Wednesday, June 16, 2021

REVIEW: 'Loki' - Loki Works Within the TVA to Learn More About Its Power and the Threat From a New Foe in 'The Variant'

Disney+'s Loki - Episode 1.02 "The Variant"

Mobius puts Loki to work, but not everyone at TVA is thrilled about the God of Mischief's presence.

In 2020, the television industry aired 493 scripted shows across numerous outlets. The way people consume content now is different than it used to be. It happens according to one's own schedule. As such, it's less necessary to provide ample coverage of each episode in any given season from a show. Moreover, it is simply impossible to watch everything. As such, this site provides shorter episodic reviews in order to cover as many shows as possible. With all of that being said, here are my thoughts on the next episode of Disney+'s Loki.

"The Variant" was written by Elissa Karasik and directed by Kate Herron

The timeline is a sacred entity that must be protected no matter what. That's the mission of the TVA. They exist to preserve this institution from the various threats that emerge to cause chaos and split off into a new reality. It's an institution full of rules. Loki is learning them as he has been recruited by this agency to stop another evil variant of himself that is proving quite tricky to capture. And yet, this episode also ends by blowing all of that up. The timeline has been attacked. That appears to just be one aspect of Lady Loki's plan as well. Yes, that's one of the big reveals at the end of the episode. The rogue Loki variant is actually played by Sophia Di Martino. She has all the same skills and powers as Loki. However, her plan is much grander than all the catch-up he is continuing to do in his early days of working with the TVA. Everyone knows that he can't be trusted. He provides valuable insight. That's true even in a mission where he only distracts to see how far he can push things. He is only given a few chances to prove his worth. That's all that Renslayer and the Time-Keepers will allow. The TVA is an agency full of bureaucracy and order. It's easy to see why such an institution would be an enemy to Loki. However, he mostly just seeks out power. He does so by creating chaos. That's a constant with each Loki variant that has appeared in the timeline. This isn't the first time the TVA has had to deal with these variants. They take different forms and shapes. They all basically operate in the same way. Lady Loki is the only one that has proven to be more dangerous. Loki was recruited for the insight he could provide. He isn't a loyal member of the team. He only provides the awareness that villains aren't all bad and heroes aren't all good. That character shading has fueled so much of Loki's development across the films. It's now amplified even further in the series. This variant emerged from the past when he was more devious and lethal. His eyes have been opened to his future and the power that resides within the TVA. He yearns for that. And yet, he is still moved by the destruction of his home world. Reading about Ragnarok is absolutely devastating to him. It inspires him to think about apocalypses as the perfect place for variants to hide out. Mobius sees a use for Loki. But in the end, Loki still chooses to walk through the portal and follow the version of himself that seems to be superior. That annoys Loki. He hates to believe that he is the inferior copy in this reality. He must exert his dominance no matter what. That fuels his partnership with the TVA. He is inquisitive. He shows no loyalty though. This conflict hits him at his core. The timeline provokes all of these questions. It sets the stage for this insight. It's only the backdrop for the true show though. It's one about personal discovery for Loki. One that examines his behavior. He always questions power. He is baffled by Mobius' love of order and belief in a system that seems insane. Loki views the servants of the TVA as just as dim and gullible as the citizens of Asgard. They may all be destined for destruction. That's how time ends. It's sad and tragic. It's not the peace that Mobius envisions for the future once the Time-Keepers decide their work is done. A nice bond has formed between Loki and Mobius. They clash. It's hilarious watching Loki destroy Mobius' salad in an attempt to explain his theory. It's amusing to see Loki go through paperwork hoping to find clues. It's funny when they land in Pompeii before its destructive to test out the idea. Mobius also cuts Loki deep in referring to him as an abandoned child. Loki believes he has grown beyond that distinction. Everywhere he goes though, he seems to be confronted by someone playing a much larger game that he couldn't possibly understand. The timeline has been attacked. This could be the creation of the multiverse. The audience sees just how devastating that prospect could be for the TVA. But the show is also willing to engage in these conversations about power and free will while never losing its sense of fun and charm along the way. That balance is spectacular. Blowing up the premise in the second episode also suggests this show is going for big developments instead of trying to establish a formula that survives purely on the extremely strong pairing of Tom Hiddleston and Owen Wilson. That works immensely. The story also provides intrigue through its huge scale and ambition. Of course, the show has to follow through on those stakes. After two episodes, the creative team has absolutely earned a lot of trust to go along for the ride as the Marvel universe continues to evolve and shift.