Loki has entered the home stretch, and the penultimate episode, Loki season 2 episode 5, had the unenviable job of setting the board for a grand finale next week. It’s just a shame it had to do so in such a breathless and, dare I say, unambitious way.
Anyway, let’s get this recap started before the entire MCU timeline unravels. Our episode begins with everyone’s favorite Marvel character, Loki, waking up in a seemingly abandoned TVA. As he wanders the building, it becomes clear that some sort of failsafe has been activated following the Temporal Loom’s destruction, saving the staff from obliteration.
Unfortunately, while the variants who staffed the time police may be gone, the effects of the explosion are not, and soon, the TVA is spaghettified by the temporal radiation leaking from the loom. Thankfully, the loom’s breaking down seems to have once again untethered the god of mischief from the flow of time, and he time slips out of the disintegrating building before he meets the same fate as Victor Timely.
Alas, Loki can’t control where he travels, and he finds himself in 1962 San Francisco, where Casey is staging a prison break from Alcatraz. Except for whatever reason, Casey doesn’t recognize Loki, nor is his name Casey (he goes by Frank). Before he can get any answers on this befuddling situation, though, Loki is sent hurtling through time to McDonald’s, a jet ski store, and even the TVA’s time theater.
Ultimately, Loki’s transported to 2012 New York, where he meets Hunter B-15, except she doesn’t recognize him either (which makes no sense when you consider Loki invaded NYC in that year, but whatever, maybe it didn’t happen in this timeline?) and is living as a doctor (Dr. Willis to be specific) on a branched timeline. Once again, though, Loki only hangs about for a short time before he’s pulled through time to a new location.
If you’re finding this recap slightly breathless, don’t worry. That’s intentional and one of my biggest criticisms of this episode. There’s so much happening so quickly that it’s impossible to form much of an attachment to any of these new variants, but wait, we can’t stop because we’ve got to explain where Loki ends up next.
Traveling back to the jet ski shop, we hook up with Mobius, who’s now going by Don, a jet ski salesman and father of two, who actually does recognize Loki! Don’t celebrate too early, though. Don only recognizes Loki because he apparently ‘came in last week.’ All seems lost for the god of mischief until he time slips to 1994 Pasadena and runs into O.B. (now a struggling author called A.D. Doug).
Unlike the others, O.B. immediately believes Loki’s outlandish story. O.B. believes that Loki should be able to control the time slipping, pointing out that he’s not traveling randomly; he’s traveling to the people he most wants to see. Controlling the time slips is easier said than done, though, and O.B. decides the best course of action is for Loki to “get the band back together” so he can use their temporal auras to travel to the TVA.
While O.B. builds a new TemPad (using a TVA manual Loki swiped before time went kablooey) Loki slips back to Don’s timeline and tries to recruit him. While initially skeptical, Loki eventually convinces his old friend to join him by pointing out the danger his children, Kevin and Sean, are in. We then get a quick montage of Loki recruiting B-15 and Casey before the team regroups at O.B.’s warehouse.
With only Sylvie left to recruit, it seems like the day will be saved, but Loki encounters a speedbump when he travels to her timeline. While Sylvie recognizes Loki, she doesn’t want to go with him and rightly points out that he was selfish to pull his old friends out of their lives on the timeline. They were free from an eternity of servitude from the TVA. What right does Loki have to take them back to that?
Broken Loki admits he doesn’t really care about saving the universe, stopping Kang the Conqueror, or any of that. He just wants his friends back. It’s the best moment of the episode, and it presents a fascinating moral quandary. Loki’s technically doing the right thing but for selfish reasons. Is he right to? Is he wrong to? It’s a hard question to answer.
Oh wait, no, it’s not because the episode abandons this dilemma entirely. As Loki returns to O.B., Sylvie realizes that the destruction of the TVA is causing all of time to unravel, including her branched timeline. Meeting up with Loki, Sylvie explains how they’ve got to save time, but it’s too late. The damage is done. As Loki helplessly watches, everything begins to unravel until only Loki is left standing in the ruins of what was.
Just when all seems lost, however, Loki finally realizes how to control the time slips. It’s not the why or the what; it’s the who, and thinking about his friends, he travels back to the TVA right before the destruction of the TVA, ready to rewrite the story.
I’ll be honest. I was disappointed by this episode. It felt too fast and too slow at the same time. Seeing who the TVA staff were on the timeline is one of the things I’ve been looking forward to most this season, and we barely spent any time with Don, Frank, and Dr. Willis before they were obliterated, so it’s hard to feel any real attachment to them besides the lingering fondness we felt for their TVA variants.
As a result, I never really bought into the moral quandary at the heart of the episode, ‘Is Loki right to pull these people out of their old lives?’ This is compounded by the immediate reveal that time is unwinding, which undercuts the message entirely. I just felt like we should have spent another episode with these characters, getting to know them so we’d really feel the tragedy of their demise.
At the same time, though, the episode felt really sluggish. It was just Loki jumping through time trying to recruit his friends, all of which is ultimately rendered pointless at the end anyway. Still, I did enjoy finally learning who the TVA staff were before they were scooped up by He Who Remains, and I think the Loki cast does a great job playing characters who are essentially brand new.
The real highlight of the episode, though, is Loki and Sylvie’s conversation about why Loki’s doing any of this. His admission that it’s ultimately out of selfishness was heartbreaking, especially when you consider how the Sacred Timeline version of Loki struggled so much with his own attempts to reform. Hiddleston does a brilliant job with the material, especially considering how brief the scene was, and it’s a reminder of how brilliant he is as a performer.
All in all, Loki season 2 episode 5 manages to set up a dramatic finale. I just wish it wasn’t in such a rush to get there. If you love all things Marvel, then you need to check out our guide breaking down all the upcoming Marvel movies, which explores Marvel’s Phase 5 and Phase 6 in detail.
We’ve also got an article breaking down how to watch all the Marvel movies in order (yes, there is a right order), and we’ve even got features on Deadpool 3 and The Marvels so you don’t look clueless next time someone asks you what new movies you’re excited for.
Fans will get a kick out of seeing their favorite TVA members living on the timeline but Loki season 2 episode 5 feels like a missed opportunity to do something great.