Marvel Studios continues to dominate Disney+ original programing with its slew of blockbuster-level content. Still, as the MCU continues to diversify, the strengths and weaknesses of its individual projects become more and more apparent. For this reason, Episode 2 of Loki serves as the first true indicator of where the whole show fits in the grand scheme of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
Episode 2 follows Loki and Mobius teaming up to hunt down the mysterious Loki variant wreaking havoc on the sacred timeline. Tom Hiddleston’s “Superior Loki” continues down his mischievous path with no indication of his ultimate intentions, while Owen Wilson’s Mobius struggles to keep him leashed. The episode ends with the grand (yet predictable) reveal that the fugitive variant is the comics classic Lady Loki played by Sophia Di Martino.
Loki variants like Lady Loki are something that comic book fans saw coming a mile away. Sophia Di Martino’s entrance as the character was both satisfying and disappointing but can potentially justify itself in upcoming episodes. Lady Loki’s classic appearance is Loki in the body of Lady Sif (portrayed by Jaime Alexander in the MCU) with a much bolder look than Di Martino’s initial impression. Di Martino is far more comics accurate to the villainous Enchantress (the blonde hair and neon green magic are trademarks of the character). Of course, since the show deals in variants, other Loki variants will surely pop up periodically and provide context for her appearance.
This episode revealed that Loki’s greatest strength by far is its writing. Head writer Michael Waldron excels at delivering fantastic dialogue that simultaneously develops its characters and its plot. The MCU has had great dialogue in the past, but Loki delivers instant classic line after instant classic line beyond what any other project has. The constant verbal sparring between Loki and Mobius makes up for the severe lack of quality action sequences this show offers, which is the weakest part of the show so far.
If Loki’s short burst of combat even qualifies, the action sequences are an afterthought for the show’s production. The opening scene, in particular, failed to reach the basic standard set for the MCU. The importance of action in a comic book project is a significant contributor to its rewatchability and overall enjoyment for many (including myself). While not every MCU project must be a pure action showcase (WandaVision is an excellent example of a project thriving without it), so far, Loki fails to do the bare minimum to achieve the high-quality stunt work that professional blockbusters have no excuse to ignore.
Speaking of ignoring basic quality control standards: Loki is the first MCU show where the smaller budget bleeds through a bit in the final product. Still, the show does not look or feel cheap in its entirety. The production team spared no expense in creating its practical sets (particularly in the TVA), but any scene that does not take place in the TVA feels visibly cheaper than MCU’s standard.
Shooting at a renaissance fair and a supermarket are clever ways to save some of the budget here and there but limiting the historical destruction of Pompei to a single alleyway and a dozen extras is a disservice to the grand scale of the actual event and pulled me out of the show a bit. (It’s like if Titanic took place entirely on a single lifeboat.) Although, the hurricane in Alabama did have phenomenal visual effects for its small amount of screen time.
By no means does this mean Loki is better or worse than any other MCU project. It only means that the show has its unique strengths and weaknesses that make it feel far more remarkable in the greater MCU. For instance, cinematography, lighting, and production design are top-notch and sometimes better than most MCU projects. The score, composed by Natalie Holt, is also phenomenal and unique. All of the creative departments are more than capable of delivering an extraordinary project. Still, it seems like the team had to cut corners in certain places, which never seemed to be an issue with Marvel’s Disney+ projects so far.
Filmnetic Grade: B+