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TVA’s fate hangs in the balance in chaotic Season 2

Just two years and three months after “Loki” premiered on Disney+, just 27 months! — The Marvel series is back with its second season. If you’re detecting sarcasm, there’s the irony of a program about time Really expanded the limits of a reasonable interval between seasons.

Those more dedicated to the Marvel Cinematic Universe may not see it that way, but it feels like a mistake. The first season gets a big boost as Tom Hiddleston’s endlessly entertaining Norse god of mischief Loki gets a taste of his own medicine in the Orwellian bowels of the Time Variance Authority before teaming up with Owen Wilson’s laconic TVA agent. Mobius M. To Mobius… honestly? Don’t even remember.

But the fate of the universe is at stake! And Jonathan Majors’ Kang, the agent of chaos also known as the Remnant, is somehow at the root of it all.

As you may recall, the Majors are in the middle of some real-world problems. At the beginning of this year, the actor charged It was learned that the case filed against him for allegedly attacking and harassing his then-girlfriend is still ongoing. That happened too accused Engaging in violent or abusive behavior in other workplace settings. All of this overshadows his appearance here. Even his performance—primarily one of the character’s variants, the crazy professor type named Victor Timely—feels like something plucked from a Saturday morning cartoon, a bag of tricks full of clunky choices and halting delivery. “We don’t need him,” a character says at one point. “Maybe we never did.” It’s a line that works as a commentary on the Majors’ existence, as if the series were (unintentionally) admitting the obvious.

The six-episode season picks up where the story left off; Loki runs for his life through the corridors of TVA, where he is pursued by Mobius, who does not recognize the man. This is because Loki has slipped through time and we are in the past before he and Mobius met.

Finally, Loki gets Mobius to call the dogs back and listen. A war is coming, he warns. And everything depends on the One Who Remains.

Mobius: “Is that what you call him, or is that his name?”

Loki: “That’s how I was introduced.”

Mobius: “Pretty arrogant. “It’s like calling yourself the Last Man Standing.”

Wilson keeps things light, no matter the project, and works here to bring some gravitas to the series. I especially like a quieter moment between the two; I sit down for a slice of key lime pie and consider my options. What show can’t resist pausing things for some cake?

Oscar winner Ke Huy Quan (“Everything Everywhere at the Same Time”) joins the cast as Ouroboros, nicknamed OB, the TVA equivalent of the IT department. There’s a clever bit where he, Loki, and Mobius use methods like mid-time shifting to solve Loki’s problem.

But ultimately there are bigger problems ahead, namely a battle for the soul of TVA on the brink of collapse. Entire timelines will disappear and people will die (a proposition that is more abstract than meaningful, despite many heartfelt conversations to the contrary), and there is considerable concern about the temporal view, whatever it is. If you suddenly feel like you’re failing physics class, welcome to the club. But Quan is a terrific addition to the cast; He runs frantically around TVA shouting jargon and trying to make a correction. You expect him to borrow a phrase from another team entirely: “I’m giving him everything he’s got, captain!”

Story aside, it’s probably best to approach “Loki” as pure action-adventure. (Spoiler: There’s no story.) It’s a series of set pieces, some better than others. When Loki and Mobius attend a movie premiere, Hiddleston’s dapper appearance in a tuxedo offers a flickering glimpse of the James Bond he could be.

They travel (albeit slightly) through different time branches, and we get the slightest taste of them (Mobius really) driving around to collect Victor Timely and bring him back to TVA during their stay at the Columbian Exposition in Chicago ) Must be scanned to open blast doors. Bravo to the community for saying these lines with a straight face.

From left to right: Tom Hiddleston, Ke Huy Quan and Owen Wilson in Season 2 "Loki."

If “Loki” has a thematic plot that I wish writer Eric Martin could follow with some effort, it’s this: TVA employees have all been kidnapped from their respective time branches, their memories wiped so they can function better as drones. Maybe the critique of capitalism’s heavy hand is buried there, but the show builds from it, with a minor division. Nothing to see here, folks!

Retro-futuristic production design (from Kasra Farahani) is the show’s calling card, with massive computers, rotary phones, reel-to-reel machines and pneumatic tubes. TVA even has a Vending Machine. I loved this detail. Costume designer Christine Wada dressed TVA’s office workers in shirt-and-tie combinations with endless collars that flow elegantly on both sides to match the shoulders. A fascinating garment!

If emo Loki is a bit boring – “Stop trying to be a hero,” someone tells him, “you’re a villain. You’re good at that. Do HE” — Hiddleston gives the whole thing an air of class. Even so, he wasn’t given much character motivation. It seems that Loki has feelings about the fate of many unseen people that exist in all these different branches of time. Visually, these branches are represented on a large screen in the control center and resemble a diagram of veins and arteries.

Unfortunately there is no heart.

“Loki” — 2.5 stars (out of 4)

Where to watch: Disney+

Nina Metz is a Tribune critic

nmetz@chicagotribune.com

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