This Loki review contains spoilers.
Loki Season 2 Episode 4
“I promise you this will make sense.” Loki says those words to Sylvie, who just watched him prune another Loki in front of her. But Tom Hiddleston delivers the lines directly at the camera, as if speaking directly to the viewers.
And it is a necessary word of comfort, because Loki season two blows things up in a big way, perhaps even more so than the season one finale. Written by Eric Martin and Kathryn Blair and directed by showrunners Aaron Moorhead and Justin Benson, “Heart of the TVA” features a lot of running around and shouting technobabble, but it feels more earned than the other times its happened in the previous two episodes.
Even before Victor Timely moves toward the temporal loom and promptly explodes (“Time to recast Kang?” many internet commenters wondered at once), there’s a sense of finality to the episode, one that addresses the lingering problems of this largely enjoyable season. “Heart of the TVA” takes time to catch up with all of the principal characters, even those we haven’t spent much time with. Loki‘s secret superpower has always been its casting, which gathers fantastic actors with unique looks, making the TVA feel like a genuine nexus point for multiple realities.
Moorehead and Benson stop the proceedings long enough to let Hunter B-15 (Wunmi Mosaku) have a heart-to-heart with Judge Gamble (Liz Carr), flexing some acting muscles not yet required by the show. Hunter X-5 (Rafael Casal) and General Dox (Kate Dickie) get to make their villains slightly more sympathetic before going to definitive ends. And Gugu Mbatha-Raw continues finding anger and vulnerability in Ravonna, especially as she seems to go down the bad guy road, perhaps toward her comic book counterpart’s identity, the Termantrix.
All of these character check-ins occur against the backdrop of a collapsing TVA and a branching timeline flash point, which sometimes rings false. The MCU has long followed the Joss Whedon method of quippy one-liners in the face of existential obliteration. While that does often work — the Avengers enjoy shawarma, Star-Lord challenges Ronin to a dance off — it can undermine a work’s insistence that the stakes are very high indeed.
So when Mobius, delightful as always, suggests a snack of pie, Sylvie speaks for us all with her angry rejoinder. Loki has dealt with past lives stolen, they’re facing down the end of all reality, and universal genocide occurs on a regular basis, but the most powerful parts of the series involve Owen Wilson pontificating about jet skis or an alligator variant of Loki. Sophia Di Martino does what she can to sell Sylvie’s anguish and make us believe the moral weight of her existence, but she’s working against filmmaking that doesn’t care about all that.
If you’ve been listening to Den of Geek‘s Loki recaps on the podcast Marvel Standom (and really, you should be), you know our feelings about Loki Laufeyson’s evolution into just Tom Hiddleston, a nice and handsome Englishman. I’ve lamented the loss of one of Marvel’s greatest villains, but the episode gives us hints of the god once burdened with a glorious purpose. When Loki taunts X-5 from the shadows, and he and Sylvie force him to prune Ravonna, there’s that sense of trickery. And yes it’s Ravonna who crushes Dox and the other TVA members in the shrink box trap, something that Loki only threatened to do, but the event reminds us that such nastiness remains on the table, waiting for Loki to pick it up again.
If the explosion of the Loom does indeed give the show a chance to reset and delve into the character’s past lives, I hope evil Loki returns in some form, adding a much-missed edge to this otherwise affable buddy show. Then, Loki‘s mixture of feel-good witticisms and multiverses adventure would work. Then, it would make sense.