Sunday, June 16, 2024

Loki-verse Shenanigans Take Us into the Finale

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Back around the time of Loki’s premiere, Tom Hiddleston had an interview with TikToker @theoriesbyt where he mentioned that episodes 4 and 5 of the season were his favorites. They were the ones that took the series in a direction he did not expect. Now, I expressed my love for episode 4 last week and how it showed the type of skillful storytelling a step above the usual MCU standard.

You can imagine my excitement for episode 5 after hearing Hiddleston’s comments and loving episode 4 like I did. Did Loki live up to this hype with its penultimate episode? It most certainly did. “Journey into Mystery” was packed full of fun moments, delightful cameos, and references I could never have expected from the series.

It was nothing like I expected, and everything I did not know I wanted, which has been the common theme of this wonderful series.

Gator Loki

Basically, “Journey into Mystery” was Into the Lokiverse, with Sylvie and Loki navigating a bevy of other variants in the Void at the end of time as they attempted to find the true power behind the TVA while being forced to confront their pasts and evolving character journeys along the way. And when I say a bevy of Lokis, I mean it. Besides the Gator, Kid, Classic, and Boastful Loki we met in the mid-credits of last week’s episode, this episode introduced a good dozen or so more.

An early scene eliminates most of them in an absolute classic moment, where a gang of Lokis keeps trying to double-cross each other to take power over all the others. This, plainly, was one of the best things the MCU has ever done. Between Gator Loki biting hands off and being yeeted at other Lokis, the absurd surprise with each betrayal, and the absolute embarrassment TVA Loki feels at seeing what he used to be, I have possibly never had so much fun watching anything Marvel has ever made.

The whole opening with this multitude of Lokis was such fun for the way it pokes fun at all the betrayals and sureties of some glorious purpose, along with the stories of how each of the four Lokis introduced last week became variants.

From there the episode returns to its core concept of Sylvie and Loki, and the evolution of their dynamic into something resembling genuine trust and emotional bonding for the first time in their lives. Look, these two have been the show’s bread and butter since Sylvie’s reveal in the second episode of the season. They continued to be the highlight this week, even among such incredible moments as the Loki brawl and Classic Loki’s final stand against the murderous Alioth robot threatening to wipe our heroes out. These are two terrifically drawn characters being moved along convincing character arcs with damn near perfect pacing.

Among all the action and fun of this episode, Loki and Sylvie still find one quiet scene where they simply look out over the destroyed emptiness of the Void and try to come to terms with their newfound, entirely unfamiliar trust and caring for each other. I loved everything about it. The nervous, unfamiliar energy, the dialogue choices, the expressions of each actor as the conversation shifts, they nailed it.

Now, Loki has been a good, if somewhat inconsistent character since the damn near beginning of the MCU juggernaut. This show has basically repeated Loki’s character journey from The Dark World and Thor: Ragnarok, but in a more focused and compelling fashion, and that is no surprise. He is one of the most popular MCU characters for a reason.

Still, I am impressed by how consistently excellent his journey has been throughout what is essentially a condensed version of a two-movie arc. Again, seeing his pure shame and realization of what he once was during the Loki brawl was a skillfully effective way to show his growth throughout the season. He was that kind of person a mere three episodes ago.

And to Sylvie’s credit, she has more than held her own and come out of this show as the biggest, most pleasant surprise of the story.  Her decision to prune herself so that she could search for Loki in the Void was a moment of sudden, well-realized character development that, yet again, exemplifies just how good the writing on this show has been. The blanket scene was even more important for her than it was for her co-main character.

Dipping into the mirror antagonist well yet again could have steered this show in an entirely different and far less interesting direction, but Sylvie has been excellent, and I badly want her to become a staple of the MCU post-Loki.

Here I am, 700-words in, and I have not even mentioned Mobius’s appearance or the hug Loki tosses at him with little hesitation.

Kid, Classic, and Original Loki

Like the other MCU shows so far, this penultimate episode served as the emotional climax and resolution of the season. Loki and Sylvie reaffirm their growth and bond with each other. Mobius comes fully around to helping stop the TVA while reaffirming his bond with his new variant friend. Everyone has finished becoming the person the events of the season have made them, and the finale will simply be the narrative climax where they display their growth.

“Journey into Mystery” even managed to squeeze in a highlight single-episode character arc with Classic Loki, who seems the most lost of the variants after a lifetime of hiding in isolation and finds purpose in helping Sylvie and Loki enchant the Alioth.

Now I am nearly 900 words in and I have not even mentioned all the interesting bits of dialogue, the incredible references (yes, that was Throg in a jar trying to grab Mjolnir and yes, that was a Thanos-copter), or the ending reveal of a mansion/castle beyond the end of time. I also desperately want to know how and why Kid Loki killed Thor. I could probably brag about my theory last week regarding the survival of Lokis being a thing, and how Sylvie and Loki nearly dying caused their Nexus Event, was strengthened.

Typically when a show leaves me with too much to cover in these reviews, it is either because they have too many problems to talk about or too much good to gush over. Loki definitely falls into the latter camp.

Now that the finale is upon us, and we can probably expect something resembling the typical MCU climax involving heavy action scenes, I can safely say that Loki is not only the best of the MCU shows so far, but arguably my favorite MCU story, period. If its finale bucks the MCU trend and continues the high quality of every episode so far, it will be my favorite MCU story. This show has been outstanding from day one and just continues to surprise and delight me with each new episode.

This is superhero storytelling at its best; a fantastical, weird, vibrant, entertaining, thought-provoking piece of speculative fiction steeped in the evolution of some top-notch characters.

Images Courtesy of Marvel Studios

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