Although Marvel Studios will reportedly switch to longer seasons with upcoming shows, Loki is still a product of the original production method: six-episode miniseries that could continue. And has become Rotten Tomatoes’ custom, we’re taking a look at Loki season 2 at the halfway point to see what’s transpired so far, speculate on may yet transpire, and check-in with executive producer Kevin Wright, who answered a few of questions about the story so far. So join us on a journey where time becomes timeless and Timely and where Loki Laufeyson (Tom Hiddleston) starts auditioning for the lead role in Doctor Who.
Spoiler alert: The following contains plot details from the first three episodes of Loki season 2. Stop reading here if you haven’t watched the episodes and wish to avoid spoilers.
One thing we find fascinating about Loki‘s world is the constant refrain that the Time Variance Authority exists outside of time and, therefore, does not experience it. That notion actually answers the season 1 cliffhanger as the statues we previously thought depicted Kang (Jonathan Majors) were, in fact, modeled after He Who Remains (also Majors), the variant of Kang who devised the TVA and the Sacred Timeline. They just exist in the distant past of the supposedly timeless TVA.
Confused? That’s OK. It may help to ignore the reminders of the TVA’s timelessness. As Loki quickly learned, the memories of its agents are regularly wiped and the timeslips he experienced proves that the seeming impossible (the progression of time) is possible in the confines of the TVA.
But according to Wright, the mind-melting nature of time within the Authority was part of an attempt to quickly resolve the first season’s shocking cliffhanger and move onto the next part of the story. “[First season head writer Michael Waldron] would always talk about story acceleration and the things that you think, ‘All right, well, that whole episode or maybe the whole season is going to be about resolving that cliffhanger,’” he explained. “And it’s like, ‘What if we figure that out in the first 10 minutes and then we can just get into the consequences of that?’”
So instead of Loki spending six episodes trying to restore Mobius M. Mobius’s (Owen Wilson) memories of their friendship, he discovers he is in the past of a building said to have no past. Nevertheless, as Wright noted, what are the consequences of that?
In the immediate “present” of the TVA, it means the agents learn from Loki the truth about the Time-keepers and He Who Remains, which in turn sets several things in motion – like General Dox’s (Kate Dickie) hunt for Sylvie (Sophia Di Martino) and Mobius and Loki discovering the failing temporal loom.
Of course, as Wright pointed out, the increased buddy cop feel of the Loki-Mobius dynamic is intentional. “Those two have such a great rapport behind and in front of the camera, that it just gives a lot of fuel. And then we’re able to turn the tables and it isn’t just Mobius guiding Loki through things, but Loki able to help give Mobius insights into himself.”
Unlike the first season, Loki’s second run of episodes appears to emphasize a more solid episodic structure. A problem is identified — Loki’s timeslipping, Sylvie’s whereabouts in time, finding Victory Timely (yet again Majors) — and resolved within 48-or-so minutes. A payoff in every episode is immediately satisfying as the stakes do not linger too long. Well, the minor ones when compared to the destruction of the temporal loom. As Loki and Mobius learn, it is the key to maintaining the Sacred Time and it cannot contain the branching timelines unleashed when He Who Remains died.
Although, as Wright pointed out to us, altering the structure of the season was not a conscious effort to become more episodic. Instead, as he explained, “We wanted things to constantly be getting trickier and create more of a high-wire act as the series progresses, so it kind of came naturally out of that.”
We have to admit, the wire is pretty high at this point. The loom is on the verge of collapse and only He Who Remains can offer O.B. (Ke Huy Quan) the access needed to expand its capabilities. Luckily, they’ve tracked down Timely, the man who will become He Who Remains — granted, he could still be another variant (more on that later). But Dox, Sylvie, and even Ravonna Renslayer (Gugu Mbatha-Raw) present threats to Loki, Timely, and the TVA. Then there’s whatever scheme Miss Minutes (voiced by Tara Strong) might be hatching.
While Loki is still a serialized show, giving each episode a more solid structure definitely helps navigate the time-twisting nature of the larger plot. Or, at least, it seems to help.
That brings us to Timely, who finally debuts in episode 3. He’s not exactly what one would expect considering the man we met at (presumably) the end of his life. Then again, he’s not exactly He Who Remains, either. Note the time indicators when Renslayer arrives in 1868 Chicago to give a young Timely the TVA manual and when Loki and Mobius arrive at the 1893 World’s Fair. The former is part of the Sacred Timeline while the latter is a branched alternate.
We’ll assume the TVA manual is the source of the branching and Timely’s exposure to O.B.’s writing jump-started at least some of his thoughts about the technology he will eventually use to mash the Multiverse down to a Sacred Timeline. But leapfrogging his theories by a few centuries also means he emerges as an variant with a fundamentally different personality. As someone absent-minded but ready to scam several deep-pocketed individuals at the Fair, he comes off as more of a flim-flam man with odd speech patterns than the person Loki and Sylvie met at the end of all things. But if there is one commonality between Timely and He Who Remains, it is in their reticence to share control.
In fact, we wonder if that common aspect is a tell indicating that Timely’s persona is as much a front as the scam he pulls on robber baron Guy Pennyman III (Ross Hatt). He may yet to prove to be as much He Who Remains as the person Sylvie killed in the season 1 finale if not the same person thanks to some timey-wimey shenanigans.
Although, that leaves a few questions about He Who Remains, Kang, Timely, and all the other Kangs glimpsed at the end of Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania. Are they all, originally, Victor Timely? Did they all grow up in the slums of 19th century Chicago? And if so, did the original Multiversal war occur in that century or early in the 20th?
We put the question to Wright and he said, “It would happen everywhere and all at once.”
“It isn’t taking place in one era or one place,” he continued. “The scary and the interesting thing about it, to me, is that it isn’t just an army coming in the way that we’ve seen in past Marvel films. This is a thing where it would be an attack of every fiber of reality across its entire existence.”
Another question: why does Timely inspire the reactions he receives from Renslayer and Miss Minutes? Both seem entranced by him, only to lose their senses when he rebuffs their advances. Also, Miss Minutes seems incensed when Renslayer and Timely experience an immediate attraction.
For Miss Minutes, an answer quickly presents itself — she’s still furthering the designs of He Who Remains. She even puts Renslayer on the path to deposit the TVA manual in Timely’s 1868 hovel. Then again, her jealousy of Timely’s rapport with Renslayer “also suggests sentience and ambitions she claims to possess are, in fact, real.
Renslayer’s behavior, meanwhile, may relate back to the deep TVA past and the mindwipes. Does she dimly recall He Who Remains and recognize him in this stranger, daffier Timely?
The acceleration of the events has led to an interesting change in Loki that he has yet to really acknowledge: He’s all in as a TVA agent. Once his timeslipping is resolved, he puts on a coat we can’t help but see as one Hiddleston might wear if he starred in Doctor Who and he seems committed to fixing the loom, stopping Dox’s squad, and restoring the order Sylvie destabilized when she killed He Who Remains.
What happened to the god of mischief?
Despite some displays of his trickster powers in episode 2 and 3, it seems his journey with Sylvie across season 1 had a profound influence on him. He’s identified something worth fighting for among all the Multiversal chaos and it seems to be the TVA itself. Or, at the various least, the bonds he made with Mobius, Hunter B-15 (Wunmi Mosaku), and Casey (Eugene Cordero).
Alternatively, he found something to fight against as he took He Who Remains’ warning about a worse despot on the horizon to heart. While he’s only mentioned it a handful of time, he genuinely fears what might happen if the TVA falls and another Kang establishes a foothold in reality.
Either way, though, the investment on Loki’s part is a stark departure from where we started with this variant: Still married to his glorious purpose despite his defeat at the hands of the Avengers. Sure, he knows his adoptive mother and his prime variant both died as consequences of the Infinity Saga, but there is only so much empathy he can have for those events as, ultimately, he did not experience them. Nevertheless, Loki is emotionally at the same place his prime was at the conclusion of Thor: Ragnarok and that’s pretty remarkable — especially as the events of Loki amount to handful of days since the Battle of New York depicted in the first Avengers film.
Well, a few days as Loki perceives them, anyway. Has he had a moment to rest since the TVA picked him up?
Of course, with all this examination of Timely as a person and Loki’s newfound commitment, Sylvie has been lost in the mix. Although, to be fair, she got what she wanted in season 1 and when Loki finds her, she seems content working at a McDonald’s in a branched timeline. The dynamic is very different this time around as she is only involved to protect her timeline. See the way she lunges for Timely in episode 3 and begrudgingly allows Loki to take him to the TVA.
Sadly, that also means her partnership with Loki takes a back seat to Loki and Mobius as the key pairing this season. Nevertheless, we hope she will still get to do something meaningful in the second half. She was one of the great additions to the Marvel Studios canon, after all.
But across the season so far, one character has stood out: O.B., or, as we learned, “Ouroboros.” The character, armed with Quan’s charm, is an immediate delight. He is the right kind of quirk for the TVA and, as it turns out, the person who best understands the underlying technology of the Authority and the temporal loom.
Presumably, like everyone else who works at the TVA, he is a variant whose prime still lives some sort of life in the Sacred Timeline. And like Mobius, he has been renamed with a term that symbolize infinity. That cannot be a coincidence.
Despite what He Who Remains told Loki and Sylvie, the Multiverse has not returned — at least, not in the way it is being experienced by some other Marvel characters — and the Sacred Timeline is still held in place by the loom. And only O.B. has any chance of altering it to accommodate the branching timelines. Is he telling the truth in that regard? And even if he is, will his fix (or Timely’s for that matter) be enough? It is possible Loki will yet reveal the mechanism for the council of Kangs to exist and their ambitions to wage war across all possibility?
Or, maybe, this is all just the long way for Mobius to get his jet ski.