The One With Religion – Review Geek

The Loki hero with two RG mascots peeking in from the bottom.
Marvel Studios

After a solid start full of twists and turns in episode one, Loki is back for episode two. The surprises continue, although I admit my wife called the cliffhanger. But the best part of episode two wasn’t the action or cliffhangers. Instead, it was a deep discussion of faith during downtime.

Warning: This is a review of an ongoing tv series and will contain spoilers

It’s Recap Time!

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In the first episode, Loki found himself captured by the Time Variance Authority (TVA). Along the way, it became clear that this is a Variant Loki and not the one we’ve followed for years. For this Loki, the events of the first Avengers movie only just happened. He managed to escape his fate when the Avengers of the future traveled back in time to borrow Infinity Stones.

He had been on the course for a timeline reset (which sounds an awful lot like execution) when Agent Mobius stepped in and asked for his help. See, Mobius is tracking down an incredibly dangerous Variant who already killed several members of the TVA. Oh, and that Variant? Is also Loki.

A Slow Start to an Otherwise Good Episode

A pair of feet in front of a cartoon clock.
Marvel Studios

 

Can I be honest? I really did not like the first fifteen minutes or so of episode two. Because the opening scenes felt like they threw away the best parts of the first episode. See, in episode one, Loki starts to face his biggest failures, his worst tendencies, and where his behaviors will ultimately lead him (death by Thanos). 

So that’s why the start of the episode is so disappointing. Loki and the gang go to the site of the latest OtherLoki MurderDeathKill spree. The main thing we need to know is that this OtherLoki (The Variant through the rest of this review) kidnapped one of the TVA people this time and stole TVA equipment. It’s a deviation from the usual behavior.

And that’s where the Loki we’re following does something mind-bogglingly stupid. He tries to manipulate the situation. He claims that the whole thing is a trap, The Variant is nearby waiting to kill them all, and only he can rescue them. If they just give in to his demands right now, he’ll save the day. It’s a blatant lie that Mobius sees right through, and it nearly destroys Loki in the process.

Remember, Loki was a hair away from “reset,” and the only reason the TVA agreed to keep him around was on the promise that he’d be helpful. But rather than follow through with that, he fell back into the old ways of lies and manipulation. That’s my problem. It’s not that I can’t see Loki resorting to lies and manipulation in the past. It’s that entire first episode was centered on Loki realizing that lies and manipulation won’t work here, will get him killed, and ultimately are a hollow aspect of his life.

Other than the bits setting up what The Variant is up to, it’s a waste of fifteen minutes. Thankfully the show gets much better after because Loki gets serious.

Oh, What a Perfect Hiding Place

Do you know what’s good about the Loki show? It asks the questions you forgot to consider. Like, how is The Variant hiding from the TVA? This organization can see all of time and immediately knows when something is wrong with any particular point in time. So if The Variant shows up in 1982, walking around like a god of mischief and casting magic, it should show up on the scanners.

That’s where the usefulness of our Loki comes in. Who knows Loki better than … well … Loki? Mobius tasks Loki with looking through every one of The Variant’s case files to find any piece of information the TVA is missing. But Loki gets bored and starts looking at other files. And he comes across the destruction of Asgard.

It’s a brilliant lightbulb moment. You see, The Variant is hiding in apocalypse moments. Basically, times and places where everyone nearby will die. It makes perfect sense. If absolutely everyone in the area will die in a few minutes, nothing you do (short of saving everyone) will change the timeline. And if nothing you do will change the timeline, then no warning bells go off to let the TVA know where you are. We get a hilarious moment at Pompei testing the theory out, and it holds.

What follows next is easily my favorite part of the episode: a discussion of faith.

Three Magic Space Lizards in Charge of Time Sounds Totally Likely

Loki and Mobius having a conversation.
Marvel Studios

Think about what the TVA is supposed to be for a moment. It’s a group of people in a fantastical place with highly advanced technology that puts even the Asgard to shame. So how did they come to be? Well, long ago, three magic space lizards decided to take charge of all of time to keep everything on one Sacred Timeline. No more multiverse. And to keep things on one single timeline and prevent the formation of another multiverse, the Magic Space Lizards … sorry, Time Keepers … created the TVA and all the people in it.

It’s a creation story. It’s nothing more than a creation story. Now, the Marvel universe is full of god-like figures, and Loki even calls himself the god of mischief. As Mobius points out, Loki was created by a frost giant of Jotunheim, and then Odin —god of the heavens, mind you— raised him in Asgard, the mystical realm beyond the stars.

Loki says the two situations are different, but Mobius disagrees. He doesn’t get hung up in “beliefs.” He just accepts “what is.” But let’s be honest, there’s a difference. Because Loki has been to Asgard. He has met Odin. He met frost giants. He’s not “believing” in something intangible. But Mobius is.

You see, earlier in the episode, Mobius met up with the judge from episode one. It turns out she’s also in charge of cases and is Mobius’ boss. As they’re discussing The Variant, Mobius asks how the Time Keepers are doing. When she evasively responds, “what do you think” he replies with a shocking bit of information. “I wouldn’t know since I’ve never met them.” He’s a high-ranking TVA agent, and he’s never met them!

The judge changes tact and promises that they’re keeping a close eye on the case and that she’s never seen them so involved, which feels odd. First, because other than that statement, there’s no sign of their involvement at all. But also, because back our conversation of faith, Loki asks where this is all going. What’s the plan? And Mobius explains that while the TVA protects what came before, the Time Keepers toil away in their chamber, untangling the epilogue from its infinite branches. That sounds like they’re too busy to be involved so heavily.

And when they “untangle the epilogue,” whatever that means, there will be peace. No more chaos. No more variants. No more nexus events. Just order, and “we meet in peace at the end of time.” Ultimately, Mobius says the TVA must be real because he believes it’s real. It reminds me of a great line in Star Trek: DS9: “… that’s the thing about faith. If you don’t have it, you can’t explain it. And if you do, no explanation is necessary.”

But Are The Time Keepers Even Real?

All of that faith and religious-like talk, filled with belief and promises of happy endings without chaos, leaves me questioning something: are the Time Keepers even real? Loki doesn’t believe they are, and for good reason. As an Asgardian, he thought he knew the whole universe and that he was at the top of the pecking order. And now there’s the TVA with greater power and new god-like beings that shame the Asgard. “If they were real, I would have known,” is his essential thinking.

But I find it telling that Mobius has never seen the Time Keepers. And neither have we, for that matter. We’ve seen statues of the Time Keepers everywhere. We saw a cartoon in the episode that depicts the Time Keepers. But we’ve never actually seen the Time Keepers. And as of now, we’ve only met one person who claims to have seen them. And she gave evasive answers that don’t quite add up.

Everyone else has to live on faith. And it’s odd because the TVA seems to rely on loyalty to the cause. Why rely on blind faith to make that work? An appearance here or there would rally the troops much better, I’d think. In most religions, blind faith is tied to salvation, but that’s not the case here. Blind faith is instead tied to working out the cause for an end. The TVA works like a business, not a church. So it’s strange the CEOs never put in an appearance.

I suspect that the Time Keepers aren’t real—at least not anymore. And perhaps never were. But that’s speculation.

Oh Yeah, That Final Plot Twist

A figure hidden in shadow holding a lantern.
Marvel Studios

But let’s get back to the story. Because you know, Loki and Mobius need to chase down The Variant. Using the candy left behind in the first episode, they manage to narrow down which apocalypse event the Variant uses for a hiding space. The team gears up, and time jumps, and that’s when things off the rails.

The Variant takes over several people, both bystanders, and one TVA member. That leads to a conversation, via mind-controlled people, between Loki and The Variant. Once again, Loki again slips into his old ways. Boasts of a plan to take over the TVA and overthrow the Time Keeper. Of course, there’s room for a trusted Lieutenant, and who could Loki trust more than … well himself?

But The Variant isn’t having it. And that’s when SHE steps out. My wife called it. When we started the episode, I asked, “why do you think they hid the Variants face when we’re supposed to know it’s Loki?” And she answered, “I think it’s a girl Loki.” That seems to be the case; she’s even wearing a horned crown, though one of the horns is broken.

The Variant sets off her trap, which sets off a giant host of time bombs. Her goal is to destroy the Sacred Timeline, and it looks like it’s working. She jumps through a time portal, and Loki follows, leaving Mobius behind.

But we can’t just solve all the questions, so naturally, we get a few questions right at the end. That kidnapped TVA member? We find her in a corner, rocking herself and repeating “It’s real” over and over. What’s real? We don’t know. And is The Variant really a Lady Loki?

On the one hand, Marvel comics do have a Lady Loki who shapeshifts. But, on the other hand, the magic we saw doesn’t fit with Loki’s usual MO (beyond excessive use of green) and fits a little closer to another Asgardian—the Enchantress. She favors mind control.

I’m not totally convinced The Variant is Lady Loki. But it could be. And maybe we’ll find out next week, along with what Loki’s real plan is. So check back for our next review.