The Bi Community Keeps Winning With “Loki” Episode 3

SPOILERS FOR LOKI AHEAD!

I can’t tell what’s more mind-boggling to me: that in a single night, the Marvel Cinematic Universe went from having precisely zero canonically queer characters (leaving aside Gay Joe Russo because I will do literally anything in my power to expunge that atrocity from my mind) to having not one, but two whole canonically bisexual characters, or that it took thirteen years to do what ultimately cost Loki (Tom Hiddleston) only about ten seconds in today’s episode of Loki – confirm, in a single line of dialogue, that he’s attracted to both men and women.

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Loki and Sylvie | ew.com

And yeah, thirteen years is a long time to wait, but take into account the fact that Loki has been depicted as queer in Norse mythology for literal centuries, and the MCU is alarmingly late to the party. The perfect time to organically reveal Loki’s bisexuality in the movies was ages ago – at the very least in Thor: Ragnarok, where the sexual tension between Tom Hiddleston and Jeff Goldblum was so palpable you could feel it even without the script slyly hinting that Loki had seduced Goldblum’s Grand Master, or vice versa. But remember Marvel’s excuse for why a single shot of a woman exiting Valkyrie’s bedroom had to be cut from that film, thereby entirely erasing the only hint of that character’s bisexuality? Because it was “distracting”.

Apply that same faulty logic to all instances of queerness, and it’s no wonder why Loki had to be three episodes deep in his own solo TV series before he could even so much as address his sexuality, with a line straight out of Shadow And Bone bicon Jesper Fahey’s playbook: “A little bit of both.” My hope is that, in the near future, it won’t have to take this long before Marvel characters can be queer upfront instead of having to Trojan Horse their way into audiences’ hearts for decades: and the fact that the writer of today’s episode, Bisha K. Ali, is also presiding over the writers room for the upcoming Ms. Marvel series (as concerning as some of that show’s casting choices have been) is a promising sign. I also hope that Loki director Kate Herron is able to return to the MCU after this series is completed.

And while fans had been hoping for Loki to be confirmed as queer for years because it was just the logical thing to do, I also appreciate that Marvel took an additional tentative step forward, and did the same for Sylvie Laufeydottir (Sophia Di Martino), whom last week we only knew by the title of “Lady Loki” – a title I will no longer be using for her, since it’s become abundantly clear that while she appears to be a Loki Variant, she doesn’t identify with him or many of his experiences. But like Loki, she does seem to be queer – or at least Loki says he suspects as much, and she doesn’t argue the point. It’s hard to say if that makes her canonically queer or not…kind of?

But yeah, apart from (possibly) being bi and doing crimes, Sylvie actually has surprisingly little in common with Loki. The exact details of where/when she came from, who raised her, and why the TVA wants to eradicate her from existence are still unclear, but we got a couple of hints. She was adopted, like Loki, but her adoptive parents never hid that from her. Crucially, she doesn’t seem to have had a strong relationship with her mother – which shocks Loki, given how instrumental he considers Frigga to be in nurturing his talents from a young age when Odin regarded him as a hostage rather than a son. Sylvie therefore learned magic on her own, and seems to have tapped into a vein of chaos magic that allows her to manipulate minds much like Wanda Maximoff.

Lastly, it seems she chose to live permanently as Sylvie, as evidenced by her telling Loki that she doesn’t use his name “anymore”. So the character’s gender-fluidity is apparently an element in the story, and not just on literal paper. But Sylvie mentions that the Time Variance Authority has been hunting her for her entire life, meaning she varied from the confines of the Sacred Timeline at a very young age, perhaps when she chose to live as a woman. If that’s the case, it’s no wonder why she’d get so angry at Loki for calling her by his name. It would also explain why she’s going after the mysterious Time-Keepers who supposedly preside over the TVA – because what right do they have to judge who gets a place in the Sacred Timeline, and who doesn’t? We know other timeline alterations have been authorized by the TVA, so what does ultimately inform the Time-Keepers’ decisions?

Sylvie is looking for answers to all those questions when the episode opens, and we find her infiltrating the mind of a captured TVA agent named C-20 (Sasha Lane), probing for information about how to reach the Time-Keepers, and who guards them. You see, Sylvie is still operating under the assumption that the Time-Keepers actually exist, and I simply don’t think that’s the case. It’s telling that C-20’s intel leads Sylvie straight to the offices of Judge Ravonna Renslayer (Gugu Mbatha-Raw) – the same Ravonna Renslayer who, in the comics, was the one true love of Kang the Conqueror, a tyrannical villain intent on controlling his past, present, and future, by bending time to his will. It’s not like Renslayer has historically been a TVA operative in the comics: Marvel gave her this role for a purpose, and I think that purpose is abusing the authority of the TVA to destroy anything that could threaten Kang’s chances of conquest.

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Sylvie Laufeydottir | cinemablend.com

It wouldn’t be the TVA’s first shady deed. Sylvie later reveals that all of the organization’s millions of workers are Variants, whose memories of their former lives are deeply buried under layers of brainwashing and propaganda. Sylvie is able to briefly reconstruct an expensive resort restaurant from C-20’s memories during a trippy exchange accompanied by Hayley Kiyoko’s very apt “Demons”, but imagine if Sylvie – or Loki, with proper training – were to perform her trick on Mobius? I’d bet good money that in his past life, he was a jet-skier from the 1990’s.

Unfortunately, Sylvie’s attack on the TVA doesn’t go as planned, as Loki is forced to drag her through a time portal to escape from Renslayer. A lot happens in this sequence – which all takes place in the first few minutes of the upsettingly short episode – but Loki taking an opportunity to steal his daggers back from Hunter B-15’s locker, and Sylvie trying to use Loki’s life as leverage over Renslayer, only for the judge to encourage her to kill the God of Mischief, were definitely highlights of what I feel is only the warm-up to a much larger assault on the organization coming later in the series. Look back at the trailers, and there’s a shot of Renslayer standing on her desk wielding her baton that we still haven’t seen – so someone must get past her office’s gilded doors, and whatever they discover there will be huge.

The time portal unceremoniously deposits Loki and Sylvie on Lemantis-1, in the year 2077, shortly before a collision with a nearby moon is set to wipe out the purple planet’s entire civilization, unless they can escape upon a spaceship named the Ark. This survival quest gives the two characters plenty of time to bond and wear each other down a little – perhaps a little too much. Despite being given ample warning that “perverse fanfiction” would come out of the pairing, there’s still discourse around whether it’s problematic to ship what Twitter dubs “selfcest” – a thing that to the best of my knowledge is literally impossible in the real world barring any sudden advancements in cloning technology, and thus is not worth being alarmed about. That being said, Loki and Mobius are where it’s at, thank you very much.

In Mobius’ absence, however, I’ll give you that Di Martino and Hiddleston are loads of fun, and their dynamic is perhaps a bit more lively and energetic than Hiddleston and Wilson’s circuitous banter. Di Martino isn’t trying to parody Hiddleston right back at him, something that could easily have become grating: instead, her Sylvie has a world-weary frustration and cynicism that plays well off of Hiddleston’s nihilistic good cheer. There are some hilarious moments when the two accidentally discover a trait they have in common, such as when the two argue about who’s the most flagrantly hedonistic, but they also share a poignant outlook on love that comes with their timelessness, and an appreciation for sharp objects (although Di Martino carries a sword, and is a more efficient fighter all around – after shedding her burdensome cloak, ditching her tiara, and letting her hair down as she plunges into battle, she feels like she fully comes into her own).

The episode’s final battle, an experimental long-take sequence unusual for Marvel, is a beautiful display of both Sylvie and Loki’s magical abilities that makes me desperately want a video game based on the show, where a player could switch between the two characters. The frantic running and backtracking through the labyrinthine streets, the rotating camera movements, not to mention the central conceit of avoiding falling objects while progressing towards a prominent object in the middleground – the Ark – which blows up dramatically when a certain point is reached: all of it seems designed to mimic third-person gameplay, and it’s random yet glorious.

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Lemantis-1 | screengeek.net

Unable to enjoy the visual splendor from their vantage point, Loki and Sylvie will have to find another way off of Lemantis-1 before it implodes. And with just three episodes left to go, I hope there’s enough time for them to explore the Multiverse that Sylvie created when she attacked the Sacred Timeline last week, while allowing for a satisfying conclusion to the mystery of the Time-Keepers. But the fact that Loki is all but officially confirmed to be getting a second season gives me hope that whatever happens, there’s more to explore in this bizarre, wonderful, corner of the MCU, and that by then Loki and Mobius will be the happy couple we honestly deserve.

Episode Rating: 9/10

It’s Only Been 2 Episodes, “Loki” – How Did You Already Destroy The Timeline?

SPOILERS FOR LOKI AHEAD!

Dear everyone who complained (sometimes with legitimate reason, to be fair) that it took forever for things to happen in the Marvel Disney+ shows, and that what did happen had no immediate effect on the movies – are you happy now? Because we’re only two episodes into Loki, and the entire duration of the Sacred Timeline, from its highly classified beginnings in the ancient past to its conclusion in the far-distant future, just got carpet-bombed into oblivion, causing gods only know how many new timelines to emerge at once, probably irrevocably altering the landscape of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. You all kept asking for a Multiverse of Madness; well, I think you just got one.

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Loki and Hunter B-15 | rollingstone.com

But I think the biggest testament to the strength of the writing and direction behind Loki (shoutout to Michael Waldron and Kate Herron, respectively) is that, in just two episodes, we already care enough about many of the characters in the Time Variance Authority that we can empathize with them as their entire life’s work, the preservation of the Sacred Timeline, comes crashing down around them. That empathy will never translate into sympathy for the institution itself, which is a mechanism designed with the sole intent and purpose of eradicating free will from the universe, but I feel for the people there: perhaps because I genuinely believe they are people, not beings called into existence by the Time-Keepers.

That said, I don’t doubt that there’s a good and probably sympathetic reason behind why the series’ current villain, a rogue Loki variant who for the purposes of simplification I will be referring to as Lady Loki (Sophia Di Martino), chose to obliterate the Sacred Timeline, rendering it no longer sacred nor singular. I can definitely appreciate the poetic irony in her using the TVA’s own technology to undo all of their work in an instant, dropping hundreds of volatile “reset charges” into an equivalent number of random points on the Timeline. And that’s what leads me to believe she’s doing what she does for a reason, something beyond an innate desire to see the world burn: because she seems to have purposefully singled out the TVA for her vengeance.

Is she really Lady Loki, though? She only reveals herself in the episode’s final minutes, and is never named. When Loki (Tom Hiddleston) addresses her as a Loki, she flinches and says she doesn’t want to be called that – but at the same time, goes along with his assertion that she is him, and even remarks that it’s the other way around; he is her. But given the fact that Di Martino bears almost no discernible resemblance to Hiddleston, and that the hairstyling team chose to accentuate that by giving her short blond hair in contrast to his long black locks, the only visual clue she offers for why we should be calling her Lady Loki is her golden tiara, which sports a single, rather unimpressive, devil’s horn – the other having been rudely hewn off.

I know it sounds bizarre to nitpick what seems so obvious, and it’s very likely that Sophia Di Martino is playing Lady Loki, but this series keeps reminding us not to take anything at face value, so I feel I’d be doing it a disservice if I didn’t…well, question everything. A prime example of this is the matter of the Time-Keepers, the trio of mysterious alien deities who supposedly rule over the TVA. Mobius M. Mobius (Owen Wilson) admits in this episode that he’s never actually met them, and Judge Ravonna Renslayer (Gugu Mbatha-Raw) once again coyly avoids a question about where they actually are and what they’re doing. Renslayer is conveniently the only person allowed to speak with the Time-Keepers, although she’d be a lot more convincing if she ever had anything to report from them except that they’re busy.

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Lady Loki | hollywoodlife.com

Even Mobius is starting to ask questions – although he’s more interested in why Renslayer apparently has another analyst secretly working for her on the side, than in the identities of the space lizards whom he still believes created him. Remember what I said last week? Loki’s mere presence in the TVA, his unpredictable nature, his critical thinking skills, his knowledge of the outside world, all pose a threat to the organization’s ability to demand blind subservience from its workers by telling them they have no purpose outside protecting the Timeline. He’s rubbing off on his co-workers, instilling the flame of rebellion in the very heart of this violent system, and they don’t even realize it yet.

Whoever actually runs the TVA definitely realizes it, however, and that’s why Renslayer is so intent on shutting down Mobius and Loki’s operation. I think that’s even why Miss Minutes (voiced by Tara Strong) herself comes down to Loki’s office cubicle to keep an eye on the God of Mischief, prompting a hilarious scene in which Loki tries to swat the talking timepiece with one of Mobius’ magazines about jet-skiing in the early 1990’s. Someone at the top knows how dangerous Loki is, and wants him gone before he corrodes the foundations and brings the whole structure tumbling down. I know it’s you, Kang.

But in an awkward turn of events, it’s Loki who ultimately figures out that the Variant has been hiding in apocalyptic events and natural disasters throughout history as a way of masking their trace on the timeline (an absurdly clever reveal that gave me shades of Connie Willis’ Passage: brilliant novel, highly recommend), and it’s Loki who warns the TVA agents about duplication-casting, a power which Lady Loki later uses against the agents (not to be too much of an Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. nerd, but Lady Loki’s ability to transfer her consciousness from one person to another, using human bodies like stepping-stones, reminded me of the S.H.I.E.L.D.┬ávillain, Izel). My point is that Loki is actually a huge asset to the TVA.

And Loki knows it. So at the end of the episode, when he’s given the opportunity to stick around with the TVA or follow his own Variant into a time-portal, he chooses the latter – essentially removing himself from the board, rejecting the TVA’s attempts to turn him into a pawn. What he’ll do next depends on where and when he emerges from the portal, but that’s the beauty of it: even he doesn’t know that information! He’s just causing chaos because it’s what he does, because he’s a trickster god.

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Loki and Mobius in Pompeii | flickeringmyth.com

There’s a scene in this week’s episode where Loki is reading through a case file on Ragnarok, which he helped bring about. As Natalie Holt’s excellent score shifts to a somber tone and brings in the sounds of Scandinavian instruments, the camera closes in on Loki’s intense blue eyes. What’s he thinking, as he reads about the thousands of Asgardian lives lost that day? Is there grief there? Vindication? A little bit of both? What makes it so chilling is that we don’t – and may never – really know.

Episode Rating: 9.5/10

“Loki” 1st Episode Is Weird In The Most English Way Ever

SPOILERS FOR LOKI AHEAD!

The greatest compliment I can give Loki is that in just its first episode, it already feels like a long-lost sequel or companion piece to the Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency books, complete with recurring characters from Norse mythology. Just swap out the hilarious, bumbling, kind-hearted Gently for Owen Wilson’s hilarious, bumbling, seemingly-kind-hearted-but-probably-a-lot-more-formidable-than-he-lets-on Mobius M. Mobius, and the holistic detective agency itself for the vast, sprawling entity of the Time Variance Authority, a nigh-on omnipotent organization on the outskirts of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, whence Mobius and a fleet of agents nicknamed Minutemen preside over what they call “The Sacred Timeline”.

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Loki and Mobius | indianexpress.com

Throw in a time-hopping mass murderer (or rather, two versions of the same being), and you’ve got yourself an absurd yet surprisingly profound semi-satirical comedy of which I think Dirk Gently’s creator Douglas Adams, or for that matter Good Omens‘ Neil Gaiman or Discworld’s Terry Pratchett, would be proud. What these three authors have in common (or at least, the one shared trait I’m interested in for the purposes of this review) is their Englishness. Loki‘s head writer Michael Waldron is not himself English, which I personally find fascinating, because he’s nevertheless created something distinctly in the same vein as both the aforementioned authors’ works and the long-running English TV show Dr. Who, using the same kind of humor, dry wit, and quirky stylistic choices as those other – fantastic – pieces of media.

Some of that must surely be attributable to Waldron’s partners in inter-dimensional crime behind the scenes and in front of the camera, both of whom actually are English: director Kate Herron, who brings sophistication and humor in equal parts to her work; and Tom Hiddleston, who returns to the title role with the same vigor and Shakespearean gravitas he’s been breathing into the character of Loki Laufeyson since the very first Thor movie. Hiddleston’s still got it: the “it” in this case being the ability to turn on a dime from raging homicidal god-king “burdened with glorious purpose” to pleasantly rakish charmer, and to win our hearts either way. The fact that Loki himself doesn’t distinguish between the two sides of his personality just makes it all the more enjoyable, because he’s a god, unconcerned with being one thing or another when he can be everything at once and never have to answer to anyone, for anything.

Well, at least until the Time Variance Authority (TVA, for short) interrupts his attempted escape from the alternate timeline which diverged from 2012 during Avengers: Endgame. The beauty of this is that Loki represents, or believes he represents, extreme anarchy: chaos for chaos’ sake, nihilism across all Nine Realms, and the threat of Ragnarok hurled at whoever would oppose his misrule. The TVA is the antithesis of everything he stands for – it is the very pinnacle of rigid mechanical capitalism and all the lifeless bureaucracy that comes with it, grinding inexorably forward yet going nowhere, rewarding conformity and seeking to violently eliminate any deviation from the status quo which cannot be manipulated to serve the institution.

That’s the capitalism embodied by Mobius M. Mobius, who steps in to protect Loki from the harsh sentence passed down by the TVA’s Judge Renslayer (Gugu Mbatha-Raw). He frames his intervention as an act of mercy, but what he sees in Loki is an opportunity to help the TVA continue as it always has. In the premiere episode’s final minutes, it’s revealed that at least one other variant of Loki exists, and that the TVA has been struggling to capture and contain this variant before his (or more likely, her) reckless gallivanting across the timeline causes a second multiversal war like the one depicted in a retro animated flashback playing on the TV in one of the TVA’s waiting rooms. This threat to the capitalist system is posed by an anarchist, albeit one who seems more wholeheartedly committed to bringing about the end of all order than our self-doubting Loki – but Loki is nonetheless the sole individual who could conceivably get into this variant’s headspace, figure out their next move, and help bring them into custody.

He’s a tool, basically.

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Loki | forbes.com

But Mobius, while exploitative and callous, is the best option Loki’s got at the moment. Renslayer, who appears to the be the most devoted to the overarching mission of the TVA, clearly wants him eliminated (and once he’s done using the God of Mischief to his advantage, I’m positive Mobius will back her in that effort), while Hunter B-15 (Wunmi Mosaku), a trigger-happy field agent whose disgust for Loki seems to outweigh her loyalties to the organization, seems like she might laser-beam him out of existence the second Mobius’ back is turned. It’s understandable why they’re all wary: Loki is a corrosive force of nature, who could easily disrupt the TVA’s workflow with his unpredictable attitude. It starts with telling Casey the receptionist (Eugene Cordero) what a fish is, but where does it end? Mutiny against the TVA elite?

The TVA is supposedly presided over by a trifecta of alien deities known as the Time-Keepers, who, according to the aforementioned animated propaganda, were responsible for saving the multiverse from self-destruction in the far-distant past (or perhaps its future; time is weird that way). But they appear to have taken a step back from the organization in the millennia since, assuming they’re even still alive, or existed in the first place. Now, the closest thing the TVA has to a leader is their animated mascot Miss Minutes (voiced by Tara Strong), a grinning clock-face with a Southern drawl who ruminates cheerfully from a thousand screens and posters in every TVA office, waiting room, and hallway, on all the possible ways to terminate time variants who step out of line.

In the absence of much action, the premiere is free to do a lot of world-building (and I mean a lot, more than was probably necessary for most general viewers), heightening our sense of awe and fear with an almost surgically precise use of Natalie Holt’s dizzying psychedelic score, which vibrates in the TVA’s laminated floors and builds to a crescendo as Loki gets his first glimpse of the organization in its entirety: a trippy sci-fi wonderland of infinite spires, columns, and cathedral-like structures, all decorated in violent shades of taupe. It’s a place where the earth-shattering events of the MCU have no relevance, where spare variant Infinity Stones get tossed around as paperweights – a humbling revelation that just goes to show how much pain could have been averted at literally any point in the MCU’s history if the TVA actually cared about the people in the Sacred Timeline they’re meant to protect.

But they don’t. Their belief is that the Sacred Timeline will take care of itself, if they stick to pruning the offshoots, the alternates, and the variants. What constitutes a deviation from the timeline is still rather unclear – for instance, it’s revealed that the TVA was perfectly okay with Loki hijacking a plane in the 1970’s after losing a bet to his brother Thor, and becoming internationally famous on Earth as the mysterious D.B. Cooper. Is it the Time-Keepers making these decisions on what can be allowed to happen? Is it Miss Minutes? Who is behind all this?

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Miss Minutes | denofgeek.com

I suspect we’ll find out more soon enough, and the answer may have something to do with the Loki variant whose been wreaking havoc in 16th Century France and 1850’s Oklahoma (1858 in Salina, Oklahoma, specifically: an extremely deep-cut reference, one year before the first oil was discovered in the state). I have little doubt that said variant will turn out to be some version of Lady Loki, played by Sophia Di Martino, although other candidates range from Richard E. Grant as Old Loki to Jonathan Majors as Kang the Conqueror. This rollercoaster is just getting off the ground, and I can tell we’re in for a wild ride.

Episode Rating: 9/10