This review contains spoilers
A headache-inducing episode of Loki gets underway in the 1800s this week, as Ravonna Renslayer finally pops up on the Sacred Timeline with Miss Minutes in tow. He Who Remains’ promise in the season one finale – that if Sylvie killed him he’d just end up right back on top – seems to hinge on a plan to kickstart a kind of causal loop, where a past variant receives a copy of OB’s TVA guidebook and is inspired to create all manner of technological inventions, including a rough version of the temporal loom.
There are positives and negatives to this trip back in time. It’s great to have Gugu Mbatha-Raw and Tara Strong back as the ruthless Renslayer and Miss Minutes respectively. The pair are dynamite together here, and I’m still fully able to suspend my disbelief and buy into the talking animated clock on screen as a real presence. Miss Minutes’ old timey black and white look is an incredible visual flourish.
The Balder the Brave chatter between Loki and Mobius is also a really fun Easter egg for fans who have been charting the character’s failure to launch in the MCU since Kenneth Branagh’s first Thor movie, and it looks like Daniel Craig will never get to throw on Balder’s costume now. Loki’s “I don’t know her” attitude got a real good laugh out of me regardless.
The 1893 World’s Fair is a fascinating setting for the introduction of Victor Timely (Jonathan Majors). As Mobius alludes, so many key historical events were happening around this time, including many of the horrific crimes committed by serial killer H. H. Holmes. A lot of visual effects work has clearly been put in to recreate the vibes of the era, but depending on which shot we’re dealing with it’s hit and miss. The Ferris Wheel sequence is perhaps the most engaging of them all, as Sylvie and Loki call back to the season one finale, battling it out for Timely’s soul while he’s thrown around the passenger car.
Timely himself is the real problem. Setting aside his troubling legal problems for a moment, Majors’ performance as Victor is just awful, though I fear this is another “your mileage may vary” situation. I admittedly really enjoyed the acting choices Majors made as both He Who Remains and Kang the Conqueror, but his execution here took me right out. It’s just way too pantomime, making Oscar Isaac’s turn as Steven Grant in Moon Knight seem almost reserved in comparison. It actually reminds me of Kiefer Sutherland in Dark City a bit. I love that movie, but I can understand why people hated his performance in it. For what it’s worth, my colleagues at Den of Geek didn’t have a problem with Majors’ Doctor Who guest star-esque Timely at all. This one may just be divisive!
Much more entertaining is Miss Minutes’ continuing transition from helpful AI to unhinged cartoon bunny boiler. Miss Minutes’ romantic (and clearly erotic) obsession with her maker is sincerely touching and troubling; her love for He Who Remains/Victor teetering into pure rage at moments. Strong is able to fully flex her notable voice talents in these scenes. It’s a real rollercoaster to hear her despairing monologue descend into fury and panic. I applaud this arc for Miss Minutes, personally. Sci-fi writers will often create fictional AI that gets mad and kills us, but hardly any of them are brave enough to ask “what if it was also really horny?”
Along with Strong’s nightmarish performance, Di Martino gets more to do as Sylvie in episode three, and the character’s inner conflict over killing Timely is palpable. It’s interesting that she decides not to slay him again, and that the punishment she dishes out to her violent pruner Ravonna is non-lethal. Sylvie always seems destined to wrestle with whether or not to play God, which is clearly a work-in-progress when you’re a God!
As the episode comes to a close, we leave Victor joining our TVA good guys and Ravonna and Miss Minutes stranded at the end of time, with Miss Minutes about to drop one hell of a truth bomb on Ravonna. I guess we’ll have to wait and see how angry she gets about it next week.