Photo Credit: Disney/Marvel Studios
Loki episode 2 — out now on Disney+ and Disney+ Hotstar — has what might be the biggest twist of this six-episode first season of the new Marvel series. Close to the very end of Loki episode 2, the other Loki variant who Loki (Tom Hiddleston) and Mobius (Owen Wilson) have been hunting finally takes off their hood. And it's Lady Loki (Sophia Di Martino)? That might not be the name of the character in the series, because Loki episode 2 doesn't give us one — Di Martino is credited simply as “The Variant” in Loki episode 2 credits — but based on what we have been told, this new Loki time variant being “Lady Loki” seems like the obvious conclusion. Still, Marvel may well give her a new name. After all, Natalie Portman is going to be Mighty Thor, not Lady Thor, in Thor: Love and Thunder.
The reveal of Lady Loki is not only intriguing in itself, but it also potentially changes what Loki will be for the remaining four episodes. While Loki and Mobius' bro-dynamic was the core of the first two episodes, the God of Mischief's decision to follow his female counterpart through the time portal at the end of Loki episode 2 brings a swift end to that (for now). Loki episode 3 will no doubt deal with who Di Martino's “Lady Loki” really is, while thrusting the Loki duo into new time-hopping interstellar apocalyptic adventures.
Loki episode 2 — titled “The Variant”, directed by Kate Herron, and written by Elissa Karasik — opens in 1985 Oshkosh, Wisconsin at a dress-up folk festival. Time Variance Authority guards led by Hunter C-20 (Sasha Lane) jump in through a portal to apprehend a variant who they detect is inside a large tent. It's pitch black inside the tent though save for a few torches. As the minutemen try to locate the time variant, C-20 gets a green-coloured tap on her forehead and turns on her own counterparts (with the action set to Bonnie Tyler's “Holding Out for A Hero”). That's essentially confirmation that the variant they are chasing in the other Loki variant, as is the full top-to-bottom hood we see it in later. Once everyone's out, the Loki variant grabs C-20 and a reset charge, and escapes through a time door.
As Loki episode 2 cuts to the TVA offices, Loki (Hiddleston) is now seemingly working for the space lizards. Or rather, for Mobius. He's been asked to watch a series of training videos though he's busy reading a jetski magazine. Mobius walks in to say he's taking Loki to the field. Hunter B-15 (Wunmi Mosaku) briefs them on what we've just seen the opening Loki episode 2 scene. Mobius runs us through other Loki variants they have encountered over the years, including one who was apparently obsessed with Tour de France, and another who looks like a Hulked-up Loki. It's an extended gag really. Loki then interrupts Mobius to explain the differences in two of his powers, illusion projection and duplication casting, to point out the fact that they don't know everything about him.
As they arrive in 1985 Wisconsin, Loki wonders why they couldn't have simply gone to the first time the variant appeared — and put an end to the mess at that point. In a bit of further exposition that is characteristic of the first two Loki episodes, Mobius explains that nexus events destabilise time and this branch is still changing. “Haven't you seen any of the training videos?” Mobius adds to Loki, though it's really a way of answering a question some viewers might have. Inside the darkened tent, Loki tries to stall for time — he claims the other variant is waiting for them outside the tent — in a bid to push the branch to breaking point, but Mobius catches onto what Loki's and realises he is lying. Still, Loki manages to delay the search, forcing the TVA to return to base.
Back home in Loki episode 2, Mobius meets with his boss Judge Ravonna Renslayer (Gugu Mbatha-Raw). She's not sure Mobius is doing the right thing, what with this Loki variant being described as insubordinate and stubborn in field reports. “Sounds like someone I know,” they both say to each other. Ravonna tells Mobius that bringing a variant into the field is controversial, though Mobius protests he's learning a great deal by having him there. For instance, he now knows that Loki likes to stall for time, and that will help them catch the other one. But Ravonna points out that Loki's role on the timeline has always been an “evil scourge”. Mobius likes to think that Loki is mixing it up because he got bored of playing the part he was playing, in a line that you can read as describing the Loki series too.
This Loki episode 2 scene between Mobius and Ravonna also has a throwaway mention for Ravonna's alias on the side that involves a Franklin D. Roosevelt High School. Mbatha-Raw has spoken about how Loki is supposed to be a Ravonna origin story, so this is clearly tied to that.
As Mobius leaves Ravonna's office, Loki tries to placate him, playing off his stalling tactics as the first lesson in capturing a Loki: “expect the expected.” Um, sure. They know you're a trickster so it's all about mind games? “I don't actually care about what makes you tick,” Mobius admits. “You are here to help me catch the superior variant.” Loki protests that last bit, and Mobius points out that he believed Loki's insecure need for validation would drive him to catch this other variant. “It is adorable that you think you could possibly manipulate me,” Loki says in Loki episode 2, noting that he has bigger plans of his own. “What, charm your way into the front of time keepers and seize control of the TVA?” Mobius shouts back, as Loki is taken aback that Mobius knows exactly what his plan is.
Loki likes to manipulate people — as we have seen him do in three Thor movies and 2012's The Avengers — but Mobius seems to be getting the upper hand on him in Loki episode 2. Then, Mobius tells Loki to pore through the case files of this other Loki variant and see if they missed something. Loki being Loki, he tries to get more files from the TVA library. But he's denied every request — it's another extended gag, to be honest — and the only files he does get are those about him. That turns out to be shocking for him though, as this Loki isn't aware of the destruction of Asgard (from Thor: Ragnarok). He tears up over the death of everyone in Asgard, but he also stumbles upon something it seems, as Loki picks up the Ragnarok and runs to interrupt Mobius' lunch.
Mobius isn't happy that his lunch is being interrupted — and it only gets worse from thereon. Loki posits that the variant is hiding in apocalypses. Mobius is perplexed, but Loki “borrows” Mobius' salad to depict a visual metaphor. He sprinkles in tons of salt and pepper into Mobius' salad, as a way of explaining that you can do whatever you want before an imminent apocalypse. And the TVA won't notice because that section of the world is headed for collapse anyway, which Loki depicts by pouring a drink on Mobius' salad. Mobius is still upset over his lost lunch, while Loki pushes him to test his theory. Mobius is wary, especially as Loki has a habit of backstabbing. Loki says he would never because it's a “boring form of betrayal”, only for Mobius to point out he's done it 50 times. “Well, I'd never do it again,” Loki says.
Still, Loki manages to convince Mobius to go to Pompeii, Italy just before the volcano erupted in 79AD. Loki toys around — he releases a bunch of goats and taunts the locals over their imminent death — but Mobius doesn't record any energy variance, thereby proving Loki's theory. Loki episode 2 then brings us back to the TVA.
After they return, they pore through other ‘apocalyptic' files but Loki falls asleep. As they take a break in the cafeteria, Loki brings up the jetski magazine from earlier. Because jetskis are awesome, the TVA detective says. “Most things in history are dumb but in the early ‘90s, we had a great merger of form and function,” he adds. Loki wonders if he's ever been on one, but Mobius says he can't ride one because that would affect the sacred timeline. Then why have it? “Reminds me of what we are fighting for,” Mobius says, which makes Loki realise that Mobius is a big believer in all of the TVA. In response, Mobius says he just accepts, he doesn't get hung up on ‘believe'. So you believe three magic lizards created the TVA and everyone in it, Loki asks. Mobius nods.
“Every time I start to admire your intelligence, you say something like that,” Loki says. Mobius turns the question on Loki, asking where he was born (as a Frost Giant in Jotunheim) and who he was raised by (Odin of Asgard). “If you think too hard about where any of us came from, it sounds kind of ridiculous,” Mobius points out. “existence is chaos, nothing makes sense. The TVA is real because I believe it's real,” Mobius says. Loki wonders: “So everything is predetermined and there's no free will?” Mobius agrees, but calls it an oversimplification. Loki then notes that those in the TVA are the only true free beings then. Mobius drags him away from the topic, but Loki wants to know how it all ends then. Mobius says it's a work in progress.
“While we protect what came before, the Time Keepers are busy untangling the epilogue from its infinite branches,” he adds. Okay, then what happens once they are finished doing that, Loki wants to know. “So are we. No more nexus events, just order and we meet in peace at the end of time,” Mobius replies, in what sounds like an oversimplified philosophical ruminations on the concept of time.
Loki pings back to an earlier topic, when Mobius called him a scared little boy. “But I know something children don't. No one bad is ever truly bad, and no one good is truly good,” Loki adds. That sparks something in Mobius, as he reflects on the scared little boy with the chewing gun he met in a cathedral from Loki episode 1. The gum, Kablooie, was sold on Earth for a brief period between 2047 and 2051, Mobius notes. That gives them a second variable, in addition to apocalyptic events, allowing them to narrow down where the other Loki variant comes from. The duo start to cross-reference files to find such events, before Loki hits upon a promising candidate: 2050 Haven Hills, Alabama when a Category Eight hurricane destroyed a corporate town run by Roxxcart.
Mobius pitches the mission to his boss Ravonna, as he believes it's a potential hiding spot for the other Loki variant. “All the food and supplies you need,” Mobius explains in Loki episode 2, “and the variant can keep going back there over and over.” Ravonna notes that this is all based on a theory from the Loki who just blew up the previous mission. “As your friend, I've to tell you that trusting this Loki is not a good idea,” she adds. But he just uncovered a security loophole in our system, Mobius retorts, only for Ravonna to add that that's exactly what she is worried about. Mobius then makes it personal, pleading how he's rarely this excited and “chomping at the bit”. Ravonna hesitantly agrees, but leaves him with a warning: “There's not much I can do if it doesn't work out.”
Cue in a second mission briefing by Hunter B-15 in Loki episode 2, on how the Roxxcart superstore is being used as a shelter by the residents of Haven Hills. As they arrive in 2050 and enter the superstore, Mobius says they will split to look for The Variant, with Loki going with him. But B-15 protests and says Loki will stay with her, not Mobius. As Mobius and B-15 begin to argue, Loki interrupts and says that he will earn her trust. Mobius retorts: “Why is it that the people you can't trust are always saying ‘Trust me'?” As they split and take a stroll through the dimly-lit deserted superstore, Loki episode 2 cuts to show us the hooded figure, the other Loki variant, observing them through the CCTV cameras. The Variant sets a countdown charge, and then exits the room.
Back to Loki and B-15 who find a man (Lucius Baston) shopping for plants in a storm. Naturally, that's very odd. B-15 wants to know if that could be him, and Loki says maybe. B-15 approaches the shopper but he puts a hand on her before she can hit him. There's a green light as he touches B-15, an obvious sign that the Loki variant is hiding in Baston's body. But the moment he comes into contact with B-15, it transfers into her body and the other one collapses to the floor. “So you are the fool they brought in to hunt me down?,” The Variant says to Loki, speaking through Mosaku now. Elsewhere, the second TVA group — led by Mobius — has found the captured Hunter C-20 (Lane) in the CCTV room. They untie her as she mumbles something.
Back to Loki and The Variant in Loki episode 2. Loki mocks it for hiding in others' bodies, and it mocks him in return for working with the TVA. The Variant transfers into a body of a store clerk Randy (Austin Freeman) as he approaches them. “What's the matter, you too scared to meet me face to face?,” Loki asks The Variant. Getting no response, Loki then pitches his big plan: overthrow the time keepers. “I could use a qualified lieutenant. What say you, Loki?,” Loki adds. “Ugh, don't call me that,” The Variant responds, in what is a first hint at The Variant's association with the Loki name. Clearly, it's not fond of it for reasons unknown to us. But more importantly, The Variant has no interest in ruling the TVA. Loki wonders what it wants, but The Variant cryptically adds: “You're too late, it doesn't matter.”
Turns out the other Loki variant was stalling for time just as Loki did back in the tent earlier in Loki episode 2. Transferring into a third body (Hawk Walts), The Variant attacks Loki, before setting up a second countdown timer. Finally, the variant shows itself in their own body — and it's Sophia Di Martino as what I suppose is Lady Loki. Again, I'm not sure, but the horns and the get-up all point to that, in combination with the fact that TVA has previously deemed it a Loki variant. As the timer hits zero, all the reset charges Lady Loki stole disappear through tiny time doors of their own, kicking off dozens of timelines and causing chaos back at the TVA as their problems multiply. It seems to me that this is a major distraction that will allow Lady Loki to carry out her real plan.
“This isn't about you,” Lady Loki says to Loki, before opening a time door for herself, waving goodbye and walking off. A stunned Loki is clearly rethinking everything, just as Mobius & Co. — having spotted them through the CCTV cameras — track Loki down. Mobius shouts at Loki to not go through the open time door, but it's clear that Loki has made up his mind. Loki follows Lady Loki through the time door, just as Loki episode 2 cuts to black.