Much to her annoyance and frustration, Loki follows his variant through the newly-opened portal and so begins a cat-and-mouse chase with various interested parties in pursuit. They managed to avoid their pursuers, but in an ill-judged gambit, the two find themselves on the barren world of Lamentis-1. Perhaps the ‘worst’ apocalypse in the long list that the female variant has targeted, it’s a world about to be wiped from existence by its falling moon and there’s a limited time before the world crumbles around them.
There certainly isn’t time to fight each other, compare life-experiences, sneak on a train, avoid falling buildings and get drunk…
Essentially, our anti-heroes find time to fight each other, compare life-experiences, sneak on a train, avoid falling buildings and get drunk…
Halfway in and this isn’t quite what we expected (a phrase that audiences seem to be saying for all the Disney+/Marvel shows this year). That’s not an entirely a negative thing – it’s good to be surprised and some moments, however left-field have worked – but uneven pacing has been a consistent issue through all three series as if the concept of each hasn’t quite been fully-formed by the start of production and, subsequently, there’s a lot of overt-filler and then rushing around set-pieces. If the two opening episodes of Loki were troublingly slow and exposition-filled and hardly made the most of Loki and Tom Hiddleston, it feels as if the third entry has been told to make up for lost time – though it spends a lot of frenetic running around hiding the fact that there’s actually very little advancement in plot, just a drip-feed of possibilities. (After rushing through a portal at the end of Episode 2, the fugitive duo are ultimately trapped on a dying world and they argue a lot).
There will be some irked by the attention given to ‘Female Loki’ and the direct confirmation that ‘our’ Loki has a fluid sexuality – probably the same demographic who objected to Doctor Who’s latest incarnation on ‘principle’, even before a scene was filmed. That attitude would be disappointing as it shows an ignorance not just of the comic source-material but of the original Norse legends – in which the God of Mischief was known to take many forms in his pursuits. While it certainly does something for diversity and representation, it’s all being done exactly in the right way – a throwaway line that doesn’t become the pivot of the plot.
There were some rumours that Sophia Di Martino isn’t actually playing Loki at all, but another troublesome Asgardian, the Enchantress. Though it’s certainly said (mainly by herself) that she is Loki, she doesn’t want to be identified that way and prefers the name ‘Sylvie’ and uses the word ‘enchant’ a lot. There are also other tenuous conenctions to clues from the comics material. So, right now, there’s actually very little confirmation she’s actually who she says she is – it’s just the sunny, arrogant disposition and the partially-horned helmet that presents the ‘Mischief’ calling card. Is she smarter than ‘our’ Loki? Well, she has plenty of character-quirks that could also be her downfall, but she‘s not the one getting drunk on the train and as she points out… though she’s as much a hedonist as Hiddleston’s Loki, she never lets it get in the way of the ‘mission’ – whatever that may be. Our Loki is chaos and opportunism, ‘Sylvie’ seems more like a resentful, guided missile. Either way Di Martino is a lot of fun.
The chaotic run through the neon-drenched downtown of Lamentis – in a vain attempt to reach the escaping ark – is certainly stylistic. Though it’s more down to careful direction and subsequent editing, it appears to be a a faux one-shot navigation of the fleeing masses, building-collapses and hand-to-hand combat. On that note, it’s very successful, bringing to mind some of its big-screen cousins or, at the very least, a fully-immersive theme-park attraction with judicious green-screen.
Yet, amid all the CGI-chaos (which feels one-part apocalypse-racing, Snowpiercer-like train fights and one part Blade Runner-meets-John Wick urban dash) it’s ironic that some of the pauses for breath between those needed set-pieces provide the best character insights. A woman on the doomed planet, resigned to protecting her homestead as the world dies around her, sees the two Lokis for the duplicitous interlopers they are and dispatches them with poignant words, a gun and almost slapstick consequences. Aboard the train, the two variants compare notes about their separate lives, disagreeing about the motives of mischief and love. Both see mischief-making as means to a legitimate end, rather than just villainous, though their methods and aims diverge. We even get Tom Hiddleston singing a carousing Norwegian/Asgardian folk song Jeg Saler Min Ganger. We also get revelations that suggest the TVA is populated not by constructed beings but actual variants who have no knowledge of their true origins – which is surely going to be a big issue going forward.
Of course, with the focus switched and with very little time spent within the TVA itself, Owen Wilson / Mobius is pretty much absent throughout and is sorely missed – that dry, world-weary wit is a great leveller against the manic Loki. One hopes that he’ll be back next week and that the TVA – for better or worse – help get our anti-heroes off-planet before the planet itself is offed.
This week’s entry is an improvement, British director Kate Herron ensuring our Loki far more pro-active, if still fatally-flawed and adding some new elements to the mix… though as a series there still seems to be something ‘off’ in the actual production of something that should – on paper – work on every level and it’s hard to put a finger on what it is. Hiddleston is fine and the concept is good – but it needs more manic energy in the mix.
Hopefully the chaos is coming…
- Production Design / VFX9