After six episodes of fan theories and anticipation, the Loki season finale (“For All Time. Always.”) shifted viewers from fantasy character study into full-blown Marvel madness.
As always, the performances were stellar. While there’s been some debate as to whether or not Loki’s character was diluted for this show (we’ll talk more on that in a bit), there’s no denying Hiddleston’s acting chops. He delivers arguably his best performance as Loki in this episode, in a dramatic departure from the narcissistic, devil-may-care Loki we had in Thor: Ragnarok or even Loki S1E1 “Glorious Purpose.” Given Elizabeth Olsen and Paul Bettany’s surprising (but deserved) Emmy nominations for WandaVision, it’s very possible that Hiddleston could be put up for next year’s awards.
Sophia Di Martino is also a serious contender. Sylvie takes her final steps towards revenge in the season finale, finally tracking down and killing the man behind the TVA (which we’ll also talk more about in a bit). Di Martino delivers a heartbreaking performance as Loki tries to keep Sylvie from succumbing to vengeance—a testament to how far Loki has come, and how far Sylvie has not.
Mobius (Owen Wilson) and Ravonna Renslayer (Gugu Mbatha-Raw) had a firey reunion post-pruning in the Loki season finale, and Ravonna expressed her own feeling of betrayal to her old friend:
Mobius: “You betrayed me.”
Ravonna: “No, no. You betrayed me! I looked out for you, hung my neck out for you, and you suffer a crisis of faith and turn to those Variants? Eons of friendship and you threw it all away on a couple of Lokis.”
Ravonna ends the season in search of answers somewhere else on the timeline. What comes next? We don’t know (but we DO know that she was Kang the Conqueror’s girlfriend in the comics, which bodes well for her life in the MCU).
I’d personally like to extend props to composer Natalie Holt for divining one of the best scores to grace the MCU. Every episode of this show has featured a mind-blowing theme that perfectly fits the mysterious and fantastical world we’re living in. Some of her best achievements include the mystical X-Files-esque opening theme, and the piece from Loki & Sylvie’s escape from the Void in S1E5 “Journey into Mystery” as Classic Loki magically projected Asgard, scored with an epic theme complete with melodic references to “Flight of the Valkyries.”
NOW we can talk about Kang the Conqueror.
As predicted by thousands of fans, the man behind the TVA was none other than Kang the Conqueror (played with sheer delight by Jonathan Majors), badass comics villain and slated character for the upcoming Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania.
Kang introduced himself anonymously, telling Loki and Sylvie that many variants of himself from different universes found a way to meet, share research, and eventually caused a multi-universal war that he ended by creating the Sacred Timeline and the TVA to keep it in check.
He claimed to have prophetic knowledge up to a point, at which he offered Loki and Sylvie a choice: kill him, release the multiverse and all the chaos that comes with it, or take over control of the TVA and the Sacred Timeline in his stead.
Loki, miraculously, does not want a throne. He is offered one twice in this episode—once in a ploy by Miss Minutes to trick him and Sylvie into giving up their attack on Kang, and the second time by Kang himself—and expresses no joy in the thought of the prize he once killed thousands for. Sylvie doesn’t believe Kang’s story and decides to kill him. Loki fears universal chaos for the first time and disagrees.
They fight, and it’s an incredible moment of storytelling and incorporates the best of the series’ work in lighting, fight choreography, scoring, cinematography, and acting.
In a moment that shocked… oh, say, about half of Loki’s audience on Wednesday, Sylvie kissed a tearful Loki to distract him. She then pushed him through a portal back to the TVA, leaving her to kill Kang and free the multiverse in his wake. Loki is left in a separate timeline back in the TVA in which Mobius and Hunter B-15 don’t know him yet and an enormous statue of Kang has been erected. As heartbreaking as it was to see Loki be alone again, the Loki season finale left us with a compelling and motivated protagonist for Season 2.
When Kang was defending his dictatorship over the free will of the universe’s inhabitants, he proudly proclaimed to Sylvie & Loki, “We’re all villains here.” It’s the thesis of the show—that we get to dig deep into what makes a villain tick and see that they’re not inherently evil. That, as Mobius so kindly said in “The Nexus Event,” “You can be whoever, whatever you wanna be—even someone good.”
Kang’s line is also a little meta—Loki literally used to be a narrative villain, Kang is one, Sylvie is (perhaps) about to become one.
There’s been criticism that this show wasn’t about Loki—I see it, I get it. While I think a lot of time was devoted to Loki’s character arc and working through (some) of his trauma, the end of this season definitely existed to set up Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania and Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness.
It was also disappointing to see much of Loki’s character development result in his losing his chaotic tendencies—while his balance growth fueled an excellent parallel to Sylvie’s early-Loki-style motivations and narcissism (she threw away the whole world to achieve her own revenge, something Loki doesn’t want anymore), he did end up losing a lot of the “fun” parts of his character.
Hopefully Season 2 will see a return to some of Loki’s chaotic attitudes turned to good, as he’s lost Sylvie and likely has a lot of pain to shove down and work through.
While it was a bit touch-and-go there in Episode 5 where it seemed like Sylvie’s development was going to be pushed to the side in favor of Loki’s, the Loki season finale took strides to make sure that she isn’t just a white-girl-fan self-insert for Loki’s first romance, and is instead a compelling antihero in her own right. Thank goodness.
I’m going to avoid the ship wars and the “Kate Herron said it’s not romantic” argument and my own personal thoughts on whether or not Loki & Sylvie’s relationship is incestuous (spoiler alert: I don’t think most people actually know what that word means and also they’re wizards) and say to me, the Loki/Sylvie kiss reads as very one-sided.
I think it’s possible that Sylvie loves Loki, it’s much more clear that Loki had feelings because he’d never been understood by anyone before; that he views his own self-worth by the ability of this other version of him to love him back. He’s like a teenager having a crush for the first time and thinking it’s love just because he’s getting affection back.
By the time Loki confesses that Sylvie created the multiverse to Mobius and B-15 at the end of the episode, he’s still blaming himself: “We’ve made a terrible mistake.”
He has to fight the part of himself that was broken by vengeance—the part of him that’s still a villain—and he lost.
Or, rather, he thought he did. After Sylvie kisses Loki, she says to him, “But I’m not you,” and chucks him unceremoniously through a portal. The natural continuation of Loki’s arc will hopefully culminate in him realizing that he isn’t Sylvie and that he can be better than her. Better than the violent and manipulative person he used to be. He has a chance to evolve. The universe is literally full of possibilities.
Sylvie has her own goals. As a Loki, she isn’t at the place yet where the universe’s needs come before her own. She’s still hurting. Hiddleston’s Loki got in the way of that. It was a pretty clear distraction kiss—Loki was crying, he was wearing his heart on his sleeve by this point, and she leaned in and pushed him around to get him out of the way.
It doesn’t mean she’s given up on him completely—their relationship is fascinating and I’m sure we’ll explore that betrayed-betrayer theme further in Season 2 (Sylvie would make a great villain on their way to defeating Kang), but more than that, she is her own character.
I’m honestly thrilled that Sylvie “dumped” Loki in this episode, even if it did break his heart, because their relationship didn’t work. She hasn’t evolved the way he has. It’s also refreshing to see a woman added to a show whose character arc didn’t lead up only to her having a romance with the lead, but lead up to her subverting it. (For now, at least. Please, please, PLEASE don’t prove me wrong, Season 2.) Sylvie deserves her own plotline just as Loki deserves his.
I’ve been seeing a lot of fans really pissed about the openness of the Loki season finale, or the Loki-on-Loki action, or Loki being treated as a side character. I’m hoping we can all take a breather together and remember that…
1) Season 2 is coming! We have time to tie things up!
2) Not everything is black-and-white. That’s what makes a compelling narrative and it was kinda the point of this show.
There is SO much time left. Unlimited time, really.
Okay, maybe I was legitimately more heartbroken by Mobius not knowing Loki at the end of the episode than Sylvie abandoning him. I may have joked about Loki kissing Owen Wilson enough to kinda buy into the ship (#Wowki for life), but unfortunately, it’s probably not going to happen. I can, however, hope for the angst to get cleared up in Season 2.
Or at least I can hope for Mobius to finally ride a jet ski.