Loki 1×02 Review: “The Variant”

Loki The Variant
Courtesy of Disney+ and Marvel Entertainment

We’ve all been waiting to see which face the variant Loki would be wearing. Now, towards the end of Episode 2, we finally get the reveal- and it’s a pretty cool (if maybe a shade predicted) twist.

Though I’m calling this twist a “shade predicted”, if you were surprised by “Randy’s” appearance in “The Variant” don’t feel bad. The clues were there if you looked, but they were also subtle. I want to give a shoutout to our own Admin Angel who messaged me after “Glorious Purpose” to share her theory about who would be playing variant!Loki, which turned out to be absolutely correct. 

Her logic: Sophia Di Martino appears in five out of six episodes but hadn’t been introduced yet in Episode 1. Plus, as I noted last week, there was no reason not to show the Variant’s face if Tom Hiddleston was playing them. It had to be someone else, and Di Martino fit the bill. So, kudos to Angel for that spot-on guess.

I want to back up from that reveal to talk about the earlier part of this episode. Namely, the opening. We hear later that C-20 was incredibly skilled, and her colleagues doubted she could be snuck up on by the Variant. We the audience know the Variant did just that, even while C-20 was holding a variant tracking device. I wonder if we’re going to find out how that was possible? Was there just so much variant energy in the tent that she couldn’t tell exactly where it was centered?

Back at the TVA we get a lot of time over several scenes to play with a side of Loki I personally love: Loki as a subordinate. We’ve only seen that briefly (beginning of Thor, a little bit during Thor: The Dark World), but it’s always fun to watch him pushing boundaries and generally being Loki. 

This took things a little further. Being a television show instead of a movie means Hiddleston has room to really lean into the role. I enjoyed watching him poke at the boundaries of his cage, trying to see where the limits were while providing just enough help to not be disintegrated. There just isn’t time for five minutes of Loki messing around in the TVA offices in a movie.

Also, hey Disney? If you think we didn’t all notice that glorious cosplay staple you’ve added to our collective consciousness in the form of the VARIANT jacket, you’re absolutely wrong. I love it, and I’m already planning to make one. He’s already appearing in that coat at Avenger’s Campus, by the way. I expect we’ll see a licensed version of the jacket pretty soon.

Agent Mobius is a great match for Loki. He sees through all the trickster shenanigans and even seems to be ahead of Loki most of the time. I love watching their conversational battles. You never know if he’s just saying what Loki needs to hear to help find the Variant or if he genuinely feels bad for him. In fact, he says something along those lines. Loki never really knows how to handle straight shooters who can also see through his shenanigans. When Mobius the one in charge of herding the Asgardian, things turn out pretty well. 

Once he realized he couldn’t pull the wool over the TVA’s eyes and he was in very real danger of being disintegrated, Loki actually puts in the work to help. He identified a hole in the TVA’s monitoring system that no one had ever thought of, and he gave them critical insight into the concept of “Loki” that could lead to them capturing the Variant.

I especially appreciate his lecture on the difference between illusion projection and duplication casting. Knowing that Loki’s “mirror images” are actually molecular twins of himself explains how they can all act autonomously, and also how it seems that he can jump from one of them to another. It’s a point he seems very proud of, even if the TVA dismiss the distinction.

The TVA are almost equally quick to dismiss Loki after he fails to catch the Variant on his first mission. Did they really think it would be that easy? Or are they just very reluctant to not disintegrate a Variant of any kind and looking for an excuse to end the experiment?

I can’t help being curious about Mobius and his motivations. He claims to be happy working for the Timekeepers and motivated to maintain the Sacred Timeline. Maybe he is. Maybe his questions about where the Timekeepers are and what they’re up to are the questions of a True Believer making sure there’s no rot forming within the system. 

Or maybe not. Maybe he’s got bigger plans, and Loki is his pawn in more ways than one. We at least know he’s not under the Variant’s control, since her puppets drop after a very short time- but there could be other powers in play.

That doubt is why I’m not sure if Mobius truly lost Loki when the Asgardian followed the Variant through the portal, or if Loki is behaving as expected. I have a sneaky suspicion this is what Mobius wanted all along: a Loki who would be driven to catch the other Variant without becoming a larger threat. A Loki he could catch later. The TVA certainly wouldn’t have signed off on anything that blatantly involved freeing a variant of any kind, so Mobius would have had to keep that quiet.

If that was planned, anyway. Time will tell. 

The Variant
Okay, well, she’s just cool, right? (Courtesy of Disney+ and Marvel Entertainment)

I don’t want to brush past the Variant’s plans here, because I do have questions. How did the triggers bomb the Sacred Timeline? I thought from descriptions that they only destroyed small branches and didn’t have the power to delete anything from the main timeline. That must not be the case, since sending them around in time has caused utter chaos. (Which we knew would happen with Multiverse of Madness coming up, but not this soon! That was a real shock to me.)

Also, what’s the Variant’s goal here? My guess is that she wants to create enough trouble to draw the Timekeepers out of hiding, then kill them. I could go with the altruistic reason of “if the Timekeepers are dead, Asgard doesn’t have to stay gone”, or I could lean towards “the Variant wants to be the final arbitrator of what is and isn’t part of the Sacred Timeline”.

I don’t think we have enough information yet. I’m thinking that first one isn’t likely. If she gets angry at the name “Loki”, she probably doesn’t feel strongly tied to her Asgardian heritage.

We do know she doesn’t like to be called Loki, which brings up another question: what timeline is the Variant a product of? She’s blonde, likes violence for violence’s sake, and seems a lot more physical than our Loki. Her power set is different. The only Loki traits she has are similar aesthetics (both in dress and in that green magic coloring) and a clear belief she is the best variant.

I’d have believed she was a dark Thor variant if the TVA hadn’t directly identified her as a Loki variant. What happened in her timeline to make her like this? 

She does pull one very clear trickster move: setting Loki up to look like he attacked B-15 in a bid to run away. I hope they have some way to see what actually happened there, but I suspect not. Forcing Loki to have to deal with the TVA and this sneaky, malicious temporal twin of his would be too much fun for the writers to resist. 

A few parting thoughts before we settle in to wait another week for answers:

  • Loki launches the Multiverse of Madness on 6/16. As in Earth 616. That cannot possibly be a coincidence, and I guess now we know why Disney+ moved the show’s airdates. I SHOULD HAVE SEEN THIS COMING. 
  • Loki destroying Mobius’ salad made me laugh so hard I watched it four times. 
  • If there were more than 4 agents going after the Variant in that Roxxmart showdown, why didn’t B-15 take any with her and Loki? Why was it just them in that aisle?
  • We all know the Variant meant for Loki to follow her, right? He’s a tool to her and it’s obvious, right?
  • How much do the Timekeepers actually know? Is this part of their plan? Will they let Wanda keep the Twins when she and Doctor Strange get them back in Multiverse of Madness (which I firmly believe will happen, okay, Wanda needs this!)?
  • I am really enjoying weekly episodes, which I used to hate. It gives us time to theorize.

What did you think of this week’s Loki? Let us know in the comments!

Author: Khai

Khai is a writer, anthropologist, and games enthusiast. She is co-editor (alongside Alex DeCampi) of and contributor to “True War Stories”, a comic anthology published by Z2 Comics. When she’s not writing or creating games, Khai likes to run more tabletop RPGs than one person should reasonably juggle.

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