*Warning: this piece contains spoilers for episode three of LOKI*
So, who is this mysterious Variant our protagonist hitched a ride with? We still don’t know that much about her (or her plan, for that matter), but at least we have a name: Sylvie (Sophia Di Martino). That would link to Sylvie Lushton in the comics, who becomes Enchantress. Is this “Sylvie” indeed Enchantress? Probably, since she has enchantment powers, but let’s say for continuity’s sake that it’s too early to tell. I don’t want to get into overzealous fan theories and/or speculation that doesn’t become true once the series ends (I think the internet collectively learned it the hard way with WandaVision and now have since tampered with their expectations). There’s only one thing I can say with confidence, though, that this week’s episode of Loki, titled “Lamentis,” is quite an exciting one, as Loki (Tom Hiddleston) and Sylvie fight over a TemPad they need to recharge to go back to the TVA and do…something that’s slowly starting to develop.
We know that Sylvie wants to meet the Time-Keepers, but what is she planning to do with them? That question remains unclear, and her “mission” isn’t even explained, but it doesn’t really matter here since it’s likely sure that all will be revealed in due course. However, what you get is an enthralling side-quest in which Loki and Sylvie land on Lamentis-1, a planet that’s slowly going to become extinct. They need to recharge the TemPad and find a power source in “The Ark,” a ship destined to leave Lamentis-1 before it reaches its doom. This race against time results in a refreshingly kinetic episode, with some of the very best cinematography I’ve seen in any MCU title.
Now I know it sounds like a PR spokesperson whenever someone says, “the best Marvel _________ yet,” but Autumn Durald Arkapaw’s cinematography is truly unlike anything the MCU has ever done. Case in point: the episode’s final action setpiece, in which Loki and Sylvie race to get on “The Ark,” is staged like a tracking shot. Has this ever been done before in the Feige-run MCU? Some will say “Daredevil!”, which is a fair point, but hear me again, has it ever been done before in the Feige-run MCU, coming straight off from The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, which contained some of the most incomprehensible action I’ve seen since Tak3n, from a purely editing standpoint? It randomly cuts to add “grit” but ruins any tension it establishes in the process.
On the other hand, Loki prefers visually dynamic camera tricks and meticulously choreographed action sequences to make its television setting feel cinematic. The unpredictability of meteor showers causes Loki and Sylvie to be stuck in the middle of a total whirlwind of chaos, which results in an action sequence filled with eye-popping colors and a distinct visual style that differentiates itself from literally every other MCU production. It appears that Kevin Feige is actively listening to complaints about every Marvel production looking the same and is looking to rectify the problem by hiring talented cinematographers. Durald Arkapaw’s work in Gia Coppola’s Mainstream should’ve garnered lots of attention. Still, I’m finally glad to see her talent realized to her fullest extent, in what could very well be the best thing she’s ever done as a cinematographer.
It’s awesome to see (and feel) a creative’s personal touch behind the camera, and Loki does not shy away from wanting to break the mold of classic MCU tropes. Its first two episodes were done in the vein of a classic procedural/detective thriller whilst setting the stage for a “multiverse of madness,” and now we’re just begun exploring it. Sophia Di Martino particularly shines in this episode as Sylvie, exuding the right amount of mischief a Loki should have and enough charm for her to have fantastic chemistry with Hiddleston’s Loki, who surprisingly opens up on elements of his personality we’ve never seen before, acknowledging that he is, indeed, bisexual. It’s fun to see the contrast between Loki, who is unafraid of telling Sylvie where his true feelings lie and are vulnerable towards her. In contrast, Sylvie is more close-minded and does not want to open up to him, as Loki only seems to be a mere distraction for her plan to (possibly) bring down the TVA.
Speaking of the TVA, something interesting slipped out of Sylvie’s mouth; the agents are actually “Variants” and had a previous life somewhere. Were their memories wiped? How do the Timekeepers control the TVA’s agents? How will that lead into the series’ next episode? These are all valid questions we must ask ourselves, as Loki now has more potential than any other Marvel show that came this year to be its most memorable (and ambitious) one yet. Only time will tell to see in which direction the show will take and how every meticulous thing it’s been setting up will come together in the end.