Warning: The following article contains spoilers for episode one of Loki – Season 2.
This piece was written during the 2023 SAG-AFTRA strike. Without the labor of the actors currently on strike, the show being covered here wouldn’t exist.
Is the MCU cooked? I dunno, but it’s certainly seen better days. Except for Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 3 (and I Am Groot – Season 2, if that counts), this year’s slate of films and television series hasn’t been inspiring. It comes off the heels of a reasonably middling schedule last year with She-Hulk: Attorney at Law and Thor: Love and Thunder massively disappointing. But nothing will top Secret Invasion as the nadir of the MCU (so far), with its half-baked climax so horrible it legitimately made me question whether or not the now-diluted franchise will survive before Avengers: The Kang Dynasty comes out.
A poorly received film (or show) was bound to happen eventually. If you can’t consistently reinvent your storytelling (and filmmaking) methods, it won’t take long before critics and audiences find your work stale. And that’s what happened with many of their current titles. As an ardent fan of the franchise, I’ll keep watching until the bitter end, but you can’t deny that their post-COVID catalog has largely been underwhelming. However, they have seemingly attempted to course-correct and hope audiences will rejoin the train as The Multiverse Saga ramps up in a big way with Loki – Season 2.
Season One director Kate Herron and showrunner Michael Waldron opted not to return for the latest chapter in Loki’s (Tom Hiddleston) adventures with the TVA. Now, genre filmmakers Justin Benson & Aaron Moorhead (who previously directed two of Moon Knight’s best episodes) have taken directorial reigns (alongside Marvel Studios veterans Dan DeLeeuw and Kasra Farahani), while Eric Martin acts as head writer this time around. The first episode, Ouroboros, is directed by Benson and Moorhead and immediately positions them as a force to be reckoned with in the franchise, both thematically and aesthetically, making this season two premiere one to remember.
If you’ve not seen Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania, which saw Scott Lang (Paul Rudd) meet a variant of Kang the Conqueror (Jonathan Majors), don’t worry, as the premiere literally picks up where the season one finale ended. It is revealed that Loki wasn’t sent to an alternate timeline where Kang rules the TVA, but in the past, where He Who Remains didn’t create the Timekeepers and was actively reminding the TVA who they were serving. Loki is chased by past versions of Mobius M. Mobius (Owen Wilson) and Hunter B-15 (Wunmi Mosaku) until he…time-slips to the present-day TVA, where agents grapple with its fall.
As he continues to time-slip, Loki discovers a tape recording of Kang and Ravonna Renslayer (Gugu Mbatha-Raw) seemingly setting up the Time Variance Authority. However, it’s far too ambiguous now to make any conclusions. However, it does align with Renslayer’s relationship with Kang in the comics, where she ends up marrying him. It is still unclear what both characters’ roles will have in the series, but it will likely position Renslayer as a primary antagonist for the future of the show – and the franchise.
Loki tells Mobius what happened with Sylvie (Sophia Di Martino) and warns TVA Judge Gamble (Liz Carr) and General Dox (Kate Dickie) that He Who Remains is the one who created the TVA, variants and multiple versions of him are coming to enact an all-out multiversal war. But Dox seems more interested in finding Sylvie than anything else and leads an army to find her. Sylvie’s fate is revealed in a post-credits scene, where she ends up in 1982 at a McDonald’s in Brixton, Oklahoma, and orders one of everything. From the trailers, we saw that she worked as a McDonald’s employee, but that’s about it. It will be interesting to see exactly what role wil Dox have in wanting to find Sylvie. The rumor mill has been conflicted about Dickie’s role in the series. However, the first episode immediately positioned her as a side character to watch, alongside Rafael Casal’s Hunter X-5, who seems to have a personal connection with Dox.
Meanwhile, Mobius takes Loki to Ouroboros (Ke Huy Quan) to fix his time-slipping, which requires Mobius to enter the “Temporal Loom” to install the “Temporal Aura Extractor,” which will allow Loki to safely return to the current timeline if he can prune himself once the device is installed. It isn’t as easy as OB says it is, but it also sets up how Benson and Moorhead stage the action and large-scale stakes this season. Even if you’re watching a variant of 2012 Loki and know full well how his arc went down in the “sacred” MCU timeline, you’re still on the edge of your seats as Mobius travels down the Temporal Loom and Loki continues to time slip while attempting to find a Time Stick. Time is literally and figuratively running out, and composer Natalie Holt punctuates this adrenaline rush with incredible gusto.
It’s weird how Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania made the threat of Kang quasi-insignificant, as talented as Jonathan Majors was in his performance (though his legal issues now make the future of his time as Kang in the MCU very unlikely, and his current iteration of the character in the first episode of season two extremely uncomfortable to watch). But in a single move of a Time Stick, which reveals the hidden statues of Kang, and Loki telling Mobius that He Who Remains “made the most sense” out of the current predicament, Benson and Moorhead have set up the looming threat as an even bigger antagonist than before.
Episode one also makes the multiverse seem far scarier than it should be instead of it being glorifying cameo machines. Spider-Man: No Way Home and Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness had fun with cameos, but if The Multiverse Saga is just that, it’ll tire itself out so fast. There must be purpose, or some form of meaning, behind it all and the large-scale implications of the multiversal war. The first episode of Loki – Season 2 does precisely that and sets up the incoming war with an incredible sense of dread, as Loki knows precisely what will happen, while TVA agents don’t seem too preoccupied.
Yes, it’s cool that some FOX/Sony characters will return down the line. However, if you don’t posit these appearances as something more than nostalgia-driven cameos, you’ll fail to muster up any investment in this piece of storytelling. The first episode of Loki – Season 2 sets all of this up masterfully, alongside committed performances from Tom Hiddleston, Owen Wilson, and Ke Huy Quan. While it’s still unclear which direction this season will take, I’ve never been more excited to find out exactly what the filmmakers have in store for us this time. In 49 minutes, it also makes the case for Justin Benson and Aaron Moorhead to be the perfect fits for Avengers: Secret Wars, with Eric Martin penning it. Make it happen, Feige.
The first episode of Loki – Season 2 is now available to stream on Disney+.