Season 1 Episode 5 is Loki ‘s best episode so far, highlighting just how much our hero has changed through the series with unexpected twists and more than one moment of warmth.
The following review contains spoilers for Episode 5 of Loki.
Loki ‘s Season 1 Episode 5 is not just the series’ best episode so far, but it’s also an example of superb storytelling. If the first four episodes of the show introduced us to Loki (Tom Hiddleston), Sylvie (Sophia Di Martino), Mobius (Owen Wilson) and the many TVA employees we’ve gotten to know and love, “Journey into Mystery” takes full advantage of this knowledge and develops the show’s fascinating characters even further, starting from the God of Mischief himself, in an episode that’s as enthralling and entertaining as it is genuinely heartwarming and meaningful. Screenwriter/series creator Michael Waldron and director Kate Herron have created a product whose narrative structure and character development were so meticulously crafted that nothing has been left to chance.
In four episodes alone, not only have we been introduced to an entirely new universe, complete with its own rules of time and space and a new, all-powerful villain, but we’ve gotten to know these characters to their very core, and we’ve come to really care for them. This week, the series picks up the pace and finally comes full circle, packing many character introductions, shocking revelations, unexpected choices and meaningful moments of bonding into its half-an-hour screen time, and delivering an episode that will make you laugh hysterically one moment, cry your heart out the next, and ultimately leave you wanting more. Which is, after all, what television —and film, as a medium— is all about.
Last week, Episode 4 left us with a lot of unanswered questions. Having realized that all TVA employees are Variants too, our heroes confronted the Time Keepers only to realise that they were not the almighty beings they were promised, and this prompted Ravonna (Gugu Mbatha-Raw) to go on a “pruning spree” that claimed Loki and Mobius’ lives, ultimately leaving Sylvie fighting “Judge Renslayer” on her own, demanding the truth on the TVA. A welcome post-credits scene revealed that Loki didn’t really die, but it still didn’t give anything away about his location, as well as the identity of his new travel companions. But what about Mobius? And what was Loki about to tell Sylvie, right before he was pruned by Ravonna? And, more importantly, how did the TVA come to be, and who is in charge of it? Though issues concerning the TVA’s origins and management are still a mystery, Loki ‘s Season 1 Episode 5 answers most of the other questions, starting with Loki’s whereabouts.
It turns out that the God of Mischief has been sent to “a void at the end of time” — a place on the timeline where “branched realities” end up when they’ve been pruned, so that their “matter” can be destroyed by Alioth, “a living tempest that consumes matter and energy.” But Loki isn’t alone facing the creature in the clouds: his new unlikely allies are yet more Variants of our titular hero, who have been able to avoid being eaten by the monster by doing what they do best — “surviving.” And, though these Variants come in many shapes and sizes (“us as a child, us in the future, and us as an alligator”, as Loki hilariously puts it), they also have a lot in common, starting with their self-centredness and a “glorious purpose” that pretty much consists of not dying.
Unlike the other Variants that’ll show up later in the episode, Classic Loki (Richard E. Grant, of Gosford Park), Kid Loki (Jack Veal, of The End of the F***ing World), Boastful Loki (Deobia Oparei, of Game of Thrones), and (possibly) Alligator Loki are self-aware enough to know they’re destined to fail, but they still lack the one fundamental trait that Loki has acquired through the series, and that has finally enabled him control his own narrative, up till now. That trait is not just the disarming way he can see himself for what he truly is, but also his newly found ability to trust someone else, and learn from them. When Loki tells the other Variants about Sylvie, and recognizes that her plan is better than his own, he shows that he is finally able to care about others more than he does about himself, and that enables him to truly connect with them, and finally stop being alone.
It’s a profoundly changed Loki that we see in this episode, and Tom Hiddleston is, quite simply, immense. It’s one thing to know one’s character well, but it’s another thing entirely to be able to stay in character, and deliver an utterly convincing, deeply affecting performance, when that character is constantly evolving. It’s in Hiddleston’s facial expressions and clever remarks that we recognise the beloved MCU villain we’ve known for years, but the actor also imbues him with the wisdom of someone who’s been in touch with the deepest parts of himself all along, even when they were hidden from our sight.
But seeing all the Loki Variants interact with one another isn’t the only welcome surprise of Episode 5. Miss Minutes (Tara Strong) makes an appearance, and we find out that she might not be as impartial as we thought she was: she, too, can lie and withold information, and her odd, secretive behaviour begs to question where her true loyalties lie. Another ambiguous character is Ravonna, who would appear to be seeking the same information about the TVA our heroes are trying to acquire, and Mbatha-Raw‘s committed performance makes her a well-rounded character even if we don’t yet know who she really is. But Episode 5’s real surprise is the unexpected return of Mobius, who gives us one of the most stylish, adorable, epic comebacks in the history of comebacks, rescuing a newly arrived Sylvie from Alioth on board of an old car with a pizza slice on top.
“Journey into Mystery” is actually the first episode where we see Loki, Mobius and Sylvie truly connect with each other, and the reunion between the three beloved characters is the first of the many heartwarming, moving moments the episode has in store for us. If President Loki’s (Hiddleston) fight with Alligator Loki entertains us with an absurd battle scene that provides much comic relief, it’s not long till we’re turned into emotional wrecks by a series of bonding moments that enable Loki’s humanity to truly emerge. The first of these moments is our hero’s reunion with Sylvie and Mobius, the closest thing to family he has, and even more affecting is his earnest conversation with Sylvie, which assumes yet a different tone than last week‘s. While the two Variants are wrapped in a blanket conjured by Loki himself, the God of Mischief’s raw emotions come to the surface, and we get to see all the confusion of someone who’s gone through a great deal of changes in so little time, as well as all the softness of someone who’s not alone anymore, and who’s still learning how to behave with someone he cares about.
When Loki and Sylvie team up, at the end of the episode, we’re shown just how much “stronger than [they] realise” they are when they’re together, and their power comes in the form of something that goes beyond friendship. It has now become quite clear that Loki has indeed “fallen for himself,” just like Mobius predicted, but the blossoming relationship between the two Variants isn’t as “sick and twisted” as he had imagined it to be: on the contrary, it’s tender and honest, and it might just be the healthiest decision our hero has ever made.
So, what happens when a character who’s been designed to be a “God of Outcasts” starts to behave like a hero and makes all the right choices? With only one episode left in the series, it looks like we’re about to find out. After all, “the end of time is still being written,” and Loki, Sylvie and Mobius are more than up to the task.
Loki ‘s Season 1 Episode 5 is now available to watch on Disney Plus.