While I still think the balance of this season was tilted a bit too heavily toward pointless plate-spinning than character development, I have to admit: That was one seriously satisfying Loki finale. The episode, titled “Glorious Purpose,” sticks the landing on Loki’s character arc in a surprising and touching way — and it’s no mistake that the episode copies the season one premiere title, both of which are pulled from Loki’s famous “I am burdened with glorious purpose” speech. In the end, Loki finally ascends a throne and earns cosmic power, but his glorious purpose is a burden — one that takes him from his friends even as it saves them.
Oh, and the finale also just happened to provide a nifty excuse for Marvel to drop Kang and never speak of him again if they so choose. Season two of Loki may have heralded in several status quo shifts for the MCU … or, like, nothing at all. It’s always a crapshoot with these Disney+ shows. The finale offered everything we could possibly have asked from the show but also did nothing that can’t be undone or ignored should the need arise. I still think it was a great finale, but I’m optimistic, not stupid.
In a nutshell, Loki uses his newly controlled time-slipping powers to travel to the past in an attempt to stop the Temporal Loom from overloading and destroying the TVA and all of time. The key is to get Victor Timely down the gangway fast enough to shoot the amplifier thingy into the Loom, thus increasing its capacity to handle all the timeline branches. It only takes Loki a few centuries’ worth of attempts and a complete education in theoretical physics, but he finally succeeds … and then the Loom blows up anyway. It’s a problem of scalability, Victor explains. The timeline is branching infinitely, and the Loom can’t manage infinite branches. It was doomed the moment the Sacred Timeline started branching at all — which means it was doomed the moment Sylvie killed He Who Remains.
Cool, so Loki just has to go back in time and stop her! Only Sylvie is, well, a Loki, and it doesn’t bode well that every time he fights her, she exclaims, “If you want to stop me, you’ll have to kill me.” He doesn’t want that! He kinda loves her or whatever! It also doesn’t bode well that every time Loki fails to stop her and Sylvie kills He Who Remains, we once again hear the variant’s parting shot — “See you soon!” — and it stops sounding like a foreshadowing of the multiversal Kang invasion to come and more like he’s talking directly to Loki. Because he is! He Who Remains is fully aware of Loki’s time-slipping because apparently it was all part of his grand back-up plan for survival (is that why it never made sense that only Loki was time-slipping?). He Who Remains wasn’t going to wait for another variant of himself to crop up, he’s banking on Loki rewriting time to save him. In fact, the Temporal Loom’s explosion is also part of that plan. It’s the failsafe built into the system to delete all the branches and the TVA itself in order to preserve the Sacred Timeline. So Loki has two choices: Spare Sylvie and accept the destruction of the TVA and the coming war, or kill her to save He Who Remains and accept the Sacred Timeline as is. He Who Remains thinks he has Loki backed into a corner, but Loki — who’s got his time-slipping mojo locked down so tight he can pause time at will — decides to get some advice.
First, he time-slips back to the season one premiere (“Glorious Purpose”) to his first interrogation with Mobius and interrupts his own blustering to ask Mobius how one chooses who lives and who dies. Mobius tells him the key is to look at the big picture, which is a very TVA answer, except it’s a lesson he learned the hard way. He then tells Loki a story about when he was sent to prune a variant who was destined to cause thousands of deaths and who also happened to be an eight-year-old child. He hesitated, and it caused the timeline to branch and all hell broke loose. A few Hunters died, but his partner — Ravonna — was the one to step in and prune the kid. His point is that when your purpose is to make these sorts of decisions, the hard call may be the right one but it is always a burden. You just have to pick the burden you can live with.
Then Loki goes to see Sylvie, back at the end of things when the timelines were unraveling, to talk to her in their final moments. It’s clear he thinks he has to sacrifice her, and she realizes it as well, but she pushes back saying that he’s really deciding to take away everyone’s free will. We’re back to the season one conundrum of whether it’s better to have free will and be dead, or sacrifice it for safety on the Sacred Timeline. Sylvie, obviously, would rather die fighting than accept anything less than freedom. To her, this isn’t a big-picture choice — it’s merely replacing one nightmare with another, and she’s lived through her fair share of apocalypses. Then she says something interesting, that sometimes it’s OK to destroy something… and Loki finishes the thought: “If there is a hope that you can replace that thing with something better.”
Clever Loki, stuck between two bad choices, finds a third option. He returns to the TVA, as the Temporal Loom is overloading, and walks out onto the gangway himself. Without the protective suit, he faces the temporal radiation blasts head-on, and they disintegrate his fancy TVA outfit — revealing a brand-new Loki-as-a-god costume underneath. This new Time
Lord God Loki? He wears loafers now. He’s a confident, self-actualized, centered loafer-wearing hero! You love to see it!
Anyway, Loki destroys the Loom himself, then begins to grab the dying timelines and branches left behind. As he touches them, they glow with his green power, and he gathers them up as he climbs toward the remains of the Citadel at the End of Time. There, he takes a seat — a throne — and pulls the timelines together, weaving them into the shape of Yggdrasil, the Norse World Tree. In the end, Loki chose to rewrite He Who Remains’s equation, becoming the Loom himself and protecting all the branches of the multiverse in his grasp. His decision should allow all the Kang variants to go to war, as He Who Remains warned, but it also saved the TVA and gave them a chance to fight back. He chose free will, and with free will comes the hope of finding that better something — but that’s for everyone else to do. He’ll be busy weaving time together.
Is Loki always destined to lose? This ending is a bittersweet answer to that question. He finally gets the throne and power he always dreamt of, but he also understands the burden it comes with. It’s the burden he chose. He saves his friends and frees all of creation but has to sacrifice his own freedom to do it. The Loki who finally realized he didn’t want to be alone chooses to be alone, at the end of time, because he found a cause he believed in more than himself. He truly became a god. It’s worth remembering that this Loki, the Loki of Loki, isn’t exactly our Loki. He is a variant that sprang forth from the Endgame time-travel shenanigans, the post-Avengers Loki who tried to abscond with the Tesseract and was caught immediately. The Sacred Timeline Loki is the one we watched in all the movies, the one who remained duplicitous and hurt and angry and who also, eventually, sacrificed himself fighting Thanos. In season one, we watched this Loki variant discover the future that lay ahead of him — his death, but also his potential to be more than a villain — and the payoff is that he too evolved to be self-sacrificing. Will his sacrifice stick? Probably, at least for this variant. But as Loki proved, there’s plenty of Lokis loose in a multiverse, so this doesn’t have to be the end of the character, or of Tom Hiddleston, in the MCU.
The episode follows the aftermath of Loki’s sacrifice and shows that the TVA is reinventing itself in his image. Their timeline monitor is now in the shape of a tree and everything! More importantly, however, is that the agency is on the Kang case. They’re actively monitoring variants of He Who Remains, even noting that someone dealt with the 616 variant (i.e. the plot of Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania) and they also have rewritten time so that Victor Timely never gets his hands on the TVA guidebook. For everyone wondering why Marvel didn’t just recast Kang in Loki, maybe that’s your answer. Maybe they’re sticking with Jonathan Majors, or maybe they realized they didn’t need to do a damn thing. They can wave the character away with a big ol’ “TVA handled him!” anytime they want, and it’s not like anyone is out here clamoring for Avengers: Kang Dynasty anyhow. And while my desire to see Gugu Mbatha-Raw step up as Kang may not happen, the episode did reveal something of Ravonna’s fate: She wakes up in the Void, where all pruned things end up, and comes face to face with something angry and purple that’s probably Alioth. Sure, Alioth may eat her… or maybe it recognizes her. After all, they both served He Who Remains. Maybe it even needs a new master…
As for everyone else? Hunter B-15 is taking a leadership role inside the TVA, and OB has penned a new version of the TVA Guidebook. Mobius, though, decides to leave the agency and finally go find himself … literally. He goes to see his jet-ski salesman variant just to witness what his life could have been. Sylvie finds him there, and they reflect on how weird it is that Loki’s gone. The two people closest to him, that he sacrificed everything for, stand wistfully in his absence… and Sylvie is absolutely fine. She’s basically itching to go off and exercise all that free will she has, anywhere she pleases! So much for my two-season long Loki/Sylvie “is it masturbatory if they’re variants? JK I don’t care, KISS” ship. Mobius is the one who’s lost, and maybe that’s for the best. He was the better partner for Loki anyway. I hope my man goes to get himself some self-care pie because he deserves it.
And then there’s Loki, all tangled up in timelines, looking resigned at the end of time. Can he see what’s happening on the timelines? Can he see his friends? Is he glad he changed into those little house slipper loafers for his comfort? I hope so.
— Now that we’ve all seen the Loki finale, I think it’s safe to say: WTF version did this person watch? A lot of people are taking this quote to mean the person is full of sh*t, and by extension maybe the whole article is, but I’m just wondering if maybe Marvel got some reshoots in after all…
“Marvel is truly f—-ed with the whole Kang angle,” says one top dealmaker who has seen the final “Loki” episode. “I don’t see a path to how they move forward with him.” https://t.co/9by5jJMPnr pic.twitter.com/cmz5mo2t1C— Variety (@Variety) November 1, 2023
— This isn’t the first time we’ve seen Yggdrasil in the MCU. It was already used to explain how the nine realms (Earth, Asgard, um, Ice Giant Land and Dark Elf World or whatever) tie together in the first Thor. In a way, it was the map of Marvel’s first iteration of a multiverse, and now it’s being laid out again as the shape of what the real MCU multiverse will be.
— If you want a drinking game, drink every time Hiddleston stares off with unshed tears glistening in his eyes. The man is a treasure.
— Though it went down differently, this finale owes a lot to the comics arc (“Agent of Asgard”) that transformed Loki from the God of Mischief onto the God of Stories. Certainly this season leaned hard on the concept of fiction and Loki rewriting his story. In the comics Loki also faced a choice between two bad options, only to forge a third for himself — one that relied on him discovering a new use of his powers and his morality. If we see this Loki again in the MCU, will he be the God of Stories? Perhaps — especially since “Agent of Asgard” crossed over into the “Secret Wars” event.