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Loki: Ouroboros

"We just need a moment to explain."

Loki: Season Two is finally here and it definitely hits the ground running. Quite literally.

There was more than might have been immediately apparent at stake for this episode. This is, after all, the first time that a Marvel TV show has done a second season since Kevin Feige wrested control of TV production back from... well, let's avoid libel and say, 'less qualified hands.' Would it work? Are Marvel fans prepared to stick around for an ongoing serialized narrative in good old fashioned, one episode a week TV for more than six to eight weeks?

My sincerest apologies for this next expression, but time will tell on that point. Fortunately, they've given us every reason to stick around, because this is a hell of a good season opener.

When we last saw our heroes, Loki had been kicked back to the TVA headquarters, while Sylvie was murdering our way into having a multiverse. Arriving back at the base, Loki immediately runs to find his friend and partner Mobius to tell him what's happened, but – shock upon shock – when he finds him, Mobius doesn't know who Loki is. And what's more, there are now huge statues of He Who Remains/Kang the Conqueror hanging around the place. What could be going on? What will happen next? How will our hero find his way back to his original timeline?

I can't have been the only one making that assumption that Loki was in a parallel timeline, right? Because I was absolutely certain of it since last season's finale aired.

I was therefore a little wrongfooted when, after a brief action sequence, we get a completely different answer as to what's happening. Loki hasn't gone to parallel time; he's gone back in time relative to the point he was at the TVA before. Which is to say, the Mobius he just ran up to isn't going to meet Loki for several hundred years of his own personal time. Which is a bit of a rug pull, and I freely confess to having felt a little cheated at not getting to see how the assumed parallel timeline stuff would have played out. But ultimately, I decided it wasn't worth being bothered about for three reasons:

1: The reveal that Loki was bouncing around in the relative time stream inside the TVA was handled pretty cleverly, and I appreciate a clever reveal. They even included Casey in the reveal, and I'm a massive Casey Stan. (I'm old. I hope I used that term correctly.) Plus, using the gimmick of Casey seeing the crack being caused one moment, then having Loki jump and Casey telling him that the crack had been there longer than he can remember not only gives us the vital clue about what exactly is happening, it also plants the seeds of there being something seriously wrong with the memories of the TVA staff.

2: The bouncing through time shenanigans later in the episode more than compensated for any imagined 'parallel universe' shenanigans.

3: The heart of the show lies in Tom Hiddleston and Owen Wilson's ability to banter the mostly absolutely ape-shit dialogue in a completely sincere and endearing way. You can't really do that with the two characters estranged. Restoring the status quo quickly got us back to the quality banter and I'm here for it.

For those reasons, among others, I'm totally fine with the resolution being what it was. That does, however, leave one significant issue for us to deal with.

What in the name of sweet glittery Jesus does it even mean to travel backward or forward in time inside a space where time doesn't exist?

I mean, the branching timelines all penetrating the red line of no return seems to be happening at the exact same stage in every single 'relative TVA time zone' that Loki jumps to, at least according to the pretty graph they keep showing. Cause and effect, as we understand them and their relationship to the passage of what we understand as 'time,' don't appear to be playing favorites. The same changes are happening everywhen.

Alternatively, if we want to consider time as the progressive observation of change in material form and circumstance – which is as valid a way of looking at it as any other – then that doesn't seem to help us either since as far as we can tell, nothing at the TVA ever changes. Or at least, the changes that are happening at the TVA seem to be happening everywhen. If you'll allow me to coin the term.

There are a million philosophical questions regarding the temporal implications of the situation, and the episode resolves them in an ingenious way.

It resolves them by saying 'Wheee! Neat space suits! Cool visuals! Fun Fun Fun! Maybe let's just not worry about the details!'

And I'll be damned if they don't get away with it.

Internally consistent relative temporal-dimensional logistics can go screw themselves if ignoring them means we get this level of chaotic joy, genuinely touching character work between Loki and Mobius, and Ke Huy Quan as Ouroboros dialing delightful past 11 and straight into the twenties. I particularly loved the sequence of Loki in the relative past actively changing Ouroboros' relative present in real time, while everyone involved knew perfectly well that it was happening and chose to just enjoy it.

So, we're given three separate threads here which bounce off each other brilliantly. First, Loki is only tenuously connected to the timeline and needs to be reconnected so that he stops time-sneezing himself back and forth along the TVA's relative timestream about whose properties we should just stop worrying. Second, the emergence of all the new branching timelines means that the 'temporal loom' that processes 'raw time' into 'timeline' is overloading from the added stress and might blow up everything any second now unless Ouroboros manages to ctrl-alt-del all of reality into safety by rebooting the thing. And let's just take a second to appreciate the fact that the 'saving all of reality' tech support literally here comes down to 'Have you tried turning it off and then turning it back on again?'

And of course, third, the TVA soldiers are ostensibly heading out to take down Sylvie since she's the one that caused the problem. But we kind of put a pin in that one for the moment. I'm sure there will be more on that later.

The problem with thing one and thing two is that fixing Loki has to take place before they can reboot temporal reality, but they don't have long before that reboot has to happen or everything, everywhere is destroyed, all at once. Honestly, all the chaos and running around as they try to accomplish this really sells the tension of the situation, although it did also mean that I wasn't entirely clear what happened there at the end when Loki finally found Sylvie, only to get 'pruned' by someone off screen. What exactly all happened there? I guess we'll find out.

So much delightful banter


(Sound of car crashing to the ground) Loki: "I’m sure she’s fine."

X-5: "Mobius. Mobius! I don’t care!"
Mobius: "So why’d you ask?"

X-5: "Have you seen this... robot head... on the table?"

Mobius: "I’d ask who won, but..."
Loki: "It was a draw."
Mobius: "You both kicked each other through time doors simultaneously?"

Loki: "We need to deal with He Who Remains."
Mobius: "In order to do that I need a Loki who remains."

Morbius: "That. That’s what’s been happening."
Ouroboros: "Wow. Time slipping."
Mobius: "Wait. Y…You know that?"
Ouroboros: "Yeah."
Mobius: "You’ve seen that?"
Ouroboros: "Yeah."
Mobius: "Can you fix that?"
Ouroboros: "No."

Bits and Pieces:

--The Ouroboros is that snake that's devouring its own tail which is so popular as a tattoo. The image and associated metaphor come up a lot in time paradox stories. I'm guessing that a character named that on this show might just possibly turn out to be passingly significant.

-- Ke Huy Quan, who plays the titular Ouroboros, of course played Short Round in Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom as well as Data in The Goonies. I'm probably the last person to be aware that he was going to be in the series. Apparently, he was also in the movie Everything, Everywhere, All at Once, but I haven't seen that yet so I can't really speak to it. Yes, I know. I'm judging me too.

-- It's only just now occurred to me that both Mobius and Ouroboros are references to infinitely repeating loops.

-- The entire 'diving into hovercar traffic' sequence was undeniably lifted straight from Attack of the Clones. I'm not too bothered by it. I'm happy to just call it an homage and move on, after all, we're talking about maybe fifteen seconds of screentime. But still.

-- Casey was listening to a self-help relaxation cassette tape while he cleaned the floors. That was just so endearing.

-- What was the point of the scene in which Mobius and X-5 discuss Jet skis? It didn't seem to serve any function, which stood out since everything else in the episode was incredibly focused and deliberate. Was it just to introduce X-5 and make us not like him? It felt like sloppy structure, which couldn't be said of any other second in this episode.

-- I adored the one Judge that was just openly sleeping.

-- Can't wait to see more of Sylvie in 1982 Oklahoma. God, the recreated 80s McDonalds interiors made me nostalgic.

-- I admit, I was glad that there was almost no John Majors in this episode as I have absolutely no idea how to even begin addressing that situation.

-- They did a surprisingly nuanced and respectful take on the ethics of the situation. Is murdering the nearly infinite number of people in the branching timelines ethically justifiable if that's the only way that you can be certain that all the people in the 'proper' timeline get to live? I genuinely don't know which way I come down on that question. That's a good place for a script to be.

This was a tremendously fun start to a new season of Loki that knew exactly what it wanted to be and exactly what theoretical debates in which it had no interest in participating. The only real flaw that I can point to is that the scene introducing X-5 was a little clunky and pointless, but even then, time might prove me wrong once we see the entire picture.

Seriously though, what's the deal with X-5 and that judge. So many creepy, inappropriate vibes.

Three and a half out of four time-sneezes.

Mikey Heinrich is, among other things, a freelance writer, retired firefighter, and roughly 78% water. You can find more of his work at the 42nd Vizsla. If you'd like to see his raw notes for this and other reviews, you can find them at What Was Mikey Thinking.


  1. I had a lot of fun. It absolutely flew by. OB is very endearing, although I do think he'll probably work best in moderation. That kind of hyper energy seems like it'll get draining pretty quick. I did love the past/future problem solving scene, though. Favorite scene of the episode.

    Favorite idea of the episode was the concept of time and how we didn't see things in order. I was also expecting some kind of parallel universe, but I'm also not mad that we didn't get it. Like you said, I love Loki and Mobius' dynamic and don't want to lose that. The interesting thing about it, though, is that clearly Kang openly ran the TVA at one point. When and why did he put the Time Keepers in place instead? And when was that tape with Renslayer actually made? I think we're meant to assume that it happens in the future (or at least, Loki's future), but there's no reason why it couldn't have happened far in the past, right? Side note: I was very pleased that we got confirmation that everything Kang said was a single thought and not just 2 sentences that took place in different conversations. That would have been an easy bait and switch to try and pull.

    Were all of the timeline graphs the same? I thought that the last one they showed right at the end there had all of the branches collapsing back down into a single one, which I took to mean that someone, at some point, succeeds in establishing a sacred timeline again.

    I read the judge and X-5 as more familial than romantic, so it was less creepy to me. I also wonder if X-5 calling out the Jet Ski was more questioning/calling out Mobius' favor towards variant people and things and placing X-5 in clear opposition to that. Was a little heavy handed, though. (That being said, I liked him. Curious to see more of him.)

    Also! According to other people in the internet, the tape that Casey was listening to apparently is the same on that Oscar Isaac listens to in Moon Knight, which is a fun touch.

  2. Great review! I'm so excited that Loki has started up again! I really liked this episode and am glad it hit the ground running right away!

    I had an option C theory for explaining the end of season one. I thought it was our present, but changed and different because when Sylvie killed The One Who Remains, she reset the current timeline, so to speak, and that's why Mobius didn't recognize Loki. So I wasn't disappointed that Loki wasn't in a parallel timeline/universe because I wasn't expecting it. However, I did not see it coming that Loki was actually in the past, so that surprised me as well. It was a fun reveal!

    I also really liked the ethics argument and that we had characters representing both sides, without one being right or wrong. I really like when shows are gray. I think where I come down is I think that other methods of saving the timeline should be tried first, but if they don't work and pruning the variants is the only way of saving the universe, then it should be done. Though now I feel awful having typed that. Lol. Anyway, great things to ponder!

    To An Honest Fangirl, depending on the order of events, maybe Kang either got tired of running the TVA or was still fighting his different versions and couldn't do both, and so gave up his power? Anyway, I also thought the conversation between him and Renslayer had taken place in the past. I was thinking it was shortly before he gave up his power and put her in control.

    I'm excited to see where the season goes from here! Thanks for writing such a great review!

  3. Only just come across the existence of the Loki series...hahaha... Possibly because I am old. But I thought I had better understand what everyone is hyped up about.

    I watched S2 episode 1, then tried out S1, episode 1. In the latter, Loki had me convinced, as he was himself, that he had superpowers. He had that way about him that people in positions of high power in our real world exhibit whereby they very graciously and patiently, or with humour, put up with other lesser mortals trying to confine them to the rules all the whilst knowing that they hold the cards. It was a bit of comeuppance that Loki confidently thought he had his powers and was behaving that way but the TVA lot knew that he didn't know that he didn't have his powers and were smug the whole time!

    So. Loki committed atrocities? Not sure of his story arc yet or how it was that he seems to have become a bit of a good guy? Maybe I'll watch another episode or two to find out.

    More of Ouroboros please. Loved that scene where Ouroboros was catching up in real time. Broke my heart when Ouroboros said the work doesn't stop so he doesn't sleep and then goes and adds the work slip to the pointy work slip holder and says it's great being part of a team when he hasn't seen anyone for hundreds of years....is he a robot? Seemed very human though when he had to close the blast doors but also resolute. Anyway, thanks for the review - that helped a newbie!

  4. I laughed a lot. Especially every time Loki vanished and reappeared, stretching his body in bizarre ways. Great effect.

    I loved that the Extractor looked like a bong. Loved the pneumatic tubes -- another sideways reference to Lost, like the Smoke Monster last season? Mobius literally risking his skin to save Loki was so funny. So was OB.

    I'm really glad I just rewatched season one because if I hadn't, I'd be totally lost.

    Where's Gugu?


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