Loki and Mobius have brought Timely back to the TVA in the hope that his He-Who-Remains variant status will help unlock the secrets to saving the TVA and saving the timelines. But Renslayer isn’t far behind, having learned the extent of previous betrayals. Time is, literally, of the essence, but with the prize being survival in a reality that’s about to implode, no-one appears to be safe. Our heroes must succeed… but what happens if they don’t?
As we head into those final two episodes, the previous four episodes (close to three hours of television) feel like they could have been told far more sparsely, powerfully and with far better pacing, almost as if the writers themselves have been winging it rather than distilling the characters and story to their basic strengths. One of the continuing problems with Disney+‘s Loki is that it features such massively grand themes (not only the destruction of the universe, but the destruction of multiple universes – take that, Thanos!) yet it somehow manages to simultaneously make them mostly walk-and-talk-and-snark scenes and – dare I whisper, it… incomprehensibly boring? Dialogue can be brilliantly inclusive when played well – ask the likes of Sir Patrick Stewart and Sir Ian McKellen as they continue Waiting for Godot – but it either has to be sparkling, funny or meaningful. You can assemble a cast for the ages, but if all they’re required to do is read a Quantum Physics for Beginners, it’s not going to hold the attention. For a long time, the debate has been whether Loki is hero, anti-hero or villain and the truth is he’s none of the above here. Hiddleston, when given the right material and motivations, has always been gloriously purposed as Loki, but in this season he continues to be little more than a walking, talking exposition life-model decoy, merely explaining a plot that the character himself doesn’t understand, and a slave to existential VFX while running along corridors exclaiming how important things are. Even the serpentine dialogue is kept to a minimum with Hiddleston and Owen Wilson’s Mobius banter (apparently a lot of it improvised) being the script’s only refuge.
Hiddleston, when given the right material and motivations, has always been gloriously purposed as Loki, but in this season, he continues to be little more than a walking, talking exposition life-model decoy, merely explaining a plot that the character himself doesn’t understand and a slave to existential VFX… It’s a bigger story, but with broader brush-strokes on a smaller canvas…
Much is done to prevent the end of everything and to regain control. Renslayer (Gugu Mbatha-Raw) gets to remember that she once ruled the timeline next to He-Who-Remains before he took her memories and threw her back into the TVA. The duplicitous Miss Minutes (and seriously, has there ever been an evil, animated character you want to see get squished?) is manipulating everyone and Rafael Casal’s Brad turns out to be just the coward we saw him to be in pursuit of survival. The end of this episode apparently destroys the TVA and all reality (though, realistically, there’s still two episodes to go, so…) and while there’s no denying that the cast sell the moment of apparent defeat with convincing looks of horror, despair and sorrow before fading to white, the episodic package leading up to it doesn’t help deliver a moment that should be equal to the end of Avengers: Infinity War and yet isn’t even close – largely because we haven’t been made to care as much. It’s a bigger story, but with broader brush-strokes on a smaller canvas. Sure, characters flutter here and there, but at this point, we’re being asked to cry over billions of death but with the only prop being a VFX image that looks like a tangled ball of woods on fabulously-glowing steroids. Everyone’s talking about the implications, but it’s really only Sophia Di Martino’s Sylvie that cuts through it all and bemoans the lack of context.
There are a couple of things the episode does well – and they are both down to death-scenes. General Dox and the Minutemen are held captive in the TVA, still believing that Loki and Mobius are wrong and openly defying them, even from their cell. But when offered a way out by Renslayer, everyone but Brad refuses on principle, noting that they don’t trust her either. Their refusal leads to their death, by squeezing them down to nothing in a shrinking Time Cube. It’s a horrible, messy demise made all the more powerful because it’s all just off-camera, though the sounds leave little to the imagination. Towards the end of the episode, Victor Timely (Jonathan Majors) volunteers to take his device into the vortex at the heart of the TVA, knowing there’s great risk but convinced he can make it in time. Almost as soon as he opens the door he’s killed, horribly spaghettified in a way that makes Thanos’ snap look positively merciful. It’s not so much Timely’s death happening as much as the unlikely timing and the speed of it, very much a ‘WTF?’ moment where you presumed it would take far longer.
It’s true that Loki feels like a series with glorious talents involved and where anything could happen… and it’s not that I don’t like the concept and ideas around which the series swirls… it’s just that it’s unfortunately it’s all too often people talking about that rather than the anything actually anything happening. This week, yes, at least we had some genuine cosmic developments, but as it was also the end of everything, where (or when) do we go from here, especially if it’s all just set-up and groundwork for Marvel movies still years away?
- Production Design / VFX9