Loki episode 2, The Variant, gave us a lot to digest. Not only was the so-called "sacred timeline" bombed, creating countless branch timelines that threaten the TVA's agenda... Not only did Loki escape to an unknown location, after trying repeatedly and failing to get the upper-hand on the TVA... We also got our first glimpse at a character so-far simply known as 'The Variant'. But who is she? And why, despite her only really having spoken a single line so far, am I immediately in love with her? We're gonna get into it... the who is she part, maybe not the why do I love her part...
So, towards the end of episode 2, Loki is being thrown around by a series of one-off characters whose minds have been enchanted by the variant. In enchanting their minds, she is able to speak directly to Loki without revealing herself until the very last moment. She's been stalling for time. To Loki, it feels personal... but Loki's a self-aggrandising narcissist, so of course it feels personal. When the variant finally reveals her face, she makes sure to put Loki back in his place:
This isn't about you.
The variant the TVA have been chasing, for only two episodes this far, turns out to be... not the Loki everyone expected, but an as yet unnamed woman who actually is revolted at the prospect of being named Loki - at one point she possesses a character named Randy and insists our Loki call her that in the meantime. The question is, though, is she a Loki? Or... better phrasing, is she a variant of Loki? Or is she somebody else? There are some clues this way and that within the episode itself, and outside of it. People have found information in the foreign-language credits for the episode, there's of course a tonne of relevant lore in the comic books, and there are some hidden details within the episode itself. Let's start with the obvious: the show itself, what's explicitly said about this variant...
To Catch a Loki
So, for two episodes we're told that the TVA are hunting a very dangerous variant. It's revealed at the end of episode 1 that it's a Loki they're after, and this is restated repeatedly in episode 2.
We're not just looking for a time criminal, we're looking for a Loki.
The TVA apparently catch a lot of Lokis. Makes sense; of course the god of mischief would find himself diverging from the proper flow of time, time and time again.
But it isn't just the TVA's word we have for it. The variant herself also implicitly speaks as though she is a variant of our Loki. First when she initially possess Hunter B-15:
Me, I presume?
Please, if anyone's anyone, you're me.
And again, while still in the form of B-15:
And here I was worried that they'd found a better version of me.
These sound a lot like a Loki talking, or a variant of him. The variant is talking about herself as though she were truly a variant of Loki. On top of this, she wears the horned crown of a Loki. But... all of this could be misdirection. There are clues within and beyond the episode that might point to a different character entirely...
One of the first details that might give away that this is some other character is her blonde hair. Loki's hair is, of course, black, and there is a related character in the comics with a similar power-set who instead has blonde hair. She's called The Enchantress. There are a couple of characters who adopt that name in fact, but we're more interested in a character called Sylvie Lushton. Sylvie was essentially created by Loki - her back-story in the comics is a little sketchy, a little uncertain, but there is always the commonality of being somehow created or given powers and hypnotised by Loki.
There's a big clue in the foreign-language credits for Loki episode 2, too, which credit Sophia Di Martino not as 'The Variant' but as 'Slyvie'. On top of this, the character is doing something we've not seen Loki do before. She is enchanting people's minds, like an Enchantress might. Loki himself has achieved a similar feat, but only while in possession of the mind stone within his staff. This isn't a power that he's known to have.
Beyond the episode, there are also cast lists for the entire season that... Well, big potential spoiler here. A child actor has been confirmed, Cailey Fleming, who will play a Young Sylvie according to cast listings. This generated some speculation even before the series premiered that she'd be playing Sylvie Lushton, a young version of her, and Sophia Di Martino could be playing the adult form of Sylvie... In fact, that seems to be a given. Sophia Di Martino probably is playing the character of Sylvie...
But... Hold on a second. Di Martino wasn't credited as Sylvie Lushton. She's credited as Sylvie. Just Sylvie. And the cast listing, which we have to remember aren't always genuine though this one seems to be, again doesn't list Cailey Fleming as playing Young Sylvie Lushton. It lists her as playing Young Sylvie.
It sounds like damning evidence against the notion of her being a Loki variant but... is it though?
Our Lady Loki
Hidden away in a document, within the episode itself, there is a final clue. When Loki is sat in the library reviewing variant files, we get a little glimpse of a variant report. Not much that's terribly interesting, of course, just...
Oh my goodness, don't tell me the variant ambushed and killed another team of minute-men? And stole their reset charge as well...
But actually there was a cover page to this report. We see it for barely longer than a frame in close-up before Loki flips pages to the incident report itself. He misses the name on the file, and so do most of us, but it's not Loki's. The name on the file is 'Laufeydottir, Sylvie', or Sylvie Laufeydottir. Not Loki Laufeyson, not Sylvie Lushton... Sylvie Laufeydottir. Sylvie, daughter of Laufey.
This is a name that doesn't make a lot of sense if Sylvie is a mortal hypnotised by Loki, it maybe makes some sense if she's created by Loki and has a falsified history of some sort, but in any case... the history that this briefly named other variant must have, whether true or false, is as being a child of Laufey, just like Loki.
I expect that for the Loki TV series, the writers have borrowed from the source material for both Lady Loki and Sylvie Lushton and fused them into the one character, a genuine variant of Loki whose name is Sylvie Laufeydottir.
It remains to be seen whether she was born as Sylvie, or adopted the form later on. And... let's be honest... some of this could be error or could be part of some plans that were eventually scrapped before reaching the finished product. So we still don't really know anything.
Whoever The Variant is, she is still a mystery to us. All I do know is that she removed her hood, spoke one line, "this isn't about you", delivered with remarkable bite and... now I love her. There's got to be a pamphlet for that at the TVA, right? So You've Fallen Madly In Love With a Loki Variant?