The following recap has spoilers for the first episode of Loki Season 2.

If you were hoping Loki would get the Marvel Cinematic Universe back to an emphasis on characters and their emotional arcs, and away from endless plot convolutions and the broader plot of “The Multiverse Saga” ... uh ... The Marvels is only a month away? Maybe that movie will do that stuff?

Loki certainly did not. In fact, this was one of the least character-focused episodes of TV Marvel has produced to date yet for Disney+. The show’s Season 2 premiere, “Ouroboros,” was pretty much a mad dash through time, peppered with loads of not-very-helpful exposition. By the end of the episode a lot has happened, although I would be hard-pressed to explain to you why. Maybe that will become clearer as the season progresses.

At this point, the difference in the two seasons of Loki — which were overseen by two different head writers, Michael Waldron in Season 1 and Eric Martin in Season 2 — are striking. The opening hours of Loki were complicated at times, sure. They introduced the Time Variance Authority, and their role in policing the timestream of the MCU. And they also introduced the notion of “variants,” alternate versions of famous Marvel characters.

LOKI, Season 2
Marvel
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But the beginning Loki Season 1 was also about Loki, the man (or god) played by Tom Hiddleston. It wrestled with his motivations for committing so many heinous acts in the past, and contemplated whether he (and, by extension, anyone) had the capacity to change in the future. Then Loki started a relationship with Sylvie (Sophia Di Martino), one of his variants who’d had an equally miserable life up to that point. Season 1’s science-fiction was rooted in how all those heady ideas about variants impacted the people wandering through the endless hallways of the TVA.

It’s early yet, but Season 2 seems a lot less interested in anything beyond making sense of Marvel’s scrambled multiverse, and precisely how Kang (Jonathan Majors) fits into all of it in the wake of Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania. The awesome cliffhanger from the end of Loki Season 1 — Loki returns to the TVA after Sylvie kills a Kang variant, only to find no one there remembers him and there is now a giant Kang statue looming over the office — is immediately retconned in the Season 2 premiere in deeply disappointing fashion. Instead of an alternate timeline or Loki being erased from history as a result of his actions last season, he’s instead “time slipping” between different points in time inside the TVA, a deeply confusing concept for a few reasons.

For one thing, it was previously established time doesn’t flow linearly at the TVA, so how could you jump around in time linearly there? For another, as Loki bounces between the past and present of the TVA, he begins to alter the future; like when he gives Ke Huy Quan’s character O.B. his nickname by traveling back from the present to a point years before anyone had ever called him that. Avengers: Endgame established a very clear set of rules for time travel in the MCU; rules that included the fact that changing the past does not alter the present. It only creates a new timeline — a concept that worked perfectly with the TVA and their mission to “prune” timelines that strayed from the “sacred” timeline that held the multiverse at bay. In Season 2 of Loki, like a Warren Beatty movie that no one remembers but me, those rules don’t apply.

LOKI, Season 2
Marvel
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Again, maybe later episodes in the season will address this seeming No-Prize-worthy continuity error. Frankly, I’m less concerned about that stuff than the fact that the entire episode had a chicken-with-its-head-cut-off vibe to it. It was manic and antsy, with lots of scenes of Loki and his allies bouncing around to no obvious end. Loki is time slipping? Which could kill him? So he has to be pruned from the timestream — formerly a very bad thing you never wanted to happen — to save himself? And Mobius has to put on a space suit and walk out to a giant “loom” of time to help? But his suit is disintegrating? And they should have an hour to do all this but actually it’s only five minutes? And O.B. needs to shut some doors to do ... something? And it seems like there is a power struggle within the TVA, but who is on which side and why? I felt like I needed Cliffs Notes (or at least a ScreenCrush Easter egg video) to understand any of it.

This is not the Loki premiere I was hoping for. When the Marvel Cinematic Universe was at its peak, it had many ongoing storylines, and they could sometimes get pretty complicated. But at its core, those movies’ appeal were their iconic comic-book heroes; you bought your ticket to follow the ups and downs of Iron Man and Captain America and even Loki. This show has one of Marvel’s most interesting characters, and a wonderful actor in Hiddleston playing him. So far on Loki Season 2 he seems to play second fiddle to performing maintenance on the broader MCU multiverse.

New episodes of Loki premiere weekly on Disney+.

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