Another Wednesday, another episode of Loki. For my takes on previous episodes, go here.
Warning! Spoilers behind the cut!
ETA: Camestros Felapton shares his thoughts on the episode here.
When we last met our favourite God of Mischief, he and his variant Sylvie were just about to be blown up along with the exploding planet Lamentis, one of the apocalypses where Sylvie likes to hide from the TVA.
When their last way of escaping the doomed planet was destroyed, Sylvie wandered off. Loki follows her and finds her in the wasteland surrounding the city, where they sit down on a rock, hold hands and wait for the world to end.
Sylvie finally opens up and tells Loki that the TVA grabbed her when she was only a child. We see this happening in a flashback scene, as Sylvie, who’s about nine or ten in human years, is arrested while playing with what looks like a Playmobil viking ship and subjected to the same dehumanising treatment that we previously saw Loki subjected to. Only that it’s so much more awful, as is the impending disintegration, when it’s a young child who’s treated like that. However, Sylvie manages to avoid being disintegrated by stealing the TemPad of the TVA agent who arrested her – none other than Ravonna Renslayer – and escaping. Sylvie tells Loki that she was on the run for years, cause wherever she went, the TVA immediately appeared, until she figured out that she could hide out in apocalypses. “And so that’s where I grew up, the ends of a thousand worlds,” she tells Loki, “And now, that’s where I’ll die.”
Loki tells Sylvie that she is amazing to have survived all that on her own and that what makes them special is not the chaos that they cause or the fact that they seem to be destine to lose, but that they always survive, no matter how many times they are killed. They hold hands and look deep into each other’s eyes, just as the planet is about the be destroyed. And then, just in the nick of time, the TVA shows up, led by Mobius and Hunter B-15.
For Ravonna Renslayer is desperate to recapture Sylvie, the variant that got away from her, and Loki, the variant that Mobius decided to adopt. Mobius thinks that Hunter C-20 might have some insight, especially since she kept saying “It was real, it was all real” over and over again. Ravonna, however, tells Mobius that Hunter C-20 is dead, her mind destroyed by Sylvie. Mobius finds this difficult to believe, because C-20 seemed confused and distraught, but otherwise fine, when he and his team found her.
Before Mobius can press Ravonna (and come on, it’s pretty obvious that those two are colleagues with benefits) any further with regard to C-20, they are distracted by a massive branch in the sacred timeline, a so-called Nexus Event. They deduce that this is where Loki and Sylvie are hiding and sent a team to arrest them.
And so Loki and Sylvie are rescued from the impending apocalypse on Lamentis, only to find that they’ve escaped the frying pan only to land in the fire, because the TVA is determined to disintegrate them both, once they’ve figured out just what it was that caused the Nexus Event. Loki and Sylvie are separated, which bothers Loki quite a bit. Loki tries to tell Mobius that the TVA is lying to him, but Mobius won’t have any of it. He throws Loki into a kind of temporal torture chamber, where he relives a moment where Sif (played once again by Jamie Alexander now that Blindspot has ended) punches him and kicks him in the crotch, after Loki cut off her hair, over and over again. Sif also tells Loki that he’s alone and always will be, which clearly bothers him. Loki tries to make Sif listen to him long enough to explain what’s happening, but he only gets punched again and again.
This scene implies that Loki and Sif used to have a relationship, only that Loki blew it by being himself. Well, considering that Sif never got Thor to notice her, though not for lack of trying, it does make sense that she would eventually give up pining over Thor and give Loki a try. Only that Loki is who he is, so it doesn’t work out.
Mobius, meanwhile, tries to persuade Ravonna to let him interrogate Sylvie as well. But Ravonna declares that Sylvie is just too dangerous – after all, she destroyed the mind of poor C-20 – and that Ravonna is worried Sylvie will hurt Mobius, too.
Meanwhile, Hunter B-15 is having some doubts of her own, for when Sylvie briefly took over her mind, she also dug up some long erased memories of B-15’s life before she became a TVA agent. And so B-15 goes against orders to see Sylvie. She opens a time portal and tells Sylvie to come with her. The two women once again find themselves outside the doomed Roxxcart superstore from episode 2, where Sylvie took over B-15’s mind. B-15 now wants to know what the hell is going on, whereupon Sylvie tells her that’s she a variant like all TVA agents and had her memories erased. B-15 is understandably shocked and asks Sylvie to show her her memories again, which Sylvie does. “I don’t know who I was”, a tearful B-15 declares (great acting from Wunmi Mosaku, who didn’t get a lot to do in the show so far), “But I look like I was happy.”
I think this scene would have worked better, if we had seen the memories that Sylvie showed B-15, and indeed I wonder why we didn’t get to see them. AV-Club reviewer Caroline Siede wonders whether this might be the effect of covid restrictions on filming that instead of a montage of B-15’s memories, featuring multiple actors, we merely get two actresses standing six feet apart in the rain. She might be on to something, especially considering how much of Loki consists of two people sitting alone in a room.
That said, even if B-15’s moment of truth is just Wunmi Mosaku standing around in the rain, it’s still powerful, because it shows just how awful the TVA really is. They take people away from their lives and families, erase their memories and – in the case of B-15 and C-20 – they even take away their names. Whatever higher purpose the TVA claims to serve, they are clearly the villains in this piece.
After hell knows how many times of Loki getting punched and kicked in the crotch, Mobius finally lets him out and we get another round of Loki and Mobius sitting in a room, chipping away at each other’s defenses. Mobius is furious at Loki for going after Sylvie and tells him he’s a bad friend, which must sting, since Loki clearly has abandonment issues. Loki tries to feed Mobius some bullshit that he and Sylvie had been working together for a long time and that he’s just using her, but Mobius isn’t fooled. He casually drops that Sylvie has already been disintegrated. The devastated look on Loki’s face tells Mobius everything he needs to know. Loki has fallen in love with Sylvie, which – as Mobius points out – is the ultimate in narcissism. However, as io9 reviewer James Whitbrook points out, it’s also Loki – whom we learn is lonely, was an outsider all his life and doesn’t like himself very much – learning to love himself or rather herself.
Now I think that it would do Loki a world of good to have someone in his life. Though I can’t help but notice that following the revelation that Loki was bisexual, the two times we see him in a relationship or at least at the beginning of one in this episodes, both times the partner is a woman, namely Sylvie and Sif. This continues the tradition of Disney only mentioning LGBTQ+ people in blink and you’ll miss it scenes, which can easily be cut for distribution to a conservative country.
Loki, meanwhile, drops the bomshell that the TVA agents are all variants who were kidnapped and had their memories erased. “You had a life and a family”, a desperate Loki tells Mobius, but Mobius is having none of it. After all, Loki is a compulsory liar, so no one believes him, even when he’s telling the truth. “You’re the greatest liar here”, Loki tells Mobius before he’s sent back into the time cell to get punched and kicked by Sif some more, “Cause you’re lying even to yourself.”
Next, we see Mobius in Ravonna’s office, celebrating the closing of the case. Ravonna tells Mobius that Loki and Sylvie will be pruned and that the Time Keepers themselves want to oversee the execution. Mobius is invited as well . “Where would you go, if you could go anywhere?” Ravonna asks Mobius. Mobius has no answer to that, after all, he’s already been everywhere.
Even though Mobius brushed off Loki’s remark that the TVA agents are all variants, he, too, is beginning to have his doubts. And so he distracts Ravonna to steal her TemPad (Ravonna sure has her TemPad stolen a lot) to access the classified files about Hunter C-20. He learns that Hunter C-20 really is dead, but not from brain damage, but because Ravonna killed her, when C-20 insisted that the memories Sylvie showed her were real and that she once had a life and friends.
Now he knows that Loki was telling the truth, Mobius rescues him from the time cell. “You can be anything you want”, Mobius tells Loki, just before they return to the TVA to kick arse and take names, “Even someone good. Just in case no one ever told you that before.”
However, once they make it back to the TVA, Ravonna and her goons are already waiting for them. Mobius confronts Ravonna and tells her that the place where he most wants to go is wherever he was from when the TVA took him. Oh yes, and he also wants a jet ski. Ravonna is not impressed, but disintegrates Mobius.
Is this the end of Mobius? Personally, I doubt it. First of all, not even Marvel hires an actor of Owen Wilson’s calibre for only three episodes. And besides, in comicss and comic related media, no one is ever really dead.
However, since Mobius is at least temporarily dead, Ravonna takes Loki and Sylvie to the Time Keepers for execution. Sylvie wants to know just what exactly the Nexus Event that caused her to be taken by the TVA was, but Ravonna claims she doesn’t remember.
I have to admit that I was surprised, when the elevator opened and there really were Time Keepers, because I had assumed that the Time Keepers were long dead, if they had ever existed, and that Ravonna was secretly running the TVA. However, the Time Keepers turn out to be about as real as the wonderful Wizard of Oz, for once Loki and Sylvie break free – with some help from B-15 – and fight off the TVA, Sylvie beheads one of the Time Keepers, only to realise that the Time Keepers were robots all along and fake after all.
Regarding the Time Keepers, they did look pretty fake and the CGI was remarkably bad for a company with as much money as Marvel/Disney. Their dialogue was also almost impossible to understand. Not that it matters much, because they turn out to be fake anyway. The Time Keepers’ lair turns out to be icy cold and emblazoned with glowing odal runes (and an odal rune shows up in the title sequence as well). The odal rune stands for legacy and inheritance BTW. I wonder whether that will be significant.
Sylvie is understandably frustrated that her grand plan only led her to the decapitation of three robots. Loki, meanwhile, tries to confess his feelings to her, only that he’s really bad at it. Just before he can kiss her, Ravonna – who was knocked out during the fight – recovers and disintegrates Loki. A furious Sylvie attacks and disarms Ravonna. “Kill me”, Ravonna says, but Sylvie has no intention to kill her. Instead, she wants the truth.
The twist that the Time Keepers are not what they seem is rather predictable, as Gavia Baker-Whitelaw, Emmet Asher-Perrin and Caroline Siede point out. Just as the fact that Ravonna is a villainess is not all that surprising, though personally I hadn’t expected her to be the cold-blooded murderess she turns out to be.
Talking of which, it’s interesting that while most Marvel villains so far have been men, all three Marvel/Disney+ TV series to date had female villains, namely Agatha in WandaVision, Karli Morgenthau, Sharon Carter and the somewhat ambiguous Countess Valentina in The Falcon and the Winter Soldier and now Ravonna Renslayer in Loki.
As for Loki, even if Tom Hiddleston is tired of the role, it’s unlikely that they would kill off the title character halfway through the series. And indeed, the mid credits sequence reveals Loki coming to somewhere else. “Am I dead?” he asks. “No, but you soon will be, unless you come with us”, a voice says and the camera pans up to reveal four more Loki variants. There’s Richard E. Grant, dressed up in an exact copy of the Jack Kirby designed costume Loki wore in the Thor comics of the 1960s. There is a teenaged Loki, who is apparently supposed to be Kid Loki, a character from the Young Avengers comics. There is a black man carrying mjolnir, who might also be a Thor variant. And finally, there is lizard Loki who is literally a lizard.
As cliffhangers go, this one is certainly intriguing. And it also ramps up the Doctor Who links once again, because Richard E. Grant has been an unofficial Doctor not once but twice.
What plot there is does heat up in “The Nexus Event”, though it’s still notable that Loki doesn’t have a lot of plot. This is a show that works mainly because of its stars and their chemistry. Tom Hiddleston really get to show off his skills here, including showing the vulnerable side of Loki. Sophia di Martino not only had great chemistry with Hiddleston, but also managed to portray Sylvie’s vulnerability. Owen Wilson again has a lot of chemistry with Tom Hiddleston and also brings across Mobius’ growing doubts well. Wunmi Mosaku doesn’t get much to do, but the scene where she gets to see her memories is great. And casting the normally likeable Gugu Mbatha-Raw as a villainess is a great idea.
The reviews of the last two episodes may be delayed a little because of the 2021 July short story challenge.
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