At the end of the last episode, the titular god of mischief jumped through a time portal after his variant, in a bid to find out what she’s up to and see just how he can use it to his own ends. It’s a risky move, since he doesn’t know where she’s going, and when he jumps after her, he does so with Mr. Mobius and the TVA right on his heels. Lucky for him that he lands somewhere safe! Like … the headquarters of the very organization he just fled from.
Loki’s ersatz self, who we’ll come to know in this episode as Sylvie, is on a mission to kill the Timekeepers and destroy the TVA as a whole. Her name as given confirms last week’s suspicions: Sylvie is meant to be an incarnation of Amora, the Enchantress, just not the original. In Marvel Comics, Sylvie Lushton is a teenager from the fictional Broxton, Oklahoma, where the entirety of Asgard resided (or, technically, floated a few feet above) for a time. There, she was a pawn in one of Loki’s many plots at the time, which led to her gaining magical powers and joining none other than the Young Avengers — the same team featuring Kamala Khan, Kate Bishop, and Wanda Maximoff’s twin sons, all of whom have made or are scheduled to make an appearance in Marvel’s Disney+ slate.
Of course, it took a lot of comics to get to that point originally, and a six-episode TV show doesn’t have that kind of time. The solution here is elegant; a different version of Loki himself. It’s dressed up with ideas of continuity and timeline variations, sure, but at the heart of it, think of it in TV parlance as … going in a different direction. It also gives Sylvie a nice bit of agency that she lacked in her original incarnations; instead of a girl in over her head with an Asgardian god, Sylvie is her own person, who’s made her own choices and has her own goals.
It seems like a very standard villainous plot, but then that’s the thing about it. The show’s first two episodes have walked us through the brutal, merciless tactics that the TVA uses to enforce its idea of order; it ends entire, unique lives based on nothing more than a simple choice, or an accident of fate. Sure, it gives a compelling argument regarding the safekeeping of the timeline, but even that’s suspect. Viewers (and Loki) only know what the TVA has told them, and the TVA has an interest in protecting itself. What makes this particular timeline sacred? Why that word, with its connotations of mysticism? It wouldn’t seem odd coming out of Loki’s mouth, but the organization is generally more technology-focused; it leans into drabness and bureaucracy.
Of course, it’s not that Loki isn’t able to ask these questions; it’s that he just doesn’t care. The TVA’s doing the same thing he wants to do, and he figures it’s probably easier for him to use that than to fight it. Sylvie, though, has a reason, even though she hasn’t yet said what it is. Later in the episode, the pair have a discussion about their childhoods, which is interesting; Sylvie mentions that she had always known she was adopted, unlike Loki, from whom it was hidden. She also doesn’t remember her mother much, she says. What’s fascinating about this isn’t what it reveals about her or Loki, but about the TVA: If these are all simply variants of the same Loki, then why are their stories so different? Surely, if there were only one sacred timeline, only one originating point, then both of these Lokis would have the same memories up until the first point that one of them diverged. It’s a reinforcement of something hinted at last episode, when we saw the many divergent Lokis that the TVA has killed: Every one of them was different, and not just in small, superficial ways, but in body, mannerism, skill set. These are large changes that would take time to achieve. It’s certainly possible; Sylvie herself evaded the TVA for years. It seems more likely, though, that the big secret the TVA is covering up is the existence of a multiverse. We know that’s coming, thanks to the title of the Doctor Strange sequel; perhaps this is how?
At any rate, before our pair of leads can worry about that, they have to figure out how to get out of their current predicament; as Loki interrupts Sylvie’s attack on the TVA, he’s forced to make a desperate play to save both of their lives; he steals her TemPad and uses it, blindly teleporting them to the planet Lamentis 1. It’s not the best destination they could have ended up in. According to Sylvie, Lamentis is one of the worst apocalypses in the timeline, a planetary collision that ends with no survivors. Also, the TemPad’s out of power. It’ll be fine, right?
Lamentis 1 does provide a nice change of pace, though. Without the TVA directly on their heels for a change, Loki and Sylvie are given time to get to know each other a little more, to share stories and motivations and feelings, in between plots to hijack first a train and then a space shuttle. These talks are where we learn about Sylvie’s history, for instance, and where the show takes time to confirm that Loki himself is bisexual. It hints too that Sylvie is, but of course she doesn’t confirm that, instead spending quite a lot of time pulling information from Loki while revealing scant details about herself. Instead, the scene is a way for Sophia Di Martino to shine as an actor, displaying wistfulness, mischief, humor, and melancholy as Sylvie skirts the questions posed to her.
The conversation becomes a discussion of love, as an abstract concept, as a way to distance the pair from their own painful memories, and it’s maybe the weakest point of the episode. For all that it tries to be charming and clever in its exploration of what love is, it feels forced and heavy-handed, instead of natural. It’s true that love is a very complicated feeling, sometimes, but the very fact that it’s complicated means that it needs time to explore, and it’s not a subject that’s done justice by a little pithy banter.
It’s clear that Sylvie has given up a lot on this path. Her insistence on not being called a Loki is interesting too; paired with the context of gender fluidity mentioned by Loki’s head writer Michael Waldron, it paints the picture of a person who knows herself, despite what or who others may think she is. Sylvie has had to fight to be Sylvie, has had to fight just to live as herself, and it’s hard to look at someone like that as a villain. She seems much more tragic in this light, not to mention genuinely likable. The Falcon and the Winter Soldier grossly mishandled its story of a woman trying to push back against uncaring authority, swerving wildly into both-sides discourse. It would be nice to see a similar story done right with Sylvie and the TVA.
It’s just too bad that the TemPad gets broken during a scuffle that sees the pair of them ejected from the train. It’s also too bad that the last shuttle to leave the planet is hit by a meteor just as they’re about to board it, before it can even take off. Lamentable, one might say. Maybe we’ll meet a new Loki in episode four!