Let’s be honest—the bloom is off the rose for the Disney+ Marvel Cinematic Universe series of TV shows. “WandaVision” was a blast and remains arguably the best TV show in this catalog, and “The Falcon and the Winter Soldier” felt more like a set-up to a future film than its own thing. And, well, “Hawkeye” and “Moon Knight” have some fun performances in shows that no one seemed to care about. “Ms. Marvel” and “She-Hulk” Attorney at Law” have as many detractors as fans. Don’t get me started on “Secret Invasion.” In the middle of all of this lies the first non-animated Marvel show to get a second season: the truly twisted and often excellent “Loki,” an MCU product that never feels like it’s the result of a focus group or a plan to get from Movie A to Movie B. In fact, at times, one forgets that this is technically tied to a project as creatively bankrupt as “Ant-Man: Quantumania.” The second season, starting October 5th and running for six weeks, leans into the insane potential of the first in its best episodes, refusing to hold your hand as it pulls you through its complex vision of collapsing timelines. Everyone may be exhausted with the multiverse concept but Season Two of “Loki” almost seems to recognize that, telling the story of what happens when all these alternate realities collapse through some wonderfully entertaining characters and sharp visual language. It can sometimes be a bit too weighed down by its ideas and could arguably get even more surreal given its ambition, but there’s so much to like here you almost forget it’s a Marvel show.
The great Justin Benson & Aaron Moorhead, directors of “Spring” and “The Endless” who also helmed some of “Moon Knight,” direct the season premiere, which picks up shortly after the end of last season. The final episode of the 2021 summer season introduced the MCU to Kang (Jonathan Majors), aka He Who Remains, who told Loki (Tom Hiddleston) and Sylvie (Sophia Di Martino) that he was actually the being that created the Timeline Variance Authority. Despite a warning of what it could bring, Sylvie killed him, leading to multiverse chaos that flung Loki back to the TVA, where buddies Mobius (Owen Wilson) and B-15 (Wunmi Mosaku) didn’t recognize him. Season Two picks up there with Loki desperately trying to get back to the TVA/Mobius that knows who he is and could maybe help get the fracturing timelines under control.
That’s really only half of it. I think. I’m not sure. Maybe less. To say that “Loki” starts to spin off into complex plotting would be an understatement. By the third episode, Loki and Mobius are back at the World’s Fair in Chicago in 1893, chasing down a Renslayer (Gugu Mbatha-Raw) and Miss Minutes (voiced by Tara Strong) who are messing with history. This rambunctious and expertly staged episode is the best of the four sent to press, a reminder of how unexpected the plotting could be on this show if the writers leaned into it more. There are no rules with a concept this open-ended. The writing of “Loki” has an odd balance, in that it can often be deliberately hard to follow, but then that’s countered with some of those MCU scenes in which people explain what they’re doing and why they’re doing it over and over again. Of course, the former is a better approach—Loki and Mobius are doing weird-time shit. That’s enough to enjoy the show on its own twisted terms.
One of the reasons that’s enough is because “Loki” is a Marvel show with a strong sense of visual ingredients like color palette, costume design, and art direction. I still think it’s drastically under-lit at times, but I was more struck by the unique angles, sharp editing, and fluid camerawork this season. Bluntly, a lot of Disney+ shows are ugly. “Loki” never is.
It also helps to have one of the best casts in the MCU. Hiddleston is having a blast and proves to be a perfect partner for Wilson, who brings a nice degree of melancholy to a character who doesn’t want to know anything about alternate timelines because there’s nothing to be gained by the regret of unfulfilled happiness. Mosaku and Mbatha-Raw are a bit underdeveloped, but two new players make a huge impact this season in Rafael Casal (“Blindspotting”) as a TVA agent who gets into some trouble and Oscar-winner Ke Huy Quan (“Everything Everywhere All at Once”) as the perfectly named Ouroboros. I’m not sure I could explain exactly what he does or how he does it, but I know Quan is having fun doing it. That dynamic is when “Loki” is at its best. Don’t worry about following along—just have fun.
Four episodes were screened for review. The second season of "Loki" premieres October 5th on Disney+.