core plot of the series, The Variant is largely devoid of action, with the exception of its opening and closing scenes. This felt refreshing as the character dynamics and machinations of the TVA are the most compelling aspects of the show so far, and the series continues to place these elements in the spotlight. Moments of tension and suspense do not rely on big, CGI-heavy action sequences to add stakes. But, rather, the plot and character arcs are driven by more intimate and clever conversations and revelations.
These conversations and revelations kept us interested for the entirety of the episode. We see Loki and Mobius do a bit of detective work to uncover that the variant Loki is hiding out in an apocalypse after disrupting other parts of the timeline. This revelation came about with a terrifically morbid sequence on Pompeii that somehow balanced the humor and horror of the situation. Ravonna Renslayer and Mobius’ conversations also added some depth to the Time Keepers and the inner-workings of the TVA. Everything we know about the TVA so far is so interesting and has surprisingly widespread implications for the MCU. Questions about free will, determinism, and the purpose of life add a unique, philosophical bend to Loki.
And the tension and suspense ramped up significantly in the episode’s closing act. The futuristic grocery store setting was eerie and fitting for the mysteriousness of the cloaked figure. Sophia Di Martino made her first appearance in the show as Lady Loki – confirming many fans’ speculations ahead of this reveal. Lady Loki has a crazy track record in comics to say the least, so it’ll be interesting to see how this character is depicted as the plot unfolds in Loki.
Loki impresses once again with an episode full to the brim with clever dialogue and interesting reveals driven by two superb leading performances. The Variant evokes element of Doctor Who and Men in Black as the time-bending, sci-fi-heavy plot moves forward in surprising and compelling fashion. The episode is worth watching for Hiddleston and Wilson’s relationship alone, but thankfully Loki has a captivating and impactful plot that lives up to the performances of its stars.
Images courtesy of Marvel Studios & Disney+