Loki ‘s Season 1 Episode 3 unveils a key secret about the MCU’s next big villain, and sees the two Variants escape an apocalypse, and learn many things about themselves, each other, and the TVA.
The following review contains spoilers for Season 1 Episode 3 of Loki.
We’re halfway through Loki, and the show has already proven to be revolutionary. In the first two episodes of Season 1, the beloved Disney+ series has shown us a completely new side to our God of Mischief, all while getting us acquainted with words like “variants”, “sacred timeline” “time keepers” and “minutemen”, and showing us a universe that is infinitely bigger than we thought, its influence spanning through space and time. In Episode 3, the show takes a further step into the multiverse, and unveils a key detail about what may very well become the next big villain of the MCU in a way that’s absolutely consistent with how Marvel has been approaching character development and narrative reveals for over ten years.
In 2011, Captain America: The First Avenger didn’t just introduce us to Steve Rogers, but it laid the groundwork for all the nostalgia that was to come in the following years, when we’d be able to revisit those moments with the newfound knowledge that came with key entries like Captain America: Civil War (2016) and Avengers: Endgame (2019). When The Avengers (2012) saw Loki form an alliance with an extraterrestrial race to get himself an army, little did we know that the leader of the Chitauri would turn out to be the biggest, baddest villain in the Marvel Cinematic Universe not one, but thirteen films later.
Thanos‘ role in the saga only began to become clear in Avengers: Infinity War (2018), where we saw him effectively defeat our heroes and eliminate half of the world’s population, becoming the biggest threat to humanity, and the strongest antagonist to Avengers, up till that point. Knowing how skilled Marvel’s writers are at crafting complex narrative arcs for their heroes and villains, Loki ‘s latest revelation about the Time Variance Authority would seem to identify the “greatest power in the universe” as Phase 4’s veritable villain.
I am taking, of course, about something we find out almost by chance, at the very end of the episode, when Loki (Tom Hiddleston) asks Lady Loki/Sylvie Laufeydottir (Sophia Di Martino) about her ability to take over other people’s bodies, which prompts her to explain how “enchantment” work. It’s not always easy to control someone else’s body, as “they’re in there too”, and Sylvie explains that she had to work really hard to get information from a TVA soldier she controlled earlier in the series, as she had to create a fantasy from one of the soldier’s past memories. And so, in a reveal that is shocking even to Loki himself, we learn that the TVA’s employees haven’t always been part of the mysterious organisation. Even though they aren’t aware of it, the people who work for the TVA actually came from Earth: they are simply regular people who, at some point, became Variants.
If Season 1 Episode 2 of Loki saw the God of Mischief question the morality of a secretive, authoritarian organisation that makes use of propaganda and monitors everything and everyone, ultimately controlling the very notion of reality, Season 1 Episode 3 sheds new light on the Time Keepers’ intentions, singling them out as dangerous individuals with an agenda. Keeping in mind that both Spider-Man: No Way Home and Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness will take place around the multiverse, it’s not far-fetched to assume that we are witnessing the birth of the next “Thanos”, and that the TVA will play a major role in the MCU for many years to come.
But this key revelation isn’t the only great thing that happened in this week’s episode of Loki. Last week, the God of Mischief helped the TVA find the location of the “evil” variant of himself that we now know as Sylvie, and found out that she was hiding within the many apocalypses that have ever taken place in the history of time. This led to a trip to Roxxcart, where he met and fought his alter ego and ultimately followed her through a portal. After an hilarious, much welcome scene that takes place entirely inside a character’s head, Season 1 Episode 3 returns to our titular characters as they follow and fight one another at the TVA’s headquarters.
But it’s not long till their attempts to defeat one another turn into an unlikely collaboration that subverts our expectations while actually also making a lot of sense, as it’s born out of a mutual fascination with each other’s personalities and skills. And so, we find out that, while Loki intends to overthrow the Time Keepers, not only does Sylvie not share his desire to rule the TVA in the slightest, as she has a plan that was “years in the making”, but she doesn’t even want to be “a Loki”. In fact, though the two fugitives are a variant of the same person and therefore share certain abilities and attitudes, their different upbringing has had a huge influence on their identities, and this makes for incredibly thought-provoking storytelling.
In the best Loki tradition, Season 1 Episode 3 sees our hero take pride in his fashionable disguises, using what he calls “diplomacy” to get what he wants – in this case, escaping the worst possible apocalypse he could possibly be in, all while gaining more knowledge about Sylvie and maintaining an advantage over her that comes in the form of an ever-powerful “TemPad” remote control (the closest thing to having magic at the TVA’s headquarters) that would seem to have hilariously run out of batteries. But managing to get himself into terrible situations and attempting to get out of them is only part of what happens in an episode that’s also full of adorable banter, nostalgic conversations, and unexpected moments of emotion. Loki and Sylvie combine their abilities to get on a train that is supposed to take them further away from the apocalypse, and this leads to the most meaningful scene of the episode, which surprisingly consists in a refreshingly raw conversation between the two characters.
And so, we learn that Sylvie and Loki’s magic is different because they were taught by different people, and have led almost opposite lives. Though Loki’s entire life consists of him having experienced failure over and over again, the God of Mischief did have a “purely decent” mother who loved him and believed in him, and who taught him that he could do anything. On the contrary, Sylvie has spent her whole life running from the TVA, with no one on her side: this forced her to use her powers to her advantage, which is how she mastered the art of possessing other people’s bodies. But her abilities have always been a means for survival and escape, and behind all her power lies a great deal of anger and paranoia, and a tendency to rely solely on instincts – or “brute force”, to use Loki’s words – to get out of unpleasant situations.
If Loki‘s past episodes got us thinking about free will and the nature of good and evil by having the action take place in a world where everything that happens was predetermined, Season 1 Episode 3 calls for an even more in-depth analysis of our hero’s identity, by showing us two character who are essentially the same person, but whose contrasting experiences have turned them into two very different people – or, perhaps, two parts of the same person who ultimately need each other to be whole.
When the two variants talk on the train, Loki shows Sylvie a firework display that he conjures with his hand, the way his mum taught him. This calls for an even more intimate conversation in which the two ask each other about any “would-be-princesses” and “would-be-princes” in their lives (a scene that beautifully confirms Loki as the MCU’s first queer character), the way any long-lost relative would, and Loki comes up with a definition for love (“a dagger: a weapon to be wielded far away or up close”) that heartbreakingly reflects his own experience with every single meaningful relationship he’s ever had (“you can see yourself in it. It’s beautiful. Until it makes you bleed.
But ultimately, when you reach for it, it isn’t real”): a simple chat about potential love interests conveys just how lonely and sad these characters are, giving us a compelling analysis of two leads that become more authentic and well-rounded as episodes go by. But that’s not all: a few hours later, Sylvie is woken up by Loki singing in Asgardian, in a vaguely Titanic-reminiscent scene that gives us the rare moment of Loki being happy and carefree. It takes a meeting with a completely different version of himself for Loki to finally embrace his identity, and he does so by letting his guard down for a second, and allowing himself to remember his roots, replacing the profound grief he feels for the loss of his mother with a celebration of the part of her that lives in him.
This week’s episode of Loki begins with the notes of Hayley Kiyoko’s “Demons”, and our hero’s demons might just be the most painful, but also real and meaningful, memories from his past. Though we missed Loki’s interactions with Agent Mobius (Owen Wilson) in this episode, our titular character’s detour with Lady Loki was a necessary step for the growth of a God of Mischief that is starting to appear more and more human. There are only three episodes left in Loki ‘s Season 1, but, judging by the first three chapters of this enthralling adventure, so much can happen during the rest of the season. We can’t wait for more secrets to be unveiled next week.
Loki ‘s Season 1 Episode 3 is now available to watch on Disney Plus.