NOTHING BUT SPOILERS (Because That’s How You Learn) #11
by Stacey Jones
EDITOR’S ALERT: This is the latest installment of Stacey Jones’ discussion of Loki and its place in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Or is it the Marvel Televerse? The real universe, maybe? My mind, it be a’wondering.
Anyway, like it says in the title of this post, a world of SPOILERS awaits below the thin red line. Oh, and also an assumption that you’re familiar with the MCU!
JOURNEY INTO MYSTERY
It’s coming down to the nitty gritty, now, kids!
Opening with a neat, slow spiral where up is down, and down is up, we soon come to the first big Renslayer indicator!
Up until now, her role in this tale has been a shadowy void of possibilities and speculation based on classic comic book storylines.
Now, it seems, writer Tom Kauffman and the creative team are ready to give us a little bit more as we draw near to what promises to be an absolutely spectacular finale episode.
The Judge finds herself at the stabby, hurty end of Sylvie’s confiscated pruner, and discovers she has some information to trade with. First of all, she knows that pruning is not death, merely a transport to The Void at the End of Time.
“And what if I told you Loki isn’t dead?” she counters, as Sylvie indicates she’s entering Instant Kill mode.
It’s the only thing Ravonna could say at this point to halt her impending death, and it works as intended. This is power and control, and shows us how much Renslayer has had all along. Sylvie has no choice but to ask the question.
“How is he still alive? And how will saving him get us closer to who’s really behind the TVA?” Sylvie asks. Is she deflecting her care and concern for Loki here to protect him, or is it that she is still completely on her own mission? I don’t know … and that’s exhilarating and terrifying and I like it like that.
Here’s the real giveaway in the scene though, that shines a light on Renslayer and her place in this story.
“It’s complicated,” she replies, and all I can think of is a Facebook relationship status.
I’d say that this line is the confirmation that she indeed running the TVA on Kang’s behalf, while he is off fighting a TimeWar against someone/thing else (or, he’s somehow trapped behind Alioth and cannot get back and the Judge has been trying to figure out how to rescue him).
I think that Mr. Feige and the creative force guiding the MCU, as well as the specific creative team at Loki have had us so distracted with the either/or Kang/Mephisto fan theories that nobody is considering that this series could be dropping BOTH on us right now.
The WandaVision stuff with magic, tying into Dr. Strange 2, makes the Mephisto theory viable. The time-hopping, technology based, magic-dampened world of the TVA makes the Kang theory strong (as well as the character’s confirmed appearance in the upcoming Ant-Man 3).
In fact, it makes Kang’s appearance in the show pretty much a guarantee from the start. This allowed the creative team to keep laying obvious easter eggs down that set the fanbase aflame with speculation and keep them focused on the Kang question, while creative has told us what’s really happening all along.
Back in episode one, Miss Minutes explained the timeline war to Loki. She’s talking about current events, not something that happened “in the the past”.
Where the TVA is, there’s no before or after. All time is now. The time-line war is happening now. And Kang is fighting that war against an unknown opponent, who will be the real surprise reveal in the show. It could be Mephisto, sure … BUT:
It occurs to me, just now, that Richard E. Grant was so marvelous as Classic Loki, that it seems a waste to have him gone so soon.
The dramatic effect of having him return from his apparent heroic and sacrificial death in this episode, to be Kang’s opponent in the finale, cannot be calculated on Midgard.
It’s a safe bet that Classic Loki is, in fact, an older version of “our” Loki and presumably a more favorable presence in our Midgard timelines than Kang will ever be.
Since the TVA are a mechanism of the villain Kang, that makes their nemesis the Hero of the series.
I told you in my analysis of episode 1 that Loki was the hero, not the villain as the TVA put forth. It’s clear now, that it’s not just “our” Loki, though. It’s all the best versions of him. The ones that can grow.
Not to say that Mephisto isn’t planted here somewhere. Could be that Classic Loki is big M in disguise, giving “our” Loki that push towards fighting the good fight against Kang for his own demonic purposes, or simply to unite the power of the Lokis as an effective weapon. There’s a set-up here for many possible twists, shock reveals, and other assorted stuff sure to cause fan embolisms.
Back to this episode, aptly titled “Journey into Mystery”, we join Loki as he quickly learns the rules and regs of the timeless garbage dump he’s in, with variant versions of himself.
Even though exposition is a term that is thrown around with derision, the trick is to tell a story in a way that when it comes time to have a little of it, the fans watching are ready and eager for it.
In this case, people who don’t know the entire comics history get a quick fill in on Alioth and the being’s purpose in the story, and the more astute fan gets some confirmations and bread crumbs on the path towards revelation.
This episode is absolutely lousy with references and call backs in the very best way, acting pretty much like a flashbang grenade on our senses.
I was stunned, shocked, thrilled, and amused by turns as I made repeated use of the pause button during this installment.
Joining Sylvie and Renslayer on the verge of an agreement, it seems the Judge is still on mission regarding the apprehension of Sylvie, though the Time-Keepers have been revealed to be artificial. This indicates her allegiance to the entity that created the robotic illusion that Renslayer presides over.
Everything the Judge does is in service to this “mystery” Mang, uh man … and in this scene Gugu Mbatha-Raw’s performance is so nuanced and layered, I feel like I am watching a woman desperate to please the man she loves because if she doesn’t, there’s gonna be a retribution.
Armed with Renslayer’s previous breadcrumb drop, Sylvie makes the last choice she can towards reuniting with Loki, and prunes herself.
No time is wasted injecting Mobius (thankfully!) back into the story as he rescues Sylvie from Alioth, before a Battle of the Lokis takes place in the underground hideout.
The action sequence here is low on dialog but high on information. One quickly determines that the majority of Loki’s are so base and undeveloped, their self-interest leads to frequent and comic implosions of allegiance to any specific one of them … even President Loki, who proved only to be a hair smarter than those he led.
Classic, Kid, Gator and “ours” make a quick escape to a scene that lays out the heart of Loki’s journey within the series. Classic is disgusted and infuriated by the base deeds that so many versions of him commit to (because they remind him of his own past deeds before he had his epiphany.
Now we are back on that bit about “integration, loving and forgiveness of self, and striving to be better than we have been” thing I mentioned in a previous analysis). Classic laments the Glorious Purpose, and the deeds done attempting to fulfill it.
Kid’s dialog here is especially poigniant, stating that a Loki who wants to change for the better has not been allowed to and is pruned to the Void. That’s a pretty big reveal and paves his way towards the Young Avengers besides.
Clearly, Kid has real regret about killing his brother. On that theme, Classic was eventually found because he missed his brother and tried to contact him. And Loki demonstrated his love for Thor throughout the MCU timeline as we know it.
It is clear that the thing that rises any Loki above the many self-sabotaging xeroxes of themselves, is the capacity to truly love another being. The difference between a narcissist, and a functioning, healthy human. One suspects that in some scaly way, even Gator is experiencing this same journey.
Loki convinces Kid, Gator and Classic to help him break out and bring down the TVA as the pace picks up. Sylvie and Mobius come to a place of understanding and move past it. Mobius’ regret is real. “I really thought we were the good guys … I guess when you think the ends justify the means, there’s not much you won’t do.” You can put a pin in that one for later.
When the team reunites near Alioth, Hiddleston is perfect in his reactions to seeing both Sylvie and Mobius alive. Once again, Loki demonstrates a very real and large capacity for love.
Catching up with Renslayer, it’s hard to see her as anything but greasy as she puts the pressure on Hunter B-15, and there’s real viewer satisfaction as the scene ends with B-15 getting the upper hand, even from her cell.
Moments later, that gets shaken when Renslayer’s interaction with Miss Minutes is punctuated with one of those “everything is going according to plan” grins that are reserved for top tier villains and their most loyal henchpeoples.
The scene with Loki and Sylvie before the final battle is a treat for a million reasons, but the one that matters thematically within the series is that both of them have been on a journey where they have learned love, compassion, and gratitude. The simple acts of saying “thank you” and “you’re welcome” are monumental character moments here.
As our heroes gather on the hilltop overlooking the battlefield to come, the vibe is a heavy blend of poignance, determination, love, trust, and honor, and to see the reactions Sophie di Martino makes as Loki pledges to stay with her just punch like a sledgehammer to the heart.
Anything could happen at this point in the series. This could be the last time we see almost any of them. When Loki and Mobius part and the handshake becomes a hug, we are right back in the best moments of the buddy cop movies of yesterwhen.
There’s something about Mobius saying he’s going to “burn the TVA to the ground” and “thanks for the spark” that once again gets my gears going on Mephisto.
Wow … can you imagine if Mobius has been secretly Mephisto all along? I suppose we may find out more about that in the confirmed Loki, Season 2!
Finally, Sylvie and Loki confront Alioth with their plan to enchant the being and escape the Void. It seems to me, as Loki observes Classic and says “I think we’re stronger than we realize,” that perhaps more powers, and stronger expressions of those powers, come with the healing and growing.
As Loki joins in on the enchantment of Alioth, the comparison to getting a new power as one levels up a hero in a video game cannot be ignored.
Classic’s sacrifice is a wonderful, but hard moment, and if it was the last time we see him, we will never forget him.
And so, we come to the end of this absolutely full value penultimate episode of season 1, as Loki and Sylvie walk hand-in-hand towards the castle beyond The Void and, one suspects, a number of Emmy nominations.
Stacey Jones is an award winning writer, composer, musician, and rebel philosopher who was, in fact, the overall winner of the 2nd running of TVWriter™’s now gone but not forgotten contest, The People’s Pilot. TVWriter™ is happy to welcome him back to the fold