Saturday, July 31, 2021

‘Loki’ Recap: Season 1, Episode 2 “The Variant”

In last week’s premiere episode of Loki, the God of Mischief found himself in the hands of the mysteriously powerful Time Variance Authority (TVA), thanks to a little tumble with the Tesseract. After learning just who he was dealing with and subsequently taking the hard-to-swallow pill that was a replay of his future self’s actions, Loki found himself presented with an offer from Agent Mobius: help them track down a deadly Variant that they’ve been chasing with no luck … another Loki. Keep reading to find out what happened in this week’s episode.

We open in Oshkosh, Wisconsin in the year 1985, just as the TVA arrives at a Renaissance fair (very much in the wrong outfits). On the hunt for the elusive Variant, they make their way into a dark tent, but it’s a trap. A hand reaches out from the darkness, emitting a magical green glow, and takes control of the Minutemen in order to pit them against one another. Using one of the TVA’s TemPads, the cloaked figure creates a time door and escapes, taking one of the Minutemen with them.

Back at the TVA headquarters, Loki has officially become a working man, and he’s even wearing a tie! Miss Minutes is quizzing him on what happens when the TVA doesn’t take care of a Nexus event in time — “That would lead to the destruction of the timeline, and the collapse of reality as we know it.” Boring. Mobius interrupts their exchange and tells Loki that they need to go, because there’s been another attack, and he gives him a fancy new jacket to go with his office attire. (Though it does say VARIANT on the back in bold, orange letters, just in case anyone were to forget who the tall, dashing Agent of Mischief is.)

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The team is briefed on the matter at hand — the ambush of Hunter C-20 and her team. They’re certain that the Loki Variant is responsible due to the temporal aura that’s been obtained, but they’re not sure what kind of Loki it is. We learn that the TVA has apparently dealt with many different variations of “Loki” over the years, and Mobius proceeds to flip through a collection of images of wildly different figures. No two are like. Loki takes a moment to school the group on the difference between illusion-projection and duplication-casting.

Travelling back to 1985, the team arrives — Loki in tow — to investigate what happened inside of the tent. Loki begins to give Mobius and the Minutemen a long-winded explanation as to why they shouldn’t go searching for C-20, because apparently it’s a trap, and the other Loki is waiting for them outside of the tent. Mobius eventually realizes that Loki is lying. The Hunters prune the timeline with the reset charges and they leave.

Chuck Zlotnick/Mark Studios

Mobius sits in Ravonna’s office, and they discuss the failed mission with Loki. He tries to convince her that, if nothing else, understanding this version of Loki will help him get closer to the one that they’re trying to catch. Ravonna isn’t sold on the God, because he’s evil, and the only way that he can change is if the Time-Keepers decree it. She gives Mobius one last chance with Loki.

As Mobius exits Ravonna’s office, Loki springs up from the chair he’s been waiting in and launches into a terrible explanation as to what happened on their mission. Mobius doesn’t want to hear it, and he tries to strike a nerve with Loki when he tells him that he thought he would be motivated to find the Variant because he knows that the Variant is better than him. Loki assures Mobius that he’s 10 steps ahead of him, but he’s swiftly knocked down a peg or 20 when the other man calls him out on his plans to seize control of the TVA. (Watching these two bicker is my new favorite hobby.)

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Mobius brings Loki down to the library and gives him a new assignment: pick through all of the cases involving the Variant to see if he can find any clues. Thinking that he’s being slick, Loki goes to see the librarian and asks her for all of the files pertaining to the creation of the TVA. Classified. How about files pertaining to the beginning of time? Also classified. The end of time? Nope. So what files can he have? A meager stack of paperwork on the Variant Loki Laufeyson! He pauses as he comes across a report about the destruction of Asgard — Ragnarok — which notes that zero variance energy was detected. Bingo!

Interrupting Mobius’ lunch, Loki settles down across from him at the table and tells him that the Variant is hiding in apocalypses. He proceeds to commandeer Mobius’ salad, much to the other man’s dismay, for the sake of his metaphor. Vigorously pouring salt and pepper into the bowl, and eventually some juice to add insult to injury, Loki explains how impending apocalyptic events mean that the presence of a Variant would go undetected.

Loki convinces Mobius to take a little trip to test their theory, which is how they find themselves in Pompeii, Italy moments before the 79 AD eruption of Mount Vesuvius. Mobius wants to take a conservative approach in case Loki’s theory is wrong, so he opts to start with very small disturbances. Bird noises. Mmm, that’s not flashy enough for Loki, who then runs over to free a wagon full of goats. He then tells the village folk, in Latin, that they’re about to die. “Enjoy your last meal while you can. Nothing matters! Nothing has any consequence! Dance while you still can!” Subtlety clearly doesn’t exist on Asgard. But hey, guess what? Zero variance energy! Loki was right.

Returning back to the headquarters, Mobius and Loki have a new mission: research all of the naturally-occurring, sudden, no warning, no survivors doomsday events in history. How many could there possibly be? Enough to find Loki slumped over, fast asleep at the library desk. The two take a break and have a chat about jet skis, the pure chaos of creation and existence, and the fact that free will doesn’t seem to exist outside of the TVA.

“Only order? No chaos? That sounds boring.”

– Loki

Back to their investigation, Mobius shows Loki the candy that the Variant left behind at the cathedral. When Mobius asks a baffled Loki if they had candy on Asgard, Loki states that they had grapes … and nuts. “No wonder you’re so bitter.” Keeping in mind that Kablooie was only sold regionally on Earth from 2047 to 2051, they manage to narrow down the Loki Variant to Haven Hills, Alabama in the year 2050. Ravonna isn’t exactly happy about the plan, but she eventually agrees to it. And so off the Minutemen go to a Roxxcart superstore in the middle of a class 10 apocalyptic event! (We also learn that the Variant steals one of their reset charges every time that there’s an attack. How curious.)

As the team splits up to search the store, the hooded figure watches them on the security cameras, and a timer begins to count down with less than 20 minutes left on the clock. Loki is paired off with Hunter B-15 when they run into a man who’s acting strange. Just like at the Renaissance fair, the Variant has used enchantment magic to possess him. The Variant switches over to possession of B-15 when she approaches. Elsewhere, Mobius and the others find C-20 sitting on the ground muttering, “It’s real,” to herself over and over.

Marvel Studios

As they waltz through the store together, the Loki Variant enchants a worker that approaches them. Loki, our Loki, says that he’s going to overthrow the Time-Keepers, and he could use some help. When Loki addresses the Variant by name, they sigh in disgust, “Ugh. Don’t call me that.” The Variant isn’t interested in ruling the TVA. Across the building, C-20 tells Mobius that she gave away the location of the Time-Keepers.

Loki notices that the Variant has placed reset charges around the building so that they can blow it up. In a new, bigger, stronger body, the Variant and Loki begin to fight. Finally, after some struggle, the Variant eventually returns to their hooded form. Hands glowing green with magic, they pull down the hood to reveal … a blonde-haired woman wearing a small headpiece reminiscent of Loki’s horns. Could this be Lady Loki? Or perhaps … someone else entirely? (Enchantress, anyone?) She tells Loki, “This isn’t about you.”

Suddenly, all of the lights in the building go off. The timer finishes counting down and the countless charges that the Variant pilfered from the TVA all begin to illuminate throughout the store. However, instead of exploding, they each disappear. Back at the headquarters, branches have begun to form on the timeline. The analysts begin to panic, because the Sacred Timeline has just been bombed.

The Variant uses the TemPad to open a time door and waves to Loki before she exits through it. Mobius and the Minutemen come running toward Loki, but they’re too late. Loki steps through the door as well, and it disappears.

Catch the next episode of Loki on Wednesday, June 23, exclusively on Disney+. Make sure to follow along with our weekly episodic recaps, deep dives, theories, and more.

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Lindsey
Lindsey joined the Nerds and Beyond team in 2018. She has spent a large portion of her life dedicated to her first love, photography. When she's not behind the camera, she's likely reading books and comics or dabbling in creative writing. Otherwise, she's probably yelling about something Star Wars or Marvel related on Twitter @lindyysolo. Contact: lindsey@nerdsandbeyond.com

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