Loki, Episode 2, "The Variant" | Dragon Age: Origins, "Princely Tasks"
Lots of running around!
TV REVIEW /// Loki, Episode 2, "The Variant"
Episode summary: Mobius puts Loki to work, but not everyone at TVA is thrilled about the God of Mischief's presence. (IMDb)
I was a little concerned that this second episode of Loki would struggle to live up to the excellent first showing and - while it isn't quite at the same level - its pretty bloody good. It looks like the secret sauce for this series is definitely going to be Tom Hiddleston and Owen Wilson's amazing chemistry as Loki and Mobius, because I'd be happy to watch an entire episode of just them talking right now.
However, there may be an issue with the next episode then as they go their separate ways at the end of "The Variant" thanks to the reveal of the other alternate Loki the TVA has been trying to hunt down as 'Lady Loki', played by Sophia Di Martino. Having seen a screenshot of what must've been a blindingly-short reveal in-episode that her name is actually Sylvie Laufeydottir, it looks like this character is a mash-up of Loki and a version of the Enchantress from the comics.
It'll be interesting to see exactly how the rest of the series will be structured from here, as most of this episode seemed to be setting up a cat-and-mouse game that might last a while, which is why it was so surprising that it was done away with in the same episode. There's no hanging about so far, but I am a little concerned that the show might not be able to maintain the momentum.
Indeed, there are a couple of moments in this episode that feel a little too dragged out - yes, the characters are stalling for time and, yes, I get that the show needs to make that point for all audiences, not just me. But those moments went on just that little too long and made me want the show to just get on with it, which is quite the achievement considering how much information about this new part of the MCU has been thrown at us in two episodes.
These 'pauses' in proceedings are the only real knock against this episode in contrast to "Glorious Purpose", although it's almost balanced out by just how much fun Hiddleston and Wilson seem to be having. There are moments which feel on the verge of indulgence because the characters are so much fun to watch, yet director Kate Herron keeps things from tipping too far in that direction and leaves us with a really, really good start to a season and an intriguing set-up for what's to come - not just in Loki, but future movies too.
"The Variant" is a really solid follow-up to the first episode, with a further expansion of the story as multiple time periods are visited and more is revealed - including the primary antagonist (at least, so far). A couple of moments when characters stalling for time stretch on a little too long and feel more like the episode is padding out its length, but the incredible chemistry between Hiddleston and Wilson continues to elevate proceedings into something special.
[8/10 - Very Good]
GAME PLAY /// Dragon Age: Origins, "Princely Tasks"
Okay, so it turns out I'd forgotten more about this game than I realised before heading into the Deep Roads proper, even if there is a brief excursion this time around to fetch back a dwarven noble to help Prince Bhelen take the throne. Why I'm helping Bhelen will be explained in a later post, but it's all part and parcel of the Westerosi-esque politics that plague the city of the dwarves.
As if returning the noble to vote wasn't enough, Bhelen then asks Elissa and her group to eliminate the Carta, an organised crime syndicate, and their leader, Jarvia. Following this 'request' from the prince, the team head off to Dust Town, where the underclass of Orzammar society live and into the lair of the Carta - although I have to say that I don't know how I found the entrance to the Carta's base originally as there's no indication of where to go and what to, so just make sure to speak to everyone and check every door.
Once inside, it's pretty much a bloodbath as you carve your way through the Carta, mercenaries and plenty of traps, picking up plenty of loot along the way - again, make sure you have a character with lockpicking maxed out to get the most out of your visit. At the end is a boss fight against Jarvia and a room full of her people, so it's just a case of taking out the help first before beating the shit out of her and leaving.
Oh, I should point out that this isn't the most scenic section of the game, which is why I've re-used the image from the last part of the adventure - I'm saving images of the Deep Roads for when in them for the duration, and the Carta base is pretty much grey walls and enclosed rooms. Dragon Age: Origins wasn't the prettiest of games even when it first came out and time has certainly done no favours for this section.
At least the team is pretty powerful now with so much of the story done - I had Shale and Zevran with me for this part and, aside from the latter coming close to death on a few occasions before Wynne saved his arse with a heal, they were killing things so quickly that most of my attacks couldn't even complete before they were beaten down or decapitated.
On the other hand, while it's fun to now be tearing through whatever opposition the game puts in front of my group, the disconnected nature of the dwarven setting and the constant prolonging of the story with each task completion followed by another "there's just one more thing..." from Bhelen like a shitty Columbo is tiresome in the extreme. Considering the tedium that's headed our way, it feels like one of rescuing the noble and eliminating the Carta could've been removed.
Ah well, a lengthy spell of near-constant combat coming up...