Loki: Episode 2 “The Variant” Review

Enchantress is that you? Or…is it Lady Loki? Or…is it faux Enchantress? Also, did Loki just betray the TVA? So much to unpack!

Wednesday’s episode of Loki was a lot. Aside from the usual sci-fi trope of setting up the rules of the world, and the usual buddy-cop trope of establishing an odd-couple pairing, we were ultimately treated to the first glimpse of our villain. She is a fair-skinned, blonde woman with a Loki-ish crown, and clothes similar to his Asgardian attire. Listed in the credits as simply “the variant”, our formidable foe is played by Sophia Di Martino.

The internet is a buzz with theories, and I thank them for faux Enchantress aka Sylvie Lushton – a figure I didn’t know about until searching for info about Enchantress (the real one is an Asgardian named Amora, whose sister, Lorelei appeared in Marvel’s Agents of Shield, played by Elena Satine). Poor Sylvie is the result of Loki deciding to give a mortal woman Asgardian powers and delusions of grandeur – which leads to an unpleasant fallout when the truth is revealed. However, since Marvel already tried to tease fans in WandaVision, I’m not holding out much hope that this is in fact Enchantress or Sylvie Lushton.

My guess is, it’s another red herring. Loki is the trickster god. There already exists a version of him that is female, or at least, appears to be. Seems to me like the easier road to tread, especially since the series is called Loki. We learn in this episode that Loki (2012) isn’t the first Loki variant to get by the TVA. We already know the dangerous variant is a Loki, but Mobius reminds his team that they’ve come across multiple Loki variants. Some differ greatly in appearance, some differ a bit in powers and abilities, but they are all Lokis. Interesting note: the entire time they talk about this they only ever refer to the Lokis as “he” or “him”, and none of the variants they show are female.

This information is dropped without much fanfare, and weirdly, not circled back to. I mean…did Mobius try to recruit any of the other Lokis? Is there a reason he chose this Loki? It’s very curious. I could speculate that he has and it hasn’t gone well, but, the way Ravonna talks it doesn’t seem like he’s tried this before. Not to mention the discovery 2012 Loki makes – that if you do crazy shit right before an apocalypse event the timeline could care less, providing a perfect place for a variant to hide out – it’s reasonable to assume another Loki would have had a similar breakthrough by now.

So how is Mobius’ experiment working out? Not bad, all things considered. His Loki on lead has revealed a brand new method for finding their violent variant, which is a good save given he did fuck up an earlier mission. Or did he?

See, we start the episode with the variant at a Renaissance Faire in 1985. No reason is given for this particular pit stop, but a TVA minuteman (er…woman) is bespelled (poor Hunter B-20 played by Sasha Lane) into attacking her fellow officers before losing consciousness and being kidnapped by our villainous variant. When Loki and Mobius arrive on the scene it doesn’t go well, with Mobius convinced that Loki is up to his usual tricks, but, lucky for Loki, Mobius is a patient guy. He gives the god of mischief a second chance through research. This bears fruit – the aforementioned apocalypse loop-hole – and leads to the crux of the episode: Loki meeting his variant self.

This entire sequence is very enjoyable. From Loki’s justification for using magic to dry his clothes (duh, stealth!), to the feeble attempts he makes to befriend Hunter B-15, to the cunning reveal of our nemesis. Loki is one of the only characters in the MCU who truly values magic. Yes, Dr. Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) is called a sorcerer, but as the Ancient One (Tilda Swinton) points out magic is just science by another name. Hell, even Thor (Chris Hemsworth) says essentially the same thing, but Loki…Loki has never made such a claim. He always refers to what he does as magic, always calls it using his “powers”.

This brief moment when the evil Loki possesses various bodies through touch, the only indicator green glowing eyes and a completely new personality is magnificent. To watch this Loki embrace her abilities fully, using them not only in this scene but earlier in the episode, is what I love about this character. Loki doesn’t shy away from the concept of power, they don’t give it a friendly name like “science” to make “normal” people feel like maybe they could one day do “magic”. They call it what it is: magic. They call themselves what they are: a god. How amazing is that!?

It’s why Loki’s final act, running through the first escape offered to him, shouldn’t come as any kind of surprise. Loki is, first and foremost, a survivor. To put him in a button-down shirt, tie, and pants is to try and put a tiger in a dog’s Halloween costume i.e. stupid. Do I believe Loki has officially chosen himself over all? Not entirely…the thing is, destiny can be funny.

Earlier in the episode, Mobius has no problem deducing Loki’s “hidden” plan to betray the TVA in hopes of gaining the timekeepers’ powers. Loki’s face here reminds me of a similar scene in Thor: Ragnarok, where Thor points out his brother’s predictable double-crossing nature. This revelation gives that Loki pause, allowing him an opportunity for personal growth. It’s a bit odd then that Mobius says to Loki his purpose is to help other people reach their full potential when Loki himself is on the way to doing exactly that before his untimely death (I don’t care what the sacred timeline says, it was a crime!). Is it possible this Loki will have a similar evolution?

The whole reason Ragnarok Loki had a change of heart, I think, was because of Thor’s constant belief in his brother. Loki’s main rage has always stemmed from the seed that he was adopted and therefore not a real Odinson. He felt that this separation, the fact that he is a frost giant, caused his brother and father to see him as less-than, when in reality it was his own hang-up, not theirs. Having Thor spell this out for him, along with Odin’s dying words (thanks Anthony Hopkins), allows Loki to finally heal those long-cherished wounds.

2012 Loki doesn’t have his brother or father now, though he does get to witness both of those pivotal scenes briefly in the time theatre. All he has is Mobius, and Mobius has an angle. Let’s be honest here, Mobius isn’t helping Loki because he likes him or has faith in him, he’s invested in Loki because he’s useful. Or, potentially so. Despite his tender words in the first episode, this Mobius is very similar to Loki – making it blatantly obvious he’s not interested in Loki as a person, just as a tool. Granted, we don’t know how much time has passed between the first episode and this one. The only evidence we have is the beginning when Loki is, seemingly, at the tail-end of his instructional lessons care of Miss Minutes. There’s also how much knowledge Loki currently possesses regarding the TVA, its operations, and time laws, something we know he didn’t understand at all in the first episode.

Will 2012 Loki use his escape to further his own agenda? Will he try and confront Lady Loki? Also…uh…the sacred timeline got bombed! I didn’t mean to bury the lead there, because, well, Lady Loki, but yeah, we finally learned why the variant was stealing time reset bombs (finally is a poor choice of words, this only episode 2!). She doesn’t have 2012’s plans, she doesn’t want to rule the TVA, it appears, she wants to draw out the big guns, the timekeepers themselves. Is she planning on killing them? My guess is yes.

Remember, this is a Loki. The god of mischief has no interest in allowing 3 lizards to tell everyone what they can and can’t do. Even if you go down the road that she might be Sylvie Lushton, she would still want the timekeepers dead. After all, her entire tragic storyline was approved by them. It would also explain why she doesn’t want to be called “Loki” or why she harbors such hostility for our truant trickster.

Two episodes in and we are already at a breakneck pace! I’m excited. I predict the next episode will either focus on the villain, or our escaped “hero”. It’s unlikely Loki will remain at large for long, Mobius will no doubt have the mindset of “we caught him once, we can do it again”. OR, Ravonna will bench him and send Hunter B-15 to track him down. Oh, I can’t wait!

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