Loki Season 1 concluded with a multiverse-shattering revelation that the sacred timeline that was being governed by the TVA had been “freed,” thereby causing it to branch out. Two years have passed since that episode (I mean in terms of real-world time and not the amount of time that has passed in the show), and Marvel has released 14 projects, which include movies and shows, since then and now. And, despite the heavily touted interconnectivity of the MCU, it’s difficult to say how many of them have actively tackled this seemingly important incident. The fact that only two out of those 14 properties are good and rewatchable is a whole other issue. But, yes, it’s definitely weird to claim that an event will have widespread repercussions only to properly deal with it in the second season of Loki. Anyway, the god of mischief is finally here, so let’s just get on with it, shall we?
Led by directing duo Justin Benson and Aaron Moorhead, Loki Season 2 starts off exactly where the first season left off. One of the variants of Kang is dead. The sacred timeline is in shambles. Sylvie is AWOL. The same can be said about Renslayer and Miss Minutes. Loki is back in the TVA, but nobody, especially Mobius and Hunter B-15, remembers him. Assuming that he’s a rogue variant, Mobius tries to chase Loki down. But that’s when Laufeyson realizes that he is slipping between time periods. He suffers from some kind of convulsion and teleports between the present, past, and future of the TVA. With the help of Ouroboros (i.e., the guy who has written the TVA handbook), Loki and Mobius find out that they need to pull off a complicated maneuver through the Time Loom, which is a device that converts time from its abstract state into the sacred timeline, to stop Loki’s time-slipping syndrome. However, that’s just the tip of the iceberg. If they somehow manage to make Loki whole again, they have to find a way to help the mind-wiped variants working as the employees of the TVA come to terms with their reality, find Sylvie, and stop every imaginable variant of Kang.
Disclaimer: This review of Loki Season 2 is based on the four episodes that were given to the press.
Let’s be clear about one thing: shows and comic books are two different visual mediums. It’s not necessary that if a certain trope works in one medium, it’ll automatically work in the other medium. So, even though comic book characters can never achieve any form of finality, their live-action counterparts do need to part ways with the franchise because they are played by actors who age, grow, and mature. At the time, reverting Tom Hiddleston’s Loki to his factory settings after years of development seemed like a bad idea, especially since he died in the opening act of Endgame. But the first season of Loki proved us all wrong by showing us that the character has many more tricks up his sleeves. In comparison to that, Loki Season 2 is a lot less challenging and more insular in terms of fleshing out the character because it’s so busy with timeline-related shenanigans. Weirdly enough, writers Eric Martin, Kasra Farahani, Jason O’Leary, and Katharyn Blair give the plot a ticking time-bomb element and also try to make it a slow-burn. They create spots for the characters to introspect and catch up, but they also rush through them to get back to solving the timeline. It’s just such a weird mix.
When it comes to the themes and the character arcs, Loki Season 2’s need to move the plot forward and let the characters deal with the truths that have been revealed feel like they are at odds with each other. Loki spent the first season reconciling with his own death, the deaths of his parents, and all the horrible things that he had done. In the second season, he mostly runs around trying to be a hero and save the TVA and the timeline. Despite learning that they were ripped out of their timelines and lied to for several years, Mobius, Casey, and Hunter B-15 continue to serve the TVA, albeit with a little more humanity. Ravonna Renslayer and Miss Minutes are there to bring the central plot to a certain point. They don’t get a lot of depth. Brad Wolfe, as a TVA agent turned actor, is interesting as he gets to show what one can do with free will. The same goes for Sylvie. Ouroboros is essentially an exposition machine. And the less I say about Kang or Victor Timely, the better. In addition to all that, the dialogue writing is inconsistent. There are moments when the banter is funny and engaging. However, after a point, every conversation scene starts to feel exhausting as the characters swing back-and-forth between dull exposition and callbacks to events from the past. It’s a roundabout way of saying that the teleplay needed a few more rewrites.
Much like the first season, Loki Season 2 is meticulously crafted. All the sets look brilliant. They seem like they’ve existed for a long time, due to their dents and scratches, and are too advanced to exist realistically. The attention-to-detail for the props and the costumes is genuinely jaw-dropping. The VFX, SFX, and CGI are perfect. There’s not a single moment that looks off. The sound design, as well as the background score, are amazing and so memorable. Natalie Holt is brilliant. The editing by Emma McCleave and Calum Ross and the cinematography by Isaac Bauman are quite different in comparison to the first season. There’s a lot of hand-held shots and long takes, which give the show an off-beat rhythm. The work done by the stunt team and the actors is worthy of appreciation. It’s always nice to see the actor’s face during an extended fighting or chase sequence since it has become such a rare occurrence in these big-budget franchises. The pacing is really off, though, because the show never knows if it wants to be a desperate attempt to save the multiverse or a slacker comedy-thriller. So, overall, Benson and Moorhead have done a fine enough job of helming the show.
In terms of performances, Tom Hiddleston is amazing, as always. He injects the fan-favorite character with the right amount of theatricality, but he never goes overboard with it. I think he should, though, at some point in the future. I know that this version of Loki is trying to be good. Hence, he doesn’t reach the maniacal extremes that Hiddleston is capable of accessing with his acting prowess. However, it won’t hurt anyone if he stays good while being a little more chaotic. Sophia Di Martino is great, as she gets to show the unhinged as well as the mature sides of Sylvie. Rafael Casal delivers a standout performance, to be honest. It’s always a delight to watch Kate Dickie do anything, especially if it’s villainous in nature. She deserved more screen time. Gugu Mbatha-Raw is underutilized. Eugene Cordero is fine. So is Tara Strong. Wunmi Mosaku is alright, and I say that because I know her range as an actor. Owen Wilson is clearly not looking to reinvent his wheel of acting, and since it works, he is smart for playing to his strengths. Ke Huy Quan is a breath of fresh air as he fills up the show with so much energy. The only one who stinks things up is Jonathan Majors. He is proof that major corporations can greenlight stories about abuse and trauma and then exhibit spinelessness when the time comes in the name of “continuity” and “canon.”
In conclusion, Loki Season 2 would’ve been a perfectly watchable show, but it’s ruined by Jonathan Majors’ presence. Marvel is infamous for recasting well-known faces. Terrence Howard was replaced by Don Cheadle. Edward Norton was replaced by Mark Ruffalo. Zachary Levi was replaced by Josh Dallas and then brought back again for a final appearance. Hugo Weaving was replaced by Ross Marquand while Kathryn Newton had replaced Emma Fuhrmann. And then there are all the voice actors who replaced the live-action actors in What If…? But it seems like Marvel and Kevin Feige would rather expose their audience to a problematic individual like Majors while ruining the vibes of an otherwise good show, instead of recasting him with an actor who is much better than him. Since that’s not happening any time soon, I can’t wholeheartedly recommend giving Loki Season 2 a chance, especially if you are tired of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.