Given that it’s only six episodes, Loki moved apace through ‘Glorious Purpose’ and ‘The Variant’, yielding a strong mix of character and world-building. For the third episode, ‘Lamentis’, neither is stimulated particularly well, with dialogue that holds some revelations poorly couched in a meandering plot.
We start well enough: Loki’s followed the variant back to the TVA, and multiple close-quarters hallway fights ensue. Marvel’s Netflix shows had become quite proficient in the art of the corridor brawl, and Loki carries the same interest in weighty battles for Disney Plus. This is until Gugu Mbatha-Raw’s Ravonna Renslayer enters, and Loki and the variant are zapped away to Lamentis-1, another instance of the apocalypse.
This one’s different, though, because the potential for survival is even lower than usual – a planet and a moon are colliding, it’s completely hopeless, yadda, yadda. It makes for a neat backdrop on paper, but in practice, Loki winds up becoming the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s version of Doctor Who, where the intrepid, godlike protagonist has to save somewhere, and themselves, from the inevitable. No odds are too insurmountable, and our hero will do it with a wry smile, and possibly a little bit drunk.
Loki even has a companion, Sylvie (Sophia Di Martino), the Variant Loki who’s dead set on destroying the fascist TVA. Roundabout exposition provides shades of her back-story – she only has distant memories of Frigga, their mother, and she has a long-distance, long-term relationship with a postman. Her plan to burn down the Time Variance Authority has been slowly and methodically put together for years, and now our Loki is mucking things up.
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Comics fans may note the name Sylvie, suggesting Amora the Enchantress, one of the Young Avengers. The fledgling team of younger heroes is a running theme in these Disney Plus series, from Wanda’s sons Billy and Tommy Maximoff in WandaVision, to Joaquin Torres in The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, and Kate Bishop in the upcoming Hawkeye show.
Hiddleston and Di Martino have an entertaining, endearing back-and-forth, and the better moments are when they’re allowed to exposit and drive the scene. Sylvie drops some information on the TVA that completely reframes the whole organisation, that’s then glossed over when they reach a city.
Opening the episode, we see Sylvie’s psychic abilities in action, when she traps one of the TVA in their own subconscious, and manipulates them for information. The setup riffs on Christopher Nolan’s Inception; time is distorted, and the subject understands something’s wrong, but by the time they realise what, it’s too late. It’s a skill Loki admires, and it seemed like perhaps we’d see them battle through magical abilities. Continually, though, their budding dynamic, two versions of the same person with radically different histories, is interrupted by the end of the world.
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And the problem is, we know this isn’t the end, because this is only the third episode. In a longer season, perhaps on something designed for network TV like Agents of SHIELD, taking a detour to save a far off planet would be expected, welcomed even. In a miniseries expressly made for streaming, and produced like a movie, it just doesn’t quite fit.
Some of it is great – watching one of Loki’s disguises get instantly blasted by someone who’s categorically too old for his nonsense is laugh-out-loud, but the context is too far removed. The TVA is where this story is actually happening. That’s where Sylvie wants to be, that’s where Loki is hoping to meet the Time-Keepers, it’s the reason she’s on the run, and he’s chasing her. So, with only three episodes to go, why aren’t we already there?