Thank god

Published date10 October 2023
Publication titleSignal
IF ever there was a time for a second season of Loki, it’s now. The first outing was a witty romp through time and space, in which Tom Hiddleston’s lovably narcissistic Norse god charmed the pants off viewers. There were wild cameos (Richard E Grant as a weird alternate Loki!). There was sizzling chemistry (the bromance with Owen Wilson’s Agent Mobius!). There was even the tender blossoming of love (with Loki’s metaverse alter ego Sylvie — almost certainly the most poignant romance a TV character has ever conducted with themselves). So, naturally, the Marvel Cinematic Universe chose to follow up this televisual triumph with a disastrous series of flops, culminating in June’s Secret Invasion: a slog of a show that felt like the death knell for the franchise’s entire TV future

Luckily, Loki’s action-packed return suggests it is more than prepared to rise to the challenge of shaking off Marvel’s track record of TV tedium. We’re taken to the exact moment the previous season left off: the aftermath of Sylvie (Sophia Di Martino) killing He Who Remains — the shadowy figure behind temporal police the Time Variance Authority (TVA). There are slow-mo chases, car crashes in flying vehicles and Loki constantly running into effigies of He Who Remains. One thing is instantly clear: you really can’t avoid season one if you expect any of the following to make sense.

A good chunk of the opener consists of Hiddleston vanishing into another timeline. His body briefly turns into something that looks like it belongs in Stranger Things’ Upside Down, while he makes the sound of a man who has eaten some seriously out-of-date scampi. ‘‘It’s horrible,’’ quips Wilson’s Agent Mobius. ‘‘It looks like you’re being born, or dying — or both at the same time.’’ There are temporal loops, baffling causality chains and the establishment of what will be a series-long plot about stabilising a ‘‘temporal loom’’ — whose explanation is so convoluted the characters may as well be repeatedly chanting the word ‘‘MacGuffin’’. Compared to the first season’s simple thrills, it’s all a bit overcomplicated — a disappointing choice of direction, if predictable.

Less explicable is the decision to do away with the beating heart of season one — the surprisingly lovely romance between Loki and Sylvie. This time, they’re on very separate paths, with Di Martino’s character reinvented as a time-hopping assassin, while Hiddleston moves ever further from his character’s mischievous past to buddy up with Agent...

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