LOKI SEASON 2 PREMIERE REVIEW SCORE
The last time we saw Tom Hiddleston play his signature role, we still lived in a time when a phrase like “Marvel has jumped the shark” could only be taken seriously if you included a ? at the end. But with the Loki Season 2 premiere any doubt is scrubbed clean: much of what made the MCU great has been swallowed by the need to steer everything towards the next “event.”
While I reserve hope that the rest of the season might prove more engaging, this first offering is all confusing comic book science exposition building up to, as of yet, not a whole lot. Most of the trademark humor is forced and falls deader than Loki himself in, well, just about every other movie he’s been in.
We meet a couple of new interesting characters, and otherwise are left with the core cast running around confused, but not as confused as us.
The Loki Season 2 premiere, “Ouroboros,” opens exactly where the Season 1 finale left us two years ago: with the titular trickster god in a seemingly changed version of the TVA and no one, including Owen Wilson’s Mobius, having any memory of him. He isn’t there long, however, because Loki is unstuck in time.
We eventually learn that the version of the TVA that doesn’t recognize Loki — and this is the beginning, but not the end, of the confusion — is actually in the past, from before Loki’s introduction to the time-governing agency.
As Loki endures his time shifts, we watch as the TVA suffers the fallout from Sylvie’s (Sophia Di Martino) murder of He Who Remains (Jonathan Majors) in the Season 1 finale. Along with watching helplessly as the Sacred Timeline branches out, everyone in the TVA is shocked to learn they are all variants and that the Timekeepers were a sham hiding the organization’s true founder.
Some of the leadership takes it harder than others, and in particular General Dox (Kate Dickie) seems to be set up as one of Season 2’s villains.
Loki and Mobius manage to find some help in the form of Ouroboros (Ke Huy Quan), who proves to be the single best reason to watch the Loki Season 2 premiere. While Quan’s deadpan delivery of the comic book science is absolutely perfect, it’s not only fairly confusing, but it also doesn’t really gel with the time travel rules Marvel already laid down in 2019’s Avengers: Endgame.
The stakes are either far too unclear or are just too fantastical to be relatable.
We’ve had two years to sit with the Loki Season 1 cliffhanger, and the Season 2 premiere simply does not deliver. It’s not horrible. The acting is good, the visual effects are good, and it introduces some genuinely intriguing mysteries.
But it’s been two years and we’re left with a Season 2 premiere — one of only six episodes — that just doesn’t do much. We meet a couple of new interesting characters, and otherwise are left with the core cast running around confused, but not as confused as us.
Assuming episode 2 gives us a bit more meat to chew on, the Loki Season 2 premiere seems like the perfect opportunity to give us a multi-episode premiere, just as Disney+ did with series like Obi-Wan Kenobi and, more recently, Ahsoka. Considering how little we get with “Ouroboros,” it’s almost confounding why the streamer failed to do just that.
Until you consider, of course, the release of The Marvels. The next MCU blockbuster releases the same week as the Loki Season 2 finale. So if Disney+ had given us a “second breakfast” that would screw up whatever cross-promotion-via-post-credits-scene they have planned.
What’s at the core of the problem with the Loki Season 2 premiere is indicative of what I predict will continue to be the problem with all the subsequent MCU projects revolving around time travel and the multiverse: the stakes are either far too unclear or are just too fantastical to be relatable.
With the Infinity Saga, the stakes were obvious and relatable: the lives of half the people in the universe. Can we relate to the notion of half the people everywhere just instantly dying because a purple dude snapped his fingers? No, but there’s no one in this world who won’t at some point know what it is to be touched by death.
Will a bad thing happen? So what? Time travel. The bad thing didn’t happen.
In Avengers: Endgame, when Scott Lang (Paul Rudd) returns from the Quantum Realm oblivious to what’s happened with Thanos, and asks a kid passing by what’s happened, the boy understandably assumes Lang is making some kind of sick joke. When the boy wipes a tear away and gives Lang an angry glare, you understand the anger immediately and you wouldn’t blame him if he got off his bike and broke Ant-Man’s dumb nose.
But what can we relate to in Loki?
You found out you’re a variant of someone in the prime timeline and now you’re struggling with not being able to access your memories while at the same fighting to figure out what’s going on in this new multiverse and what you could, or should, do about it? Yeah, dude. Same. Happens to me every Thursday.
Beyond the question of relatability, there’s the very nature of Loki‘s plot rendering what is at stake less meaningful.
Will the TVA continue to prune timelines? So what? They’ve done it before. Will everyone in the TVA be killed? Well, that would suck, but how many variants of every single one of them exists in Hulk-Knows how many different timelines?
Will a bad thing happen? So what? Time travel. The bad thing didn’t happen. According to Hulk in Avengers: Endgame, it doesn’t work that way, but according to the Loki Season 2 premiere it absolutely does work that way.
Or there’s a timeline where the bad thing happened, one where the bad thing didn’t happen, one where the bad thing happened but it turned out to be preferable to another bad thing, one where none of it matters and everyone’s a zombie, one where none of it happened and Thor’s still a frog, etc.
Loki Season 1 was one of my favorite Disney+ original Marvel offerings — second only to WandaVision — and so far I’m not impressed with Season 2. Prove me wrong, Marvel. I mean it.