One of the first things that got me excited for Loki was an interview with creator Michael Waldron where he explained that he wanted the series to feel like an actual TV show, not a six-hour movie. As Waldron told Vanity Fair:
It was important that every episode stood alone. The Leftovers or Watchmen, which I admired so much—every one of those episodes felt like a distinct short story. That’s the sign of a great episode of TV. “Oh, it’s that episode of Loki.”
Loki’s third episode “Lamentis” fits that bill. You could easily describe it as the “frontier planet episode” or the “Snowpiercer in space episode” or even just “the purple episode.” You could also, unfortunately, call it “the one that feels like half an episode” episode.
“Lamentis” is bursting with style and full of promising ideas. It’s a two-hander that lets Tom Hiddleston and Sophia Di Martino try to out-Loki each other once they both get stuck on Lamentis-1, a moon that’s about to be destroyed by the planet it orbits. It’s apparently the worst of all the apocalypses Loki could’ve sent them to when he desperately hits a Tempat to escape Renslayer and her TVA guards. And the impending doomsday forces Loki and his “Lady Loki” variant—who reveals she’s renamed herself Sylvie—to work together if they want to have any chance of making it off the moon safely.
Yet the episode just never quite kicks into high gear, perhaps because there’s never any real sense of risk that Loki and Sylvie aren’t going to make it out alive. (It’s the same reason the “everything is doomed!” cliffhanger doesn’t quite land.) The most effective moment of “Lamentis” is actually its incredibly disorienting opening, which sees Sylvie manipulate Hunter C-20 into telling her the location of the Time Keepers by taking her out for mental margaritas. Sylvie later confirms what the opening scene hints at: The people who work at the TVA weren’t created by the Time Keepers, they’re actually variants who’ve had their minds wiped and reprogrammed. By hacking C-20’s brain, Sylvie not only reveals the extent of her own enchantment abilities, but also the horror of what the TVA is capable of too.
In fact, the opening scene primed me to assume the episode would deploy a similar rug pull later. I suspected (and still do) that the entire Lamentis apocalypse situation is an enchantment that Sylvie is putting on Loki in order to trick him into revealing more about himself. But whether or not that’s the case, the episode needed some sort of button to bring everything together. Last week’s episode already ended on a semi-vague cliffhanger, and pulling that trick again just feels lazy. It doesn’t help that the episode’s climax puts all its chips on a big, showy unbroken take that isn’t quite as impressive as the show thinks it is. Instead of feeling tangible and tactile, it just seems like Hiddleston and Di Martino are running around in circles in front of a green screen. (I’ll take Daredevil’s third season prison break over this sequence any day.)
Loki has such a base level of competence that even a “filler” episode like this one is still very watchable. The worldbuilding looks cool and there are several solid hand-to-hand combat sequences. Plus Hiddleston and Di Martino generate fantastic chemistry together. (One of the notes I took was, “What are the ethics of hooking up with your own variant?”) But it’s just strange that this ostensibly character-focused episode doesn’t spend more time digging into its high-profile new addition.
Most of what we learn about Sylvie comes from Di Martino’s fun “fight first, ask questions later” demeanor. Otherwise the basic facts of her existence are still a mystery: Why are Loki’s variants so physically different from him when they’re all part of the same Sacred Timeline? What even makes Sylvie a Loki? Are her parents also Frigga and Odin? Did she grow up on Asgard? Does she have a brother (or sister) named Thor? Even if there’s some big reveal coming later about the fact that Sylvie isn’t actually a Loki or something, that doesn’t explain why Loki isn’t asking those questions now. Wouldn’t he be more curious about the woman he spent all last episode tracking down? The first variant of himself he’s ever met face-to-face?
Instead, it’s actually our Loki who winds up wistfully opening up about his Asgardian childhood as he and Sylvie find themselves on a train headed for an ark that promises salvation for the doomed residents of Lamentis-1. Loki explains how Frigga taught him magic and encouraged him to live up to his potential. It’s the most emotionally vulnerable we’ve ever seen him, which I suppose speaks to the instant sense of kinship he feels with his alt-self.
In fact, the train scene then unexpectedly turns to the theme of love. Sylvie suggests that love and hate are the same thing, while Loki—in between drunkenly singing Asgardian songs and confirming his bisexuality—muses that love is like an imaginary dagger; beautiful, dangerous, and hard to hold onto. Admittedly, it’s a slightly strange topic of conversation. (The fact that the only real question Loki asks Sylvie is about whether she’s dating anyone is odd.) But at least it’s something a bit meatier to latch onto. Loki and Sylvie are both loners who long for a deeper sense of connection than they let on. That adds an interesting subtext to their reluctant partnership.
Still, as both the shortest episode yet and the first one without Owen Wilson’s Mobius, “Lamentis” can’t quite live up to the high standard set by Loki’s first two episodes. Instead of feeling enjoyably episodic, it just feels frustratingly unfinished. And since there are only six episodes in the season, “Lamentis” has a much bigger overall impact on Loki than, say, a lackluster episode of a CW superhero show. It’s not a full-on disaster, and it’s the sort of episode that could easily wind up playing better in retrospect once we know where the season is going. But right now it feels like Loki is meandering a bit from its glorious purpose.
- Okay, I know I already speculated that Mobius is a Loki variant, but what if he’s actually a Frigga variant? That would also explain his sympathy for and interest in Loki. And both this episode and the premiere have gone out of their way to remind viewers about how central Frigga is to Loki’s story.
- The amount of running, falling, and jumping in this episode really made me realize just how distinctive and lived-in Hiddleston’s Loki physicality is. It’s really great full-bodied character work.
- Sylvie notes that she pulled a memory from “hundreds of years” before Hunter C-20 joined the TVA, so I guess the Time Keepers give their agents some kind of immortality?
- I assume there’s more to unpack in the moment Loki wistfully sings to Sylvie in Asgardian, but, as with most things in this episode, we’ll have to wait until later to see what it is!
- Loki smashing his empty glass and yelling “another!” is a great little call back to when Thor does the same thing on Earth in the first Thor movie.
- The MCU has such a weird view on adopted families.