This review contains spoilers
Loki is back to try and save the Marvel Universe in more ways than one as the second season of his MCU solo show returns to Disney+ this month. It’s the only live-action MCU series to get a second season so far, and as the premiere kicks off it’s incredibly easy to see why. Tom Hiddleston, Owen Wilson, and the rest of the Loki cast really do make the show’s near-incomprehensible time travel story utterly compelling.
It’s been over two years since we last caught up with the God of Mischief, and when we left him he was a changed man, having seen the error of his ways and having made an actual friend in TVA analyst Mobius M. Mobius. He also accidentally helped kickstart the Marvel multiverse by traversing to the end of time with fellow variant Sylvie (Sophia Di Martino), where he met He Who Remains, a vaguely unhinged man who felt compelled to strangle the multiverse down to a single timeline because some of his variants had once started a war that escalated far beyond their realities. Sylvie wasn’t really interested in all that, and just stabbed him to death.
You’d think that the burgeoning multiverse would have had a huge impact on the MCU since, but it kinda hasn’t? We saw some fun and self-contained stories in What If…?, a spell go wrong and get put right in No Way Home, a multiverse that wasn’t quite that mad in Doctor Strange 2, and then earlier this year Scott Lang and the fam met He Who Remains variant Kang the Conqueror in the Quantum Realm. But even taking that into account, not so much has transpired that we can’t easily re-join Loki’s quest to manage the fallout of Sylvie’s actions on the bureaucratic TVA, which is certainly good news for everyone who hasn’t been keeping up with the onslaught of MCU content.
In fact, we pick up right where we left off, with Loki running into a version of Mobius and Hunter B-15 who have no idea who he is. It soon transpires that Loki is in the past, back when He Who Remains was a known entity at the TVA and all its workers eagerly did his bidding, including Loki’s friends. Soon, Loki is “time slipping” back to a familiar present inside the TVA, where Mobius takes him to meet Ouroboros (Ke Huy Quan) the TVA’s brightest – and seemingly only – engineer. “OB” notes that Loki is time slipping, and he finds a way to fix it. Well, sort of. It doesn’t go right. Very few things in Loki ever go right!
Kwan is a perfect addition to the Loki cast as OB. His interactions with Loki and Mobius are often confusing, but he maintains such a high level of winsomeness that his heavy exposition dumps are fairly enjoyable. It’s easy to imagine OB as an adult version of Data from The Goonies, a man whose weird inventions and contraptions now regularly save the day to absolutely zero applause. The scene in which he repeatedly retorts a meta “wow” to Wilson’s Mobius almost threatened to take me out, but the episode just about stayed on the rails as it clipped through the its various MacGuffins and Timey Whatnots.
For me, much of this episode’s breezy success is down to Wilson’s banter with the rest of the cast. From the jet ski chatter, to the cringeworthy fumbling as he tries to remember OB, and in particular the moment he writes “SKIN?” in the dust of the temporal loom control room (big Wanted vibes from this loom cobblers btw). There’s no scene too wild that Wilson’s easy demeanour can’t bring us back to earth, even as Natalie Holt’s incredible score seeks to weave its surreal aural tapestry.
It’s super clear in this season premiere that Marvel genuinely cares about Loki’s continuing success. Hiring beloved indie sci-fi filmmakers Aaron Moorhead and Justin Benson to oversee these episodes was a good choice after season one director Kate Herron departed the series. The camera stays with the characters and pulls you into their panic and frustration as the TVA begins to fall apart and Loki’s time slipping gets worse. The time slipping itself is a truly impressive visual effect – one of the best I’ve seen in the MCU to date. After some truly dodgy CGI coming out of Marvel Studios in recent times, it’s reassuring.
The premiere doesn’t just tie up loose ends from last season’s finale, although it does a fairly thorough job of it. Loki’s trip to a nightmarish future version of the TVA seemingly hints that his team’s endeavors to fix the temporal loom will ultimately fail. A cheery Sylvie is also there in the future, and Loki is almost overwhelmed with emotion by the encounter – until he’s helpfully pruned by an unseen individual. It’s all intriguing enough to make me want to come back next week and see what happens.
Of course, all this leads to an MCU first: a post-credits scene in the very first episode! Sylvie arrives fresh from killing He Who Remains in Broxton, Oklahoma via a branched timeline in 1982, and orders one of everything off the McDonald’s menu. She’s just like us! We all know those nuggets would have been tight back then, too. Real original recipe goodness.
The significance of Broxton in the MCU is currently unknown here, but in the comics Thor recreated the City of Asgard in Broxton during J. Michael Straczynski’s run, and the Asgardians once went to war with Galactus there. It’s also the birthplace of Agent Carter villain Whitney Frost, but we can probably assume Marvel isn’t making that show canon any time soon! Given that this version of Broxton is a branched timeline, let’s hope it’s safe from General Dox (Kate Dickie), who seems to be on her own questionable mission to fix the TVA.