Plot summary: Loki and Sylvie meet ‘He Who Remains’, who offers them an intriguing proposition at the end of time…
Episode Title: ‘For All Time. Always.’
Air Date: July 14th, 2021
Directed: Kate Herron (6)
Written: Michael Waldron (2) & Eric Martin (2)
Jonathan Majors’ character here is somewhat of an amalgam of Immortus, a future version of Kang the Conqueror who was tutored by the Time-Keepers and worked to preserve timelines, and He Who Remains, who in the comics is a decrepit old man at the end of time.
Among the soundbites from the opening are lines of dialogue from various MCU characters, and in an homage to Contact, we hear Neil Armstrong, Greta Thunberg, Nelson Mandela, Malala Yousafzai, Maya Angelou, Alan Watts and Ellen Johnson Sirleaf.
Loki & Sylvie arrive on the other side of the portal, the Citadel at the End of Time. Heading inside, they’re confronted by Miss Minutes, who offers them everything they’ve ever wanted on behalf of ‘He Who Remains.’
They decline and press on, passing statues of the Time-Keepers (including a fourth, destroyed one) until they are confronted by ‘He Who Remains’, who is positively giddy to see them, inviting them up to his office.
Back at the TVA, Miss Minutes gives Renslayer some files ‘he’ thinks will be useful. Mobius arrives soon after to confront her, having already worked with B-15 to trick some Minute Men into coming face to face with the original Renslayer, an Ohio schoolteacher.
Mobius tries to convince her to turn the TVA into a legitimate force for good, but she instead disarms him and escapes through a portal.
Sylvie repeatedly tries to kill He Who Remains, but he perfectly anticipates every blow and evades. He claims to have seen everything that has happened and will happen.
Furthermore, he claims he discovered the Multiverse in the 31st century, and while at first ideas and technology were shared, war between his Variants soon followed until he discovered Alioth and used it to wipe out other timeline branches, and then established the TVA.
He offers Loki & Sylvie the opportunity to kill him and let everything descend into chaos, or take his place and dictate the flow of ‘The Sacred Timeline’. He claims to have reached the last point in time where he knows the outcome and surrenders his TemPad to assure them his offer his legitimate.
With the timeline branching wildly around them, the two have differing ideas and fight a little before kissing. Sylvie then shoves Loki through a portal back to the TVA (having swiped the TemPad) and kills He Who Remains.
Loki finds Mobius and B-15 and tries to explain the urgency of their situation, with an army of Variants likely to wage war any minute… but Mobius asks “who are you?”
In a mid-credits scene, we are promised Loki will return in Season 2!
Much of what I want to talk about comes from the acting side of things, which is below.
What a pleasant surprise to reach a finale of a superhero show or movie and see it resolved primarily through talking instead of action figures smashing into each other. There is a little bit of that, with Loki and Sylvie flinging green orbs and furniture at each other and performing wirework, but even that is done with huge emotional ramifications for an audience that doesn’t know who to side with and just wants their faves to stop fighting. Achieving that kind of uncertainty in the height of a finale’s tension is all most of us are looking for from television, and then they hit us with the final stinger.
He Who Remains’ explanation of how he got here actually not being all that far off Miss Minutes’ briefing video from episode 1 was a clever touch, and I liked the way his ‘TemPad’ illustrated it all. Speaking of his TemPad, I loved that the exact second he slid it out of his own reach, Sylvie made her move, in keeping with her own characterisation as a decisive survivor.
There’s actually surprisingly little to say, as it was mostly just talking, and you either liked what was said and how… or you didn’t. Personally, I very much did, but maybe you wanted a grand fight scene. I’m of the mind this isn’t that kind of show. Classic Loki basically explained that last week by rejecting blades for sorcery and their minds.
Most Marvellous Player
For about ten minutes, I was convinced Tara Strong was going to take this in a walk. She has been a tremendous amount of fun throughout the show, but turning full horror movie monster was inspired. Strong adjusts her delivery to give Miss Minutes a slightly more knowing, threatening edge, teased last week in her response to Renslayer’s non-verbal cues.
But then Jonathan Majors arrived to blow everybody’s socks off. We use words like magnetic and electric all the time when talking about a performance, but this was one of the most captivating pieces of acting I’ve seen in a hot minute. You hang on his every word and simply cannot take your eyes off him. It’s the childish giggling, the casual demeanour in a self-serious sci-fi epic, the utter bemusement with the leads, the exhausted explanation of how he’s definitely right and they’re definitely wrong. It’s that weird tutting sound he makes before saying “talking”. It’s the wild fluctuations of his tone when asking Sylvie if she can trust anyone. It’s his impression of all of his Variants complimenting each other. It’s his patronising “amen” in harmony with the score. It’s his little “you’re welcome” after his grand monologue. Even his little whimper when Sylvie stabs him! God, I’m glad he’s going to be around for a while.
Hiddleston and Di Martino are by no means bad, but they have no hope against such a powerhouse performance, and they’re mostly relegated to listening to a long story and then having a so-so sword fight. They give it everything they have in the three minutes the chains are taken off them, and Hiddleston delivers the line that sums up their final stinging moment together best “You can’t trust, and I can’t be trusted.” His heart breaking “no” when she offers him a chance to kill her is p. great too.
A subtle touch for He Who Remains is referring to Sylvie as Loki, something Loki himself and even Mobius stopped doing a little while ago, and only the villainous characters have stuck to, denying her a sense of individuality. But in keeping with the idea he’s not a 100% evil ‘mwahaha’ villain, he himself rejects the concept of a name, asserting that things are far too complicated for that. His warnings of worse versions of himself, such as the impending MCU Big Bad, Kang the Conqeuror, comes off as sincere, and best of all, we have a real chance several years from now to return to the moment where he claimed he had thought of every possible scenario and this was the only way… and realise he was right.
One of his more overt machinations was turning Loki and Sylvie against each other. So prodigious is Loki’s treachery and lust for power, that even Sylvie assumes the worst of him, and their battle ends up placing her arguably back where she started: as the series’ main villain. Especially as she murdered the new kid on the block.
Renslayer tripling down on her faith in the TVA despite knowing everything, asserting, “it can’t have all been for nothing” was more sad than menacing. What IS menacing is her belief that only the one in charge should get to have free will, having assumed somebody has to be in charge in the first place.
And again, Miss Minutes as an out and out villain who knows more than even Renslayer is a fun touch.
Check out The Matt Signal, in which I recap episodes of Batman the Animated Series every Saturday and Sunday. This weekend we at last learn what caused the rift between Batman and Nightwing, and Etrigan the Demon stops in to say hello.
There Will Be Movies continues each Wednesday, as Ben Phillips and I talk about 25 of our favourite movies from the 90s. This week: The Silence of the Lambs.