It's no secret Marvel Studios hasn't had a great 2023.
After the third Ant-Man movie failed to convince critics and casual viewers alike and to crack the $500 million barrier at the global box office, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 offered much-needed respite, though most reviewers and moviegoers linked its success to James Gunn's seemingly endless winning streak doing comic book adaptations. Later came the heavily reshot Secret Invasion, which is widely regarded as the weakest Marvel show released so far on Disney Plus, and ranks as the second-worst Marvel Cinematic Universe installment ever on Rotten Tomatoes.
Back in 2021, the first season of Loki was a promising look into the MCU's grand plan for the Multiverse Saga as well as a notable series on its own. Ironically, the TV project that seemed more redundant at first ended up becoming one of Phase 4's brightest spots. With season 2, can Marvel charm us again after so many recent ups and downs? Well, if this season premiere is anything to go by, we might be back in business.
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 ranked list of all the MCU movies. 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 1: 'Ouroboros'
So, season 1 had quite the shocking ending, with Jonathan Majors’ He Who Remains – a Kang variant – dying at the hands of Sylvie (Sophia Di Martino) after explaining why he had to keep a Sacred Timeline, and Loki (Tom Hiddleston) returning to a TVA that doesn’t appear to be his. The death of He Who Remains essentially made time branch out and created the "multiverse" we’ve begun experiencing in movies like Spider-Man: No Way Home and Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness. As timelines can interact with each other again, a new Multiversal War looms near.
Sylvie is now lost across time, and Loki wants to find her (who, we remind you, is a Loki variant he’s fallen in love with). The problem? Everyone at the TVA is going to have a hard time believing what they saw and were told at the End of Time, especially when he can’t stop involuntarily jumping between the past and the present. Though it seems that he’s at least tied to the timeline we knew from most of season 1.
We could argue the first thing season 2 does is backtrack the terrifying implications of that cliffhanger ending from two years ago, but it’s a twist we hadn't even considered, and it doesn't diminish the larger threat in any way. In fact, season 2’s first episode is quite stressful. The TVA knows the Sacred Timeline is cooked and has lost Ravonna Renslayer on top of everything (Loki and Sylvie going missing, Hunter B-15 breaking protocol …), so we’re introduced to Kate Dickie’s General Dox and Liz Carr’s Judge Gamble, who will try to decide the best course of action moving forward.
‘Ouroboros’ is an episode which takes places entirely within the TVA and, besides a small action beat early on, somehow manages to thrill. In our humble opinion, it’s the actors and the energetic and dynamic camerawork who carry the show here. On a script level, this season premiere repeats many of the mistakes seen in the series’ debut back in 2021: It’s overloaded with exposition and talk of mechanics while the plot sits back for entire scenes. However, the execution is so charming and engaging that you don’t really care while watching it. The fact this show has retained its analog visual identity and production design definitely helps, too.
After narrowly convincing the Agent Mobius (Owen Wilson) from the present and the emergency council about at least part of what transpired at the End of Time – exposing a hidden mural full of Kangs definitely helped – Loki and his new favorite partner go down the TVA to meet Ke Huy Quan's Ouroboros, a chatty and cheerful worker who probably was written with the Oscar-winner in mind. Another big positive of the show since the very beginning was the banter between Loki and Mobius, which managed to be funny without overdoing it. It felt genuine, and Ke Huy Quan’s performance mixes perfectly with what they had already going between them.
Long story short: Loki is time-slipping because of the time-related messes he and Sylvie got into (unless we’re missing something). Ouroboros knows this "affliction" of sorts, but says it’s impossible for it to happen inside the TVA, yet here we are. Our main fear with the scene was that O.B. (the friendly nickname Mobius gave him) would send Loki and his friend on a egregiously long side quest which would take up most of the season, but the fix isn’t hard to find.
As Loki jumps back and forth between the same location in the past and the present, his conversation with O.B. triggers memories in present-day O.B. and allows the duo to acquire a device that past O.B. put together for such situations. It’s a surprisingly "simple" solution to the pressing issue, but giving viewers a well-written, double dialogue scene that uses simple editing to its advantage is more satisfying than randomly throwing in an adventurous detour with little else to offer
There's a big "but" in the shape of the TVA's Temporal Loom (a nexus of sorts that powers all their time-related tech and refines time into physical timelines) crumbling, which would be bad for everyone, but especially for Loki, who would stop being linked to two different points in time and instead would literally unravel. Not ideal!
The solution is to "grab" Loki with a device placed near the Temporal Loom within a limited window of time during which he must "prune" himself with the TVA's weapon of choice that sends problematic variants to the "time junkyard" we saw in season 1. In case you were wondering: Yes, this is a bunch of convoluted nonsense, but just roll with it, as the actual mechanics aren’t hard to grasp. Just good ol' sci-fi fun.
Mobius' bulky suit can't protect him for too long inside the massive chamber that houses the Temporal Loom, so that puts even pressure on the team. Moreover, Loki time-slips again into the future, where he struggles to find a pruning stick. Just in the nick of time, and as O.B. starts closing the gates that protect the TVA from the Loom, Loki prunes himself and is grabbed back into his timeline, but not before he sees Sylvie in the future. She’s out there, looking for a new place to stay in. Did she want to walk back what she said about their relationship though? For now, a little post-credits scene shows us that she’ll try her luck working at McDonald’s in 1980 Broxton, Oklahoma.
With the Temporal Loom seemingly stabilized and Loki cured from time-slipping, the main quest ahead appears to be finding Sylvie and making sense of the new timeline scenario as well as Kang’s threat to the entire multiverse. Likewise, General Dox is acting quickly and wants to apprehend Sylvie, as she thinks that Loki variant could explain everything bad that has happened since she appeared. Meanwhile, Judge Gamble has stopped the pruning of more convicts until they figure out what this confusing new era has in store for them.
Amidst all the time-traveling adventures that surely wait ahead of us, it'll be interesting to see whether the studio and the writers used the opportunity presented by a crumbling cop-like organization to comment on how such a misguided and oppressive regime can be rebuilt to do some actual good. They all were lied to – to the point of having their memories erased several times – by an all-knowing guiding hand. He Who Remains was truly protecting his Sacred Timeline, but he also swiftly condemned countless others. Could the TVA accept those harsh facts and become something else?
There's an excellent premise with tons of potential laid in front of us, one that, if mined well enough, could prove these shows can be way more than pieces of the larger puzzle. Season 1 was very enjoyable on its own while also dutifully acting as the kick-off point for the Multiverse Saga. Can Marvel Studios repeat the same magic trick as the plot gets weirder and the character roster becomes more crowded? We’ll find out soon enough.