In the wake of the widely panned Secret Invasion and the shuffling of Echo into 2024 and Ironheart into who knows when, Marvel Studios’ hopes for streaming success in 2023 rest squarely on the shoulders of the second season of Loki. While it’s foolish to judge an entire series by its first episode, if “Ouroboros” is any indication of what to expect this season from the creative team of writer Eric Martin and directors Justin Benson and Aaron Moorhead, who previously teamed up with Marvel Studios on Moon Knight, Marvel may be able to rest easy.
“Ouroboros” comes out of the gate swinging. Opening in the moments immediately after the Season 1 cliffhanger, the episode quickly dismisses the most prevalent fan theory about where Loki ended up when Sylvie kicked him through the time door. Whereas the belief was that Loki was transported to an alternate TVA, the first quarter of the episode establishes that he has in fact been transported to the same TVA in the past…and what an interesting past it was. By grotesquely “time slipping”, Loki learns that He Who Remains once openly ruled the TVA before installing the Time Keepers and slipping away to the Citadel at the End of Time. Taken in concert with the recent revelations that all TVA employees are Variants who were ripped from their lives, the very foundations upon which they believed the TVA stood are now entirely reframed as the implications of He Who Remains’ actions become crystal clear. These people’s minds have been wiped repeatedly in the service of the TVA and anything and everything they think they know about themselves is just a fraction of their actual lives.
Once the episode moves forward under those implications, finding a solution to Loki’s time slipping becomes the central focus of the episode. Finding a solution to that problem leads Mobius and Loki to one of the second season’s key new members in Ke Hey Quan’s Ouroboros. The march to find OB, the TVA’s resident tech guru, not only allows for an exploration of some of the unseen nooks and crannies of the TVA but also time for the series’ marquee characters, Loki and Mobius, to shine. Much of the success of Season 1 came from the chemistry between the two and even under the direction of a new creative team, the pair continues to cook. Tom Hiddleston continues to be so wonderfully charismatic and catalytic as Loki which means that it’s nearly impossible for him to share an awkward scene with anyone and so as funny as his scenes with Owen Wilson continue to be, his split-time scenes with Quan’s OB are equally brilliant. By working together, Loki and OB come up with a solution to Loki’s issue but in attempting to solve that issue, the larger mystery of Season 2 is revealed.
In pursuit of curing Loki’s time slipping, OB discovers that the Time Loom, an object which he explains is used to refine raw time into physical timelines, has been overloaded as time broke free following the death of He Who Remains. The second half of the episode ends up being some of the MCU’s best hardcore sci-fi to date as it attempts to address the madness erupting in the multiverse. The back half is full of imaginative set designs and mumbo jumbo jargon (a dial on the ceiling keeps track of the chronons being emitted per hour) that allow for the audience to have some footing in what’s actually taking place. Sci-fi, time travel and mulitversality have never been for everyone but the writing team, lead by Martin, did an admirable job of making it palatable and as relatable as possible under the circumstances.
While “Ouroboros” solves Loki’s time slipping issue and resolves the Season 1 cliffhanger, it ends on one itself. In the absence of Ravonna Rennslayer, the headless TVA is now subject to the whims of an interesting group of folks led by General (Paradox), Judge Gamble and another fellow with all the energy of Ray Winstone’s Dreykov. Just as Loki is pulled back from the time stream, several brigades of Hunters are seen taking off through a series of time doors into the newly created branches in search of Sylvie. While her location is unveiled in the show’s post-credit scene, the actions of these Hunters and are sure to have some pretty heady consequences for the show and set up one of two ongoing plot points for the season.
Though in many ways it feels like more of the same (great writing, great characters and timey-wimey mysteries), the opening episode of Season 2 also gives the MCU something brand new. While Loki’s glorious purpose, established over a decade ago in the MCU’s timeline, seems like old news to the audience, it’s important to remember that this Loki Variant was plucked from 2012 where he only very recently attempted to kill the Avengers and sought to rule all of humanity. “Ouroboros” give this Loki room to grow into a new glorious purpose: becoming the hero of all time. From the moment he first appears on screen, Hiddleston plays the part with a distinct desperation we’ve never really seen. Even in the Season 1 finale, there was some hesitancy to become the hero but now, having been Lokied by another Loki, this Loki now seems fully committed to an all-new, all-different path. And maybe, just maybe, the sun will shine on Loki and his brother again at the end of it. If you thought there wasn’t room for more Loki in your life, “Ouroboros” did its level best to make you think twice and set up one hell of a first two-thirds of a season of streaming TV at its best. In an increasingly entropic MCU, Season 2 of Loki seeks to return order and remind us all what’s always been so great about this shared universe.