Looking for Love in a Multiverse of Lies
This week's episode makes it abundantly clear that the TVA is real bad. It starts with a flashback to young Sylvie's Asgard, in which she's kidnapped by the time police for an undisclosed violation of the sacred time line. Are the powers that be behind the Time-Keepers patriarchal and detest the idea of a female Loki? Likely. We don't quite know all the details yet, but the sequence establishes a personal history with Sylvie and Ravonna Renslayer as well as giving the audience a much grimmer look at the Time Variance Authority. See: Ravonna (as a Minuteman at the time) taking child Sylvie in for booking as she witnesses a nonwhite man scream in agony because another cop bends his arm back. The girl yells, "Help him!" to no avail. Though moments later the precocious Sylvie escapes with little trouble via a stolen tempad.
I imagine the head or heads of the TVA see Sylvie as the best of the Lokis. They probably foresee her mischief threatening their power and so are compelled to prune her life and timeline short. Lucky for Sylvie, they're constantly underestimating her. Back on Lamentis, in the face of imminent death, she recounts her backstory to Loki, depressed in the thought that perhaps Lokis are destined to lose. Ever the optimist, Loki instead suggest that Lokis are survivors, "You ran rings around them. You're amazing!" And so they see self-worth in themselves. It sparks real love in their hearts, enough love to cause a 'nexus event' big enough for the TVA to notice and swoop in for the capture. Love was the answer, the kind of love Mobius later calls a "sick twisted romantic relationship," and of Loki an, "incredible seismic narcissist." Good on Marvel for going there, but I say again, points off for not having the fortitude to have Loki fall for a mirror or male version of himself.
Meanwhile at the TVA, I was surprised that we didn't see complete chaos. The time bomb Sylvie dropped back in episode two, I guess, was readily handled off screen without commentary. That cliffhanger rings hollow now. This hurried plot has to be this episode's biggest weakness. Yes, we got Mobius betraying the TVA as I wanted, but I can't help be feel like his decision to turn on them could've used a bit more time to cook. Additionally, a couple emotional surprise "deaths" in this episode feel like more manipulation from the writers when put next to the mid-credit scene.
That said, the dynamic and writing between Loki and Mobius continues to be stellar. Furthermore, now that we're getting to know Ravonna better, Gugu Mbatha-Raw is demonstrating a fine and perfectly subtle villainous performance. Sylvie's and Ravonna's upcoming scenes are sure to be a treat. Overall, the web of lies these characters navigate is an entertaining watch. So much so that the action scenes in the episode tend to look quite bad in comparison, which is a shame because there were some well choreographed fights in the first few episodes. The battle at Time-Keepers was bafflingly weightless. I was glad to see B-15 join the 'good' side as the key insider to the coup, but that fight looked too close to a bad B-movie squabble. The cops with pruning batons were anything but menacing as Loki fought them off without a weapon or magic. Sylvie threw him her sword, but then he and the cops were just background noise as Sylvie and Ravonna slowly circled for their honorable duel. Also, because this is Marvel, the lack of blood or impact just made it feel more theatrical as the fight went on. I'm not looking for gore, just more authentic consequences to violence.
The 'pruning' is still effective though. Or it was when we saw Mobius and Loki get disintegrated before our eyes. They were powerful moments that had me in shock and grieving for the loss of the shows two most developed characters. Up until the credits, though I was shaken, I was appreciative that the writers were bold enough to kill off the lead and place the focus on Sylvie as the central protagonist. Then the mid-credit scene started and we see Loki raise from the dead somewhere else, face-to-face with three (or four including the alligator) other Loki variants. If Loki is still kicking than Mobius may be too. What if the pruning baton just sends victims to a sort of prison universe? It's a cool concept, but it also deflates the emotional death scenes. Hopefully it all comes together, but any danger or death coming up will have me questioning its validity at this point.
I'm still enjoying the series, but it's showing signs of the team running out of steam. I'm concerned it'll turn out like WandaVision and turn into another boring Marvel light show in the climax, a "cosmic disappointment." Still, there's plenty of mystery and questions left, and I honestly have no idea where it's going from here. That's promising.