The second episode of Loki, titled “The Variant”, opens at a renaissance fair in 1985 Oshkosh, Wisconsin. C-20 (Sasha Lane) and a squad of Minutemen exit a time portal, “Variant detected commander.” An attendee chastises them for not dressing up. They enter a dark tent, but can detect “no nexus energy.” A speaker blares a festival introduction, C-20 announces “it’s a trap” and “watch your backs.” A hand touches C-20’s head, her eyes turn green. She takes off her helmet, grabs a jousting lance, and begins to attack her squad. “Holding Out for a Hero” by Bonnie Tyler plays during the fracas. She’s finally disabled, but the last surviving Minuteman is stabbed by a hooded figure. A time portal is opened, and C-20 is dragged through by the killer.
The opening credits roll.
At the TVA, Loki (Tom Hiddleston) is at Mobius’ desk being trained by the cartoon Miss Minutes (Tara Strong). He reads a magazine about jet skis while ignoring her. He then tries to whack her with the magazine, but she leaps back into the computer. Mobius (Owen Wilson) informs him there’s been “an attack.” He gives Loki a brown TVA jacket with “Variant” in huge orange letters on the back. They are briefed by B-15 (Wunmi Mosaku) who confirms the “temporal aura” of the Loki “Variant.” Mobius informs the group that the TVA has “pruned a lot of these guys, more than any other Variant.” As he scrolls through Loki powers, Loki reminds him that “duplication-casting” is different from “illusion-projecting.”
When they arrive at the fair, Loki wonders why they don’t travel back before the attack and stop the Variant. Mobius reminds him that “nexus events destabilize the time flow.” He chastises Loki for not watching the training videos. They find C-20’s helmet in the tent. Loki tells the group “they’ll end up like them if they leave the tent.” He goes on a tirade about his schemes, that this is a trap, and he needs to “speak to the Time-Keepers at once.” Mobius realizes he’s lying and they reset the timeline with a time charge.
Mobius sits in Ravonna Renslayer’s (Gugu Mbatha-Raw) office with three statues of the Time-Keepers looming. He’s annoyed “she keeps all the trophies from his cases.” She wants him to use a coaster for his drinks. Renslayer’s convinced that “bringing the Variant in the field is dangerous.” Mobius responds that “understanding this Loki gets me closer to the one we’re chasing.” She reminds him that “Loki is an evil, lying scourge.” And “that the Time-Keepers are watching every aspect of this case.” She gives him “one more chance with this Loki.”
Outside her office, Loki tries to explain his lack of results to Mobius. Who stupidly believed his “insecurity” would help him find the “superior Loki.” Loki tries to convince Mobius “he’s ten steps ahead of him.” Mobius laughs, he knows Loki wants to defeat the Time-Keepers and “seize control of the TVA.” He just wants to “catch this guy” and Loki is the key.
They take an elevator down a huge building with gigantic Time-Keeper statues. Mobius “parks” Loki at a desk to review the Variant’s case files, while he “gets a snack.” Loki is “shushed” as he mocks the load of paperwork. He rings the bell of the librarian to scheme his way to “files on the creation of the TVA” and “beginning of time”, but is admonished as “classified.” He then reads a file of the “total planetary destruction” of Asgard. His eyes tear up when he sees “entire civilian population annihilated.” But he notices that “zero variance energy” was detected.
Loki interrupts Mobius as he eats salad and soda, “He’s hiding in apocalypses.” Loki brings up Ragnarok as an example. Nexus events create alternate branches of the timeline. But if you were at Ragnarok “before complete destruction”, you could do “anything you wanted” without affecting the timeline. He pours salt into Mobius’ salad, then grabs Casey’s (Eugene Cordero) drink as well, “Surtur will destroy Asgard no matter what I do.” “If everything and everyone around you is destined for imminent destruction, then nothing I say or do will matter.” The Variant is “hiding in an apocalypse.” Loki begs Mobius to take him to one of these events to test the theory. Mobius doesn’t want “to be stabbed in the back”, but finally relents.
They travel to 79 AD Pompeii, Italy before the explosion of Mount Vesuvius. As they wait on a village street, Mobius watches his “TemPad for variance energy.” Mobius wants to try “a small disturbance”, but Loki releases a wagon of goats. Then in Italian, he tells the villagers “they are all about to die”, “the volcano will erupt”, and “he’s from the future.” The volcano explodes. As a black cloud races towards them, Mobius detects “no variance energy.”
They go back to the TVA offices. Mobius announces, “The Variant has been ambushing our officers and then hiding in doomsdays to cover his tracks.” Loki falls asleep as they’ve spent hours looking through case files. In the break room, Loki asks Mobius why he has a magazine about jet skis. His response, “They’re awesome!” But has never ridden one. Loki again belittles Mobius for his fealty and acceptance of the Time-Keepers. Mobius shoots him down, “Existence is chaos, so we try to make sense of it.” He has his own “glorious purpose”, the “TVA is my life.”
Mobius remembers the candy bar the Variant left behind, “Kablooie.” He rummages through files. The candy was only made during a certain time period on Earth, 2047 to 2051. They need to find the apocalypse that happened then. Loki finds the answer in 2050 Alabama. Mobius goes to Ravonna Renslayer with their hypothesis, “Havens Hill, Alabama, a corporate town owned by Roxxcart, is wiped out by a hurricane.” It has “all the supplies that he needs.” He can just keep “going back over and over.” Renslayer doesn’t want to trust Loki. But Mobius counters that, “He’s just found a massive hole in our security.”
Mobius gives Loki his knives, but they are quickly snatched back by B-15. She briefs the Minutemen on the “sprawling” Roxxcart superstore with a warehouse holding the sheltering civilians. She reminds them they don’t know what the Variant is doing with the time charges, “If you see a Loki…prune it.”
An electronic billboard for Havens Hill, Alabama is destroyed by debris. The Minutemen enter the Roxxcart during the hurricane. Loki uses magic to dry his clothes. B-15 refuses to let Loki go with Mobius, he stays with her. Mobius is furious, but B-15 is in charge in the field. The group splits up while the hooded Variant watches on security monitors. A time charge counts down from twenty minutes.
B-15 and Loki walk through the store’s flickering lights. They approach a civilian, who then grabs B-15 and collapses. Green energy is transferred to her. B-15 turns to Loki, “So you’re the fool the TVA brought in to hunt me down.” Meanwhile, Mobius’ group walks though the people hiding in the warehouse. Another Minuteman has found and leads them to C-20. She’s tied up and repeatedly mutters “it’s real.”
Loki congratulates B-15 on using “enchantment.” She touches another man, collapses, and the mind-control spell transfers to him. Loki checks on B-15 as the man mocks him. Loki wonders if the Variant “is scared to meet him face to face.” Loki then says, “Gaining their confidence was no mean feat.” He has an “offer.” He will “overthrow the Time-Keepers” and wants a “qualified lieutenant.”
The enchanted man laughs, he has “no interest.” Nearby, the hooded Variant is setting time charges. Mobius tries to debrief C-20. She admits that she “gave away the location of the Time-Keepers.” They radio for B-15, who finally wakes up.
Loki sees the time charges. He’s kicked by a much bigger enchanted man, “Thank you for helping me stall for time. You really do love hearing yourself talk.” Loki is tossed to the ground. He evades punches, then swings a vacuum cleaner. But is thrown down again. The enchanted man sets another charge with “1:16” left. B-15 meets up with Mobius’ group.
Loki faces him, “What do you want from me!” The man collapses. He turns around to see the Variant with glowing green hands. The cloak is removed to reveal a woman with a broken crown of horns. The Variant (Sophia Di Martino) replies, “This isn’t about you.” The timers count down and dozens of time charges activate. They each disappear in their own portal. “Where are they going?” asks Mobius.
Back at the TVA, the timeline shows “redline imminent.” The workers panic as the timeline begins to branch everywhere, “This is Analyst 1182-E reporting a code 000. Somebody just bombed the Sacred Timeline.” Ravonna Renslayer grabs her baton and races out of her office. Every available Minuteman runs into a portal.
At Roxxcart, the building is bathed in red. The Variant picks up a TemPad and opens a portal. She waves goodbye to Loki, then walks in. Mobius yells for Loki to wait, but Loki follows her through the portal. Mobius screams in frustration.
The revelation of the female Loki Variant doesn’t come as a surprise. This was rumored to be the case when Sophia Di Martino was cast for the series. Tom Hiddleston, in weeks leading up to the premiere, said Loki was gender-fluid. She succeeded in bombing the timeline with Loki in tow. We’ll have to tune in next week to find out her “glorious purpose” on Disney+.
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