DISCLAIMER: This recap of the Loki episode “The Variant” is riddled with spoilers. You’ve been warned. Proceed at your own peril.
Welcome back, variants! Loki is here to bless our Wednesdays with an overabundance of Marvel goodness. “The Variant” just kicked things into high gear, folks. That ending! Finally, we know who Sophia Di Martino is playing in this sprawling, multiverse epic. To be fair, some of you correctly guessed her identity based on a two-second snippet from one of the Loki trailers. Lady Loki hath arrived, and I can’t wait to see her truly go toe-to-toe with our titular god of mischief.
Ready to delve into “The Variant”? Let’s get to it.
Now, we open with a renaissance fair in 1985. Members of the Time Variance Authority burst through a materialized portal with one objective: Track down The Variant Loki. They’re led into a dimly lit, tented space.
Suddenly, one of the TVA field agents, Hunter C-20 (Sasha Lane), succumbs to mind manipulation courtesy of The Variant Loki. C-20 proceeds to wipe out their teammates and subsequently falls unconscious. TVL (The Variant Loki), still shrouded by a cloak, drags C-20 through a portal.
Meanwhile, our Loki (Tom Hiddleston) is skimming through a jetski magazine on Mobius’ desk. Miss Minutes (voiced by Tara Strong) is attempting to quiz him regarding the TVA’s rules and regulations. Loki is more interested in the jetskis. Mobius (Owen Wilson) ushers him to meet with Hunter B-15 (Wunmi Mosaku) and a team that’s embarking on a mission to 1985.
Next, our crew arrives at the renaissance fair. Our god of mischief inquires as to why they can’t simply pop in prior to TVL’s attacks. Mobius informs him that they can’t interfere with time per se. Instead, they enter the scene in the immediate aftermath while the timeline is still running its course.
Then, they find that C-20 is missing while the remainder of their squad has been eliminated. Loki launches into a convoluted monologue regarding Asgardian phrases in an effort to stymie their investigation. Mobius sees right through it. He knows that our titular Asgardian is a talker who’s adept at manipulation. But Loki’s just trying to put himself in the mind of TVL! B-15 resets the timeline.
Later, Mobius meets with Judge Ravonna Renslayer (Gugu Mbatha-Raw). As it turns out, she’s his supervisor who approves and oversees all the TVA missions. She also has superior office furnishings. Renslayer is reticent to trust Loki, and rightfully so. However, Mobius reassures her that “The Variant” is under his watchful eye. I think it’s interesting that she gets direct contact with the Time Keepers. I wonder if there’s more to her than meets the eye.
After leaving more coffee ring stains on Renslayer’s table, Mobius leads Loki to his next task — sorting through paperwork. Hey, sometimes a TVA agent’s duties aren’t always interesting. In a futile effort to obtain all the dirt on the Time Keepers, our god of mischief stumbles upon a document pertaining to Ragnarok.
Of course, this Loki wouldn’t know anything about the destruction of Asgard, as seen in Thor: Ragnarok. We see his eyes well with tears. He does care! This leads to a revelation, a potential turning point in the TVA’s hunt for TVL. Loki utilizes Mobius’ salad and showcases an elaborate metaphor to illustrate his revelation. TVL only arrives on the scene amid an apocalypse, so his variant energy cannot be detected.
Now, to test this theory, Loki and Mobius travel to 79 A.D., just prior to the decimation of Pompeii. Loki creates a minor disturbance by releasing a horde of goats and announcing their arrival to the masses. Mobius scans the area for a trace of their energy. Nothing. No energy detected! The pair zap themselves out of there before the erupting volcano wipes them out.
Later, our dynamic duo chases another lead. Mobius procures the blueberry gum he extracted from that little girl in last week’s episode. It was initially created between 2048 and 2051. They buckle down and research various apocalyptic events during that three-year gap. Loki finds an intriguing storm brewing in 2050 Alabama. Chances are that TVL will be hiding out there in an effort to stay concealed from the TVA.
Next, Mobius persuades Renslayer to let him take a team there with our god of mischief in tow. They arrive at Roxxcart, a massive convenience/grocery store, amid a raging storm. Loki is banned from carrying any weaponry, but his magic works here. The team enters said store. Mobius wants Loki to accompany him, but B-15 lays claim to our titular character instead.
Meanwhile, Mobius and co. encounter a room for customers sequestering away from the storm. A shelter of sorts. He finds C-20, who’s utterly shaken and confused. C-20’s also tied up. Loki and B-15 encounter a stray customer shopping for plants during the hurricane. You gotta get those half-off hurricane sales! Suddenly, we see that TVL is controlling the plant guy.
Then, Plant Guy collapses after B-15 touches him. Now, B-15 is being manipulated by TVL. So, the manipulative energy is simply transferred through skin contact. Loki communicates with, well, himself. After B-15 falls unconscious, a random store employee becomes the voice of The Variant Loki.
Next, Loki attempts to appease TVL by claiming that he’s looking for a way to destroy the Time Keepers. Unfortunately, that’s not enough. The random store employee morphs into a violent customer who proceeds to beat the crap out of our god of mischief. We see those time resetting devices utilized by the TVA are situated throughout Roxxcart.
Suddenly, TVL disposes of their various puppets and decides to appear before Loki. The cloak falls away, and we see that it’s not Loki himself, but Lady Loki (Di Martino). She tells our titular lead that this isn’t about him. She’s even sporting a smaller pair of golden horns!
Then, we see the devices are simultaneously enacted. Back at the TVA, a multitude of Nexus events occurs at once, fracturing the sacred timeline. Everything is thrown into chaos. Even Renslayer arms herself with a weapon and prepares to march into the fray. A slew of TVA agents barges through portals headed for 2050 Alabama.
Later, Lady Loki waltzes through a portal of her own and leaves Roxxcart to detonate with everyone therein. Mobius tracks down our Loki and attempts to stop him from giving chase. But our Loki bows to no one. He follows her through the portal.
“The Variant” lays the groundwork for the direction of Loki from here on out. I love that we’re establishing a relationship between our god of mischief and Mobius. And all the jetski dialogue that entails. Not to mention, I dig the connection to the Roxxon Corporation, which was first introduced to us in the MCU with Iron Man.
Of course, it’s made multiple appearances across Marvel comics, the Iron Man trilogy and various Marvel TV shows. But these details are what makes Marvel the best of the best.
As always, it’s a delight to see Hiddleston back in his element. I can’t wait to see future interactions with Lady Loki, and to get a better idea of what her objective may be.
New Loki episodes are available to stream every Wednesday, only on Disney Plus.