Marvel Mondays – Loki: Episode 4

Plot summary: Shocking surprises abound as Loki & Sylvie mount a desperate assault on The Time-Keepers with major consequences.

Notes

Episode Title: ‘The Nexus Event’

Air Date: June 30th, 2021

Directed: Kate Herron (4)

Written: Eric Martin (1)

The mid-credit scene introduces Richard E. Grant as a more traditionally costumed ‘Classic Loki’, as well as Jack Veal as ‘Kid Loki’, who enjoyed a highly acclaimed run of comics that served as a major influence on the show.

The Sif time-loop is based on a Norse myth where Loki cuts off all her hair. To atone, Loki was forced to magically craft her new golden locks, as well as gifts for other gods, including Mjolnir.

This marked the first appearance of Jaimie Alexander as Lady Sif since an episode of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. in 2015. Her role in Thor: The Dark World had to be scaled back after she suffered a back injury on set, and scheduling conflicts kept her out of Ragnarok, Infinity War and Endgame.

Renslayer’s Hunter number was A-23. The character debuted in Issue 23 of The Avengers.

Recap

In Asgard’s past, a young Sylvie is taken away by the TVA, led by Ravonna Renslayer during her Hunter days. Sylvie escapes before her case can be tried, stealing a TemPad and vanishing through a portal.

Back in the present, Sylvie recounts the story of her abduction and life on the run to Loki. They prepare for Armageddon on Lamentis-1, but their burgeoning romance creates a strong enough Nexus Event for the TVA to track.

The pair are led to separate interrogation rooms, and Mobius scolds Loki for his treachery and for being a bad friend, tossing him through a mysterious red portal.

Loki emerges in Asgard, where Sif arrives and assaults and berates him in retaliation for cutting off a chunk of her hair. She leaves the room… and then walks right back in again to repeat her actions ad infinitum, no matter what Loki says or does.

Mobius extracts him after a few loops and laughs off Loki’s claims that the TVA are lying to him. He realises before Loki does that the God of Mischief is falling in love with… himself, and that is potentially breaking reality.

Loki tries to tell him that he and every TVA employee are Variants and Sylvie is able to access their erased memories via her Enchantments, but Mobius tosses him back into the Time Loop.

Meanwhile, Hunter B-15 confronts Sylvie, demanding to know about the images she showed her in Episode 2, taking her back to Roxxcart, where they can’t be monitored. Sylvie eventually convinces her of the truth by Enchanting her again.

Mobius tries to get information from Renslayer about C-20, who she claims is dead, and Sylvie, who she won’t let him interrogate. Not believing her, he swipes her TemPad when her back is turned.

Finding a recording of C-20’s interrogation that corroborates Loki’s story, Mobius frees him but they’re immediately captured and Mobius is pruned!

Loki and Sylvie are escorted to The Time-Keepers’ chamber by Renslayer and the three giant beings sentence them to death… but B-15 arrives and deactivates their collars.

Battle ensues, with Sylvie taking Renslayer down and then hurling her sword at one of the Time-Keepers… whose head bounces to her feet, revealing wires inside and shutting the other two down!

Distracted by the bombshell, Loki is helpless as Renslayer prunes him from behind!!! But he awakes moments later in what he believes to be Hel, confronted by four Variant Lokis in the ruins of an alternate New York!!!

Review

I’ve greatly enjoyed the series so far, but expressed some concerns last week about how much was up in the air given how little time remained. In some ways that’s still true, but this was a fantastic episode, potentially the most exciting of all the Disney+ shows to date, and it left me feeling much better about their chances of landing the plane.

Love was the answer to last week’s impossible situation, with Loki & Sylvie’s mutual attraction as Variants of the same individual causing a massive spike on ‘The Sacred Timeline’. As I write that down, it seems awful, but I actually really liked it conceptually. It taps into the time travel trope about it being dangerous to interact with an alternate version of yourself, but gives it a simultaneously cute and creepy edge.

The Time Loop prison was a tremendous amount of fun, drawing on some of the MCU’s biggest strengths: cameos, honouring its own legacy, and Loki getting beaten up repeatedly. It also provided an opportunity to demonstrate this Loki’s crash course in becoming a better person thanks to Mobius and Sylvie, earnestly attempting to make amends with one of the few surviving figures from his past. These scenes were bookended by the yet-to-miss dynamic between Loki and Mobius trying to navigate a minefield of trickery and sarcasm. Giving Loki his first on-screen friend the week after his first on-screen love interest let them do some fun teasing, and allowed the character to experience meaningful loss.

The B-Story could almost be called Palace Intrigue, as Mobius and B-15 tried to discover what exactly Renslayer and the TVA have been hiding from them. Each led to fun actor pairings, as Mobius tried to subtly grill his boss, and the unravelling B-15 confronted Sylvie. When you factor in that both were playing out at the same time as the Loki/Sif gimmick, you have yourself a tremendously engaging trio of scenes.

The confrontation with the Time-Keepers provided some grand spectacle and a passable fight scene, culminating in the momentary shock of Loki’s ‘death’, the tease of Sylvie extracting exposition from Renslayer about the true nature of the TVA, and of course that mid-credits stinger with all the Lokis. I don’t know what more you could ask from the end of a second act, to be honest. My favourite episode of any of these shows to date.

Most Marvellous Player

Once again the three leads nail it, both individually and playing off each other. From Mobius’ reluctance to buy what Loki’s selling, to him needling the God of Mischief about being in love with himself, to Loki’s heartfelt attempts to apologise to Sif, to Sylvie’s defiance in the face of imprisonment, and ultimately the assault on the Time-Keepers, this episode served everybody pretty well. I particularly like how subtly Hiddleston and Di Martino synchronise their movements.

But I can’t have two ties in a row, so I’ll break the deadlock by recognising Tom Hiddleston. He runs through a wider range of emotional states, struggling with his feelings towards Sylvie, telling the cops to go screw, his various approaches with Sif, the key theme that he is afraid of being alone, and the heart-breaking loss of his only friend moments after they reconcile.

I would be remiss in not acknowledging Gugu Mbatha-Raw and Wunmi Mosaku’s excellent supporting work, which has been of a high standard from day one, but reaches new heights here. Ravonna revealing her true nature and B-15 having an existential crisis were two of the best beats of the episode; they just can’t compete with the leads due to screen time disparity.

Literally two days before this episode aired I was talking to Ben Phillips about Jaimie Alexander’s unfortunate absence from the last few years of the MCU, so you can imagine my elation to see her make a return. It’s only a small role, but she plays it well, having the time of her life scolding and beating Loki repeatedly. Fingers crossed for an appearance in Love and Thunder.

Villain Watch

After weeks of speculation the TVA would not be what they seem, we got firm confirmation as Ravonna Renslayer has Hunter C-20 quietly murdered, lies to Mobius about it, and then ostensibly murders the protagonist! Not a bad innings. Renslayer works so well because she appears little more than an unassuming bureaucrat who poses no physical threat. An overly dedicated paper pusher. But the idea she was once a Hunter herself has been lingering, and we get physical testimony of that as she battles Sylvie and ‘resets’ Loki. Plus her stone cold lies about C-20, and callous admission she doesn’t even remember the reason they destroyed Sylvie’s life are badass.

I have been assuming that if we ever went to The Time-Keepers’ office it would be a Wizard of Oz moment with some meek white dude pulling all the strings. That’s still on the table, but I was surprised to see them briefly depict the trio of enormous aliens on thrones, eyes glowing through sci-fi mist. I couldn’t understand a word they said without subtitles, but it was still cool to see them have their cake and eat it with the robot reveal. Speaking of which, that may be why there’s an anti-robot detector in the processing department, as maybe a robot can sniff out another robot. Likewise the red symbols in their M.C. Escher chamber could well be runes like in WandaVision, preventing anybody from using magic inside the TVA.

Many have speculated the puppet master behind the TVA is Kang the Conqueror, who will played by Jonathan Majors in Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania, and will likely occupy the Thanos ‘Big Bad’ slot in the MCU until Doctor Doom arrives. He worked with the TVA in the comics, is romantically linked to Renslayer, is known for keeping trophies (like she does in her office), and is obsessed with dictating the future using his advanced technology, which would fit with ‘The Sacred Timeline’ concept.

Finally, I’m tremendously looking forward to what Old Loki, Kid Loki and ‘Boastful Loki’ will bring to the table. Alligator Loki could never do anything wrong though.

Plugs

Check out The Matt Signal, in which I recap episodes of Batman the Animated Series every Saturday and Sunday. This weekend marks the one year anniversary of the column which I celebrate with Calendar Girl and… one of the worst episodes in the franchise.

There Will Be Movies returns this Wednesday as Ben Phillips and I talk about 25 of our favourite movies from the 90s, starting with the rules and reasoning behind the list ahead of the first movie next week.

Published by

Matt Waters

Brit dude who likes both things AND stuff and has delusions of being some kind of writer or something. Basketball, video games, comic books, films, music, other random stuff.

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