This third episode of Loki is (so far) the shortest, but it's also the one most structured like a big-budget Marvel movie. If, as has been rumored, budgets for the Marvel streaming shows are as high as $25 million per episode, Loki's six episodes will put it in prime blockbuster-movie territory. This is the first ep, I think, that really has the look and feel of a typical Marvel offering, complete with a CGI-bloated third act. However, a surprising bit of clever direction in the final scenes makes it visually quite interesting, lacking the usual overstuffed superhero look.
This is pretty much a two-person episode: Owen Wilson's Mobius is unfortunately nowhere to be seen. Tom Hiddleston and Sophia di Martino, as our title character and Loki variant Sylvie respectively, are the focus. Whether you like this episode will depend heavily on what you think of the chemistry between these two. Acting-wise, di Martino holds her own with Hiddleston, but the two characters are a little too similar to generate the prickly clash and contrast between Loki and Mobius. This is mainly why I don't rate this episode quite as high as episode 2, "The Variant." But Hiddleston, as always, commands your attention throughout, and there are a couple of a plot reveals here (one in particular) that I'm sure will prove vitally important further down the line.
The theme of this episode, and probably the series as a whole, is "What exactly makes a Loki a Loki?" I think this applies more to the original than Sylvie, as she seems to be fairly sure of who she is. One of those things definitely is a sworn enemy of the Time Variance Authority, as this episode opens with her pulling memories from the young Hunter's mind, trying to discover where the Time Keepers are and how many guards they have. (Why she hates the Time Keepers and the TVA so is not spelled out as yet, though I suspect it has something to do with the second plot reveal.) When she takes the TemPad (which is an unfortunate name, to say the least; it's way too close to an awkward mashup of tampons and iPads) and jumps into TVA headquarters, it soon becomes clear she's fighting her way to the room where the Time Keepers apparently hide out. (And is quite the badass in those scenes.) Our Loki follows, tracking her down just outside the Time Keepers' door. They're both surprised by Ravonna Renslayer, and when Sylvie threatens to cut Loki's throat, Renslayer merely flicks her little energy whip and says, "Go for it." Loki grabs the TemPad from Sylvie's long coat and transports them both to an apocalypse where they can hide. This proves to be the titular planet Lamentis, which is about to be smashed into by a moon that will destroy all the inhabitants.
Loki and Sylvie plummet through a time door into an abandoned building on this planet and fight some more, each trying to seize the TemPad. Sylvie finally grabs it, only to watch a snarky Miss Minutes dance across the screen and inform the operator the device is "out of juice." (Really? A DEVICE CONSTRUCTED BY AN ORGANIZATION THAT EXISTS OUT OF TIME, A DEVICE THAT CAN HOP ACROSS THE TIME STREAM LIKE A STONE SKIPPING ACROSS WATER, IS NOW INOPERABLE DUE TO A LOW BATTERY? FOR FUCK'S SAKE.) This ham-fisted plot contrivance sets up the rest of the episode: Loki and Sylvie are now forced to work together to recharge the TemPad and use it to escape the planet before the twelve-hour time limit runs out and they die along with the rest of the population.
So they walk around the planet, looking for a place to plug the TemPad into while witnessing the alarming sight of the rich inhabitants of Lamentis buying all the tickets to the ship that will lift off the planet (and the train that will get them to the spaceport) and leaving the poor inhabitants behind. This starts to sting Loki's conscience: during the final scene, he remarks that "they're just leaving these people to die." Sylvie, on the other hand, doesn't seem too affected by this, or at least she doesn't comment on it. She's too consumed by her desire to return to the Time Variance Authority and complete her "mission," whatever that is.
The three most important scenes in the episode are a long talky scene in the middle, after Loki and Sylvie trick and enchant their way on board the train (which looks suspiciously like a Snowpiercer knockoff) that will take them to where the Ark is getting ready to lift off. With nothing else to do, they talk about themselves--or rather Loki, as is his wont, talks mostly about himself and Sylvie listens. (He even comments on it later, and Sylvie acknowledges, with a smug little grin, the "tactical advantage" this gives her.) He talks about his mother and how she taught him to do magic, and asks Sylvie if she has a "beau" waiting for her at the end of her mission. Sophie says she does and returns the question:
From director Kate Herron's Twitter feed. If you can't read the captions, Sylvie asks: "How about you? You're a prince. Must've been would-be princesses or perhaps, another prince."
"A bit of both," Loki replies. "I suspect the same as you."
This revelation, unsurprising to anyone who reads the comics or is a student of Norse mythology, immediately blew up the internet. And while Marvel can rightly be congratulated for finally having a canonical bisexual character, and a fan favorite at that, the cynic in me notes this is a brief dialogue exchange that can easily be chopped out of the episode by homophobic censors in China or anywhere else.
The second important scene is occurs after Loki and Sylvie are discovered to have snuck aboard the train without a ticket and get thrown off. In the process the TemPad (which Loki apparently stuffed into his back pocket) gets smashed. (And come to think of it, didn't that futuristic high-tech high-speed train roaring across the landscape NOT HAVE A COUPLE OF CHARGING PORTS SOMEWHERE? FOR FUCK'S SAKE.) After Sylvie screams out her frustration at this development, they decide to walk the rest of the way to the spaceport and attempt to sneak aboard the departing ship and/or hijack it--despite the knowledge that in the main timeline, the ship did not survive the planet's destruction. (This seems like a rather large plot hole. Maybe Loki thinks if they cause a massive enough disturbance in the timeline, even if they don't succeed in boarding the ship, the TVA will swoop in and rescue them. But we saw in the final moments of the previous episode that Sylvie's reset bombs blew the Sacred Timeline to bits, and the TVA will obviously be a bit too busy with that to pay attention to two doomed Variants, no matter how annoying Loki is. Furthermore, Sylvie knows this. But she doesn't say anything and goes along with Loki's suggestion.) Anyway, while they are trudging across the sand, Loki talks Sylvie into explaining how she "enchants" people. She does so and then muses on how messed-up and "clouded" the TVA agent's (the one we saw at the beginning of the episode) mind was:
"I had to pull a memory from hundreds of years prior, before she fought for them. Before she joined the TVA, she was a regular person on Earth."
This immediately pulls Loki up short. "I was told everyone who worked for the TVA was created by the Time Keepers."
"That's ridiculous," Sylvie says. "They're all Variants, just like us."
"They don't know that!"
This will prove to be important, I think. I suspect Mobius' little world, as well as his faith in the TVA and its mission, is about to be blown to kingdom come.
The third outstanding scene in the episode is the end sequence, where Loki and Sylvie reach the port and attempt to fight their way to the ship. These are the most CGI-soaked scenes of the entire episode, a nightmare of a port/casino bursting with painfully bright purples, pinks and blues, with chunks of rock hurtling through the roof, screaming people, and falling statues and other things. It's the way this is shot that makes it interesting: it's almost all one running, fighting, punching, camera-swooping, encircling take. Obviously it must have been stitched together, but it's pretty seamless overall: there are only two or three overt cuts. This technique concentrates the viewer's eye on Loki and Sylvie, and prevents the CGI from overwhelming what is happening, as occurs all too often with superhero third acts. But all their efforts prove to be for naught: a chunk of moon blasts through the ship as it sits on its launch pad, leaving Loki staring at it forlornly while Sylvie stalks away in disgust and despair.
Roll credits--with a final end song of an old-fashioned country ballad, "Dark Moon."
Well. This is the halfway point, and though it's a bit of a setup for the rest of the season, there are several important drops here. I expect next episode we'll go back to Mobius and the TVA, and maybe get a glimpse of the mysterious Time Keepers.