*Warning: This piece contains spoilers for episode two of Loki.*
Has there been a Marvel Cinematic Universe title in which Bonnie Tyler’s Holding Out for a Hero drops during an action sequence? No? Well…The episode opens with Hunter C-20 (Sasha Lane) fighting her minutemen while being possessed by the spirit of “The Variant,” whilst Tyler’s song blares out to near-kinetic perfection. Whilst the first episode of Loki was more of an interrogation piece in the vein of a classic procedural such as Law & Order, the show’s second episode veers in the detective thriller route, with its titular character (Tom Hiddleston) leading the investigation while Mobius (Owen Wilson) acts as the bumbling sidekick.
Loki is always ten steps ahead of everyone, to which he reminds Mobius that it’s impossible to control him. Even if Mobius can catch some of his mischievous tactics, he’ll never be able to understand how Loki can use the TVA to his advantage and that everything has been catered for him. The episode solely focuses on catching the more nefarious Loki variant, to which “Professor Loki” will bring his “unique Loki perspective” to corner whoever that variant may be. I’m inclined to say that this is the best Tom Hiddleston has ever been as Loki, fully in control of any situation he’s in. Take the scene in which he and Mobius go to Pompeii to observe the eruption of Mount Vesuvius. Loki has a theory that the Variant has been operating in natural disasters since the Timekeepers cannot pick up Nexus events when cataclysmic events occur. Once they go to Pompeii to test it out, he becomes a full-fledged nihilist, telling its citizens that they don’t have long to live and that he and Mobius are from “the future” to warn them of impending doom. It’s a brilliantly funny sequence that perfectly represents Loki at his most confident and mischievous.
Let’s not forget the incredible supporting actors in this episode, with Sasha Lane commanding its cold open and Owen Wilson having terrific banter with Hiddleston. One scene in which Loki explains Ragnarok by using Mobius’ salad had me cackling. There honestly couldn’t have been a better actor to play Mobius than Owen Wilson. He brings just enough charm, wit, and a little cluelessness as an agent who seems to be way over his head to work with or even trust a God. I’m sure we’ll see more of him down the line while furthering the relationship he has with Gugu Mbatha-Raw’s Ravonna Renslayer, who shares a terrifically written exchange with Wilson here. Wunmi Mosaku is quickly becoming, in my opinion, one of the show’s most underrated stars, who has an incredible monologue whilst being possessed by “The Variant.” Her normal character traits are usually serious and brooding.
She knows that messing around with a Variant will cause trouble, yet her tone of voice and demeanor quickly changes once “The Variant” takes control of her, and it’s magnifying to watch. In the same sequence, Loki gets thwarted with bystanders possessed by “The Variant” who fight him, and the action choreography is already miles better than The Falcon and the Winter Soldier’s dreadful jump cuts and dizzying shaky cam for 1-on-1 fights, in which we could barely see what was going on on-screen. In Loki, the cinematography by Autumn Durald Arkapaw is fluid and allows us to properly see the fight choreographies without hiding their grit. Instead, the show’s dark aesthetic allows for more intense fights without randomly cutting to conceal blood or close combat. I’m continuously impressed by Arkapaw’s work. She adds another great project to her resume after doing a tremendous job in Gia Coppola’s Mainstream.
We never truly know what’s rummaging in Loki’s head. He’s clearly using the TVA to his advantage, even if he knows his fate in the sacred timeline, but at what cost? He thinks he knows his enemy since it’s another version of it—but not so fast! Once “The Variant” reveals her true self (that’s right…Lady Loki is here (!) and played by Sophia Di Martino), everything changes for him. Instead of staying with the TVA, which he finds useless, he prefers to (possibly) outsmart her by learning more about this variant with her, with more alternate timelines opening as she stole multiple reset charges to open a rift in the multiverse. This is where the episode ends—with one of the most promising cliffhangers I’ve seen in recent memory.
The first two episodes of Loki brilliantly establish the stakes of the sacred timeline by clearly explaining who the Timekeepers are and what the TVA’s purpose entails. I’m inclined to think that the rest of the series will trigger a Multiverse of Madness that’ll lead into Sam Raimi’s Doctor Strange sequel. There were hints in WandaVision about the existence of a multiverse, but they weren’t as concrete as the ones that are happening in Loki right now. The multiverse is a rather complex storyline to explain and establish, and the show is a perfect position to explain how Nexus events could trigger potential superheroes from different timelines and universes to show up. Now we’ll have to wait and see…