Plot summary: Loki and a band of Variants seek an escape from The Void and its unstoppable sentinel.
Episode Title: ‘Journey Into Mystery’
Air Date: July 7th, 2021
Directed: Kate Herron (5)
Written: Tom Kauffman (1)
The episode’s title is a tribute to the comic of the same name that spawned Thor and Loki decades ago, but more specifically the rebranded version written by Keiron Gillen that featured Kid Loki and a more villainous ‘classic’ version that advised him.
Blink and you’ll miss him, but the little frog hopping around above the hideout is Throg aka Thor turned into a frog. Ragnarok also made reference to this event. Chris Hemsworth even voiced him according to Kate Herron.
Among the MANY Easter eggs are: The Living Tribunal’s head, the Sanctum Santorum, Yellowjacket’s helmet, a Hydra Helicarrier, Ronan’s spaceship, Thanos’ helicopter from a 70s comic, a Polybius arcade machine (an urban legend claimed that it subjected players to a psychological experiment) the USS Eldridge (a ship some claimed vanished into thin air), the pyramids and Sphinx of Giza, and the Lighthouse of Alexandria.
Kid Loki drinks a carton of Hi-C Ecto Cooler, a promotional tie-in for Slimer! and the Real Ghostbusters.
The Variants explain to Loki that he is in The Void, a cosmic dumping ground at the end of time for all matter the TVA have ever pruned or reset, guarded by the monstrous entity Alioth, who eats… everything.
Loki is taken to their hideout: an old bowling alley. They swap stories about their origins, and despite their pessimism, Loki remains determined to try to find a way back to Sylvie. But when he tries to leave he’s confronted by a dozen more Lokis.
Talk of the devil, Sylvie demands answers from Renslayer, but she insists she has no clue who is truly behind the TVA. She does reveal Loki’s survival and offers to help find him though.
Renslayer and Miss Minutes stall, but our heroine sees through it just in time to avoid being captured by security. Seeing no other choice, she prunes herself.
‘Boastful Loki’ reveals he ratted out his companions to ‘President Loki’ and his followers, but after everybody turns on each other, Loki, Classic Loki, Kid Loki and Alligator Loki are able to slip away in the chaos.
The Variants agree to take Loki to Alioth so he can try and kill it… which reunites him with Sylvie and Mobius, also trying reach the beast. However Sylvie’s plan is instead to enchant it, believing it is guarding the way to the person behind the TVA.
Ahead of their mission, Mobius tells Classic Loki it’s never too late to change, while Loki and Sylvie snuggle up under a blanket and avoid admitting they’re in love.
Mobius leaves via Sylvie’s TemPad, while Classic Loki provides a distraction by conjuring a giant green Asgard (before being eaten), allowing Sylvie and Loki to enchant the monster. Pacified, Alioth reveals a portal to what lies beyond The Void.
Much like Episode 2 and some of the less exciting episodes of WandaVision and The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, I enjoyed this more after watching it a second time, with the first draft of this review vehemently disagreeing with the positive consensus.
I still think it goes a little too far down the Easter egg… rabbit-hole? Sorry. As fun as it is to pause and look at all the background objects, and as nice as it is to finally see some alternate Loki’s on the screen, it all felt a little bit inconsequential to me. My main beef is that the Variants mostly act as an exposition machine, as Loki already underwent his crash course in morality earlier in the series, so they couldn’t provide any cautionary tales. Even Classic Loki’s lonely lamentation was more re-enforcing what Our Loki was already forced to confront by Mobius and Sylvie. On top of that, Boastful Loki barely got a word in, Kid Loki’s actor was incapable of living up to the monumentally popular character, and President Loki amounted to no more than a costume after featuring so prominently in the trailers. Alligator Loki can do no wrong, though.
In addition, there were a number of little annoyances that I would ignore in an episode I liked more; Mobius’ only real contributions to the episode were telling Classic Loki it was never too late to change and hugging Loki, something he could have done last week. It also undid some of the impact of his death scene last week and I can’t help but feel it would have been better if that were a legitimate death and Loki simply went to find the presumed 90s jet ski enthusiast original at the end of the series. B-15 appears for about 60 seconds seemingly only to remind everybody she is still alive and to say subtext aloud. If Sylvie had just established Renslayer was lying to her, why the Hel would she trust that Loki is alive and resetting herself would reunite them? I suppose she was cornered and out of options, but was she really? I’m not wild about Loki spontaneously learning how to Enchant just by holding Sylvie’s hand, either.
Nit-picking aside, it was nice to see a big sci-fi romp ahead of the finale, but still one that had time for quieter moments. The highlight for me was Loki and Sylvie sitting under a blanket talking around their issue, and I did enjoy that her unique abilities provided the means to escape after presumably billions of gods, men and monsters had tried to confront Alioth head on.
I am of course desperately afraid that the finale will be little more than the key players glowing different colours while the VFX team show us an action figure diorama. I also don’t want Sylvie to die but think she will 😦
Most Marvellous Player
Alligator Loki can do no wrong.
Okay, fine, I guess I have to pick a human actor… I am inclined to go with Sophia Di Martino. Her energy drove the momentum of the episode as it has much of the entire series’ plot, and that matters to me even more in episodes I do not find quite as engaging. She is perfect as a hyper-competent survivor who has no time for anybody’s shit, and while the show mostly focuses on Loki’s journey, Sylvie has also changed, but in ways that Di Martino makes subtle. She is still fiery and a little sassy, but her emotional attachment to Loki and desire to achieve a goal we sympathise with have turned her from villain to hero before our eyes. I particularly liked her contemplative delivery of “just one, really” when asked if she has any good memories, which we can infer to be her time with Loki, especially as she immediately prunes herself. Their moment under the blanket was delicious, particularly her sly ‘mhmm’ when he pretends to be cold despite being a Frost Giant.
On a first watch, I wasn’t overly impressed with Richard E. Grant’s performance, writing it off as the type we see from older actors who appear thoroughly lost in a special-effects-heavy movie. The Anthony Hopkins effect. And while he looks distractingly silly, I have since come to appreciate what he’s going for, as he captured the feeling of a world-weary immortal who has schemed his way to outliving everybody only to find himself entirely alone. The revelation that he missed Thor rings true for Our Loki, and his final moments of conjuring a fake Asgard after being away from it for so long and then embracing death were touching, bolstered by Natalie Holt’s excellent score, interpolating Ride of the Valkyries.
Gugu Mbatha-Raw was delightfully squirmy in her attempts to trick Sylvie and try to maintain an illusion of order despite everything imploding around her, as well as running through the lying cop playbook.
Revealing Renslayer actually has no clue who is behind the TVA but remains loyal to them despite that because she is simply in too deep is a good beat in theory, but some of her behaviour was a little erratic. I guess that’s meant to point to her having to think on her feet in response to her entire belief system shattering, but came across as a little inconsistent in my opinion. We still have whoever is really pulling the strings to be revealed next week, and while I don’t think Kang is likely to physically appear, there remain a litany of references to him throughout the show, including one of his towers in the background of this episode. In fact, the entire Void resembled his Chronopolis… as does whatever is on the other side of the portal.
Boastful Loki as a traitor, cutting a secret deal with President Loki and his cohorts was fun in principal, but we just got so little from either beyond a visual design that it was meaningless. I did like that the brawl between all the Variants was treated as childish now that Our Loki has matured.
Alioth was a giant nebulous CGI creature, and those are seldom any fun. This one was no different.
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