Looking back at 2021, when Marvel Studios first released shows on Disney+, the studio got it right from the beginning. WandaVision and Loki were the first two Marvel Cinematic Universe shows ever, and both are still considered to be among the best. Starring the inimitable Tom Hiddleston, Loki is the first MCU series to have the honor of earning a second season, which picks up immediately where the first season left off.
Hiddleston is joined once again by a stellar cast, including Owen Wilson, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Wunmi Mosaku and Sophia Di Martino, in a story that is epic in scale, yet feels intimate and personal.
This review covers the first four of six episodes of Loki season 2, which premieres October 5, 2023 at 6 PM PT on Disney+.
“Loki” Season 2 picks up in the aftermath of the shocking season finale when Loki finds himself in a battle for the soul of the Time Variance Authority. Along with Mobius, Hunter B-15 and a team of new and returning characters, Loki navigates an ever-expanding and increasingly dangerous multiverse in search of Sylvie, Judge Renslayer, Miss Minutes and the truth of what it means to possess free will and glorious purpose.
It’s hard to believe that Tom Hiddleston first took on the role of Loki in the original Thor film in 2011. Now, over twelve years later, Hiddleston shows no signs of slowing down as he leads the second season of Marvel’s best show. While for some actors, playing the same role for over a decade might become stale, Hiddleston continues to play the God of Mischief with an infectious zeal that pervades the entire series.
It doesn’t hurt that Hiddleston exudes charisma and confidence, and continues to add new layers to a character that is already rich with depth from the source material. Loki was the first villain to face the Avengers in both film and comics, and thanks to Hiddleston, has evolved into a beloved anti-hero. Hiddleston seems to relish every moment in the role, deftly balancing the whimsical personalities of his character. In one moment, he’s an empathetic friend to Owen Wilson’s Mobius, sharing some key-lime pie while discussing existential theories about their lives, and in another, he’s remorselessly threatening the life of an imprisoned TVA agent to get the information that they need. Throughout it all, Hiddleston maintains a devilish, yet charming, smile that almost makes you forget Loki’s past transgressions.
As fantastic as Hiddleston is, his co-stars are just as vital to the success of the series. The great thing about sophomore seasons is that the returning cast has an increased comfort with their respective roles, and each other, that elevates everyone’s performances.
Owen Wilson is well known for his incredible comedic timing, and his talents are even more necessary in this second season, where the intensity and stakes are higher than the first. The events of Loki’s season finale continue to reverberate throughout the MCU, and it would be easy for the second season to become over-serious, considering the epic scale of the potential consequences. Yet, thanks to Owen Wilson, and newcomer Ke Huy Quan, the very welcome laughs are perfectly placed, and add Marvel’s trademark levity to the series.
Quan, who won an Academy Award for his delightful performance in Everything Everywhere All At Once, which also won Best Picture, is the perfect addition to this multiversal adventure. As Ouroboros, Quan plays the quirky but brilliant engineer who has kept the Time Variance Authority running smoothly for hundreds of years. Ouroboros feels like a character made explicitly with Quan in mind. He’s a relentlessly joyful and sincere member of the TVA who shares both good and dire news with the same cheerful tone.
In addition to the strong cast, Loki manages to finds the perfect balance between cosmic, multiversal stakes, and a character driven story. Yes, the fate of the multiverse and countless lives are in danger, but the show doesn’t get so lost in the big picture that it loses sight of what audiences really care about – the characters. It’s a tension that even plays out on screen, as Loki jumps to action at the prospect that Sylvie is in danger, only for Mobius to have to remind him that his entire existence is in jeopardy if they don’t complete their mission.
Thematically, Loki touches on numerous existential ideas that many of us are facing today in society. “Everything you believed is a lie and all your gods are dead,” Mobius says to fellow TVA agent Hunter B-15. The larger story of Loki is one where the characters are forced to confront the failures of the institutions that they built their lives on, and how they will respond to that harsh reality. Much like the red pill or the blue pill in The Matrix, some characters accept that a new path must be forged, while others simply want to return to the comfort of their past lives.
On a more intimate level, Loki himself is struggling with his own identity as a recovering supervillain. Audiences have seen the character’s decade long arc progress from being an evil villain to an anti-hero in love (with a version of himself). In this season, Loki continues to battle those demons, as he’s reminded by other characters of his past actions and that he is more demon than angel. As invested as audiences are in cheering for the character, it will be fascinating to see where he ultimately lands after this season.
Central to the story is Kang, played by Jonathan Majors. The show puts an interesting spin on the development of the villain, introduced here as Victor Timely. While Timely is a variant of the character who will become the villainous He Who Remains, when he is introduced in the season, he has not yet realized his evil potential. Timely presents our heroes and the audience with an ethical dilemma on how an individual who is expected to become a murderous, evil figure should be handled before he gets to that point.
As strong as Loki starts in the first four of six episodes, two years and 10 shows into the MCU on Disney+, there’s a certain anxiety that comes with loving the beginning of a new Marvel series. Many of the shows have started out strong, only to lose steam in the later episodes and ultimately fail to provide a satisfying conclusion. The last Marvel series, Secret Invasion, has become a notorious example of a series that held much promise in the early episodes, but seemed to completely fall apart by the end.
The first season of Loki is a welcome exception to that trend, as it was not only consistently intriguing for the first five episodes, but provided an exceptional season finale that is widely regarded as the best episode of any MCU series. The fact that Marvel Studios provided four of six episodes for review purposes lends to the theory that the final two episodes will have substantial implications for the rest of the MCU going forward.
Of the first four episodes, the premiere is by far the strongest, and the second is the weakest. The second episode slows down considerably from the frenetic pace of the first, but the effort to stabilize the pace for the rest of the season is excessive, and the episode is dragged down with too much dialogue and repetitive storytelling.
One dynamic that hasn’t yet carried over from the first season is the relationship between Loki and Sylvie. While the conflict between the two during the season 1 finale fractured their relationship, there is a notable lack of interesting tension between them this season. Considering the budding affection between Loki and Sylvie was central to the first season, it’s disappointing that Loki’s relationship with nearly every other major character is more interesting than his relationship with Sylvie.
On screen, the series is one of the most diverse shows, with Mosaku, Mbatha-Raw and Majors returning, and joined by Quan. Eugene Cordero, who plays Casey, is of Filipino descent and was elevated to series regular this season. He is a great addition to the core team. I also greatly appreciate the introduction of Liz Carr as the TVA’s Judge Gamble. Carr is a disabled actor who is in a wheelchair and she delivers a commanding performance as a character that is an important part of the story.
Behind the camera, the diversity could be improved. Kasra Farahani, who is of Iranian descent, served as a production designer on the first season and also directs this season. Beyond that, several of the women writers who were part of the first season, are no longer part of the creative team (Bisa K. Ali and Elissa Karasik have gone on to work on other Marvel projects).
THE RATING – 4/5 Pocky
Ron is the founder and Editor-in-Chief of POC Culture. He is a big believer in the power and impact of pop culture and the importance of representation in media.