‘Loki’ Continues to Push Marvel in Stellar Narrative Directions (TV REVIEW)

“The Variant”

Rating: A-

The surprise reveal at the end of last week’s episode of Loki—that is, that TVA was enlisting Loki’s help to find Loki—seemed a bit much to take in at the time. Even Loki at his worst couldn’t possibly be responsible for the murderous atrocities we saw the elusive variant commit. Surely, something else is going on.

This week’s episode, however, leans into the inherent absurdities Marvel and the MCU are diving into as they move into the cosmic realm. More importantly, they’re doing it well. Series head writer Michael Waldron, along with season director Kate Herron, are engaging in some of the trickiest storytelling Marvel has ever allowed. And yes, that includes Wandavision.

At this point, it’s almost best to view Wandavision as an overture for whatever it is that they’re doing with the MCU. The weirdness of that series certainly gave us a novel narrative but, in the end, it was a straightforward tale of grief and trauma. With Loki, however, the leash appears to be off.

Marvel’s cosmic realm is filled with the kind of characters that dwarf even the most powerful of heroes we’ve met so far. And the most dangerous evils. It’s a scale the likes of which we’ve never seen in the MCU and we’ve barely touched the surface of it so far. The introduction of the TVA and Agent Mobius gives us a small glimpse of what’s to come.

After all, they’ve managed to effectively neutralized Loki, a literal god who while not all-powerful can still do pretty much whatever he wants whenever he wants. There’s something uniquely hilarious about seeing the God of Mischief laid low by bureaucracy and Tom Hiddleston and Owen Wilson are playing that dynamic beautifully.

Moments between the two, whether they’re investigating a nexus event at a Renaissance Faire in the 80s or doing the investigative legwork of poring through files, are treated with alternating bits of comedy and seriousness while providing more than enough space for the show to explore larger ideas of fate and choice. It’s wonderful to see Marvel finally engaging in deeper narratives and themes without losing what it was that made them a billion dollar a year force at the box office.

For all the humor and philosophy embedded in the Loki’s central mystery, they’re still finding time to keep the show packed with action and excitement. The threat of another Loki out there causes a lot of questions, of course, alongside a spectacular end of episode reveal, but it also gives us an excuse to play around and see what’s out there. Consider Loki’s revelation that apocalypses—here defined as any significant catastrophe that causes massive loss of life, not necessarily civilization or world ending—hides any sign of temporal anomalies. This, Loki asserts, is where he would hide from the TVA if this were him. And, well, it does appear to be him, doesn’t it?

Not only does it give us a chance to see our Loki play in the streets of Pompeii seconds before Vesuvius explores, it tells us more about our variant Loki and deepens the longer talk about fate and determinism. That’s a lot for any show to handle and if you’d told me a year that the MCU was going to eventually evolve into a house that allows for this kind of storytelling I would’ve most certainly balked. And it just goes to show that you should never underestimate Marvel Studios. As much as they financially thrive on playing it safe, whenever they let themselves loose is when things really begin to shine.

And let themselves loose they did. The climax of episode two brings us to Alabama in the year 2050, another apocalyptic event in the form of a massive hurricane. By connecting the child they found chewing gun in medieval France to known apocalypses, they’ve narrowed it down to a single location, Roxxcart (a callback to the Roxxon Corporation, whom we haven’t seen in a while). Agent Mobius, Loki, and B-15 (Wunmi Mosaku) lead a TVA team to try and find variant Loki.

Find Loki they do, leading to an absolutely stunning reveal that many fans have been speculating on for several months now. One thing I’ll say for sure, this definitely isn’t our Loki, which of course leads to more questions than it does answers. So who is this new Loki and how did they come into existence? Are we finally going to dive into the multiverse of the Marvel universe? Is our Loki going to team up with this new Loki or did he have something else in mind? Can Loki discover if his actions are fate or does his belief in freewill have any meaning?

Luckily for us, we only have to sit through a few more episodes to get to the end of the season and, presumably, get our answers. As it stands now, however, we’re in for one exciting ride to the finish.

New Episodes of Loki air every Odin’s Day Wednesday on Disney Plus.

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