It’s hard to believe that Loki is only the third Marvel show on Disney+, because it feels like I’ve been asking the same question forever now: Will [insert show] have a satisfying conclusion, or will the finale be hijacked to set up the larger MCU? Apparently, the third time’s the charm, because the Loki finale actually — finally — did BOTH. Yes, undoubtedly the reveal of the man behind the curtain was a huge set-up, but the episode also paid off the character development of Loki and resolved his relationship with Sylvie in some unexpected ways. While it was a talky episode with a big info dump in the middle, it didn’t abandon the themes that the season has been kicking around this whole time: Trust, truth, freedom, and loneliness. I’m still not convinced the logic around some of the bigger events is watertight, and I definitely have some lingering questions, but Episode 6 was the strongest MCU television finale to date.
Kang All Along
LOL remember how just last week I was all like, “They’re hinting pretty hard that the person behind the TVA is Kang, but I’d hate that because it’d be an 11th hour addition and thematically the bad guy should be another Loki and/or Eugene Cordero”? Welp, that was a swing and a miss, as a certain someone would say. Beyond Alioth, inside the Citadel At The End Of Time, Sylvie and Loki discover this dude called “He Who Remains”, played by Lovecraft Country’s Jonathan Majors — who we already know has been cast as Kang the Conqueror in Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania. Obviously, that’s a more significant movie set-up — introducing a major villain — than any of the previous Disney+ joints were allowed, but the biggest surprise was that I… didn’t hate it? For me, it worked because it wasn’t just a winking cameo in the final seconds. Majors as Don’t-Call-Him-Kang had his own entire arc, where he laid out his personal history, explained the role of the TVA and the dangers of the multiverse, and offered Sylvie and Loki a choice: Take his place in regulating the Sacred Timeline, or kill him and kickstart an all-new multiverse.
[Sidenote: I apologize for using “Kang” and “He Who Remains” interchangeably here. It’s pretty bad recap conduct on my part. “Kang” is gonna be the name of a big bad variant down the line, and his name shouldn’t apply to all of them, or at least not this one, but… this show is complicated enough as it is. Forgive me for taking this shortcut.]
In brief: “He Who Remains” is/was/will be a scientist from the 31st century who discovered the existence of alternate realities and made contact with them, trading knowledge and gardening tips with variants of himself for the betterment of all of their universes. Everything was hunky-dory until, lo and behold, it turned out that some versions of himself were power-hungry conquerors (get it?!) and the newfound peace between realities fell apart. War erupted as Kang variants fought to defend their universes and annihilate the threat posed by the others. Then one Kang — this one — discovered and weaponized the monster called Alioth, using it to end the multiversal war by destroying all the other realities and leaving just one: The Sacred Timeline. After that he just had to play clean up, maintaining the timeline’s flow and snipping off any branches that might begin to diverge. Thus he created the TVA, and with it the false Timekeepers and dogma and bureaucracy to keep it all functioning in a self-contained way. The TVA may have been built on a lie, but behind that lie was a truth that wasn’t all that dissimilar. They seemingly are all that stands between the universe and total destruction. Kang is a villain who imposed his own chosen order and removed the possibility of free will from the universe, AND ALSO he’s a savior who protected said universe. He’s the devil you know, standing between us and infinite devils just like him that you don’t. The danger was always real — assuming we can trust him.
I said I wanted a Loki to be behind all of this, and in a way, Kang is very much like Loki. He has good and bad variants, he’s morally complicated, and he’s cleaning up a catastrophe that his own hubris created. As he himself points out, “We’re all villains here,” speaking to the murder and mayhem both Sylvie and Loki have caused in their lives. All of this is a gambit to him, a no-lose scenario where he either gets to retire and pass off the burden to his chosen replacements, or he’s killed and a multiverse is unleashed that will inevitably spawn another version of himself. He’s a liar and a manipulator, but he’s finally telling the truth — or that’s what Loki believes, and we all know Loki should be able to recognize a lie by now.
He Who Remains knows everything that has ever or will ever happen in the timeline… right up until the moment he finishes telling his tale. For a pair who have been fighting for the chance to choose their own destiny, it’s fitting that the decision for how this story ends is up to Sylvie and Loki. Sylvie is still set on her mission, dismantling the TVA and the power behind it, and Loki wants to support her — unless supporting her will do more harm than good. Their budding relationship is put to the test when Loki steps in to try to stop Sylvie from killing Kang, and they once again have to face the question of who they truly are: Sylvie, the woman who doesn’t know how to trust, and Loki, the man who can’t be trusted. Have either of them actually changed, after everything we’ve seen them go through together? The answer, sadly, is yes and no. Loki, despite the golden opportunity to seize the TVA throne for himself, claims he doesn’t want it — he only wants to prevent Sylvie from doing something that might hurt her (like, ya know, unleashing Multiversal Battle Royale Part Deux). To prove it, he drops his weapon and stands between Sylvie and Kang, betting his life on the power of his conviction. So Sylvie finally kisses Loki, only to then push him through a Time Door so she can kill Kang.
Loki was willing to give up all the power in the universe to save Sylvie, but Sylvie wasn’t willing to give up her mission to listen to Loki. Funny how she asserts that she’s not like him, right at the moment when she does the most Loki-ish thing imaginable: Selfishly prioritize her own vengeance over all reason. And when she finally stabs He Who Remains, completing her life’s mission, he looks her in the eye and says, “See you soon.” Guuuurl, you see what your free will has wrought!?
So About The TVA…
Outside of the events at the Citadel is the other confrontation we’ve been waiting for: Mobius vs. Ravonna. In her own way, she has also been trying to get to the bottom of who is really behind the Timekeepers, with the help of whatever files Kang instructed Miss Minutes to give her. It’s clear that she is a zealot, utterly convinced that even if the TVA is a lie it had to have been set up for a reason, and that even if the Timekeepers were fake there still must be SOMEBODY out there worth sacrificing free will over. If He Who Remains became a dictator because he felt that the means justified the ends, then Ravonna is the same. She has no regrets about pruning Mobius, because their friendship is not worth more than the mission. Mobius, however, has already put his own plan into motion to reveal the truth to the rest of the agency. He sent Hunter B-15 to a high school in Freemont, Ohio in the year 2018, where she is pursued by other Hunters. That high school? The very same Franklin D. Roosevelt High of mysterious pen fame. Mobius figured out that Ravonna had the pen not because it came from another analyst, but because it came from herself — or to be precise, one of her variants. So when the Hunters converge in the office of a teacher named Rebecca Tourminet and Rebecca walks in looking exactly like Ravonna… well, it’s a pretty succinct way of proving that the TVA is filled with variants, amirite?
Mobius tries to stop Ravonna from escaping but she knocks him flat on his back. This time, though, she doesn’t kill him. Instead she walks through a Time Door, saying she’s off “in search of free will.” Pretty sure that’s code for “I’m off to see the Wizard” — the only question is, which version of Kang will she discover?
So Loki lands back at the TVA, knowing that Sylvie is going to see through her mission and kill He Who Remains. The timeline is branching, the multiverse is forming, and eventually, a bunch of variants of He Who Remains will start an all-out war. The only option left to him is to warn the TVA, so that’s just what he sets out to do, running through the halls to find Mobius and spill his guts about everything he witnessed. Just one problem: Mobius doesn’t recognize him.
Loki is already lost in an alternate reality, one in which the statues of the Timekeepers have been replaced with a statue of He Who Remains. Or, you know… Kang.
I happen to love this ending, because Loki the liar is being set up as a Cassandra — the only person predicting a future that no one believes. But more than that, Loki the series managed to follow through on its promise to deepen our understanding of Loki, only to have that journey itself be essential to the future of the MCU. What unleashed the multiverse was the selfishness of a Loki, just not our Loki — and just because our Loki can change, it doesn’t mean they all will. The impact this will have on the MCU moving forward is far greater than a cameo in an end credit scene, or revealing Jonathan Majors a little ahead of schedule. This is about more than just teeing up Doctor Strange In The Multiverse of Madness and Ant-Man And The Wasp: Quantumania. Remember how Casey (dear, sweet Pillboi) made a point of explaining how the Infinity Stones are just paperweights in the TVA? And how Miss Minutes made a last-ditch offer to Sylvie and Loki, promising that He Who Remains can re-insert them back into the timeline with everything they ever wanted, including Loki defeating Thanos and taking the Infinity Gauntlet for himself? I’m pretty sure the show was drawing a direct parallel between the last great crossover threat and the one that is to come. Maybe fans of the movies won’t have to watch Loki to understand the next phase or three of the MCU — maybe Doctor Strange will offer his own info-dump in the next movie to catch everyone up. The fact will still remain that all of it, the multiverse and the impending horde of angry Kangs, came about because a Loki variant went on a journey of self-discovery in a Disney+ show.
Was it a perfect finale? No. It was almost wall-to-wall exposition and it hammered its themes home effectively if inelegantly. The villain, indeed, was an 11th-hour addition. There were zero jet-skis. The only action was the fight between Loki and Sylvie, which was cool but I woulda also been fine with them making out more (sorry not sorry). Loki flipped his hair a lot, and I don’t even know why I’m mentioning it here — that was some A+ good-shit content. My point is, I can forgive the weaknesses because the finale was a damn big swing that paid off on everything the show was about while ALSO paving the path for what may prove to be several phases of the MCU to come. It didn’t choose one or the other, it did both — and in doing so became the strongest argument for Marvel’s television venture yet. With the confirmation of a season two hidden in the end credits, Loki’s journey is far from over. Even if he doesn’t pop back up on the big screen anytime soon, his position as Marvel’s God of Streaming is secure.
- Seriously, where in the seafoamy FUCK was “Owen Wilson on a jet-ski”? You had ONE JOB, finale!
- Also sad: no more Eugene Cordero or Richard E. Grant. Though they’re variants, so there’s no reason they can’t return to the MCU at some point…
- Was that kiss a reveal of mutual love, or was Sylvie just distracting Loki so she could dispose of him? I choose to believe it was both.
- We should probably take a moment to mention the “cold open”, such as it was. The Marvel Studios graphic plays as usual, except that the soundtrack to the whole thing is just audio clips from the MCU. This bleeds into a shot of the universe, which likewise is accompanied by more audio from “our” world (the moon landing, etc.). It’s a nifty way of situating the prime Marvel universe as we have come to know it within our own “real” reality, since all that is about to change. But then at the veeeeery end, as the sequence catches up with Sylvie and Loki outside of the Citadel, another recognizable soundbite plays: “What is grief, if not love persevering?” Way to hide that WandaVision quote in the middle of the real stuff, guys!
- So Ravonna is in the wind, Sylvie is alive in the Citadel, and Loki is in an alternate reality. Should we place bets on which character we’ll see first in the upcoming shows/movies?
- I may not be a huge fan of letting a whole new character hijack the last episode of a show to talk about himself, but if it had to be anyone… I’m glad it was Jonathan Majors. He was electrifying to watch, and knowing that he was a doomed variant made it all the more worthwhile. When he is introduced again as Kang later on, it will be a totally different character and still feel fresh. We just got a little taste of what he can bring to Marvel’s table, and it’s awesome.
- The greatest trick Loki, as a show, ever pulled was making you kinda/sorta root for dictatorship. I was 100% on board with Loki and Sylvie’s “Team Free Will” squad, so the fact that the finale had me questioning the wisdom of that alongside Loki was unexpected. Seriously, the about-face from “The Timekeepers and the TVA are dictating our destinies and that’s bad” to “Maybe we need to stick to one timeline, otherwise war will erupt and we’ll all die” was a doozy. I’ve been waiting for the other shoe to drop since Loki gave that speech in episode two about Tricksters, and how when deception is expected, sometimes the greatest distraction is to just deliver the lie. The show gave us plenty of lies with all the reveals about the TVA being filled with variants and robots, and they in turn distracted us from the possibility that the TVA’s mission was still real. Don’t get me wrong, free will is still great and all, but is it worth the destruction of your reality? Yeah, I can see why Loki wanted to take a minute to talk that one out.
Header Image Source: Marvel Studios/ Disney+