Thursday, October 19, 2023

REVIEW: 'Loki' - A Familiar Variant Leaves Loki Frightened and Curious About What's Next for the TVA in '1893'

Disney+'s Loki - Episode 2.03 "1893"

Loki and Mobius go on the hunt to find everyone's favorite cartoon clock as they try to save the TVA.

"1893" was directed by Kasra Farahani with story by Eric Martin and teleplay by Eric Martin, Kasra Farahani & Jason O'Leary

Time is the most precious resource any individual can control. He Who Remains created the sacred timeline. He claimed it was for altruistic purposes. Pruning the branches would prevent the inevitability of multiversal war as a result of his dangerous variants. He grew bored. He gave Loki and Sylvie the chance at free will. They had differing opinions. They still frequently find themselves on opposing sides. The TVA is at risk of complete destruction because the temporal loom can no longer manage the output of the many timelines. Sylvie is perfectly fine with this nefarious organization imploding. However, the agents still around aim to prevent any threats from destroying the many timelines that now exist. They view it as their duty to protect all of life no matter what choices are made. They proclaim they want to be above the conflict and the choices. And yet, their actions are incredibly consequential. The leadership of the TVA ultimately determines what plays out on the sacred timeline. It's either free will or complete control imposed by one central figure.

He Who Remains created the TVA. As a result, all of the protocols are designed to accommodate him. Without his presence, everything falls into chaos. That threat has been consistent throughout the season so far. However, it mostly boils down to O.B. proclaiming "we're all gonna die" over and over again. That appears to be the bulk of his dialogue. He's a wonderful, awe-inspiring inventor. His grasp of the TVA technology is far superior than anyone else in the organization. He still has his limits. He declares doom. Loki and Mobius view finding Miss Minutes as the only way to hack into the system. She's aligned with Ravonna now. They are off on a secret mission. They were only found because Dox took a major burden off the system. Her attack destroyed countless branches. A genocide was committed. No one really has any time to react or deal with the consequences. Life simply continues moving forward. The threat hasn't been handled. It's still escalating. That only becomes more damning once Loki has his first interaction with a variant of He Who Remains.

Loki is immediately afraid the moment he sees Victor Timely during his presentation of temporal technology during the 1893 Chicago World Fair. The environment is completely altered from when Ravonna first jumped and messed with fate. Carefully placing a TVA guidebook anywhere on the timeline has far-reaching consequences. In this situation, it's the plan He Who Remains created under the suspicion that Loki and Sylvie wouldn't take him up on his offer. It was a failsafe to ensure the inevitability of the TVA and its mission. He was simply preparing one of his variants to take up the baton. It's now Victor Timely's responsibility to sit in the Citadel at the end of time and lord over all that came before. The past interactions with variants have proven that not all of them behalf similarly. Nor do they always appear with the same face at the same time. That may provide Marvel with a way out of Jonathan Majors playing the next big bad in multiple films depending on the outcome of the criminal charges of assault and harassment he's facing. Nothing could be altered in the story of this season though. Majors' presence is still heavy.

The narrative embraces more of a zany energy as it pertains to Timely's introduction. That's apparent when the Marvel Studios fanfare at the top of the episode is replaced with an old timey piano cover. It's eerie and effectively draws the viewer in. What comes next is ultimately a bunch of over-the-top plot twists meant to keep everyone running around and battling for control. It doesn't particularly happen with a lot of nuance. Timely wants to be seen as a more wholesome and innocent variant. He's still a con man with aspirations for changing the entire world. Sylvie is incapable of killing him despite her previous pledge to do so. She can't trust Loki and Mobius with the power they have. They want to do the right thing. Loki argues preserving the TVA is the only way to secure Sylvie's new home on a branch of the timeline. It's a fight without much heart or passion to it. That's the overall sense of the narrative now. Everyone is going through the motions of what's expected of them because of the urgency of the threat. They have to act. They don't have the luxury of doing nothing. Everyone is vying for power. It's completely up for grabs. It all revolves around the TVA and its grand importance. It's no longer about the passion or humanity of the characters. Not even Loki reflecting on his heritage is enough to offer much insight into what currently drives everyone.

That is such a frustrating development too. Sure, the narrative still produces epic twists like Miss Minutes professing her love and anger for He Who Remains. He created her. He made her capable of writing her own programming. She is completely sentient as an A.I. She is more than just a worthy chess companion. She always loyally served He Who Remains. And yet, he never fulfilled what she always wanted. She desired a body of her own. She betrays Ravonna largely because she sees the potential for intimacy and partnership between her and Timely. Miss Minutes must take the credit for herself. She's a towering figure with a vast influence over this situation. She carries so many secrets. But that mostly comes across as the show teasing twists that will come shortly to surprise everyone and drastically change their outlook. Those twists only matter if the viewer has affection for the characters. The show is losing that sense of itself. The production design is always phenomenal. However, the tone and pace have to be carefully calibrated and managed. The season established high stakes. That's all it seemingly aspires to produce. That's disappointing. It means time is wasted as Timely is chased by robber barons. It's a fun detail for the time. It's just not particularly relevant. The fights for his temporal aura are crucial. He speaks of his appreciation for O.B. That will likely make them a thrilling pair once Timely arrives at the TVA. But again, that's excitement for the future and what it represents. It's not living in the moment and enjoying the process of experiencing this journey for the first time.