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Loki episode 5 review – at the end of the universe

Storm clouds clear for the last act

Our Verdict

Characters reach for satisfying resolution in a penultimate episode that leaves plenty to think about.

Loki is going out with a bang. When last we saw the God of Mischief in the Disney Plus miniseries, he’d been pruned by the TVA, now stuck somewhere with a bunch of other Loki variants. ‘Journey Into Mystery’ hits the ground running by answering some pertinent questions, then pushes headlong towards the conclusion with gusto.

All the Lokis are in The Void, the place where time ends, and it’s overseen by Alioth, a temporal storm that consumes any living thing in its sights. Back at the Time Variance Authority, Sylvie (Sophia Di Martino) is trying to get Renova Renslayer (Gugu Mbatha-Raw) to cooperate, but when it looks like she’s talking to a brick wall, she prunes herself to find out where Loki (Tom Hiddleston) is.

This fifth episode has the series go for broke, thematically and conceptually. Sylvie and Loki learn to accept that in order to fight the ‘Sacred Timeline’ and find another place in the universe, they have to confront the end of existence itself. So be it. But, giving up on the established order is not so easy for everyone.

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More Loki variants show up, a gang who’ve clung together. They attack our Loki, prompting a swift illusory distraction and escape. Despite learning the truth about the Time-Keepers, Renslayer remains devout to the TVA, or at the very least, the notion that Sylvie and the other Loki variants deserve what’s coming to them.

In a heated exchange with Hunter B-15 (Wunmi Mosaku), Renslayer’s mask slips. The TVA being dedicated to one mission and one mission only bred a certain sadism. You can see it in their eyes, Raw holds a stern chin and brow, determination without remorse. When your entire purpose is to do a job, and that job has rewarded you with stature, it becomes very difficult to even consider that it’s all a sham, even when capturing people and melting their realities.

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Sylvie getting away denotes failure, and that’s not an option, Time-Keepers or no Time-Keepers. Likewise, sometimes that belief in something greater is simply transferred, like Boastful Loki (DeObia Oparei) doing a deal with President Loki. The Void may be nothing but dirt, discarded Marvel timelines, and an insatiable time cloud, but they could rule those things, making themselves the dysfunctional royalty Asgard would never allow.

Loki, Kid Loki (Jack Veal), Classic Loki, and Alligator Loki stick together, Richard E. Grant clearly milking every second of joy out of this strange gig. They wander this besotted land, full of Marvel easter eggs and discarded lives, occasional bouncing to the alligator for a punchline. A trash heap Douglas Adams would be proud of.

Meanwhile, Mobius (Owen Wilson) saves Sylvie from Alioth, and they find Loki. Reconciled to this being their last stand against not existing, Loki and Sylvie share a quiet moment together. Conventional wisdom would dictate a kiss – and certainly plenty of fans seem to want it – but Loki’s romance is threading finer lines.

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Going back to ‘Glorious Purpose’, director Kate Herron has seemed most interested in capturing Loki’s relationship with himself most of all. Watching his Marvel Cinematic Universe arc in third-person, being quickly enamoured by Sylvie, his pleading with Sif in time prison, it’s all about him learning to care for others by caring for himself.

The operative desire is acceptance of the self. Admiration of one’s own abilities. If you met you, would you be impressed? Would you find yourself stunned at what you’ve accomplished? That’s not always an easy answer – I mean, if you’re reading this, I think you’re great, because you’re here, still taking it one day at a time – but both Loki, and ‘Journey Into Mystery’, are preoccupied with how easy it should be

We get another flurry of action to cap off the episode, but unlike the previous hand-to-hand combat, this is predicated on Loki’s multitudinous ingenuity, helped by having literal multiple versions of himself. No way but through, facing absolute annihilation, and it turns out Loki’s stronger than he thinks.

Who knows what’ll happen to the TVA. Mobius is on his way to burn it down, but we’ll see how that goes. At this point, it doesn’t matter, Loki’s already gotten the transformation he needed. He’s learned to love himself, to accept himself on his own terms, understanding his path is what he makes of it. That’s as possible for him as it is for you, and let no authoritarian structure tell you otherwise.