With perhaps the arguable exception of “The Falcon and the Winter Soldier,” the other MCU series streaming exclusively on Disney+ have been marvelous experiments in storytelling for the already-massive Marvel Cinematic Universe setting. “WandaVision” had the quirkiness of following a show within a show, while the ongoing (and soon-to-conclude) “Loki” tackles the nature of variations on a character with an overarching archetype. Of course, that simple premise has been carried magnificently through four episodes by Tom Hiddleston as the titular Loki, a variant that branched off from the “canon” MCU Loki that died in “Avengers: Infinity War.” In the fifth episode this past Wednesday, the character variance reaches critical mass.
“Loki” episode five, “Journey into Mystery,” sees Hiddleston’s Loki (variant L1130 to differentiate from dead, canon-MCU Loki) in the aftermath of being “pruned” from the Sacred Timeline by the increasingly sketchy TVA. He finds himself in a dimension where all variants pruned by the TVA end up, which includes quite the variety of Lokis too: a Kid Loki (Jack Veal) who killed his Thor, an older (Classic) Loki portrayed by Richard E. Grant, and even an Alligator version. They tell our Loki that they are trapped in the Void, where a cloud creature called Alioth devours anyone trying to escape.
There in the Void, two opposing camps of Loki variants vie for supremacy and survival, with Kid Loki’s small party against a larger group led by a President Loki (also Hiddleston). Some crazy shout-outs to fans pop up here, from Classic Loki revealing he survived his supposed death by Thanos through illusion-casting a double and disguising himself as debris (a favored theory by viewers of “Infinity War”), to seeing the wreckage of a helicopter with Thanos’ name (this one a sendup to a “The Electric Company” kids-oriented Marvel tie-in where Thanos does fight Spider-Man and other heroes with his Thanos-copter).
Elsewhere, Loki variant Sylvie (Sophia Di Martino), who witnessed Loki being pruned by TVA Judge Renslayer (Gugu Mbatha-Raw) in the previous episode, goes on a flight of fancy by deliberately pruning herself too, in hope of ending up where Loki is. That is understandable given how their surprise developing affection for one another was so reality-warping that it got them recaptured by the TVA to begin with. Upon landing at the Void, Sylvie is aided by the also-pruned Agent Mobius (Owen Wilson), and they set off to find L1130 together.
Loki himself has just managed to escape a fight with President Loki alongside most of Kid Loki’s posse, finally being reunited with Sylvie. They work out a plan to lure in the Alioth so that Sylvie could enchant it, while Mobius returns to the TVA using the TemPad Sylvie swiped from Renslayer before self-pruning. To ensure the plan works, Classic Loki sacrifices himself, inspiring Loki with both the possibility of real redemption and the true potential of a Loki’s full powers. He helps Sylvie enchant the Alioth, clearing their path out of the Void towards a place where they believe the true power behind the TVA’s creation lies in wait.
The “Loki” creative team really pulled a moonshot with the developments in this episode, balancing moving the storyline forward with more though exercises on the concepts of variations to a character theme. For all his limited screen-time, Grant’s Classic Loki makes quite the impact with his musings on becoming superfluous to a narrative, but still affirming that for all the meanness and cruelty they can muster any Loki still has the possibility to be better. It may have been this sentiment that pushes his character to die “purposely” so that L1130 and Sylvie can succeed.
With the sixth and final episode coming Wednesday next week, the time has come to speculate on how “Loki” will wind down compared to its contemporaries “WandaVision” and “The Falcon and the Winter Soldier.” Both had some notable character reinventions for the finale (Wanda becoming the Scarlet Witch and Falcon taking up the Captain America mantle), so it is interesting to guess at what will happen to L1130-Loki and Sylvie moving forward. The series has been confirmed with another season in development, so fans will be looking forward to what elements will remain to be taken up in the follow-up.
MCU’s “Loki” concludes next week, July 14, exclusively on Disney+.
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