Loki 1×02 “The Variant,” is as dense as the first hour. It’s another necessary world-building episode that tees up its exciting cliffhanger. Yet, “The Variant” is more enjoyable than the premiere because it allows Loki to move beyond the stifling interior at the TVA.
Whereas Loki Season 1 Episode 1, “Glorious Purpose,” is a crash course in all things Loki, “The Variant” is a crash course in the TVA’s history or what the TVA wants Loki to believe is the TVA’s history. The TVA’s cracks start to become more evident through the oftentimes tiring time travel rules and regulations.
The genuinely chaotic events of the episode lead to an even more chaotic confrontation that pushes the show into its next act. It’s that final minute of the episode that will take the show in a new direction that will hopefully contain fewer info dumps.
The TVA, It’s All Lies
It’s more convincing than the last episode that the TVA is a place for liars who lie. To give someone like Mobius the benefit of the doubt, it’s also a place where the TVA teaches people to lie to survive. There are still four episodes left for Loki to turn this theory on its head, but things are not looking great for the TVA.
It’s already weird enough that a group of people the Time Keepers made to protect the Sacred Timeline never thought to check fixed moments in time, like apocalypses, for the Variant. That’s a red flag within itself. It could be that Loki needed a way to involve Loki in the plan, but it makes an organization that is supposed to be the most powerful one in the universe seem insufficient.
The others come when you piece together what Mobius didn’t, or instead couldn’t, tell Loki in the previous episode. Loki asks Mobius how long he’s been there, and Mobius doesn’t give him a clear answer. He says that “time passes differently at the TVA.” This displacement could be because the TVA displaced the Minutemen, Analysts, and other employees in time to do their bidding.
Mobius’ blind dedication to the TVA could be genuine, but it could also be fake, through a trance or memory-wipe process the Time Keepers do to ensure their employees are obedient. This theory becomes more likely when Mobius finds Hunter C-20, played by Sasha Lane (!!!). C-20 repeats, “It was real,” before pleading with Mobius, saying, “I want to go home.” No one from the TVA thus far speaks about any home life. We don’t see any of them outside of the beige walls unless it’s on a mission.
We could interpret C-20’s words as an emotional break after being captured by the Variant, but it’s more likely that this is a breakthrough that could be the Time Keepers’ worst nightmare. Maybe the Variant undid whatever repressed C-20’s actual personality, à la WandaVision. This process could also explain why characters are named Hunter C-20 instead of anything that gives them individuality and personality.
It’s unclear why the Time Keepers’ are so keen to protect a Sacred Timeline that has nothing to do with as we know it. One thing is certain; it’ll be a lot more difficult for them to get their endgame if their soldiers turn against them. It’ll be even more chaotic than any of us can imagine, and Loki could be the key to uncovering all of it.
Same Old Loki?
One of Loki‘s most significant obstacles is proving to us that it’s worthy of our time to invest in the development of this character again. His arc in the films over the years is so excellent that it still feels odd to take so many steps backward with this series.
As fun as it is to watch Loki let loose because everything is meaningless, will all of this be worth it for Loki and us in the end?
The cliffhanger suggests that things could change for Loki, or they could stay the same. That cliffhanger would be more fun if we hadn’t already been through this same pattern with Loki throughout multiple movies. It’s not new to wonder if Loki will do the right thing or not, especially 2012 Loki.
The moments where a more vulnerable side of Loki bubbles to the surface, superbly portrayed by Tom Hiddleston, are the ones to cling to for some hope that Loki won’t end this series the way he starts it. It’s the moments like when Loki reads the file about the destruction of Asgard that make me want to invest in doing this whole thing all over again.
The story Loki gives us about this character won’t be comparable to his arc in the films. For all intents and purposes, or by the TVA’s definition, this Loki is an entirely different entity. If Loki wants us to invest in this character as much as we did from the films, then there have to be more moments like Loki seeing his life on tape and reading the Destruction of Asgard file.
Those moments are fine sprinkled throughout the first two episodes because “Glorious Purpose” and “The Variant” are the prologue to a much larger story. Moving forward, they need to take as much center stage as scenes like Loki freeing his horned friends before the catastrophic eruption of Mount Vesuvius.
Since Mobius previously shared that the Variant is a version of Loki, it’s all but explicitly stated that the woman at the end of the episode is Lady Loki. If Mobius is Loki’s match, Lady Loki is already Loki’s superior. This reveal doesn’t come as a shock after Loki repeatedly states this Variant has to be “inferior.” She already has more control of her abilities and enchants the room (literally) more than Loki could dream.
This development is exciting for a few reasons. One reason is that Marvel Studios appears to be confirming Loki’s gender fluidity, which is a massive part of the character in the comics. Another reason is that this is the new element that Loki needs to shake things up. The show is fun up to this point, but this makes it even more so. The introduction of this character and in this way adds so much fuel to the fire.
It brings everything about “The Variant” full circle, as well. If the Time Keepers keep the TVA employees as their minions to protect the Sacred Timeline for their gain, Lady Loki setting flame to it won’t make them happy. We know that Loki wants a meeting with the Time Keepers, and this chaotic event (that could lead to a multiverse of madness if not fixed) could bring them out of their eternal shadows.
While Loki tells Mobius that he’s always ten steps ahead, it appears that Lady Loki is actually ten steps ahead. That’s the only way she could have gotten so many reset charges. There is a plan to her mischief that has yet to be revealed. She denies that Loki’s plan to rule the TVA is similar to hers, which could mean she is here to destroy it.
If this has anything to do with my theory about Hunter C-20, it could position Lady Loki as one of the heroes of this show. It may even be a way for Loki to redeem himself once again if he plays his cards right. Then again, that is likely too optimistic since Lady Loki is killing people without any hesitation. She has a ways to go before she’s a hero, but so does Loki.
Other Glorious Moments:
- Loki sitting outside of Renslayer’s office looks like he’s sitting outside the principal’s office.
- The jetski magazine has to mean something. There’s too much focus on it for it not to mean something.
- The “Holding Out for a Hero” needle drop is too good to be true.
- Still not enough Gugu Mbatha-Raw or Wunmi Mosaku, but better than Episode 1.
- Tom Hiddleston is excellent at physical comedy!
- Natalie Holt’s score is superb! It’s hard not to tear up when that familiar Asgardian theme weaves its way into the scene.
- “Existence is chaos.”
- Hunter B-15 saying “Absolutely not” when Mobius gives Loki knives will always be hilarious.
- Did anyone else Loki looking up at the sky during the thunderstorm? This could be a reach, but do you think he was looking for Thor?
- Loki using his magic to stay dry is very on-brand for him.
- Are they delving into the Roxxcon stuff, or is the Roxxcart superstore just a fun reference?
- The “I would never treat me like this” fall is identical to the “I have been falling for 30 minutes” one from Thor: Ragnarok.
- “Now I understand why Thor found this so annoying.”
- With Lady Loki and Agatha Harkness, Marvel really has a thing for Azaleas.
What did you think of “The Variant?” Let us know in the comments below!
New episodes of Loki stream Wednesdays on Disney+!