Loki kicked off its season last week with a picture-perfect setup pilot episode. For better or worse it was mostly set up, so anticipation for the second episode to kick things up a notch is high. There’s a mysterious variant of Loki moving around through the timestream attacking Time Variance Authority (TVA) workers. Who better to fight a Loki variant than Loki himself, right?
In episode two titled “The Variant,” we open on another variant attack this time in 1985 at a renaissance fair. Armed TVA agents continue to be killed and their resources are stolen. Cut to Loki sitting at his very average-looking office cubicle in the TVA awaiting his first mission. Once again, the show does a good job establishing the look and feel of the TVA as some kind of 9 to 5 job that’s a lot more boring to look at than what they actually do. Their main task is to fix the timestream and delete variants who escape the timestream.
The blend of sci-fi coolness, humor, and comics complexities come together in the very next scene as Loki gets a debrief on what Loki variants are capable of. Tom Hiddleston continues to eat up the scenery with every line he utters and it’s great fun to see Mobius (Owen Wilson) dish it right back. The casting is pitch-perfect here, as Wilson’s matter-of-fact and super calm demeanor plays off Hiddelston’s spry and cocky Loki which makes for a great dynamic.
Outside of the funny and fun dialogue, there’s plenty of sci-fi babble and explanations here which delivers plenty of helpful exposition. When it comes to time travel, rules are very important. The rules of the game, so to speak, currently focus on Loki attempting to ensure he won’t be erased if he does as the TVA wishes and captures the variant.
This show continues to look slick as hell with great set design, cinematography, and production values. The TVA is a conundrum of sorts, featuring a retired look and feel from office spaces and architecture long passed, yet it’s also the hub for a very dangerous and important organization.
The meat of this episode focuses on Loki’s continued research and contemplation of what his true self will eventually go through. As a variant unstuck from time he’ll never truly grow as he should have, but the show is doing the work to have Loki learn through videos and reports what ends up happening to Asgard and to his true self.
This show has already firmly established how this Loki is different from the one that died in Avengers: Endgame, but also maintaining the anger he has yet to grow naturally out of. It’s fun to see how Hiddleston is playing the character ever so slightly more evil and different but also plucking a few lessons learned by his future self to become better along the way.
There are other dynamics in play too like Ravonna’s (Gugu Mbatha-Raw) history with Mobius and their obvious complex relationship yet to be fully revealed. This show is rather economical with its scenes never dragging or focusing too long on any one subject. As it carries on, Loki ends up being more helpful than maybe even he thought he was capable of. Not only that, but this episode also gets on with an actual mission — this time set in 2050 — and progresses things nicely for the main plot.
“The Variant” is a stellar second episode that is economical as it makes progress with its main conflict and plot while developing Loki’s new complexities as a variant. The plot is thickened nicely as Tom Hiddleston affirms he’s a treasure as the god of mischief.
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