Loki S1E2, bluntly titled “The Variant,” rolls with the new show’s Loki-esque brand of misdirection and easter eggs.
Jumping right in: the biggest twist came (massive spoiler) in the form of Lady Loki, played by British actress Sophia Di Martino. While many fans knew this was coming—if for nothing but the egregious and obvious use of “he” pronouns when referring to all Loki variants, the lingering shots of the cloaked variant’s small hands, and Tom Hiddleston’s public excitement over exploring Loki’s gender fluidity in the show—the casting of Di Martino as this exciting new character left me a little underwhelmed.
Di Martino had very little screen time in “The Variant,” and as it ended with her escaping the TVA with Hiddleston’s Loki, we can assume Episode 3 will heavily feature the two tricksters duking it out. When Lady Loki first took down her hood in the climax of Loki S1E2, I was a little disappointed, though not surprised, to see Marvel’s next blonde white woman step onto the scene. If Loki was so intent on finally exploring Loki’s powers as a shapeshifter, choosing another white woman is a tad… unimaginative.
To be clear—this is not a criticism of Di Martino. She has yet to really perform as Loki and her past acting credits (including TV dark comedy Flowers with Olivia Colman) prove her to be a quirky and capable actress. I have no doubt she will bring some incredible talent to the role and should be able to go toe-to-toe with Hiddleston next week. It’s just a shame to see that while Marvel has been diversifying its supporting characters, its leads, particularly its iconic superheroes and villains, remain primarily white.
“The Variant” did, however, have some promising moments.
The climax of Loki S1E2 featured a beautiful (hopefully intentional) use of color in the showdown between Lady Loki and the TVA. Loki stalked through a supermarket made of yellow and blue signage that slowly turned to a reflected green as Lady Loki made her appearance—two parts of Loki coming together. Their escape together at the end of the episode was marked by her plunging the supermarket into red emergency lighting.
Hiddleston’s performance evened out much more this week, balancing Loki’s high emotions coming off of “Glorious Purpose” with the trickster god’s energy and ego intact. A sequence partway through, after Loki discovered his variant was hiding in historical apocalypses, led to some delightful scenes between Hiddleston and Owen Wilson (Agent Mobius), whose chemistry has really found its place.
The plotline of the Lady-Loki-variant hiding in historical apocalypses allowed for a truly funny, indulgent scene in which Loki and Mobius go back to the destruction of Pompeii in 79 A.D. To prove that whatever he does doesn’t matter because the whole city is about to be destroyed, Loki predicts the oncoming doom in Latin to the town square from the top of a cart of goats. Right on cue, Mount Vesuvius erupts and Loki cackles in his maniacal Loki way.
Following the Pompeii incident, Mobius and Loki discuss their concepts of fate and purpose by way of the invention of the Jet Ski. Mobius sees the “beautiful union of form and function” that created the Jet Ski to be a monument to finding order within chaos. Mobius sees beauty in everything finding its place; Loki does not. Mobius has accepted the divine chaos of the time stream; Loki, through all his cosplay-chaos, cannot.
(I giggled to myself around the 28-minute mark when I realized their conversation was basically Footloose. Mobius says, “I think a TVA agent showing up on a Jet Ski on the Sacred Timeline, that would create a branch for sure,” to which Loki replies, “It’d be fun, though.” Just dance a little, Mobius. Maybe it would take the stick out of your butt.)
This investigation of Loki’s attraction to power and disbelief in the inevitability of the Time Keepers’ Sacred Timeline continues a brilliant moment from “Glorious Purpose,” in which Loki found a desk drawer full of infinity stones in one of the TVA’s most mundane offices. Loki’s obsession with “playing a game” as a way to beat people and have the upper hand is completely ruptured by this discovery. How can you win when the most powerful objects in the universe are used as paperweights by a whole bunch of nerds?
In the Loki-Mobius Jet-Skis-and-destiny talk, Loki delivered the line, “No one bad is ever truly bad, and no one good is ever truly good.” A testament to himself, perhaps. Or maybe it’s just what Loki needs to believe to get through the day.
Gugu Mbatha-Raw’s Ravonna Renslayer seems to think so. The TVA judge seems to have little faith in Loki and a complicated relationship with Mobius (it’s getting a little flirty, which is a bit weird, but not unexpected). It seems like Renslayer will finally have a greater role to play in the series, as Loki S1E2 ended with Lady-Variant-Loki “bombing” the Sacred Timeline, something that will likely lead to her working with Mobius to take down both Loki variants. (And what does “bombing” the Sacred Timeline actually mean? I have literally no clue. Evil superhero-y stuff I assume.)
Hunter B-15 hasn’t had much of a character established yet beyond being generally ~in charge~ and distrustful of Loki, but actress Wunmi Mosaku did get a wonderful moment as Lady Loki when the evil variant took over her body and spoke to Hiddleston’s Loki through Hunter B-15. Mosaku absolutely nailed Hiddleston’s classic campy Loki smile, and I hope she gets some more complicated material to work with later in the show.
Loki bounces around cyclically in “The Variant,” first attempting to fool Mobius and the TVA, then pretending to work with them to get to the Time Keepers, then possibly revealing his whole scheme and eventually coming face-to-face with a version of himself from another timeline. As many fans feared, the character’s nature makes it very hard for the audience to tell if what he’s saying is actually true. That’s why the moment with him alone watching a reel of his life in “Glorious Purpose” was so special. We got a moment without lies.
I’d rather Marvel maintain the integrity of Loki’s character and stay a tad confusing rather than make him a lesser version of himself. If WandaVision taught us anything, it’s that Marvel TV can handle an unreliable narrator. I hope the Sacred Timeline will eventually prove that they’ve been pulling the wool over our eyes the whole time.
Let the inconsistencies be intentional, and bring on the chaos!