Loki S2E3 Recap: “1893” — Timely Reunion

Victor Timely inspects one of his time inventions

The following recap contains spoilers for Loki S2E3, “1893” (written by Eric Martin, Kasra Farahani, and Jason O’Leary and directed by Kasra Farahani). 

Editor’s Note: This piece was written during the 2023 SAG-AFTRA strike. Without the labor of the actors currently on strike, the series being covered here wouldn’t exist.

After Episode 3 of the second season of Loki, “1893,” all of the chess pieces are finally on the board. While Episodes 1 and 2 spent most of their time within the retro-futuristic confines of the Time Variance Authority (TVA) or the truly retro confines of early-1980s Broxton, Oklahoma, this episode takes us not only to new spaces, but a wildly new time to reunite Loki and Mobius with the characters from Season 1 that have not yet been a part of this new story.

The episode does begin with a few moments inside the TVA, if for nothing else so that the criminally underused Ke Huy Quan’s Ouroboros can offer up some more techno-babble about temporal looms, time loops, timeline branch capacity, and other things that cause Loki to say, “Wait a second. Simpler.” Thank you, Loki, for speaking out on behalf of those of us in the audience without a Ph.D. in quantum physics.

In summation, the expanding branches of time with no more He Who Remains to keep them in check are causing too much stress on the mechanism that keeps time working properly, and the temporal loom needs to put on its stretchy pants so it can consume as much timeline Thanksgiving dinner as it wants. Ouroboros, Loki, and Mobius agree that the only people with the knowledge of how to gain the capacity they need are He Who Remains (dead) and Miss Minutes (the TVA’s chipper AI with mysterious levels of clearance way beyond anyone who works there; also M.I.A.).

Revonna and Miss Minutes search for Victor Timely

To find Miss Minutes, Loki and Mobius follow signals from former TVA boss Revonna Renslayer’s TemPad first to 1868 Chicago and then to 1893 Chicago. It turns out that Renslayer has been following Miss Minutes’ directions—guided exactly by whom we don’t know: her own programming? Renslayer? Kang?—and slipped a copy of the TVA Handbook into the window of a brilliant young boy living in the outskirts of 1868 Chicago. The trail then leads them all to a next stop in 1893 Chicago and the city’s World’s Fair.

It’s there that Loki and Mobius finally converge with Renslayer at the presentation by a scientist by the name of Victor Timely (played by Jonathan Majors in his third variant iteration of the same character). It’s the first real screen time we have with Majors since he was accused of domestic violence back in March and coincidentally comes just a week before he is scheduled to appear in court on those charges. Considering the overwhelming praise Majors received for his portrayal of He Who Remains in the Loki Season 1 finale and the publicly stated direction that Marvel wants to take the character, all eyes have been waiting for what Marvel does with his portrayal in this season.

The answer to that question is: Marvel is doing a lot with his character. Majors manages to effectively model a third unique personality of the same character in this inaugural appearance of Victor Timely. He Who Remains was an arrogant, brash, loquacious dictator who set up the TVA under necessary circumstances. Kang (who we met in February’s Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania) is a world-destroying conqueror looking to escape the quantum realm and rule on a much larger (literally and figuratively) scale. Victor Timely is a brainy, stuttering, pseudo-con man whose mind can conjure up things that 1893 technology can’t produce.

Loki and Mobius search for Victor at the World's Fair

Based on technology embedded in the TVA handbook, his presentation at the World’s Fair tries to convince the audience that time will be the primary source of energy for the future, and his crude version of the temporal loom has the pyrotechnics and “wow” factor to back it up, but it’s unclear whether or not even Timely buys what he is selling because he quickly sells the item for the rights to the highest bidder. This must be an all-too-common pitch for Timely because at least two people start chasing him down declaring defective items he sold to them. He offers to help but uses the first opportunity he can find to retreat and avoid the conflict.

Timely unfortunately has bigger problems than inferior products and poor customer service to worry about. As Loki, Mobius, and Renslayer all bicker over who needs Timely to accompany them most, Sylvie arrives bent on driving her sword through the variant’s heart once more. Just as she promised in the Season 1 finale, she plans to kill any He Who Remains variant that pops up on any timeline. Loki and Mobius’ invitation for Sylvie to work with them to find Renslayer and save the TVA advertently presents Sylvie with her first opportunity for the multiversal massacre.

Victor Timely presents at the Chicago World's Fair

Instead of a standoff at a Citadel at The End of Time, this time Loki and Sylvie forcefully debate whose path is more righteous atop a Ferris wheel at the World’s Fair. This time, Victor Timely is able to slip away with Renslayer and Miss Minutes and they hop aboard a boat to head north up Lake Michigan into Wisconsin (where Timely’s lab is located; “lower taxes”). In reality, the Wisconsin connection is a nod to Victor Timely of the comics, who founded the town Timely, Wisconsin.  It’s on this boat that we learn Renslayer’s true intentions, which are to create a partnership with Timely so that when he eventually becomes the man who controls all space and time, she can be sitting at his right hand during all of it.

Timely has made it clear he is a lone wolf, so Renslayer’s reward for cozying up to Victor is a swift drop right into the lake. Timely and Miss Minutes leave her behind and head for the lab. Once there, Timely and Miss Minutes begin to talk about what should come next, which is one of the more confounding conversations in the history of the MCU. Not necessarily because of the content of the discussion but because Timely seems to be completely unfazed by the idea that he is carrying on a conversation in 1893 with an anthropomorphic, animated, artificial intelligence clock.

Miss Minutes (played by the massively talented voice actress Tara Strong) has always had mysterious intentions and motivations hiding behind her friendly clock face (is it a stretch to think two hands on a clock face = two-faced?). Her entrée into Season 1 is as an assistant to employees in the TVA, but by the Season 1 finale, we know that she is aware of all of He Who Remains’ plans and is his mouthpiece in carrying out his will. Here on the Wisconsin banks of Lake Michigan, we learn what she really wants.

Victor Timely talks to Miss Minutes

Whether part of her original programming or part of a larger discourse on the dangers of AI, Miss Minutes has evolved to the point that she wants, more than anything, a human body, and tells Timely she can finally be “your girl.” Perhaps now appropriately freaked out by the conversation he is involved in, Timely can only say, “Yes, that’s something… I don’t know how to do.”

Even as far back as 1893, AI does not like being told what it can’t do. Miss Minutes is no longer your friendly neighborhood AI anymore. She lets Timely know, “You never even tried. With all your powers and all your abilities, you just kept me as your thing.” Timely is able to pull the plug on Skynet and shut it down before the bombs start going off, but it’s clear we are going to have a Miss Minutes problem going forward.

A soaked Renslayer arrives, none too happy for the unplanned swim time, and is ready to put an end to Timely. Her arrival is followed soon after by Loki, Mobius, and Sylvie. Sylvie quickly gains the upper hand and is inches away from putting her sword through him when he begins to plead with her:

“I haven’t done anything. That isn’t me. You don’t know me. You don’t know the heart, the heart I have beating in my chest. I can make my own choices. I’m not the man you think I am.”

Sylvie, visibly distraught over the idea of taking away the same free will and future of choice that she fought so hard to get from He Who Remains, allows Loki and Mobius to take Timely with them to the TVA so he can help expand the capacity it needs to keep timelines in check. Sylvie instead banishes Renslayer and Miss Minutes, who she deems as Timely’s puppets, into The End of Time where He Who Remains’ corpse is still rotting. However, I must question the haste with which this decision was made. Banishing someone with an all-knowing AI and not taking away their TemPad before you do is not very God-Of-Mischief-ish.

Sylvie tries to decide whether or not to kill Victor Timely

With Episode 4 sure to now mostly take place at the TVA, the next paths for Sylvie, Renslayer, and Miss Minutes remain a mystery. But that mystery pales in comparison to what exactly will happen now that Renslayer and Miss Minutes disrupted the Sacred Timeline (in Chicago 1868) and created a Branched Timeline with the deposit of the TVA handbook in Victor Timely’s young hands.

Does Loki subscribe to the time travel theory that “Whatever Happened, Happened,” and this was always the path by which Timely eventually became He Who Remains? Or does the free will that Sylvie and Renslayer are so desperately in search of allow for Timely to more benevolently shape the future? Nowhere in Timely’s speech above does he say to Sylvie that he is a good man or an unselfish man. He only tells her that she doesn’t know him. That he’s not the man she thinks he is.

Those things are both clearly true, and the big-picture question now lingering over the last three episodes of Loki and the future of the MCU is what if Timely/Kang/He Who Remains is not the man we think he is? What if he is worse?

Written by Ryan Kirksey

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