The second episode of Loki, “The Variant,” takes us back to the 1980s in Wisconsin at a ren faire, where the Loki variant has ensnared another team of Minutemen, set to the tune of Bonnie Tyler’s classic hit.
This is the second time I have written about “Holding Out for a Hero” in a Marvel property this week and I’m left wondering this time, is Loki the hero of this story? Maybe. But he’ll have to convince the TVA that he has good intentions and not just self-serving aspirations.
Loki Comes Face-to-Face with His Variant
While last week’s premiere focused on worldbuilding around Loki, this week felt more like a history lesson — in a lot of ways. First off, Loki is immersing himself (begrudgingly) in the history of the Time Variance Authority, his case file, and the concepts behind Nexus Events; and secondly, Loki and Mobius both recap Loki’s past, Asgard’s past, and the abstract concepts surrounding where everyone comes from. This was a great way to catch general audiences up to speed with some of the concepts that have been introduced in other Marvel series, films, and comics. Plus, we got a great “Professor Loki” line, which really fed into a lot of fan theories about the God of Mischief’s more bookish tendencies.
Speaking of fans, I am loving how Mobius feels like an audience insert for those of us who have always believed the best in Loki, even when he’s stabbing people in the back fifty times. When Mobius told Loki that he was just a scared little boy? I felt seen. Because, whether Loki wants to admit it or not, that is the root cause of so many of his character’s reactionary choices.
Much like with the premiere, “The Variant” was a very dense movie-like episode. A lot of storytelling ground is covered, which doesn’t feel like a lot in the moment, but afterwards, you’re left grappling with a lot of new concepts, plot points, and set-up for the remainder of the series. The writing has been remarkably good, playing into the strengths of the performers, their natural screen chemistry, while fully embracing the off-beat time travel adventure mystery vibe of the show.
Speaking of time travel — this episode had a lot of it. As Loki goes through his case file, he comes across the file for the destruction of Asgard, which sparks a theory in his brain. What if the variant is hiding within apocalypses? Why has the TVA not ever considered that immovable moments in time would be the best place to hide?
Loki and Mobius take a quick journey back to 79 A.D., mere moments before Mount Vesuvius erupts, to test the theory and, sure enough! Loki’s theory is correct. Someone could travel to fixed points in the timeline, where natural disasters with no survivors have occurred, and do anything they want without alerting the TVA to their existence. Which means the Variant is hiding out somewhere in the timeline. Also, Loki freeing the goats was peak comedy.
Mobius recalls the Klabooie candy that was left behind by the Loki variant at one of the incidents, which prompts them to research cataclysmic disasters during a set period of time. They discover a hurricane in Alabama, where a storm shelter has been set up in a store that sells Klabooie. But not just any store, a store called Roxxcart, which probably raised a few brows for diehard Marvel fans. It’s either a playful homage or pointing fingers towards the Roxxon Corporation, which plays heavily in the Iron Man films and basically every live-action Marvel series to date.
Despite some reluctance from Judge Renslayer (Gugu Mbatha-Raw), Mobius gets a team together to travel through the timeline to Alabama to try to catch the Variant and all hell breaks loose. Loki is paired off with Hunter B-15, who is just waiting for him to make a mistake. As they make their way through the eerily lit supermarket, they come across a man looking for azaleas. Okay, Marvel, what’s your deal with azaleas? Agatha Harkness killed Sparky in her azalea bush in WandaVision. But, I digress.
No one is shopping for flowers in the middle of a deadly hurricane, but the Loki variant is shopping for new bodies to possess. As “our” Loki faces off with various forms of himself in possessed human bodies, we learn that he is still very determined to take over the Time Variance Authority and he’s feeling magnanimous enough to offer up a seat on that throne of power to himself — only it’s not himself. It’s Lady Loki.
Ever since Sophia Di Martino’s casting was announced, fans have been speculating that, at long last, we would finally see Lady Loki on our screens and her arrival did not disappoint. (Or is she the Enchantress? We'll have to wait and see.) Despite Loki’s boasting that he is ten steps ahead of everyone, he certainly did not anticipate that Lady Loki would bomb the Sacred Timeline, causing it to splinter into dozens of fragmented variances.
In the final seconds of the episode, she jumps through one of the time portals and Loki follows after her, much to the apparent disappointment of Mobius and co. I mean, that’s probably going to lead to a lot of extra paperwork, right?
With two episodes under its belt, Loki seems positioned to be the best Marvel series on Disney+. The writing is consistently clever, not just with its quippy dialogue, but with its ability to convey so much information with complete respect to audiences with all levels of Marvel knowledge. Tom Hiddleston continues to charm and smarm, with all the passion and delivery we have come to expect from his Loki.