What happens when you seemingly resolve your whole plot, then blow up all your characters, the setting, and the nature of time itself… but you still have two more episodes left in your season? Well, we’re about to find out, because that’s just what Loki did in its fourth episode. No wonder this was all that was released to critics in advance of the premiere! It seems almost silly to discuss the plot of the episode, “Heart of the TVA,” because the cliffhanger of an ending makes it all moot. But word is that’s my job so here goes:
The episode picks up with Miss Minutes and Ravonna Renslayer stuck in the Citadel at the End of Time, having a chat next to He Who Remains’ corpse. Miss Minutes reveals that big secret she teased last week and it’s exactly what we thought: Ravonna was partners with He Who Remains and integral to setting up the TVA (exactly as Loki heard on that recording). But then He Who Remains told Miss Minutes to wipe Ravonna’s memory. Instead of, oh I dunno, pausing to wonder if maybe the organization built by the megalomaniacal mind-wipey guy is questionable at best, Ravonna and Miss Minutes instead decide that the lesson is “Hey, we did everything for him anyway, maybe we don’t need any Kangs to run this joint!” So they head back to take over the TVA and save it… while impeding the progress of the other people who are working on saving it. Ravonna’s big plan is literally to just execute OB’s plan, except with more murder.
She tries to recruit the imprisoned General Dox and her treasonous Minutemen to her cause but only X-5 (sorry, Brad Wolfe!) takes the bait, so Miss Minutes busts out the ol’ Time Box Torture Machine and traps everyone in a shrinking box until they die. Does Miss Minutes continue to be an absolute freak b*tch while listening to a roomful of people scream in agony? You betcha!
Look at that face. Zero thoughts, just pure homicidal bliss. Bless.
Anywhoodle, about OB’s plan: He’s built a doohickey that can multiply the capacity of the Temporal Loom, which refines raw time stuff into fine timelines, and should allow it to handle the increased load from all the new time branches without overloading and threatening the TVA. Or at least it should, probably, but it’s missing something. In order to implement it they need to override the TVA’s security system to open the blast doors, and to do THAT they need someone with the same aura as He Who Remains. Enter Victor Timely, who not only has just the aura they’re looking for but also is packing a doohickey that he designed for his loom that is just the missing piece OB needs. We expected Victor get giddy about meeting his idol Ouroboros, author of his beloved TVA Guidebook, but what we didn’t expect was that OB would be equally excited to meet Victor. Turns out OB based all of his own inventions off of the notebook of a late 19th-century inventor named… Victor Timely. So OB’s work is based on Victor’s, and Victor’s work is based on OB’s, and Ke Huy Quan sure does literally say “It’s like a snaking eating its own tail!” just in case you missed the exact definition of what an Ouroboros is.
For some reason Sylvie followed them back to the TVA as well (to… help?) and after guilt-tripping Mobius about wanting to eat pie at a time like this (get off his back, geez!), she heads off with Loki for probably the best scene of the entire episode. Loki and Sylvie discuss whether the TVA is worth saving, and the talk essentially distills who they’ve become after the events of last season. After four episodes, we finally get back to the sort of character introspection that defined the first season! Sylvie argues that from He Who Remains right down to the rogue General Dox, the TVA has always destroyed time branches and thus free will, but Loki points out that there are good people like Mobius and B-15 working to save those branches now and they deserve a chance. Sylvie reveals she spared Victor because he seemed so scared, and goes on to admit a rare bit of self-doubt: “He Who Remains wasn’t scared, or maybe he was and I just didn’t notice.” Loki, who is familiar with this sort of remorse by now (after all, he’s killed A LOT), points out that her mercy in that moment may have saved the TVA and all the branches the TVA is trying to save right now. The mess the TVA is in now is because of the truth Loki and Sylvie revealed — and the whole killing He Who Remains thing — so what responsibility do they bear? Loki thinks it’s their job to protect the TVA and help it be better, to which Sylvie says it sounds an awful lot like they’re playing God. “We are gods,” says Loki. Yeah, ok, it’s a little on the nose, but it’s still way better than that snake-biting-its-own-tail line!
From here everything sort of goes off the rails, which leads to a lot of big reveals and surprises I suppose. Ravonna has X-5 kidnap Victor so she can pump him for information about that multiplier doohickey, while Miss Minutes overrides the TVA controls and blocks all the TemPads from connecting. And in case it wasn’t clear why the current state of disarray at the TVA looked so familiar, a very disheveled Loki runs past and yep — we’ve finally arrived at the future Loki timeslipped into back in the season premiere. It wasn’t Kang attacking the TVA at all, it was the stress of the Loom combined with Ravonna’s attempted takeover that Loki glimpsed… and that present-Loki witnesses his past self witnessing now! We know how this scene plays out, with a ringing phone and Sylvie opening the elevator door and then Loki getting pruned, but now we know who prunes him. It’s Loki! Present Loki prunes Past Loki because that’s the only way to pull Loki’s aura from the timestream and stop the timeslipping, or really just because he himself was pruned and he knows it needs to be done. Honestly, the whole scene is mostly played as a joke to a very surprised Sylvie.
As for the phone call, that’s OB with a plan to stop Miss Minutes. He hard reboots the TVA’s operating system, which freezes Miss Minutes and, more importantly, resets the TVA’s magic dampener. I forgot that was even a thing, but hey, guess who can finally go and act like gods now! So Sylvie enchants X-5 and sends him back to Ravonna… and then he prunes her! Just like that! Guess Sylvie didn’t feel that much remorse about killing! Victor is now free to proceed with OB’s plan, and in addition to unlocking the blast doors with his aura, he also volunteers to go out on the very dangerous walkway to install the doohickey into the thingamabob. It’s super brave of him, almost like he’s not evil at all, and just as he heads out in his ridiculous time suit to save the day he… turns into spaghetti. This is a thing OB ominously mentioned could happen when you fall into a black hole back in the season premiere. Boom! Payoff! So now Ravonna’s dead, Victor’s dead, the blast doors are open, the TVA is vulnerable, and the energy blasts from the overloading Temporal Loom are too strong for anyone else to attempt the installation. Loki, Mobius, Sylvie, and their cohorts look on in horror as the loom explodes and destroys the TVA. The end.
Except it’s not! We’ve got two more episodes to go this season, so what does it all mean? Well, the Temporal Loom was just a mechanic that He Who Remains created to impose order onto the chaos of time and allow him to control it. It wasn’t necessary or natural, so the real question is what happens when time is allowed to flow without inhibition. There’s no sacred timeline, and thus no branches. It’s just… everything. All of time, a whole multiverse, and thus a whole bunch of Kangs waiting to swoop in. Since everyone in the TVA was a variant anyway, they’ll continue to exist in one form or another, and we know this because there are shots from future episodes that were included in the season two trailer, including a scene at a very auspicious-looking jet ski dealership, ahem.
I’m more curious about how, or if, this is going to matter to the movie side of things in the long run. Ant-Man and The Wasp: Quantumania already revealed the existence of the Council of Kangs, and as we’ve seen with Doctor Strange and the Multiverse of Madness, Marvel can do a multiverse without explaining the whole TVA thing. On the other hand, Jonathan Majors debuted in the first season finale of Loki, which seemed like a huge get at the time, and Loki was the first of the Disney+/ Marvel joints to get a second season, as though there was always a plan for it. So did we just watch a major reset point in the MCU, and if so, are upcoming movies like The Marvels meant to take place before or after it? Or is this just another self-contained TV story and Marvel is going to reinvent the time wheel in the rush to set up Avengers: The Kang Dynasty and Avengers: Secret Wars?
— The automat is only stocked with pie. The same Octocooler-green Key Lime pie! How did I miss that before?!
— The scene with Victor sharing the hot cocoa was done like a silent movie, which was actually pretty cute.
— I’ve been missing Loki’s shoulders, but I ain’t mad at the big-collared jacket he’s been rocking. It’s giving me 1899 vibes.
— I forgot to mention this last week but Victor Timely is a known Kang variant from the comics. He was, like, a mayor? It honestly wasn’t that interesting but yes, he exists.
— I also keep forgetting to mention that Eugene Cordero’s Casey is still kicking around! Good for him. Maybe he can take over as Kang.