Loki’s Exceptional S2 Gives Me Hope for Marvel

I’m shocked by how much I liked this season of Loki. Marvel’s bar of quality has been so low that an actually good TV show is a genuine shock to me right now. Read on for my further thoughts…

*Spoilers for Loki Season 1*

Loki S2 picks up where the first left off: He Who Remains is dead by Sylvie’s hand, and Loki is ejected back to the TVA– a version he doesn’t recognize. And he quickly discovers the reason: a strange ailment makes him to slip through time to different eras of TV history, past, present, and future. Loki’s problems REALLY begin, however, when the ever-growing multiverse threatens to destroy the safeguard which keeps the TVA safe. A universe without the TVA is one without a first-line defense against an oncoming onslaught of Kang variants.

If the above sounds like gibberish to you… then good. This is the kind of wibbly wobbly sci-fi that I adore! Loki isn’t just a good Marvel series: it’s a good science fiction show. The lore is internally consistent, nothing is over-explained, and it explores weighty themes of free will and fate.

I wanna focus on those themes a bit. Free will is at the heart of Loki‘s plot. Is the universe better off under a megalomaniacal guiding hand (whose machinations actually work), or be allowed infinite freedoms (which will inevitably create infinite problems)? Loki suggests that the tyrant’s way DOES work, and is arguably the safer option, but that free will is essential– despite the fact it might doom the universe.

Free will is the only defense against pre-determined fates. Loki’s fate was to be the guy doomed to lose and fail at his goals, for all his life. But the TVA allowed him to change his character, and his goals, and put him on a path towards redemption which he would never otherwise have been allowed.

The same goes for all the time variants who work at the TVA. Every one of them was destined for mundanity, irrelevance, or tragedy. Some of them would have been happy– but none would have had a chance to make a HUGE difference in the universe. He Who Remains (Jonathan Majors) robbed them of free will by stealing them from their timelines and erasing their memories, but this season throws a curveball by having the characters CHOOSE to remain in their jobs. Because they believe in their purpose, despite how it came to them.

And even the characters who abandon the TVA (like Renslayer and Ms Minutes) do so because they’ve chosen a purpose beyond their pre-determined fate. Though I never understood EXACTLY what Renslayer and Ms Minutes (Gugu Mbatha-Raw and Tara Strong) hoped to accomplish… They were a mildly interesting B-plot which never fully formed.

Everybody else works as a charming ensemble though. I’m pleased that Loki S2 shifted its focus more evenly among its supporting characters. Mobius (Owen Wilson), B-15 (Wunmi Mosaku), Casey (Eugene Cordero), and some newbies (Ke Huy Quan’s Ouroboros being the stand-out) shine alongside Loki and Sylvie (Sophia Di Martino). They’re all far more deeply developed than they were in S1, with satisfying character progressions. I actually care about these people now.

But don’t mistake: this IS still Loki’s show. And Tom Hiddleston is better than ever in the role. Except this time the writing is on his side too. ‘Cause someone behind the scenes remembered that Loki is Loki. He’s less of a love-sick puppydog this time around, and gets his edge back. Loki is playful, mischievous, actually uses magic, and performs some borderline evil acts– just how we like him. But he’s also more interested in the greater good. And I think S2 has a perfectly reasonable explanation for why that’s the case, which fits with his 13 year-old character arc.

I even liked the way Sylvie evolved this season! She maintained her ideals, and her badassery, but mellowed out a bit. Her driving forces in S1 were anger, and maybe a little love. Those are still there, but she now has a wider spectrum of emotions, and reactions to events around her. And Sylvie’s presence compliments, rather than overshadows, Loki. I’m also glad the writers toned down their romance plot…

The plot of Loki S2 is shockingly focused. The series sets up a problem early on, and every episode is a step to fix said problem until its eventual resolution. And, unlike last season, none of it felt like filler. Every step of the journey felt entirely justified for either plot-based reasons, or character-building necessities. The show blended these plot and character elements more seamlessly than I expected as well. There’s a good balance between introspective conversations and mind-bending weirdness.

Some people may grow upset that S2 doles out its information slowly. We’re left with questions straight away, which aren’t fully answered till the very end. And some things aren’t explained at all (though the answers to THOSE things can be inferred)! But I love that Loki S2 doesn’t feel the need to hand-hold its audience. It trusts that we’re smart enough to be patient and figure things out.

Loki S2 is also entertaining enough to keep you around for those answers. I came for the witty banter between Loki and Mobius, but stayed for the show’s tension and stakes. I don’t know if I’ve seen Marvel combine end-of-the universe drama with character drama so effectively before! There’s also the mind-blowing twists and turns. Suffice it to say: this show didn’t go where I thought it’d go.

Best of all were the CONSEQUENCES. People die, and stay dead; screw-ups result in multiverse-shaking catastrophe; resolutions take some meaty sacrifice, and don’t come easy.

Complimentary to all of the above were superb special effects and sets. Loki S2 crafted some breathakingly beautiful imagery during these 6 episodes! Their big, practical sets (*Chef’s kiss*) were also filled with myriads of detail, which made each space feel lived-in.

That said: the spaces also felt devoid of life in many scenes. The TVA especially lacked extras to populate its sets. Maybe that was an intentional choice? But it’s a choice which struck me as strange.

I also didn’t care for the new character X-5/ Brad. He was interesting on paper, but never reached his potential. I must lay the blame on Rafael Casal’s shoulders for turning in a flat performance.

And the season uses an excess of film grain effect for its shots. Most shows and films use film grain to some extent, but Loki S2 cranked those levels to an extreme. General audiences probably wouldn’t even recognize this, but it’s something I couldn’t unsee once I noticed it.

I also didn’t enjoy episode 3 so much as the others. The concept was cool but the execution didn’t stick its landing. There were some cool moments though.

I’m really being nitpicky here. ‘Cause I had a blast with Loki Season 2. This is the most inspired Marvel project I’ve seen for a few years! It actually gets me a touch hopeful for their future as a studio.

Loki Season 2 is Must See TV.


FURTHER ANALYSIS OF LOKI S2 ON THIS EPISODE OF CLOSE UP

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Till next time,

Joe Morin

By Joseph Morin

Joe's passion for film and entertainment began at 7 years old when his younger brother demanded to watch Duel of the Fates every day for weeks (on DVD). Joe admired the sequence so much, he decided to dedicate his life to film-making and storytelling. He has a degree in Cinema and Media Studies from York University. Joe loves DC superheroes (especially Superman), the first six Star Wars movies, and arguing about media with anyone who will listen.