This past Wednesday, another chapter of Phase 4 of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) came to an end in the form of yet another limited series, following the alternate-universe “variant” of the one-time big bad for Phase 1: Loki. The Asgardian-raised Frost Giant and God of Mischief became one of the breakout characters of the franchise thanks to the portrayal of Tom Hiddleston. His take on the variant Loki that did not have the same character development as the canon one who died in “Avengers: Infinity War” was expectedly nuanced, especially as his self-titled Disney+ series finally concluded its story.
There are several ways to look at what transpired in “Loki” episode 6: “For All Time. Always.” It can be seen as affirmation of what Tom Hiddleston’s Loki learned from both his viewing of his canon self’s fate and his interactions with the other variant Lokis in the Void: that they can change. Alternatively it can be seen as proof that Loki’s character archetype, particularly his treachery is set in stone, as surprisingly demonstrated by the female variant calling herself Sylvie (Sophia Di Martino). Story-wise, “Loki” might be a solid standalone narrative, or symptomatic of the rut that MCU media is perceived to have fallen.
Going into the episode from previous, Loki and Sylvie managed to pacify Alioth, sentry of the Void where pruned timelines end up. They gain access to a Citadel at the End of Time, where the creator of the Time Variance Authority resides. It turns out to be a human scientist from the 31st Century, calling himself “He Who Remains” (Jonathan Majors). HWR (for brevity’s sake) explains that he formed the TVA and maintained a “Sacred Timeline” of events in the MCU to prevent a catastrophic war between parallel dimensions caused by different variants of himself.
Meanwhile, now-renegade TVA Agent Mobius (Owen Wilson) returns to TVA HQ where he encounters Judge Renslayer, leading to a brief confrontation where the latter beats the former, but only for Renslayer to leave and look for “free will” under last-minute orders given her by HWR. Elsewhere, TVA organization starts falling apart when Hunter B-15 (Wunmi Mosaku) reveals to TVA Minutemen pursuing him the true natures of their organization personnel as variants, calling to question what they have been fighting for.
As HWR finishes his last-episode info-dump, he gives Loki and Sylvie a choice moving forward: to kill him and revert the Sacred Timeline into a multiverse ready to erupt in dimensional war, or take his place as overseers of the TVA. It turns out that these two Loki variants were groomed by HWR via the TVA’s actions for this moment. While Loki L1130 seems amenable, in line with his alternate character development in-series, Sylvie is too traumatized by her childhood under TVA custody that she takes up the “murder HWR” option, forcing the two variants-turned-allies-turned-reluctant lovers to come to blows.
The conclusion of this scuffle plays up the question of whether Loki is capable/incapable of changing his nature. L1130 tries to appeal to Sylvie that they can do something different from what is expected of them as Lokis. Sylvie appears to consider…then pulls a textbook-Loki betrayal by teleporting L1130 back to TVA HQ, leaving her to kill He Who Remains without interference. As consequence, the Sacred Timeline becomes a full multiverse, with all it implies. Loki L1130 finds himself back with the TVA but with nobody, including Mobius and B-15, recognizing him. Furthermore, the statues of the (decoy) Time-Keepers are now replaced by one statue of HWR. To Be Continued.
Yes. “Loki” after all is the first MCU limited series to be green-lit for a second season. But the ending phrase also highlights the show’s integral place in the MCU Phase 4. That “restored” multiverse is sure to be tackled in the animated anthology series “What If…?” as well as the MCU films “Doctor Strange and the Multiverse of Madness” and “Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania.” Setting up plot developments for a later production was the innovation the MCU banked on since Phase 1, leading to “Avengers” in 2012, but there has been an increasing voice of criticism in the fandom that this old horse has worn out its welcome, as it threatens to force “continuity lockout” against late-MCU followers.
Be that as it may, the conclusion of “Loki” was still quite the trip and worth the build-up of the five episodes that came before. One can only guess as to what Loki L1130 will be doing while the multiverse issue is touched upon by other MCU shows and films, before his own series’ second season comes to light, but for the moment he has satisfied fans of the franchise, and his portrayer has sated die-hard Tom Hiddleston groupies, so all in all it was a great MCU installment overall.
Image from Den of Geek