Loki season 2 episode 3 review: Timely but not elegant (Image Credit: Space.com)
It’s been hard to criticize Loki season 2 for its more meandering bits so far, as the plot has remained focused and its characters engrossing. There’s a human heart at the center of the series that, so far, has balanced out all the temporal mumbo jumbo and confusing elements.
If last week’s episode underlined the highs Loki can reach without resorting to recurrent action beats, then episode 3 – titled ‘1893’ – gets a bit lost in the woods as it juggles several characters chasing the same person, and forgets to tell a smaller arc.
There’s no need to act surprised though, as Marvel Studios and its creative teams have often struggled with telling the larger story of their shows while also allowing each chapter to have its own identity. A recurring criticism is that Marvel TV shows behave much like bigger-than-usual movies in many cases, and it’s hard to argue against it when looking at series like Ms. Marvel, but at the same time, works like WandaVision and Loki managed to do both things just fine on most occasions. ‘1893’ is fun to watch, but comes across as mostly busywork and a collection of set-ups.
Before we dive into time-slipping madness and discuss what the God of Mischief is up to, you might want to check how Marvel Studios is doing so far on the big screen with our best Marvel movies ranked list. If you need a refresher on which movie goes where in the timeline, we also have the Marvel movies in order list, updated up to Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3. Up next in cinemas is Nia DaCosta’s The Marvels, which promises an off-beat adventure in outer space.
Spoilers ahead for Loki season 2 episode 3: ‘1893’
As we predicted last week, episode 3 brings back the enigmatic Ravonna Renslayer, who’s meeting with Miss Minutes in 1868 Chicago (Sacred Timeline). Why did she leave the Time Variance Authority (TVA) last season in such a hurry? Well, there was a plan B in case He Who Remains kicked the bucket, and both Ravonna and Miss Minutes are part of it. For now, it seems like the AI knows most (if not all) of the plan and is guiding Ravonna, telling her to leave a package with a copy of the TVA handbook for a young Victor Timely to find.
Of course, Timely is none other than He Who Remains, or at least one of his variants. The name Kang isn’t thrown around yet, as the ones we’ve met so far in the show aren’t conquerors when we meet them. He Who Remains did win the Multiversal War that led to the creation of the Sacred Timeline, but he otherwise was just chilling at the End of Time. With him now gone and timelines branching all over, everyone might need a replacement to fix what’s broken, including the TVA’s Temporal Loom. It’s a nice pitch, to be honest: Loki, Sylvie and the gang are trying to free themselves from the shackles of He Who Remains and his vision for the TVA, yet he’s needed to save the entire reality from collapsing.
Back to the Temporal Loom business: it’s shocking to see the script for episode 3 repeat almost word by word what O.B. had already explained in episode 2 just because Loki and Mobius weren’t present in his reunion with Casey and Hunter B-15. It makes you wonder if they should’ve simply saved the entirety of the conversation for the start of ‘1893’ and cut that entire subplot from ‘Breaking Brad’ in post-production. This is the type of redundancy we aren’t used to seeing in Loki.
Anyway, Loki and Mobius get to 1893 Chicago, during the famous World’s Fair, after failing to find anything in 1868 (they’d been able to track Renslayer’s TemPad). The original mission was to find Miss Minutes – who appears to have almost complete autonomy despite being a cartoon clock – and bring her to the TVA so O.B. could access the increasingly unstable Loom, but the revelation that He Who Remains (or someone who might become him) is present changes everything. Look out for a nice little Balder the Brave reference too.
For Ravonna, this is a chance to seize a new beginning and prove her worth to her master while saving the Sacred Timeline she has strongly defended in the past. For Loki and Mobius, this could be an alternative to containing a rogue AI. But, of course, simply walking up to him, saying hi and bringing him in won’t work. After a demonstration of the Loom-like machine Victor has been working on – thanks to everything he’s learned through the TVA handbook – several businessmen are interested in buying the device, but Victor says he wants no partners. He’s intrigued, however, by Loki and Mobius’ words.
The most interesting thing about this incarnation of He Who Remains is that, under the insecure façade, there’s a proud swindler. Mr. Timely is as smart as he is deceitful, and those are qualities that shouldn’t be overlooked if the troubled TVA needs his help. He might look innocent and focused on improving lives with his creations, but this episode shows us time and again he can’t be trusted.
Things get more complicated when Sylvie (who apparently has a time-hopping side gig on top of working at McDonald’s) shows up to murder this He Who Remains variant. The implication here is that maybe she’s been doing this for a while, and now she follows in Loki and Mobius’ footsteps. With all the in-universe mechanics that have been thrown around in past episodes and the relentless pacing of ‘1893,’ we’re sure viewers might have to resort to the nearest Marvel wiki to make sense of some moments. In fact, we had to rewatch certain scenes to make sure we hadn’t missed anything.
After a small kerfuffle also involving an angry businessman and a giant, ghost-like Miss Minutes, Victor escapes alongside Ravonna and learns about (her version of) the truth about the TVA and why she’s there to help him. This is a power play, but Ravonna doesn’t realize he’s more perceptive than he looks. Jonathan Majors (who plays Victor), controversies aside, demonstrates here he’s a pretty great actor that can do a lot with very little when he’s given enough space, juggling both curiosity and fear at the same time to create a character that’s far from the stereotypical and fidgety man of science presented at first. There’s a huge difference between the earlier scenes, which are too exaggerated even for Marvel, and the convincing humanity he brings to the role in the back half of the episode.
During the escape trip (by boat) to Wisconsin, where Timely’s real base of operations is (little nod for comic book readers), and after a seemingly heartfelt chat, Ravonna drops into the water as Victor and Miss Minutes betray her. Remember everything we learned about him: he’s dishonest and doesn’t do partnerships. He’s starting to feel a bit like a “proper” Kang, isn’t he?
At his laboratory, the superficially sweet Miss Minutes reveals she was quite jealous of Ravonna and has developed feelings for He Who Remains over the “eons” they spent together, through the Multiversal War and all the way up to the End of Time. Honestly, this is the kind of twisty AI subplot we weren’t expecting to see in Loki, and it’s by far the most compelling part of episode 3, which is otherwise just a fun (albeit messy) Back to the Future 3-like romp.
Both Ravonna and Sylvie show up before things get any creepier (Miss Minutes wants a physical body), and Victor is once again at the center of a multi-party conflict. The two women, however, want to see him dead now. While Loki and Mobius’ intervention does cool things down a little, it’s Victor exceeding at persuasion once again that gets him through a time door and away from trouble. Sylvie seems to finally be realizing that saving timelines from falling apart maybe is a good thing, especially if she wants to live a different life. However, she’s far from being friends with Loki again and directly helping the TVA.
As for Renslayer, she also goes somewhere through a time door after Sylvie gives her what she wished for: a seat at the End of Time. He Who Remains is dead though, so good luck with that. Miss Minutes, switched back on by Ravonna, offers to give her some sensitive information that will make her angry, so there’s way more in store for these two deceivers… Sylvie may or may not have messed up again by acting rashly.