Loki's Biggest Strength Just Became Its Most Surprising Weakness
Loki’s fast pace has always set it apart from other Marvel shows. Now it’s getting in the way of a good story.
Say what you will about Loki, but it might have the best grasp on pace out of every Marvel show on Disney+. While most will stretch one conflict across six lengthy episodes, Loki adopts a much more ambitious, episodic format. Its second season has been especially great at addressing one issue at a time, but each episode still feeds into the series’ overarching multiversal conflict.
When we catch up with the God of Mischief (Tom Hiddleston) back at the Time Variance Authority, the temporal loom that once sustained the Sacred Timeline is now straining to keep multiple realities afloat. The existence of the multiverse puts Loki in a battle between free will and fatalism. He and Agent Mobius (Owen Wilson) want to find a way to accommodate the multiverse without breaking the TVA. Agents like Dox (Kate Dickie) and X-5 (Rafael Casal), however, want to restore order, no matter how many lives are lost in the process.
In any other Marvel series, this conflict would have taken up most of the season. But Loki has always made massive strides compared to its contemporaries’ baby steps, and its second episode ends with a cliffhanger that most shows would save for their third act. The only problem is that Episode 2 chose to dive into the deep end instead of showing us just how things got so bad so quickly.
Loki’s Season 2 premiere ends with the TVA’s more militant agents headed on an ominous mission. They’re heavily armed, which Hunter B-15 (Wunmi Mosaku) finds a little odd, since she assumes they’re looking for Loki variant Sylvie (Sophia Di Martino). As we learn in Episode 2, though, Dox and her loyal agents are actually trying to prune every timeline that’s branched from the original. And they nearly succeeded in restoring the Sacred Timeline: thousands of new timelines were purged — and countless lives lost — before Loki and company could stop them.
For Loki, Sylvie, and B-15, this is a catastrophic failure, a tragedy on the largest possible scale. It’s the equivalent of what Thanos achieved with the Snap, multiplied by a hundred. Unfortunately, its gravity feels completely undermined by the restless pace of the episode.
Until X-5 reveals the true nature of Dox’s mission towards the end of Episode 2, neither of them seems like much of a threat. Most of their prep happens off-screen; even X-5’s choice to leave the TVA happens between episodes. It’s a bit jarring, considering we last see him right by Dox’s side. What could have influenced him to walk away after serving the TVA without question? We may learn later, but seeing this change take place in real time might have been more effective.
Episode 2 is chock full of reveals that could have fueled a much longer story arc. The pruning of the multiverse is a massive deal, and Loki tries hard to give it the weight it deserves, but it comes out of nowhere and fails to pack a real punch. It becomes a casualty of Loki’s breakneck pace, which has always set the series apart. Unfortunately, it’s also a reminder that this show only has six episodes to tell its ambitious story.
In its defense, Episode 2 sets the scene for a very ambitious season. We’re a third of the way through Loki’s latest adventure, and if the multiverse is already breaking down, there’s a sense of an even bigger conflict coming down the line. Hopefully, the rest of the season can move at a more sustainable pace. If this was the sacrifice the writers had to make to prioritize another story, let’s hope they make it worth it.