We’re hitting the halfway mark on the season, and the word of the day is: TemPad (for some unfathomable reason).
We open with a brief flashback to the Variant talking to Agent C-20 in her mind, creating a scenario where they’re close friends as she tries to wheedle information on the Time Keepers out of her. Moving up to the end of last episode, the Variant’s portal takes her directly to the TVA, where she proceeds to dispatch agents on a journey toward an elevator that should take her to the Time Keepers. Loki emerges from the portal and follows after her once he’s retrieved his daggers. They get into a scuffle and Renslayer shows up with guards. The Variant threatens to kill Loki if they come closer, but that threat doesn’t bother Renslayer in the slightest. Loki activates the TemPad device, and drops them both into another apocalypse: Lamentis-1 in the year 2077.
Lamentis is a mining planet that is about to be obliterated by its moon crashing into it, and the TemPad is unfortunately out of power and hidden on Loki’s person. The Variant tries to get into Loki’s mind to force him to hand it over, but it doesn’t work. After an attempt to trick a woman waiting out in her home with a space gun, they learn that they can get on a train to “the Ark”—the last ship leaving the planet. The Variant knows that the ship won’t make it, and suggests using its power to get the TemPad working. The duo find that the train requires tickets, and only the rich are being allowed to board. Loki disguises himself as one of the guards, but it takes the Variant’s powers to get them on the train. They sit down in a dining car and have a chat: The Variant calls herself Sylvie, and she asks about Loki’s mother because she can’t really remember her. She claims to have taught herself magic. They talk about love, and Loki admits that while he’s had dalliances with men and women, there’s never been anything “real.”
Sylvie falls asleep, only to wake to a drunk Loki leading the dining car’s occupants in a communal Asgardian tune. He gives her a metaphor about love being like a dagger, which they both wind up unimpressed by. Unfortunately, his behavior has roused suspicion, and the guards arrive to demand their tickets. He gets thrown from the train and Sylvie follows. The TemPad is broken beyond repair due to Loki’s fall, so he suggests that they help change history and get the Ark off the ground. They get to the spaceport area as things start getting bad on the ground, and everywhere they turn is struck by meteors or covered by guards they have to fight their way through. Before they even get close, the Ark is hit by a chunk of moon and breaks in half. Loki watches the planet go to pieces around him.
The mechanics of the episode are a downright mess, y’all. There are so many things happening just because they need to happen without any sense behind them; the fact that we’re suddenly transported to a non-Earth Apocalypse, but they couldn’t be bothered to give us some aliens; the grumpy dude on the train turning Loki in to the guards because he’s… I dunno, mad that Loki’s helping everyone have fun on their way to escape doomsday; Loki getting tossed off the train right before it reaches its destination anyhow; the absolute devotion of this random security firm who are intent on protecting rich people and their stuff as the world literally disintegrates; the fact that there are a bunch of rich citizens on a mining colony planet in the first place. Sure, there could be explanations for any one of these things, but without said explanations, they’re all sloppy machinations created to get Loki and Sylvie from Point A to Point B without any thought.
About that name for the Variant: It’s a dead giveaway from a relatively recent comics arc, and that, combined with the fact that her magic is always referred to as “enchanting,” makes it pretty darned obvious that this is Enchantress. The only real question now is how they’re going to play her connection to Loki, because there’s every chance that the MCU is intending to make their Lady Loki into the Enchantress. The comics character Sylvie Lushton was actually the second version of that character—fans of Enchantress know that the original version was named Amora, but Sylvie showed up in a Young Avengers arc after being given her powers by Loki (to help him spread chaos, like he do).
So they could be going for a relatively direct pull of that storyline, or the point could be to make some version of Loki who chooses the mantle of Enchantress. After all, she’s the one who claims that she “taught herself” magic—she could mean that in a far more literal sense. In addition, the comics version of Sylvie believed herself to be an exile of Asgard, forced to live on Earth: If it were true in this version, that would make sense of her only having the barest recollection of their mother. (She seems to get teary at parts of the Asgardian song, too.)
Speaking of which, they had a moment where they really could have highlighted Loki’s connection with Frigga—the material is all there, and incredibly pointed throughout the films—but instead choose to give him some very vague and trite lines about how she was “a queen of Asgard” and “told me I could do anything.” (You know: Just Royal Mom Things.) I know he’s keeping stuff close to the vest at that point, but this was a chance to expound upon all of the things that are visible yet rarely commented upon in the MCU films; the fact that Frigga taught Loki magic as a way to give him something unique and his own that set him apart from Thor; the fact that she’s responsible for his fighting style, which is clearly modeled after Asgard’s fallen valkyries; the fact that she showed him more affection than Thor or Odin ever did, hence their closeness; the fact that he’s still reeling from learning that he’s inadvertently caused her death. But no, let’s just say some words that could have been pulled out of any script for any show and shove them into Loki’s mouth. Fans harp on their dislike of Thor: The Dark World, but dialogue between Thor and Loki about Frigga’s death was leaps and bounds above this.
The one thing this episode does exceptionally well is let Tom Hiddleston have fun playing the part. His errors, his drunken revelry, his ridiculous “love is a dagger” metaphor that he clearly did work hard on, the moments where he is petulant and moments where he is full to the brim with childlike glee. Unfortunately, these moments of whimsy and fun punctuate the fact that this episode is engaging in one of my least favorite fiction dynamics: Man Has Fun While Woman Tsks and Rolls Her Eyes. I don’t care if she’s Loki or Enchantress or some combo of both, if we’re supposed to be convinced that these characters are in any way connected, why is she stuck being the wet blanket? Here was the chance to watch two Loki-type characters try to out-chaos each other, and instead you give us a woman telling a man well sure, I’m a hedonist too, but I’ve got a mission. What does that even mean?
It’s like somewhere along the way, culture decided that women and afab folks taking issue with sexism in fiction were just mad that they weren’t being portrayed as The Most Competent People in Every Room, and now that’s all they ever give us. And no, I don’t want that. I want to watch a woman be Loki. Why is this difficult to grasp. And again, even if the point is that she’s Enchantress, not Loki—Enchantress is never this boring on the page. Ever. We could put this down to bad writing, but if your every exchange boils down to—
Man: This is why I’m great.
Woman: You are not great, you are an idiot.
Man: Huh? But—
Woman: Ugh, just stop talking and do what I say.
—please start over.
We also have an admission from Loki to being bi/pan/omnisexual due to that conversation on that train, and while I’m very glad that they did just come out and say it, they sure did it in the safest, mealiest, easiest-to-edit-out way possible. Queer fans are accustomed to reveals like this, and it’s distressing because it gives homophobic people the ability to gloss over and reject the reveal. They’ve never seen Loki show interest in a man, so they’ll claim it doesn’t count. We can never win when it’s couched this way.
We’re obviously meant to have more questions based on what has been revealed to us in this episode, so I guess we might as well go over them. The main one is, what does Sylvie plan to do at the TVA, and is it (hopefully) more complicated than murdering the Time Keepers? And of course, why would she want to do that, or whatever her plan is? I’m sure we could come up with plenty of reasons, but we’ve been given next to no indication as to what her beef is with them. She just hates them a whole bunch. We still don’t know why she needed so many of their time-wiping cylinders and all those TemPad doorways.
The other question is less a question, and more of a gasp over the reveal that everyone at the TVA is a Variant, not created by the Time Keepers as suggested. Which makes sense, because the idea of creating that entire complex out of firmament seemed odd, even for space folks as powerful as them. The agents don’t appear know it, though, which makes the idea of Mobius recruiting Loki into his mission more interesting… because he doesn’t ostensibly know that Loki could genuinely become an agent of the TVA. And what happens when people are brought on board, anyway? Obviously their memories are suppressed or erased, but presumably they’d have to do that with everyone who came into contact with the Variant before they were absorbed into the fold. The point is, there’s weird stuff going on here, and we clearly don’t know the half of it.
So hopefully next week will finally kick things into high gear and get more interesting.
Thoughts and Asides:
- Sorry, but “TemPad” is not a good technobabble name for that instrument. Also stop calling ships leaving doomsday scenarios “The Ark” are you freaking kidding me.
- Annoyed that they didn’t center that entire episode around that cool lady protecting her homestead, she was fun.
- So… every train in an apocalypse is just the Snowpiercer, huh?
- This episode did not feature Mobius at all, which really made it clear how much the show is riding on his presence—his absence throws everything off.
- The thing about the daggers also plays into my long-standing theory on Asgardian weapons storage. It’s impossible for Loki to keep those daggers on his physical person without constantly stabbing himself. He can manifest them at will (which we see during his love metaphor bit), but they are real, physical items because he has to retrieve them from B-15’s locker. So there must be some kind of pocket dimension thingy he has constant access to in order to have his weapons on hand.
- This episode had a lot of seemingly accidental shoutouts to Doctor Who? The guards’ helmets made them look like rhinos, for one, which immediately put me in mind of the Judoon. Alas, they were not anywhere near as entertaining.
- A note on Asgardian liquor tolerance: We’re given the impression that it takes a lot of (not-human proof level) booze to get Thor drunk—he’s handing out special space stuff at the party during Age of Ultron that gets some elderly veterans wasted on a few sips. But this bar seems to just have human-style booze and Loki gets trashed. He doesn’t appear to be faking it, and perhaps he drank a lot, but even so: I’m using this to conclude that Loki is a lightweight by Asgardian standards.
- I want more Asgardian drinking songs, thank you.
See you next week!
Emmet Asher-Perrin wasn’t all that impressed with the cliffhanger either. You can bug them on Twitter, and read more of their work here and elsewhere.