Spoilers for Episode 5 of Loki follow!
After the jaw dropping twists of Loki Episode 4, The Nexus Event, the show has officially entered the third act of its narrative. The timekeepers that supposedly rule over time and protect the sacred timeline are fake, Mobius and Loki were pruned (seemingly erased out of existence), and Sylvie has Ravonna hostage back at the TVA. Episode 5, Journey into Mystery, picks up with Loki at the end of time where everything converges into a single point, The Void, where all beings go when they’re pruned by the TVA. Ravonna also tells this to Sylvie, who determines that she needs to prune herself to reunite with Loki, and in doing so, give herself the best chance at discovering who created the TVA if it was not the Time Keepers. Loki, on the other hand, unites with some more of his variants stuck in The Void, Boastful Loki, Classic Loki, Alligator Loki, and Kid Loki, so he doesn’t become consumed by Alioth, a huge void creature that occupies the end of time ensures that nothing survives.
As always, the creative direction is stunning. Natalie Holt’s score is show stopping, perfectly charged and aptly eerie. The apocalypse at the end of time, while bleak, is imbued with enough quirks to remain visually distinctive and captivating. The costume design variation between the Loki Variants is appreciated for its consistency of the “Loki aesthetic” while also being able to create major distinctions between them. The special effects is stellar for a television show, and the way everything from the city to Alioth to Loki’s constructs are rendered is excellent. Not to mention how Alligator Loki was very cute. Goki, if you will. He didn’t do much plot wise or character wise, but his presence truly made all the difference in the tone of the show. An absolute delight. The vibes are astronomical.
This is probably the last time the show will be able to dedicate a considerable amount of time to character moments, and it takes full advantage of it. The show triple-downs on its central themes of predestination and the ability of a person to truly change. The plot is literally about how Loki is predestined to harm others, and any variation off that path will forcefully be eliminated. In this episode we can see multiple Loki variants who have fallen off that path, but does that mean that they’re still capable of change? Not all of them are. Mobius thought our protagonist Loki is (a sentiment reiterated in this episode), and by comparing him to the alternate versions of himself, we can see if he’s capable of emotional and mental change.
After Mobius theorizes that Loki had fallen in love with Sylvie because she is another version of his narcissistic being, this episode reflects how Loki truly feels about the situation. If Mobius’ hypothesis is true, then Loki would be fawning over every alternate version of himself that he resonates with, no? But he’s not. In fact, he refers to his variants as monsters and finds them detestable. He equates himself himself to them, but calls Sylvie different. He’s enamored with her because she is the idealized version of himself. She has transformed her pain into a mission that is ultimately meant to help people instead of harm them. She has changed, and that is why he follows her, because if she is capable of rising above her predestined end then so is he. It’s a subtle, but interesting perspective on their relationship, and brings a lot of previous of interactions that they’ve had into better focus.
The moments between Loki and Sylvie in this episode are a bit awkward, but intentionally so. The fourth episode revelation that their love caused a major nexus event was a bit abrupt. They only had really one episode to get to know each other, and love is a big word with a hard sell. Further, one cannot help but wonder if romance would even be on the table for the show if Sylvie were a man. This episode takes a few steps back, establishing that they still care for another, but do not know how to even navigate friendships, let alone a relationship. Pairing back the intensity of their relationship was a narrative decision that made a lot of sense and is a better choice than steamrolling it forward in intensity.
The standout of this episode is Classic Loki, played by Richard E. Grant. Since the main Loki of the show is the Loki directly following the events of 2012’s Avengers, his development is stunted compared to the Loki audiences know up to his death in Avengers: Infinity War. A popular fan theory prior to the release of this show was that Loki had somehow survived Thanos brutally snapping his neck. The evidence? Loki has cheated death many, many times before. This was not the case in the sacred timeline, as Loki’s tape ends with his death at the hands of Thanos. Classic Loki, however, did just that, he managed to trick Thanos and survive. This is was a very clever way of being able to incorporate the previous developments that 2012 Loki hadn’t experienced from any of the other Marvel films post-Avengers and see its payoff.
Classic Loki has a lovely little line where he muses that, “Blades are worthless in the face of a Loki’s sorcery, they stunt our magical potential.” This is a reference to how he didn’t try to stab Thanos, but used his magic to get away instead. A Loki’s magic is a medium for self-preservation and trickery. Blades in this show have a deeper meaning, though, as Loki compares love to a dagger in an earlier episode. The line is really a reference to the dichotomy between choosing to fight for those you love and tricking others to save yourself. When Classic Loki ends his tale, he refers to Lokis as the god of outcasts – if you are constantly obfuscating and deflecting rather than allying yourself with those you care about, you will always be alone. This pairs very will with earlier references in the series and even the MCU in general when it comes to Loki confessing that he plays his tricks for attention and strives to feel important, even though it’s ultimately unfulfilling.
Classic Loki meets his end by using the very same sorcery he used to survive Thanos to trick Alioth and save Sylvie and Loki. He proclaims that it’s his glorious purpose, which re-contextualizes the phrase. The Lokis had always believed that since they were better, they should use their natural talents to conquer, but this just leads to constant betrayal and infighting. But here, Classic Loki is using his greatest talent, sorcery, to help those he has grown to care about, and that is his glorious purpose. That is where he finds fulfillment. It’s a fantastic character moment that is only made possible through both the development of Loki in previous films and the thematic basis set up in the rest of the show and built upon in this episode. Details and stories like this would not be granted the proper amount of screen time needed to flesh out their significance in a film, and this episode highlights the value of long-form content in crafting character driven narratives that MCU audiences haven’t seen before the Disney+ shows.
Of course there were events in this episode that pushed the plot forward. Audiences see more of Ravonna’s strict adherence to the order of the TVA, they see how the truth about the TVA employees being variants sways Mobius and B-15 against the TVA. They see how Loki and Sylvie, through working together, find what seems to be the last piece of the puzzle in finally discovering the truth about the origins of the TVA and getting Sylvie’s revenge. While those moments are all executed and paced well, the true strength of the episode is in its character moments; using the Lokis as foils, their weapons as symbols, and their changes in behavior as thematic milestones. All in all, the show is in an excellent place after its penultimate episode. Thus far, Loki has been subversive and interesting at every turn. Somehow, it’s managed to cover a lot of ground in only 5 episodes while simultaneously doing its due diligence in developing characters. An intriguing finale is on the horizon, which hopefully will have a satisfying answer to the mystery behind the TVA, and arrive to the emotional end of Loki’s current arc.