REVIEW: Loki – Season 2, Episode 4, “Heart of the TVA”
There’s a moment in this week’s episode, “Heart of the TVA.” Loki, where Loki tells Sylvie, “I promise this will all make sense.” He talks to us as much as he does to her, assuring the audience that there is an explanation for the episode’s strange, confusing events. But after several years of poorly constructed, unsatisfying Marvel content, I don’t believe him. And even if the show’s plot does manage to hold together in the end, it won’t make up for the journey there, which is full of rushed narratives, poor characterization, dull pacing, and a severely undermined lead.
Loki, Mobius and Sylvie take Victor Timely back to the TVA, where he helps OB repair the Temporal Loom. B-15 attempts to convince an imprisoned General Dox and her henchmen to help her stop Ravonna Renslayer, who has her own plans with Miss Minutes. There’s entirely too much time spent drinking hot chocolate, which I never thought I’d say.
“Heart of the TVA” begins where the climax of the first season took place. Miss Minutes shows Ravonna the remains of He Who Remains, a rotting corpse in his office chair. She shows Ravonna a lost memory in which Ravonna conspired with Kang to form the TVA and then left to lead the armies that would conquer time and space for him while he sits back and lets her. As Miss Minutes puts it, she and Ravonna were the true force behind He Who Abides, and they can finish what he started. This scene is the perfect representation of how the MCU screwed up its next big villain. They undermine Kang at every turn and have now reduced him to an ineffectual coward who tricked more capable people into giving him his power, which Sylvie immediately took away from him. There’s no reason to fear Kang, no reason to be impressed by him, and absolutely no reason to want to see more of him. And the worst part is that the episode doesn’t end with vilifying him; by far not.
Victor Timely, the Kang variant we met last week, is an important part of “Heart of the TVA” and he’s just as annoying here as he was back then. He is silly and histrionic and annoying when he does things like: B. is obsessed with hot chocolate or struggles with kidnappers. Like He Who Remains, he never feels like an arch-villain or even a real person. He’s just another clown representing what the writers apparently think is amusing. And just like its two predecessors – He Who Remains and The Kang Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania – he dies! Marvel has killed off three versions of Kang so far, each more unceremonious than the last, and yet assures us that we’ll be in for the same thing when the next Kang arrives. It’s become a joke, only we’re the punchline. And aside from how reductive it is for Kang as a villain, Victor Timely’s death also means nothing because we don’t know him well enough to care.
This is something that has held the entire Marvel series back: they push character development so hard that there’s never a reason to care about anyone. In “Heart of the TVA”, General Dox and her co-conspirators are locked in a TVA prison cell, and B-15 attempts to secure their help against Ravonna by promising them leniency. Later, Ravonna and Miss Minutes come to them and make a similar offer, which escalates into a threat. Dox and her men – except Brad – refuse, and Dox asks Ravonna how it feels to know that almost everyone in the room chose death over helping her. This should have been a great moment for Dox and Ravonna, but Dox had maybe four full minutes on screen, and nothing we know about Ravonna suggests that she would care if someone was faithful to her. So when Miss Minutes kills them all in one of those boxes Loki threatened Brad with in “Breaking Brad,” it’s just another event, no more impactful than Mobius eating another piece of cake.
“Heart of the TVA” has a few moments like this, twists that want to be shocking but only elicit a shrug. Timely’s death is one; It’s not so much surprising as it is ridiculous. Another is a series of cuts, first of a TVA agent, whose name I’ve forgotten if we’re supposed to remember (since these people are real characters anyway), then of Loki by another Loki, and finally of Ravonna by a mind-controlled Brad. Well, we know about Loki; This is what we saw in the season premiere, where Loki was cut by another Loki and brought back to the present (which is now the past). But as for the others, circumcision isn’t death, is it? Are you not being sent to the wasteland where He who abides lived? So Ravonna and the random TVA guy are still there, their resolutions are just throwaway moments that ultimately mean nothing. The same goes for the “shocking” ending, in which Loki and his friends fail, the Temporal Loom explodes, and time itself collapses. We know that didn’t really happen, firstly because there are still two episodes left, and secondly because they would never have the courage to do something that big. So it’s just another false attempt to jeopardize the show.
Other than that, “Heart of the TVA” is another boring episode with stupid storylines. While trying to stop Miss Minutes from using the TVA’s security system against her, OB warns her that the only action he can take would remove the TVA’s protections against magic. To be honest, I forgot this was even a thing, but it begs the question: Why wouldn’t they have done this already? You have a Norse god on your side – two if you count Sylvie – and you’re inhibiting their ability to use magic. It’s stupid and makes them all feel like they deserve to lose. And as they try to repair the Temporal Loom and save time and the multiverse, Timely demands to be taken to the hot chocolate machine because he’s a caricature of an idiot. And it all happens at a snail’s pace, with these scenes drawn out to remove any sense of urgency that the Temporal Loom crisis created (which, admittedly, wasn’t much).
Then there’s Loki himself, who is also subverted. As always, he makes the case for the TVA, and at one point he actually makes a good argument. It’s just so out of character that it’s hard to take it seriously. And as always, Sylvie is the one driving the plot forward while Loki simply follows her lead. There’s another hint that maybe Loki plays everyone, but the show has changed this great character so much that I wonder if that was even intentional or if it’s just wishful thinking on my part. When he and Sylvie get their magical abilities back, “Heart of the TVA” sets the stage for a confrontation between Loki and Brad, but like everything else in the MCU these days, it’s a bait and switch for Sylvie to do anything. There’s a lot of promise, but no sequel, no fun, and nothing meaningful about Loki, just like the series itself.