Loki Episode 2 Holds Out for a Hero and a Villain
Loki tries to work out how to catch himself in the act in a methodical episode that doesn't rush its big reveal.
This review contains spoilers for the second episode of Loki
Loki Episode 2
“Up where the mountains meet the heavens above. Out where the lightning splits the sea. I could swear that there’s someone somewhere watching me.”
When Marvel’s Kevin Feige discussed Loki’s evolution recently, he noted that “putting Loki into his own procedural series became the Eureka moment for the show.” This became a talking point between fans because Loki was simultaneously hyped as another “six-hour movie” and the two concepts seemed to clash a little. Would Loki’s overarching story blend well with elements of a crime procedural?
The first episode of Marvel’s latest small screen project gave us a little good-cop/bad-cop stuff, with some interrogation room tactics weaved in as Owen Wilson’s Mobius M. Mobius went down the “get inside the mind of a killer” route, and the second episode of Loki continues to embrace the procedural vibe.
A fairly traditional teaser sets up episode 2 as C-20 (Sasha Lane from American Honey) and her squad of TVA Hunters arrive in Oshkosh, Wisconsin in the mid-80s to investigate a reported Variant on the loose at a renaissance fair. The team is ambushed by the Minutemen-murdering Loki Variant mentioned by Mobius at the end of the last episode, and Bonnie Tyler’s “Holding Out for a Hero” accompanies the rest of the scene in what may or may not be the most extremely online deep cut I’ve ever seen.
TERRIBLE MISS MINUTES IMPRESSION: Hi there! You may be asking yourself what a “teaser” or “cold open” is! Let me get you up to speed. A teaser is a narrative technique used at the start of a TV episode to intrigue the audience just enough to stay tuned. In crime procedurals it’s usually the first building block of that episode’s mystery. A good cold open makes us feel compelled to stick around and find out “whodunnit,” why, or how!
Back at the TVA, Loki is learning – or half-learning – about what happens when a Nexus Event passes the red line and they can’t reset it: the destruction of the Sacred Timeline. During the lesson Miss Minutes acts as a Gal Friday who Loki has little appreciation for despite her enthusiasm, and she ends up calling him a jerk. Which he absolutely is. Nevertheless, the scene is delightful. If there has to be a Who Framed Roger Rabbit? remake in our future, put Tom Hiddleston in there as Eddie Valiant and you could craft a sturdy bridge out of my suspension of disbelief.
Some specific temporal energy has informed the TVA that the Loki Variant was indeed responsible for the ambush on C-20’s team. The Hunters are used to dealing with Loki Variants – apparently they prune Lokis “almost more than any other Variant.” Slippery little bugger though he may be, this stands out as fairly important information. Are these Variants like raptors unwittingly testing the fences? Also, can we take a guess at who might be leading the pack when it comes to Variant numbers if Loki is in second place? Keep checking the background at the TVA! We’ve already seen a Skrull and Peggy Carter.
Our Loki is being teased with the possibility that he could snag an audience with the Time-Keepers if he’s useful enough, leaning into the tried and true cop show “you could get immunity or a reduced sentence if you cooperate” trope. Loki buys it, but it seems incredibly unlikely that this is anything other than manipulative bullshit on Mobius’ part.
We also get to spend a little time alone with Mobius and Judge Ravonna Renslayer (Gugu Mbatha-Raw) in this episode. The pair have clearly known each other for a long time but Renslayer now has the unenviable task of riding the line between boss and pal. She’s steady and calm, but you can still envision her as Loki’s own police chief: laying down the law with Mobius, calling him a “loose cannon” for allowing Loki into the fold, and asking him to turn in his badge and gun – or whatever the TVA equivalent is.
His interactions with Renslayer are perhaps supposed to be charming but they’re actually kinda unsettling, though I can’t quite put my finger on why just yet.
Mobius emerges from the meeting even more determined to see Loki pick up the pace. He tries to out-manipulate the manipulator with his firm but soft-spoken psychology by telling him that the troublesome killer Variant is a “superior version” of Loki. Our Loki is just a “scared little boy”. I mean, why are you booing him? He’s right.
Loki is put to work in the bowels of the TVA on the research beat, poring through case files and having a fun interaction with a live-action Roz from Monsters, Inc. The stakes are high here. Loki’s life pretty much depends on him finding a breadcrumb or two, and luckily he manages it during an emotional scene where he processes that Asgard, the home he grew up in and then abandoned, is gone. And he didn’t even get a chance to say goodbye.
He digs deeper into the destruction of Asgard and finds that there was no variance energy detected at ground zero and has an epiphany (mmm, we’ll come back to that, no one here is ready for more of my Miss Minutes shtick yet, least of all me) that the show seems to be hoping you don’t ask too many hard questions about.
Loki reasons that he’d hide in zero variance energy apocalypse events if he were evading the TVA, and is excited to prove himself right. Mobius is dubious, but they try out Loki’s winning theory in Pompeii just as the city is being destroyed. The buddy cop energy is strong in the scene, with Loki acting as the mischievous rookie who won’t play by the rules and Mobius as his older, weary partner.
Hiddleston and Wilson’s banter remains effortless, and I can admit that it works a lot better than Anthony Mackie and Sebastian Stan’s in The Falcon and the Winter Soldier. Maybe it’s that Wilson’s “bird noises” bit truly feels like improv being done by someone who’s good at improv – the kind of thing you’d usually see end up in a Marvel gag reel. There’s a lot of fun stuff in this episode, but just passively watching Hiddleston and Wilson’s undeniable chemistry even when they’re having an existential chat about life, the universe, and jet skis has proved to be enough for me honestly.
Speaking of which, Loki uses said chat to plant a much-needed seed of doubt in Mobius’ mind about whether the Time-Keepers and the TVA are really the good guys. I’m on his side here: all that Variant killing and near-religious predetermination has left a whole lot of blood on their hands. ATCAB – All Time Cops Are Bastards! No, wait, that’s Jean-Claude Van Damme erasure. I won’t have it.
Anyway, ding-ding, maybe these two mismatched detectives have more in common than they thought, and it all leads to Mobius having his own Kablooie epiphany.
EVEN WORSE MISS MINUTES IMPRESSION SOMEHOW: A sudden epiphany during an episode is often called a “Eureka!” Moment. The protagonist has some good evidence and the case is almost cracked! All it will take is a little bit of inspiring information to help them cross the finish line. If you’ve ever seen an episode of House, you may already be familiar with these moments, and the look on Hugh Laurie’s face when he finally works out that it’s not lupus or sarcoidosis. Come back soon!
Mobius’ “Eureka moment” places the murderous Variant in 2050 Alabama, so Loki, Mobius, Hunter B-15 (Wunmi Mosaku), and a bunch of other Minutemen eventually find themselves inside a slightly futuristic shopping haven called Roxxcart. I love that this show could go anywhere and do anything but will just as happily cut to a file room or a barely-disguised Walmart as it will to apocalyptic fucken Pompeii.
The Roxxcart mission indeed unveils the mystery Variant: it’s Sophia Di Martino! And the credits identify her as Sylvie aka Enchantress and not Lady Loki as we may have expected. We dig into the significance of all this here.
Depending on your grasp of Marvel lore, this reveal will be quite surprising, thrilling, and perhaps confusing. Pros: we didn’t have to wait as long for this unveiling as we did for WandaVision’s Agatha Harkness reveal. Cons: no catchy theme song. But the fact that this reveal has come so early on in the series is pretty exciting – it probably means bigger surprises lie ahead.
But it’s here that the episode subverts our procedural expectations somewhat. It’s not Sylvie who is revealing her grand plan upon being discovered, it’s Loki. And she’s way ahead of him. “This isn’t about you,” she tells Loki, somewhat echoing the Ancient One’s dying words to Doctor Strange.
Again, this feels very significant. Ol’ Tilda spent a long time protecting our reality, and her successor is about to deal with a multiverse of madness in his upcoming sequel. And lest we forget how the Ancient One set that truth bomb up: “Arrogance and fear still keep you from learning the simplest and most significant lesson of all.” It feels like Sylvie knows something very important that we don’t, and her own “glorious purpose” goes beyond selfish aspirations.
Loki might be a little closer to shrugging off his self-absorbed nature than Sylvie realizes. In my favorite part of the episode, he checks to make sure B-15 is okay when she’s left unconscious by her possession. This is a guy who just killed a bunch of people, just absolutely has nothing but contempt for people, and he’s concerned about the wellbeing of a Hunter who has shown him nought but derision. Loki isn’t holding out for a hero. He might just be on the path to becoming one.
Or maybe he was just lifting a weapon off her body and I’ll have to take it on the chin next week.