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Warning: The following contains spoilers for Loki through episode five and all of the MCU. Read at your own risk.
Loki’s fifth episode of season two, also known as Science/Fiction wasn’t a bad episode but neither was it very good.
I feel like I’m judging it by possibly unfair criteria. Because I’m looking at it and saying there’s things they could’ve done that they just didn’t. And that’s arguably the thing I mentioned I was trying to avoid back when I was talking about reviewing season two at all. There’s an argument to be made that one shouldn’t judge a movie or a TV show by what you think it should do but rather what goal it set for itself.
Of course there’s pitfalls to that method of reviewing which is that what if the goal was to not care about the product they’re producing. Do we then not get to call out that out?
So I’m torn. I didn’t hate it but at the same time I’m sighing over what could have been if they put even a tiny bit of extra effort in.
Let me explain why.
How Loki: Science/Fiction Left A Much Better Story Untold
I’ll put it plainly: The reveal of everyone’s lives prior to the TVA should’ve been the easiest method by which to deepen our understanding of the characters and not a single one of them even bothered to try.
Now I’ll give a caveat: possibly this will be changed in episode six where in this episode they’re setting things up for next week to have a payoff. If so, I’ll mea culpa accordingly and frankly be thrilled to have been wrong.
But at the moment what the show gave us was zero thoughtfulness into the choices. The easiest setup in the world would’ve been to either make their pre-TVA lives a one to one or an exact opposite. For example, if we take B-15’s status as an enforcer for the TVA we could either say she had a similar authority in her pre-TVA life by holding rank in the military or we could say she was a party girl who never met a responsibility she couldn’t run away from.
The closest the show came to this was with OB/AD Doug by making him both an author and a scientist. But ultimately that felt more based in the need to have Ke Huy Quan use his skills and charm to make sure the audience didn’t tune out during the technobabble.
Looking at everyone else though - Casey/Frank is a prisoner and an untrustworthy thief because why? Mobius/Don sells jet skis to finally give closure to people who were losing sleep over it but beyond that he’s… a shitty father? For some reason? And we don’t even know if he’s divorced or his wife died? Because clarifying that in some way came too close to establishing useful character information?
The worst was B-15 who was so underdone that it’s not until near the end of the episodes that the captions even tell us if she’s got a name - Dr Willis, no first name, by the way. Moreover she’s from 2012 New York City and there is zero mention of how this is the location and time that THE TITLE CHARACTER OF THE SHOW IS FROM.
Again, maybe this is going to be corrected next week. I’ll happily eat crow if that’s the case. I will be thrilled for this to be a setup for something more. But the fact that not even Loki himself so much as went “Huh, there’s another version of me kicking around here teeing up to destroy this woman’s city, home, loved ones, and free will if I can manage it” earns a side eye. Combine it with last week’s Loki talking about how Thor losing his hammer was several years ago instead of a few months and it smacks of the writers forgetting their own timeline.
But that’s okay, it’s not like the show is about time travel or needing to keep track of when and where things are happening.
To be honest, this episode sets off my behind the scenes spidey senses because even though writing credit is given to Eric Martin there’s parts of it which feel like they were pinch hit scenes done by somebody who was given the quickest briefing to work with.
For example, Loki and Sylvie in the bar doesn't mention the multiverse being destroyed as the issue, just that awww Loki wants his friends to stick around. We then get these interminably long scenes where Sylvie discovers that oh wait, the multiverse is being turned into linguine and that’s a problem. Because… Loki didn’t lead with that? Just said he wanted to get the TVA back together because he loved the shitty uniforms so much?
It’s not great when in the show itself they then need to have a scene where the characters point out that there’s a gaping plot hole which is, again, that the issue isn’t Loki wanting to make friendship bracelets but that the multiverse is being shoved through a Play-Doh Fun Factory. “Wait, this makes no sense!” is how She-Hulk handled its bad writing and my friends, never go full She-Hulk.
There’s parts I don’t mind. I’m fine for Loki getting a power up. I like that the time skips weren’t just a one and done from the first episode. I don’t want to get into potential spoilers but I like that there’s hints that the show might be pulling in things from a storyline from the comics that, frankly, should’ve been pulled in back in season one. (I’ll talk about that more next week if it becomes relevant with the finale.)
I certainly don’t think the episode was filler, which I saw people accusing it of being before it even aired. Lamentis was filler. This at least showed Loki going on something of an arc from start to finish. It didn’t give any of the other characters interesting development, but Loki got a little something at least.
But was the episode full? Eh. Giving even a tiny bit of insight into all the other characters could’ve been done with a line change here and there and cost nothing. Leaving all that potential on the ground is confusing and kinda wasteful.
But like I say, maybe next week will prove me wrong. I’ll be thrilled if it does.
As always, things that don’t fit anywhere else:
- B-15/Dr Willis’s introduction was also bizarre, quite frankly. We have just a short vignette to get to know her and they went with a doctor whose bedside manner is to tell a little girl never forget her pain? And then put a huge mark of shame on her cast while stifling the kid’s athleticism? I mean maybe the writing on the cast is meant to be a time marker the same way that Mobius writing in dust in the first ep was but you could’ve gotten that just by having the doc do a friendly “Let me be the first to sign your cast!” thing just as easily. Did Dear Evan Hansen teach us nothing?
- I liked the match cuts as Loki walked through the empty TVA. Props to Director of Photography Isaac Bauman (who cameoed as the dirt bike enthusiast) and editor Calum Ross for that one.
- I was not as fond of how once again we repeated the odd use of slow motion and pauses in this episode. Much like last week all it did was make me think they’d been given an episode length to aim for and when they didn’t reach it with content they padded it out.
- Like seriously, you should not have a pause in a sentence so long that I want to time how long it lasted, let alone have enough time to actually do that.
- For those wondering it’s “It’s not about where, when, or why” at which point THIRTEEN SECONDS PASS before Loki finishes with “It’s about who.”
- I’d really like if next week revealed that the announcement of the TVA going into fail safe mode at the same time that Loki’s time skips started again meant the skips were the fail safe mode. But I suspect that’s not going to happen.
- “With science it’s all what and how but with fiction it’s why” felt like something they maybe talked about in the writer’s room this season. Kudos if so.
- Yet again we have an episode where we don’t know why Loki isn’t using his magic.
- I’m firmly of the opinion that the less Jonathan Majors the better, but it’s odd that in an episode where the stated goal is to collect people with enough temporal auras to get Loki back to the TVA there is zero mention of trying to find Victor, the guy whose temporal aura was needed to work the fix for the Loom in the first place. Like I’m even fine for Loki not wanting to do it! Just, yanno, take ten seconds off that thirteen second pause to throw in a line about why Loki doesn’t want to pull Victor in too.
- Good thing the walls of Frank’s prison cell were made out of plywood.
And that’s all she wrote for now. Apologies for a short one this week, folks, but booster shot side effects are knocking me on my butt (get your booster though, seriously!) See you next week as we find out if the finale of season two manages to bring it all home successfully.
Thanks for reading!