- Episode 3 (of 6), 'Lamentis'
- Written by Bisha K. Ali
- Directed by Kate Herron
Spoilers for the first three episodes of Loki follow. Watch them first before reading this.
With the vast majority of the story set on the alien world of Lamentis-1, ‘Lamentis’ is an entirely reasonable title for this third instalment of Loki. Even so, you can’t escape the feeling that ‘When Loki Met Loki…’ would have worked much, much better.
After the exposition-heavy season opener and the detective show homage of episode 2, Loki shapeshifts once more with a two-hander between the god of mischief and the female Variant who’s been wreaking havoc across the space-time continuum. Having gone to all the effort of establishing Agent Mobius, Hunter B-15 and the rest of the Time Variance Authority, it’s surprising that the Loki TV show should choose to give them a week off so soon, but it’s a decision that makes sense for the wider story.
Seeing Loki verbally spar with this alternative version of himself is something we’ve been desperate to see since he followed her into a portal in that Roxxcart supermarket – and besides, it’s not as if the TVA is short of things to do in the wake of the Variant’s massive temporal incursions last week.
Of course, with all those time agents on her tail, TVA headquarters should be the last place on the Variant’s travel itinerary, but – even though the nuts and bolts of her grand plan remain a mystery – an audience with the elusive Time-Keepers is clearly top of her agenda. It doesn’t take her long to give a compelling response to Mobius’s ongoing quest to identify the best Loki. Mere seconds after realizing her magic doesn’t work in those dingy beige corridors, she’s grabbing TVA weapons and vaporising Minutemen with a ruthless efficiency the original Loki is yet to match. In fact, it’s almost disappointing when Loki whisks the duo off to another world before the Variant gets to scrap with Ravonna Renslayer – everything we’ve seen so far suggests it could be a true clash of the titans.
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As soon as Loki and the Variant – or Sylvie as she now prefers to be known – materialize on Lamentis-1, however, they really are on their own. The episode’s plot couldn’t be simpler, as the two Lokis realize they’ll have to overcome their trust issues and work together to reactivate the TVA TemPad that can transport them home – before the moon is destroyed in an apocalypse that, history claims, nobody escapes alive.
We’ve got used to MCU TV shows jumping between multiple character arcs, but this episode never loses focus on its two leads. Although it features epic moon-scapes, some beautifully choreographed fight scenes and a clock ticking towards an impending armageddon, all the fireworks come in the talkier scenes – Loki even conjures up some magical fireworks to illustrate the point. If Marvel did intimate character pieces, they’d probably look something like this.
Sophia di Martino’s Sylvie has had less than an hour of screentime so far, yet she’s already starting to feel as integral to the Loki TV show as the (original) title character. She’s charismatic, funny and always ready with a withering put-down, but crucially she never tries to be a caricature of Tom Hiddleston. Indeed, she’s anything but a “faded photocopy” of her more famous counterpart, even if they have rather more in common than they’d probably care to admit. They’re like a pair of squabbling siblings who just happen to have magical powers – for all their differences there’s no denying they work well together, their contrasting tactics complementing each other magnificently.
While ‘Lamentis’ only teases Sylvie’s past – Loki points out that he’s revealed much more about himself than vice versa – the hints at where their backstories have diverged are intriguing. Could it be that Loki’s life of privilege has softened him, his partying existence ensuring that he’s no longer a “serious man”? It seems reasonable to assume that a harder life could have sent her on a path where brute force is preferential to diplomacy. The fact that Sylvie barely knew her mother could also be pivotal.
The question is, can they trust each other? Loki clearly wants to believe they’re allies, but it’s just as likely this is a marriage of convenience for Sylvie. Her motives remain ambiguous and, at this point, the jury’s out on whether taking down the “omniscient fascists” of the TVA is a good or a bad thing – especially as the Authority is seemingly conscripting its workforce from history.
With the “ark” that would have been their last route off Lamentis now destroyed, the episode ends on something of a downer, but things may not be quite as bad as they seem. Considering the episode goes to such lengths to explain how Sylvie’s powers of enchantment work – including a flashback to Hunter C-20’s margarita-fuelled interrogation – it’s strange that we don’t see her demonstrating more mind control in the episode.
Unless, of course, the whole jaunt to Lamentis is just an illusion created by Sylvie to extract some useful information from Loki’s mind. We’ll have to wait until next week to find out if this episode is canon, or simply an expertly constructed figment of Sylvie’s imagination…
Like the constantly morphing letters of the show’s titles, Loki remains impossible to pin down – and is all the better for it. With its brilliantly jarring mix of planetary apocalypse and two people cautiously getting to know each other, ‘Lamentis’ is simultaneously bigger and smaller than its predecessors – a character-driven stage play set against an epic sci-fi backdrop.
But most importantly, the episode establishes Sophia Di Martino’s Loki Variant as a key player in the MCU. Just as the original Loki stole the first Thor movie from under the nose of his hammer-wielding brother, Sylvie almost threatens to do the same here, as the pair’s wonderful chemistry ensures a talk-driven episode never gets boring.
Who’s the best Loki? It looks like Agent Mobius will have to wait to find out…
- Lamentis-1, the world where Loki and Sylvie spend the duration of the episode, has a history in Marvel comics. Lamentis first appeared in 2007’s Annihilation: Conquest Prologue – it’s located on the edge of Kree space in the Large Magellanic Cloud galaxy.
- The Lamentian homesteader who welcomes Loki and Sylvie with a laser gun is played by Susan Gallagher, who’s appeared as Lynn in several episodes of Cobra Kai.
- Sylvie hasn’t chosen her new name at random. Created by Paul Cornell and Mark Brooks for 2009 comic book Dark Reign: Young Avengers #1, Sylvie Lushton was an ordinary human girl from Oklahoma who was relocated to Asgard, and gifted magical powers by Loki. She later took on the identity of Enchantress – TV Sylvie’s mind-controlling powers are consistent with those of her comic book counterpart.
- This Enchantress should not be confused with DC’s Enchantress, a different character who turned up as the main antagonist in the first Suicide Squad movie, played by Cara Delevingne.
- The end credits reveal that the two guards who almost stop Loki and Sylvie boarding the train have very famous names. Corporal Hicks (Jon Collin Barclay) and Private Hudson (Ben VanderMey) are named after the iconic Colonial Marines played by Michael Biehn and Bill Paxton in Aliens.
- Loki’s heart-to-heart with Sylvie in the train bar features a landmark moment for the MCU, when Loki’s bisexuality is confirmed on screen for the first time. “How about you? You’re a prince,” says Sylvie. “[There] must’ve been would-be-princesses or perhaps, another prince?” “A bit of both, I suspect the same as you,” Loki responds. Director Kate Herron has confirmed on Twitter that this is now canon: “From the moment I joined it was very important to me, and my goal, to acknowledge Loki was bisexual. It is a part of who he is and who I am too. I know this is a small step but I’m happy, and heart is so full, to say that this is now Canon in [the MCU].”
- There’s a rare appearance for the Asgardian language in the episode when Loki starts a sing-song in the train bar. In the comics, Asgardians make sure every species in the universe can understand them using Allspeak or All-Tongue – it’s like the Universal Translator in Star Trek or the Babel Fish in The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.
- Loki smashing his glass in the bar after finishing his beverage is something of an Asgardian tradition – his brother does similar in a New Mexico bar in the first Thor movie.
- The music playing over the closing credits is ‘Dark Moon’ by Bonnie Guitar, originally recorded in 1957.
- The episode’s writer, Bisha K. Ali, has previously written for Sex Education (which, coincidentally, featured episodes directed by Kate Herron) and Mindy Kaling’s Four Weddings and a Funeral miniseries. Ali’s staying in the MCU after Loki as head writer on the upcoming Ms Marvel Disney Plus series.
New episodes of Loki debut on Disney Plus every Wednesday.