Review: Marvel’s ‘Loki’ returns for a scrappy, brain-spinning Season 2 to save time itself

It’s time for Tom Hiddleston’s beloved trickster god to prevent Marvel fatigue from setting in.

In its new six-episode second season (out of four; starting at 9 p. EDT/6 PT Thursday, streaming weekly after), “Loki” continues to be the most cerebral of the Disney+ superhero cartoons. Additionally, Hiddleston’s nuanced lead character, Academy Award winner Ke Huy Quan’s Marvel debut, and Jonathan Majors’ big cameo all serve to anchor the blatantly weird, chronologically problematic adventure series. It couldn’t have come at a better time because a number of disjointed TV programs and the repetitiveness of the Marvel Cinematic Universe movies haven’t helped.

This episode begins up where Season 1 left off, with Loki returning from the End of Time to discover an alternate Time Variance Authority that is governed by Kang the Conqueror. Loki is a former villain who now works for the TVA to defend the Sacred Timeline. Its creator, mysteriously referred to as He Who Remains (both portrayed by Majors), is an evil version of Kang.

Actually, Loki has more serious issues: He is currently “time-slipping” between timelines, which continually draws him back to his current situation before tearing him out of it violently. There’s more, too, as branches are randomly emerging from the Sacred Timeline and the temporal loom need urgent repair. (Not to mention that everyone at TVA is experiencing an existential crisis because the whole TVA staff is made up of alternate-timeline versions.)

Once more working with sweet-toothed TVA agent Mobius (Owen Wilson), Loki travels across time to protect everyone from a catastrophic situation. However, Hiddleston also emanates just enough of the impish spirit that endeared him to viewers in the MCU’s early seasons. When it comes to “pruning” versions, Hunter B-15 (Wunmi Mosaku) is an ally who has had a change of heart, and O.B. (Quan) is presented as the TVA’s sincere IT director who handles disasters of all kinds in an unconventional way. Quan brings a revitalizing energy to the show after just winning the supporting actor Oscar for “Everything Everywhere All at Once.”

The optimum order to see all 32 Marvel movies is in chronological order.

The rogue elements include former TVA ruler Ravonna Renslayer (Gugu Mbatha-Raw), voiced by Tara Strong, an anthropomorphic clock named Miss Minutes, and “Loki” newcomer Hunter X-5 (Rafael Casal). One of Loki’s key tasks is to find Sylvie (Sophia Di Martino), a variation who traveled with Loki to the End of Time and was a standout of the first season, while she is among characters seeking to figure out who they are in the universe.

Majors is returned as He Who Remains and third variant Victor Timely, an enigmatic inventor Loki and Mobius stumble across during the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair, after making a significant appearance as Kang in the most recent “Ant-Man” film. Despite his off-screen legal issues (Majors is due in court this month on charges of domestic assault) and a murky MCU future, he is unquestionably a brilliant actor, and in a crucial part, his Timely adds nervous volatility to the mix.

“Loki” tends to be self-aware, ridiculous, and nonsensical at its best: This program is essentially an artificial intelligence version of what a Wes Anderson-directed Marvel film would look like, but it was produced by humans instead. There are times when you think you need a degree in theoretical physics to grasp everything. A strong sense of humor and strong character development help to make up for some of that. The high-mindedness of the story is mocked in a fun way by a riffing scene involving OB and Loki from the past that influences the present. And if you delve farther deeper, you’ll find that someone has been turned into space spaghetti.

The new season of “Loki” is a scrappy time-travel adventure, a racing sci-fi thriller, and a workplace comedy all rolled into one, serving as a gentle reminder that the MCU still values originality.

The expanding Marvel universe: From “Captain America: Brave New World” to “Avengers,” everything is under development.

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