Warning: this Loki episode 3 review contains spoilers. If you have not watched the Disney Plus show yet, then bookmark this page and come back when you're all caught up...
Loki takes a step into outer space. He’s just fallen through a time door with a mysterious Loki Variant, nicknamed Sylvie, and the duo are having to work together to power up the device, the TemPad, they used to get there. The planet they’ve landed on has a purple hue and it’s about to be destroyed, so they need to be quick.
The problem is, although we’re on Lamentis, Loki and Sylvie could easily be on the soulless planet Vormir, last seen in Avengers: Endgame, or perhaps the desolate Svartalfheim from Thor: The Dark World. By the time they have taken a train to a nameless neon city, we’re essentially back in Madripoor, the underworld spotted in Falcon and the Winter Soldier.
Loki, the show, does not lack imagination. We’re on a planet that’s about to reach its (seemingly) inevitable fate and the only people with any chance of survival are the super-rich – that’s some fun sci-fi context. Yet, as the two Lokis (is Sylvie a Loki? I’m not sure) are walking and talking, the backdrop feels blank. When they reach a lonely old woman with a pulse gun, the whole thing feels empty despite this being another cool idea.
It’s hard to put a finger on, though I suspect COVID protocols play a large part – even when there are crowds of people, the scenes feel muted. For instance, the line of people waiting at the train station would have no doubt been more effective if the uproaring crowd were actually a crowd, rather than all patiently waiting one behind the other. (Plus, my inner geek wants Marvel to have more weird aliens on these planets rather than more humans.)
This, of course, is all just backdrop to Loki and Sylvie’s whistle-stop tour of Lamentis. Loki’s failed attempts to discover more about this mind-manipulating Variant are entertaining, and there’s even some sexual chemistry at play – which certainly makes sense when you consider how the perfect person for Loki is probably another Loki. The episode speeds along thanks to the chemistry between the two, their camaraderie holding things together as we traverse the planet’s barren wasteland, and Loki’s later drunken ramblings on the high-flyers’ train are reminiscent of last week’s Pompeii moment, when the character finally took the upper hand and embraced the old, cocky Loki that won legions of fans.
However, for the most part, Tom Hiddleston’s once again playing second fiddle on his own show. The loveable actor struggles to keep up with Sophia Di Martino, who dominates each scene with a performance that’s always on the edge of erupting and indeed does exactly that at one point. Loki may hold knives and profess to be up to no good, but it’s becoming harder and harder to believe. Sylvie’s intentions remain mysterious, though we’re getting a picture of the TVA that’s not flattering, putting Sylvie firmly on the side of good. Finally, Marvel might deliver another character who starts evil and turns good, following in the footsteps of, well, Loki.
Amidst all this, we’re still waiting for our Loki to find his place in this mess of timelines and apocalypses. Yes, Loki holds the TemPad throughout the episode, giving him a slight upper hand, but his attempts to control the situation are futile. Almost every “plan” conjured by the mischief-maker is undermined. We’re three episodes into the series and Loki still has little autonomy, which is frankly becoming frustrating. Fingers crossed that, with the episode ending with a huge explosion and the duo being doomed to die on Lamentis, Loki should become a driving force of his own – or Owen Wilson’s Mobius will show up as savior, and then I’ll just want to watch him and Sylvie fighting over ideologies and the truth behind the TVA.
The one person who has been let down by Loki, the TV show, is the title character, who has become a vessel for meeting other, more interesting side characters and letting them shine. That was the case with the early Thor movies, in which Loki sparkled as a side character while Thor came off as one of the least interesting Avengers. Ragnarok changed that for Thor – hopefully, these last few episodes will turn things around for our Loki.