In every Marvel TV series there is that inevitable episode in which the characters do little beyond dashing about in a panic whilst pausing occasionally to punch and kick people. That’s what we got in episode three of Loki (Disney+) – though smuggled into the action was a pretty massive bombshell regarding the true nature of the Time Variance Authority.
The TVA, it turns out, has been telling temporal porky pies regarding the provenance of its agents, including Owen Wilson’s jet ski-fancying Mobius and Sasha Lane’s Hunter C-20.
The official line is that all were created by the power trio of space-lizards that set up the TVA. But when Lady Loki – whom we are going to have to hereafter refer to as “Sylvie” for reasons outlined below – attempted to manipulate C-20 by rooting around inside her memories, she learned her prisoner had a past life (revolving around trendy restaurants and massive cocktails).
It was a proper slap across the face with a wet fish. Tom Hiddleston’s god of trickery, Loki, has been heroically duped by the TVA. Which raises a great many questions. Such as: if Mobius and his colleagues all had previous existences, why can’t they remember anything about them? It’s honkingly iffy – and sets Loki up for an intriguing final three instalments.
There’s more to the TVA than meets the eye
It seemed so straightforward. We’d been told the TVA was a bureaucratic agency presided over by space lizards devoted to keeping the timeline ticking along as destiny intended. But Lady Loki/Sylvie (Sophia Di Martino) stumbled upon a darker truth as she manipulated C-20 into thinking they were old friends out for a drink.
“Before she joined the TVA she was a regular person on Earth,” Sylvie informed Loki. He was aghast. “I was told everyone who works for the TV was created by the time-keepers”. The Time Keepers are lying – but why?
'Sylvie' is a lot of things – but she isn’t Tom Hiddleston’s gender-flipped doppelgänger
When we met Lady Loki in episode two, the implication was that she was just a female version of our favourite trickster god. But after she and Loki slugged it out and accidentally utilised the timepad to bounce to a doomed planet, she explained she preferred to be known as "Sylvie".
This bombshell had actually gone off prematurely when leaked Loki merchandise revealed the character was named Sylvie. She dresses like Loki, acts an awful lot of like Loki and her sorcery is accompanied by that signature “Loki green” colour scheme. But no, please call her Sylvie.
“Sylvie”, at it happens, is the alias of another Marvel superhero, the magic-wielding Enchantress. So not only is Marvel crossing the timelines – perhaps it’s mashing-up protagonists too (the MCU’s Enchantress is obviously not to be confused with the twig-smeared raver portrayed by Cara Delevingne in the DC film Suicide Squad).
A few other biographical nuggets were served up. Sylvie’s mother is dead, just like Loki’s, but expired at a younger age. She is also far, far swearier than Loki and, to be frank, rather less posh. Loki, meanwhile confirmed something that's found in Norse mythlogy: when it comes to romantic partners, he prefers "a bit of both".
Is Loki turning into Marvel’s Doctor Who?
As she ran from some not-very-convincing CGI explosions in her big flappy coat, Di Martino bore a more than passing resemblance to Jodie Whittaker’s incarnation of the Doctor. The scene was even playing out in a crumbling quarry – the go-to location for Doctor Who when they’ve run out of cash. Granted this is a megabucks Marvel series where the dressing room sofas are probably padded out with fifty dollar notes. But suffice to say Whovians wouldn’t have been gobsmacked had Bradley Walsh suddenly lurched into the frame.
There was barely any storyline – but it hardly matters
Oops, this is supposed to be recap. So here’s what happened in a pacy episode that just about clocked in at 40 minutes. Having jumped through the time-window at the mega-mart, Loki followed Sylvie back to TVA headquarters where she kicked him in the face and he waved his daggers around. Fighting over the timepad which allowed her hop along the temporary pathway, they next dropped into the doomed planet of Lamentis-1, which was about to be pulverised by a falling moon (Sylvie has been hiding out in apocalypses – but this might be the most apocalyptic yet).
Marvel kept it real by turning a battery crisis into major plot point
Their fighting and banter was interrupted as the timepad ran out of juice – trapping them on Lamentis-1. Having foolishly neglected to pack a spare, Loki and Sylvie were forced to traverse the devastated world and, using their combined powers of trickery, bluff their way on to a train bound for the “Ark” that is leaving the planet.
Along the way they nattered at length and the curtain was pulled back slightly on Sylvie’s backstory. And then, as they attempted to board the Ark, it was destroyed by a meteorite, leaving our his 'n' hers anti-heroes stranded. Then we cut to black.
Tom Hiddleston channeled his inner Thor
Bizarre though it sounds today, lanky, sarcastic Hiddleston was in the running to play hammer-chucking lunk Thor. He had the opportunity to channel the Asgardian meathead within during the train journey to the Ark, singing a bawdy drinking song and smashing crockery on the floor. For perhaps the first time in the entirety of MCU history, we had a sense of Thor and Loki as true brothers.
Loki feels a lot leaner than its Marvel forerunners
WandaVision felt innovative and Falcon and the Winter Soldier was… fine. But both mucked up their pacing slightly, with F&WS in particular lagging around the middle. Loki, by contrast, has proceeded at a zinging pace. Part three had a crackling energy and some agreeably potty-mouthed chemistry between the leads.
Are Loki and Sylvie dead?
The Ark was destroyed and Lamentis-1 looked set to share the same fate. With no way off planet, surely it’s curtains for the derisive duo? Well no, obviously not. But Marvel wants to maintain the illusion of suspense so perhaps she should agree to spend the next week pretending Loki and Sylvie are about to pop their celestial clogs. Let’s all meet back here seven days hence and feign shock as they dodge death at the final moment.