Loki S2E3: 1893

We catch up with Renslayer, Mobius’ boss who we haven’t seen since her heel turn at the end of last season. She portals into Chicago in 1868 and meets up with Miss Minutes, the cartoon clock who at first seemed to be a friendly guide to the TVA offices, but appears to be something more powerful and more sinister.

Minutes is carrying out a contingency plan handed down to her by He Who Remains (the version of Kang who was maintaining the Sacred Timeline at the expense of all others) just before Sylvia killed him in last season’s finale. The plan is simply to give a copy of the TVA handbook Ouroboros wrote to a teenage Kang, decades (in his life, which involves a lot of skipping through time) before he creates the TVA. Which, in some other time-travel-oriented show, might cause a world-ending paradox, but it’s just another day for Loki, so add it to the list of things we don’t need to think about too hard to enjoy the show.

What matters is, the TVA is melting down (and with it, all of spacetime). Ouroborous can fix it, maybe, but he’s locked out of the system, and the only one who can get him in is Miss Minutes. Loki and Mobius suspect Renslayer went to meet the clock, they have a clue as to where/when Renslayer went, and we’re off to the races. For all the complicated spacetime machinations on this show, the actual episode plots can be refreshingly simple. Find a person who doesn’t want to help, get them to help.

They quickly surmise that she isn’t in 1868, and jump ahead to 1893. By then, the dingy corner of Chicago has become the site of the infamous World’s Fair where Thomas Edison was showing off his latest inventions and notorious serial killer H. H. Holmes was luring people to their deaths (as immortalized in Erik Larson’s terrific book Devil In the White City). And, apparently, a “ghost clock” that’s haunting the fair’s midway.

The hunt for the clock is just another excuse to let Mobius and Loki hang out together, and that’s in no way a bad thing. Loki’s focus on the task at hand contrasted with Mobius’ eagerness to stop and smell the funnel cake provides some fun banter, and meandering around the fair leads to a too-on-the-nose exhibit boasting “temporal marvels.”

Presenting the exhibit is this timeline’s version of Kang, called “Mr. Timely” here. Renslayer is in the audience, with Miss Minutes hiding in her handbag. Timely has built an early version of the Time Loom that powers the TVA, so Loki quickly seizes on a plan to enlist him to fix the real one.

And now we get into the biggest inconsistency in Marvel’s multiverse. Depending on the timeline, Peter Parker can look like Tobey Macguire, Andrew Garfield, or Tom Holland, and have wildly different personalities. Loki can be a man, woman, or, for some reason, crocodile. Doctor Strange always looks like Benedict Cumberbatch and is generally a mild variation on his arrogant persona. Kang always looks like Jonathan Majors (so far, and given the actor’s legal troubles, who knows how long that will last), but acts like a completely different person. Instead of the quiet, intense menace of He Who Remains, Majors affects a stutter for Mr. Timely, which battles against a huckster’s theatrics as he shows off his invention.

Like a lot of Loki’s timey-wimey it doesn’t make a lot of sense if you try and pick it apart, but it works narratively. Timely’s different persona underscores that this isn’t the Kang we saw at the end of last season, this is a different version of him, from a different timeline, who’s lived a very different life. But he’s still similar enough that, as far as all of the various parties chasing him are concerned, he’s the next best thing.

Those parties — Loki, Renslayer, Sylvie, and some old-timey businessmen who are less than impressed with Timely’s crackpot inventions — all try and get a piece of him, in a chaotic finish, before Loki does what it does best: brushes the chaos aside, and keeps the story moving forward. Into more chaos.

Stray thoughts:
• Playing the opening Marvel theme on an old barrelhouse piano was a nice touch.

• The World’s Fair includes an exhibit on the Norse Gods that Loki finds insensitive. Mobius suggests he might just be unhappy that he’s not included. He walks away muttering, “Thor’s not that tall.”

• I realize we need to keep the show moving, but Timely is completely unfazed by Loki’s magic, a talking animated clock, and Renslayer’s not-terribly-coherent explanation of timelines and whatnot.

• Kang’s plan is a very clever one. Giving a young Timely the TVA handbook based on He Who Remains’ work means as a researcher, Timely is standing on the shoulders of giants, except he himself is the giant. It’s Kangs all the way down.

• Voice acting legend Tara Strong is terrific this week as Miss Minutes, who lets her chipper Southern Belle persona slip just enough to reveal a seething megalomaniac underneath. While we’re at it, it’s great to see Gugu Mbatha-Raw again as Renslayer, a classic villain who’s the hero in her own story.

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