Loki: The Variant

Can I get my own desk? This office sharing isn’t working

With the premier episode, Loki’s new reality was established. This fugitive from the events of Avengers, who never experienced the later adventures and tragedies Loki went through, is now in the custody of the Time Variance Authority, and more or less forced into helping the oddly laid-back Agent Mobius track down another Loki who seems bent on higher-level chaos than normal. Now we see more of what “our” Loki’s new life is like as the quest for the other Loki kicks into higher gear. Everyone is hunting or trying to figure out “The Variant.”

Of all places, the first scene is at a Ren Faire where more TVA Hunters pursue the fugitive Variant. As before, the TVA is out of their league, get easily defeated, and are either killed or incapacitated as the fugitive takes whatever gear they want and a prisoner. Back at the TVA, “our” Loki is being tutored by the holo-recording of Miss Minute, and that goes about as well as you’d expect. Loki is not a dedicated student. Mobius turns up, gives Loki a new jacket, and they head off to find out what happened to the earlier team we saw, with B-15 still very mistrustful of Loki (which is just wise). There’s a pre-mission briefing with helpful comments from Loki and they set off. Loki keeps pretending to be helpful while Mobius keeps calling him on his actual motives. Loki offers some insight on the mission, and they end up not getting the results anyone was hoping for.

After the meeting, Mobius checks in with Ravonna Renslayer, the judge we met in the first episode. She looks nothing like her comic book counterpart, but the name does tie her to one of Marvel’s big time travelers. Mobius and Ravonna have an odd relationship, with a lot of banter involved, although she clearly outranks him. They talk about Loki, the mission, and her office décor. Ravonna has a lot of reservations about using Loki and Mobius’ plan. Leaving the office, Mobius isn’t in the best of moods and zings a few comments at Loki as they walk along the corridors. They verbally spar about a lot of different things, and it’s amusing seeing Loki playing catch up and being defensive. They end up going over a lot of paperwork, while Mobius delivers some very ominous lines in a very chilled-out manner. This brings out more sarcasm from Loki, which is fun to watch.

Left unattended for a time, Loki wanders off and tries to get information that will help him. Instead, after jumping through a few petty bureaucratic hoops, he ends up learning some very surprising things that stun him. Loki is finding out that he was a lot happier not knowing about his future. Finally inspired, Loki brings Mobius a theory that seems outlandish, but actually makes a lot of sense. Loki’s metaphor ends up destroying Mobius’ lunch, and parts of Casey’s as well, but he finally gets his point across. Reluctantly, Mobius listens and agrees to a field test, although not the one Loki asked for. There’s a good bit about back-stabbing that’s been played in most of the trailers, and then Loki proves his theory to a surprised Mobius. This leads to a new line of investigation and some more fun exchanges between Loki and Mobius. They talk about free will, the nature of reality, and Loki’s favorite subject, Loki.

After some discussion of Asgardian snacks, Mobius goes back to Ravonna and explains the new idea. She’s not wild about it, but is eventually persuaded. We get some odd insight into Mobius’ unique take on life, and they get set to visit our near future and yet another variation of the always problematic Roxxon company. Loki and B-15 continue to not get along, and then the team splits into smaller groups. Loki doesn’t get his choice of partner, which ends up not mattering much. We see that someone is watching them, and then Loki and B-15 end up having a surprise encounter. It goes from suspiciously mundane to very much out of the ordinary, and Loki ends up having a long talk with some frequent, unexpected changes. Mobius shows he has a much more humane touch than most of his coworkers while Loki continues his exchange. Amid the quips, there are a few interesting and important lines that might be major clues about someone’s identity.

Things build to a head as Mobius makes some discoveries and Loki exchanges some interesting ideas with his chatty counterpart. It would seem that something the enemy is doing results in more than just the obvious immediate effect. Loki hears something that goes against his very concept of the world, and then we finally get a glimpse of the adversary. The show ends with an entirely predictable event that leaves Mobius with some explaining to do.

What I liked: Tom Hiddleston playing Loki is inherently entertaining. It’s something I could watch for hours (and have, when you add it all up). Hiddleston and Wilson (Mobius) have some great chemistry, as do Wilson and Mbatha-Raw, who plays Ravonna. Loki’s insight was actually pretty damn clever, and Mobius was smart enough to realize the potential. Loki’s clash with Miss Minute was funny, and his conversation with the enemy was fun on many levels.

What I didn’t: For a vastly powerful agency, the TVA does seem to have trouble learning. “Oh, look, they just killed a team of our highly trained agents. Let’s do that again and again.”

I enjoyed this, and will give it a high 3.5 out of 5.

Below will be some speculation and possible spoilers. Be warned if you aren’t caught up.

So, who is the Variant? The easiest explanation is that it’s Loki in female form. That certainly happened in the comics, the original legends, and many people have noted his gender as “fluid” on the TVA forms. Nothing says it can’t be. But there’s another possibility or two. In their fight, the enemy takes offense at being called “Loki,” and Loki himself comments that he’d never treat himself this way.

One of the major Asgardian characters from the comics that hasn’t made it into the MCU yet is the Enchantress. Amora is a frequent foe, sometime lover of Thor, occasional ally of Loki, and general troublemaker. Her younger sister, Lorelei, showed up on Agents of SHIELD once. Amora is a talented and powerful sorceress, striking blonde, and favors green. Sound familiar? In the credits on IMDB, the role is just “The Variant” so far, which doesn’t eliminate anyone. Mobius is sure they’re after Loki, but characters can be wrong, and so far, the Variant being Loki has only been something asserted in lines, nothing really persuasive anywhere.

I may be wholly wrong. It might be Lady Loki, so to speak. But I’m hoping we finally get to see Enchantress join the MCU.

The Enchantress