What does a god of mischief do when he’s done mischief-making? Skip around the multiverse trying to save all of time and space, that’s what. The first season of Loki was a bit of time-hopping fun in the Sliders mold, introducing many different Loki variants that could make for cool toys and stuff. But it was best the less it focused on the enormity of the time/space disaster and the inner-workings of the Time Variance Authority (TVA) that Loki was reluctantly trying to aid. In season two, Tom Hiddleston returns as Loki who is burdened with more glorious purpose; to fix all of the craziness from last season’s finale, which basically launched the next two years of MCU multiversal chaos.
The second season of Loki definitely switches up the formula, both for good and bad. There’s a ticking clock intensity driving the latter episodes that is as good as anything in the first season, but also a less focused plot that tends to wander adrift. Your mileage will vary with all of this Multiverse stuff, too. I’ll admit that my bias here is in being extremely bored of every Marvel plotline having the fabric of reality at stake. Loki is such a vast, complicated character who has been villain, overshadowed sibling, conqueror, and martyr, it feels like a waste to not have stories that are a bit more personal. There’s just so much more that could be explored with him.
A number of things have shifted with Loki‘s second season. Owen Wilson’s dutiful TVA agent Mobius seems more obsessed with key lime pie than ever. Rennslayer (Gugu Mbatha-Raw) has turned heel, alongside the animated AI Miss Minutes (voiced by Tara Strong), after last season’s revelations that exposed the TVA’s true agenda. Loki variant Sylvie (Sophia Di Martino) has found glorious purpose of her own, building a life for herself as a McDonald’s employee in the 1982 Midwest. And if you guessed there was some sweet sweet product placement and corporate synergy between Disney and McD’s, you’d be so right. We see bigger roles for geeky TVA receptionist Casey (Eugene Cordero) and Hunter B-15 (Wunmi Mosaku), the latter taking a more active role with Rennslayer on the loose. And despite rumors that he had been banished into the Quantum Realm or something, Jonathan Majors does indeed return as He Who Remains, or a 19th-century variant named Victor Timely. Majors’ presence is definitely awkward, given the allegations against him that continue to put his career in jeopardy. Timely, with his spectacles and professorial demeanor, almost seems like a way of hiding Majors in plain sight. Majors is definitely key, but you can also see how his role might have been diminished somewhat.
On top of the returning cast, who all return for a second helping, the cast actually expands, as well. Oscar-winner Ke Huy Quan has the most enjoyable role as Ouroboros or “OB”, the TVA’s resident repair guy and writer of the company guidebook. Quan is a really cool choice, not just because he explored the multiverse so recently in Everything Everywhere All At Once, but because he lightens up the mood with his quirky, jovial personality. The series really needs it because the gravity of everything they do is so heavy.
The thrust of this season deals with the consequences of Sylvie’s actions last season. She and Loki, who developed something of a romantic connection best not to think too deeply about, journeying to the end of time to confront He Who Remains. He found himself blocking Sylvie’s knife with his chest, which disrupted all of time. The creators of the TVA were revealed to be robotic fakes, meaning everyone working there to protect the sacred timeline was doing something quite different. They thought “pruning” the branched timelines was a harmless but heroic deed, but now it’s become clear that they are killing billions of people with real lives, hopes, and dreams. Well, that’s got to stop. But some within the TVA don’t agree. Others, like Hunter X-5 (Rafael Casal) just want to create a real life for themselves in Hollywood, the most artificial place in the universe.
With so much going on in the first four episodes made available to review, Loki is too often sidelined by the expanded ensemble. He feels like more of a stock antihero character than ever before, although Eric Martin’s screenplay occasionally tries to convince us otherwise by teasing a return to the dark side. Fortunately, Hiddleston is still able to find the moments of complexity that recall the notorious trickster side of Loki’s persona. Even at his worst, Loki was the villain we loved to hate. And now as he’s playing the good guy it’s easy to just love him, even if his heroism seems fragile at best.
The pairing of Hiddleston and Wilson is better than ever, and sometimes you wish there was more time dedicated to their banter. Wilson is an actor who always controls the mood of every scene he’s in. When he’s really on point, as he often is the loyal TVA company man Mobius, Wilson elevates Loki into a tremendous superhero workplace sitcom. It’s also good to see Mosaku’s B-15 taking charge, coping with the realization that she is also a variant, and holding the TVA accountable for everything they’ve been doing. If the first season saw Sylvie have the most critical character arc, it looks as if B-15 will have it in season two.
With Kate Herron departing after the first season, Moon Knight filmmakers Justin Benson and Aaron Moorhead pick up where she left off. The duo bring more of a cinematic, big screen quality and when you can watch all of the episodes together, it really does feel like one epic movie. This season is just plain weirder, too, as we dig into the nuts and bolts of the TVA and the rules that govern it. This really plays into Quan and Wilson’s strengths, and the humor is tight when those two are on the screen together. Cordero’s Casey is really starting to grow on me, as well, as the third TVA stooge alongside Mobius and OB.
Pacing problems plague Loki in the first four episodes. While the breakneck time-skipping leads to some great cliffhangers, they also overshadow the incredible production design and character interactions that are the show’s strength. There are worse things than wishing we could spend more time with Loki, and Mobius, and Sylvie, or to luxuriate in the wackiness of OB’s cluttered office. There just isn’t enough time, and with only six episodes total this season, time is short.
Loki returns to Disney+ beginning October 5th.