Loki Season 2 and the Elephant in the Room

Laura J. Burns
Laura J. Burns writes books, writes for TV, and sometimes writes TV based on books and books based on TV. She will never, however, write a poem. She’s the managing editor of The Antagonist.

**MAJOR SPOILERS FOR LOKI SEASON 2!**

Marvel is in a slump. Nobody is looking forward to The Marvels, and I’m waiting resignedly for the post-opening crowing of the incels about how people don’t want to see movies led by women when really it’s because Marvel is in a slump. Quantumania was straight-up terrible and a box office disappointment, the Guardians of the Galaxy trilogy has come to an end. Disney is reorganizing everything, and it feels like the culture has largely forgotten about the Marvel TV shows. Nobody’s really talking about the second season of Loki, airing now on Disney+.

Here’s the thing, though: Loki remains a fun watch. Tom Hiddleston is always good. Owen Wilson’s Mobius is even more interesting this season than last, and I find myself more and more intrigued by the question of who he actually is, or was before the TVA. Sophia Di Martino continues to kill it as Sylvie, an even more chaotic version of Loki who also functions as the most unsettling love interest possible. Wunmi Mosaku’s Hunter B-15 has stepped up to be a full-fledged member of their team, a welcome development. And can we talk about the addition of Ke Huy Quan as Ouroboros? The best!

I love him so much, he’s just a naturally magnetic guy who brings so much joy to every role.

The problem is He Who Remains, played by Jonathan Majors. The actual HWR was killed by Sylvie at the end of season one, meaning we’re spending this season so far with a variant named Victor Timely. Victor is a diffident fellow, not so cocky, not so brave, with a bit of a speech impediment. Or is he? Is it just an act? It’s hard to know, because he’s a variant of (a variant of) Kang the Conqueror. Timely could be putting on an act. We don’t know, and honestly, I don’t care. Do I not trust the character because he’s a variant of a villain, or do I not trust him because he’s played by an actor accused of really horrific domestic violence?

I don’t care which it is, really. I’m not interested in thinking about it enough to decide.

I don’t like Victor Timely because I don’t like Jonathan Majors. I don’t want to be watching a man who allegedly assaulted his girlfriend(s) act all shy and old-timey and wide-eyed about being a wizardlike inventor. I don’t want characters I love, like Loki and Mobius and Sylvie and B-15 and OB, interacting with this guy. I don’t want Marvel forcing me to watch him, because while his case has not yet come to trial, I personally believe his victim. So…I guess it’s on me. I can choose NOT to watch a show I like in order to avoid an actor I happen to find unappealing. That’s a crappy choice, Marvel. Innocent until proven guilty is a legal right I will die to defend, but it has zero impact on my feelings and decisions as a viewer of television. I have no obligation to keep liking him as an actor unless he’s been found guilty by a jury of his peers, and neither does anyone else. It doesn’t seem like going ahead with this season as planned was the wisest choice for a brand in a slump, that’s all I’m saying.

Where it’s been bothering me the most, though, is when we see Majors in flashbacks as He Who Remains interacting with both Gugu Mbatha-Raw’s Ravonna Renslayer and Miss Minutes. Because in those scenes, we see that HWR is, while not physically abusive to these women (or women-presenting clock AIs), he is a selfish, lying, manipulative bastard. He uses them to gain power and tricks them to take away their power. It’s disgusting, and it’s especially upsetting to watch a man accused of abusing his power over women portray a man abusing his power over women. Once again, some rethinking of the storyline might have been in order after Majors’ arrest and the subsequent revelations of his past behavior by former lovers.

I wish I had a better way to end this than to say that I was happy to see Victor die at the end of last week’s episode, but I don’t. The character has been an albatross around the neck of Loki this season, and I hope that’s the last we see of any variant of He Who Remains. Renslayer and Miss Minutes–a delightfully wicked new villain–came to the realization that they don’t need HWR and never did. Let’s run with that from here on out, Marvel.

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