'Loki' Remains One of Marvel's Standout Streaming Shows in Its Lively and Entertaining Second Season
This returning Tom Hiddleston-starring stint of time-hopping trickery also benefits from adding 'Everywhere All At Once' Oscar-winner Ke Huy Quan to its cast.
October 06, 2023
One of the best performances in the Marvel Cinematic Universe comes from the man who was first charged with getting villainous, but now leads his own spinoff series as a complex and playful hero. While Tom Hiddleston's acting talents are well-established far beyond playing the God of Mischief — see: The Deep Blue Sea, The Hollow Crown, Only Lovers Left Alive, High-Rise, Crimson Peak and The Night Manager, for instance — the MCU has been all the better for his involvement for more than a decade. A scene-stealer in 2011's Thor, his parts in film after film kept getting bigger until streaming series Loki arrived. Amid Disney's rush of greenlighting shows for Disney+, starting this one couldn't have been easier; as Thor: Ragnarok in particular demonstrated, adding more Hiddleston has always been a winning move.
When it slid into queues in 2021 as just the third series in the MCU's small-screen realm, following WandaVision and The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, Loki proved that more Hiddleston in a six-part TV show was also a delight. Immediately one of Marvel's standout shows, it came as no surprise when this stint of time-hopping trickery confirmed that it was returning for a second season in that run's final episode. Now back for another half-dozen instalments from Friday, October 6, Loki becomes the first of Marvel's television entries to earn a second go-around. That isn't an achievement that it takes for granted. Picking up exactly where season one left off, Loki season two sticks to some familiar beats but also makes its own leaps, and remains fun, funny, lively and smart in the process. It feels more lived in, too, a description that rarely applies to any franchise about caped crusaders and their nemeses, gods, multiverses and temporal chaos, this one among them.
Audiences may know and love Loki, including in his small-screen guise as an alternate version of the movies' scamp who turns time cop to save the world, but the figure himself isn't as swiftly recognised when Loki's second season kicks off. Although nothing has changed about him visually, the first season's climactic showdown with Time Variance Authority creator He Who Remains (Jonathon Majors, Creed III) has had repercussions. Now, the Norse rogue is glitching. With multiple timelines in play thanks to fellow Loki variant Sylvie (Sophia Di Martino, The Electrical Life of Louis Wain), the series' eponymous character is being pulled between different worlds. "It looks like you're being born, or dying, or both at the same time," observes Agent Mobius M Mobius (Owen Wilson, Haunted Mansion). He isn't wrong.
Time is an inescapable concept in the MCU, especially as it keeps expanding and sprawling. 2023 marks 15 years since Iron Man started the franchise, with The Marvels set to notch up its 33rd film when it reaches cinemas in November. On streaming, five other Marvel shows have joined the fold since Loki's debut season, beginning with 2021's Hawkeye; then spanning 2022's Moon Knight, Ms Marvel and She-Hulk: Attorney at Law; and seeing Secret Invasion already drop in 2023. In the mechanics of the superhero saga, the MCU stresses the same message that Loki now is: as time keeps elongating, jumping here, there and everywhere is inevitable.
Once Loki and Mobius are back in their entertaining old rhythm, they need help getting time under control. Hunter B-15 (Wunmi Mosaku, Black Mirror) takes up the battle to save timelines beyond the sacred timeline, plus the people living their lives within them, while Loki and Mobius seek help from TVA tech go-to Ouroboros aka OB (Ke Huy Quan, American Born Chinese). Bringing Everything Everywhere All At Once Oscar-winner Quan into another temporal jumble is as great on-screen as it sounds on paper, even as he's saddled with mentioning time, manuals, looms and pruning repeatedly. There's a weightier air to Loki season two as Loki, Mobius and Hunter B-15's arcs deepen, plus more meaningful emotional paths, but the boilersuit-clad OB is a gloriously energetic addition.
Also fun: when Loki flits around, inserting its main duo into different places and times on various legs of their mission. The MCU's penchant for cycling through genres instalment by instalment pops up here in miniature; where the broader saga can be a thriller in one flick (Black Widow, for example), a comedy in others (the Thor, Guardians of the Galaxy and Ant-Man vibes), dive into horror elsewhere (Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness) and spin coming-of-age stories as well (the Spider-Man movies), this series goes from 70s-set London spy antics to a 19th-century Chicago caper and an existential stop at McDonalds in the 80s. The bouncing around doesn't just serve the narrative or suit the tone, but also fits Hiddleston and Wilson's central pairing. Loki does the odd-couple buddy dynamic swimmingly no matter where Loki and Mobius are, and gains another of Marvel's most engaging performances from Wilson as a result.
Getting Loki falling in love with himself, aka Sylvie, was as Loki a move as there ever was in season one. In the show's return, their relationship is still complicated. Also, Sylvie remains on a quest to vanquish the man who sparked the TVA, this time via his variant Victor Timely (also Majors). The season has everyone looking for Judge Renslayer (Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Summerland) and Miss Minutes (Tara Strong, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3), too. And, it has a He Who Remains/Timely/Kang the Conqueror problem. As the big bad for the MCU's phase five and beyond — the next Avengers movie due in 2026 is called Avengers: The Kang Dynasty — the latter as pivotal in Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania. The domestic violence allegations against Majors since that film now cast a shadow, unsurprisingly, as does knowing that recasting could happen.
There's no doubting Loki's look, though; it's up there with the Hiddleston-and-Wilson banter and Quan's verve as one of the season's highlights. The colour palette, the technology, the outfits, the retro sheen: it all works a charm. Marvel is obsessed with linking its array of on-screen chapters as it constantly grows and stretches its cinematic universe, which isn't about to change from here. With its aesthetics, plus Hiddleston and Wilson's excellent work — and Quan's, Martino and Mosaku's as well — Loki keeps making the opposite argument, however. If ever there's a segment of the MCU that could happily stand alone and thrive, it's this one. Of course, that isn't the show's route, but leaving viewers wanting more isn't the given that it once was for this franchise as time has passed.
Check out the trailer for Loki season two below:
Loki season two streams via Disney+ from Friday, October 6.
Images: © Marvel Studios 2023. All Rights Reserved.
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