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Loki S2 Episode 1.png

Can 'Loki' Season Two Solve Its Kang Problem By Deploying The Perfect Ke Huy Quan?

By Tori Preston | TV | October 7, 2023 |

By Tori Preston | TV | October 7, 2023 |

Loki S2 Episode 1.png

It’s been a bumpy road for Loki since we saw it last. The series was the first MCU/Disney joint to even get a second season, and somewhere in the process, it lost its head writer, Michael Waldron, and director, Kate Herron — the minds that shaped the first season and made it such a distinctive journey. And it was distinctive, as these things go! In addition to the beautiful retrofuturistic design of the TVA, the show managed to balance the character-driven potential of the small-screen Marvel format with a surprising amount of real universe (multiverse?) franchise expansion. Season one broke down the titular God of Mischief to explore free will and destiny, whether there is room for a villain in somebody else’s story to be the sexy-shouldered hero of his own, then threw in the next great Marvel baddie for a surprise 11th-hour reveal that … came back to bite them in the ass, unfortunately. Because Jonathan Majors, hired to play Kang the Conqueror and all his various variants in the next Marvel Phase, was arrested for assault and dropped by his management while more accusations of abuse came to light after he’d finished filming Loki season two. The actor is locked in as a major presence this season, even as no word on his future involvement in the MCU has come down. Are we about to embark on his last outing as He Who Might Be A Kang, and if so, how invested can we even be in this story?

The good news is that the second season premiere, “Ouroboros,” proves a seamless transition for the new creative team, at least. Eric Martin, a writer from season one, was promoted to showrunner this season, while Justin Benson and Aaron Moorhead, who helmed some of the best parts of the messy Moon Knight, step in as the lead directors this go-‘round, and so far they all are more than up to the task. The episode picks up exactly where the last left off, with … well, a giant sculpture of Jonathan Majors as Kang. His face does kinda loom over much of the proceedings, but otherwise, the actor is absent as the season gets underway unpacking the ramifications of Loki and Sylvie’s showdown with He Who Remains in the Citadel At The End Of Time. Names that I swear are real things I did not make up!

[If you’d like a refresher on season one, you can find our recaps here: Episode One, Episode Two, Episode Three, Episode Four, Episode Five, Episode Six]

The first ramification is that we all read the finale wrong, you guys. When Sylvie shoved Loki through that time door and sent him back to a version of the TVA where Mobius doesn’t remember him, it wasn’t because it was an alternate version of the TVA. It was the TVA of the past, duh! Because when Sylvie killed He Who Remains and unleashed the full potential of the multiverse with infinite branches, we totally should have assumed Loki’s ass would land in the original timeline, just in a different place. Yup, silly me jumping to conclusions like that. The Kangified makeover of the place is because, in the past, Kang ruled the TVA himself — then at some point decided to wipe everyone’s memories and invent those false Timekeepers to act as figureheads in his stead. So not only have the staff of the TVA been plucked from pruned timeline branches and mindwiped, as was revealed last season, but their memories of their time in the TVA have also been altered over the years.

Loki doesn’t stay in the past for long, though, because he can’t. He’s become unstuck in time and “timeslips” from past to present to future in an alarming way. Like, body horror alarming. He sort of blips in a rubbery knot of limbs and anguish. Still, it leads to one of the timey-wimiest, Doctor Who-esque sequences, yet as Loki in the past and Mobius in the present hold the same conversation with Ouroboros, or “O.B.” for short, the new tech guru played by Ke Huy Quan. O.B. starts remembering in the present what is somehow concurrently happening with Loki in the past and thus discovers that he already built a solution to Loki’s problem! A solution that is incredibly risky in the best of times — Loki just needs to prune himself and let the Temporal Aura Extractor pull him from the timestream! — and nearly impossible now that the TVA is falling apart.

Turns out the TVA is built around a Temporal Loom, and that loom is overloading, trying to weave together all the new branches coming off the Sacred Timeline now that the TVA has stopped pruning them. This is a thing that the leadership of the TVA decided to do, given the revelations of last season and the ardent testimony of Hunter B-15 (Wunmi Mosaku). Pruning whole realities and everyone in them just seems a tad bit more violently atrocious now. It is hardly a unanimous decision, however. In the absence of Judge Ravonna Renslayer (Gugu Mbatha-Raw), the operations of the TVA are apparently determined by a war counsel consisting of Judge Gamble (Liz Carr), General Dox (Kate Dickie, the unsettling Lysa Arryn from Game of Thrones), and some dude who’s asleep at the table. Gamble sides with Hunter B-15, but Dox is of the Renslayer camp of not wanting to believe that everything they’ve done in service of the Sacred Timeline was for naught. By episode’s end Dox has rounded up some like-minded goons, including Rafael Casal’s Hunter X-5, and is sending them through a timedoor of her own in pursuit of Sylvie, hoping to learn more about what really happened in the Citadel.

As for Ravonna? Like Kang, she only appears as a carving … and as a voice on a recording Loki discovers during one of his timeslips. The recording features Kang calling her a “marvel” and saying, “I would be proud to lead with you. You made a difference in this war.” It’s not entirely clear where in the timeline Loki was or when the recording was made for that matter. Is this proof that Ravonna was successful in locating Kang after she went looking last season, and if so — which variant did she find? Or is it proof that, sometime in the past when He Who Remains was more directly in control of the TVA, Ravonna led beside him, and he wiped her memory along with everyone else’s when he stepped down? Did the war happen long ago, or did Loki hear a hint at the one to come? Because if so, it’s not the only hint Loki found as to the future of the TVA. In his final timeslip Loki lands in the halls of an embattled TVA of the (near?) future, and despite the fact that time is running out for him to prune himself per O.B.’s instruction, he tries to find some clue as to what is going on. What he finds is a ringing phone, and then Sylvie (Sophia Di Martino) forcing her way through an elevator door and acting happy to see him — just as somebody else prunes him.

Loki makes it back to the present just in time to save himself and Mobius before O.B. closes the blast doors, protecting the rest of the TVA from the unstable Temporal Loom, and now Loki knows Sylvie will somehow come back to the TVA as well. The question is when, and what she has to do with any of it, so Loki decides he too needs to find Sylvie … before General Dox, presumably. A mid-credit scene reveals where our favorite Lady Loki is hiding out: Broxton, Oklahoma in 1982, in a branched timeline and specifically in a local McDonald’s where she’s about to order the entire menu. This location is a big hint for comic readers, as the original Sylvie was a human girl from Broxton whom Loki imbued with magic in order to start his usual mischief. She ended up believing she was an Asgardian called The Enchantress, whose power set is very similar to the magic Sylvie has always portrayed in the series.

It was a fun episode and a promising start to the season, light-footed and assured despite the offscreen baggage. Tom Hiddleston and Owen Wilson continue to have chemistry for days, and Ke Huy Quan with his assured technobabble fits into the mix so perfectly it’s scary. As long as the three of them take up the majority of the screen time, this season’ll be just fine. I’m also genuinely curious about what Sylvie will make of herself now that she’s finally won her freedom from destiny, and what her relationship with Loki will be. Specifically: Will they make out? Thematically, though, I’m not sure what to expect as the season plays out. Season one already did a big Hunt For Sylvie thing, so I hope we don’t fall into a huge time suck repeating that. The bigger question is Loki’s journey moving forward. What made Loki such a refreshing series was that it was mostly a study of this complicated character and all of his potential. It used the idea of a multiverse to allow Loki to confront his various possibilities and their failings, and in the end, he chose to change for the better by finding a purpose beyond himself (OK so technically he wanted to save the lady variant of himself that he was low key in love with from unleashing havoc on reality, but… you know, it wasn’t HIMSELF himself). Is there more room for self-discovery for Loki in season two, or is this season about seeing how the New-Improved-Not-Exactly-Evil Loki does with the fate of reality on his shoulders? Shoulders which, and I can not emphasize this enough, remain very attractive and make me so happy he’s still stuck in that superfluous leather harness.

Of course, the biggest question is what the season holds in store for Kang and for Jonathan Majors. Though if there was ever a time and a place for Marvel to recast their upcoming villain, the show that’s literally about how a character can be a man or a woman or an alligator or a Richard E. Grant wouldn’t be the worst place to try it.