Loki Brings It All Together by Breaking It All Apart

Loki Brings It All Together by Breaking It All Apart
Something's rotten in the state of TVAnmark, to corrupt Shakespeare. (Image: Marvel Studios)

All good television is born from taking a sense of stability — a status quo, a relationship, a perceived knowledge of the stage it’s set on — and blowing it up into tiny little bits. A good job then that Loki is about Marvel’s premiere agent of chaos then, because in order to get this interesting, all the show had to do was to tear itself apart.

“The Nexus Event” — rather appropriately titled, given that this unfurls to be a moment of monumental chaos in Loki’s previously established order of things — opens with a twofold truth. In the past, we see the moment the TVA snatch Sylvie as a young child (Cailey Fleming), and learn that it was none other than Ravonna Renslayer (Gugu Mbatha-Raw) herself, then a Hunter who did so — and allowed the young girl to flee into time itself before she could be judged for her purported crimes.

In the present on the doomed planet of Lamentis-1, where adult Sylvie (Sophia Di Martino) and Loki (Tom Hiddleston) are currently melancholic at their seeming doom, we see the impact the TVA’s cruel work has had on Sylvie all these years later. Her entire life lead on the run and believed to be aberrant — a being that should not exist, confined to life along a timeline of apocalypses — is an important contrast for the lessons our own God of Mischief will learn later in the episode. But even before the TVA interrupts their seeming doom, it’s important to see that Loki and Sylvie find themselves far more alike, and needing of each other, than simply being time-shattered versions of the same self.

Loki’s insight that Sylvie is amazing for her ability to endure what she has alone — and the implication that now that she has found kin, she will be able to reach further highs — is more than just the perhaps crude “clone bone” relationship vibe it might come across as, that these are two “Lokis” who find respect and a kind of love in each other’s presence. In finding the ability to care for each other in this way, in some manner, Loki is learning to love himself — themselves, in this weird multiversal sense — as he navigates this strange journey of the future self he’s been barrelling towards since the beginning of the series.

That is, unfortunately, momentarily put on hold when Mobius (Owen Wilson) — at Renslayer’s behest, focusing his investigation away from discovering whatever happened to poor Hunter C-20 (Sasha Lane) when Sylvie enchanted her — and the TVA show up to whisk the Asgardians way from destruction, and into confinement.

Image: Marvel Studios Image: Marvel Studios

What follows is a fascinating parallel, as Renslayer pushes Mobius and Hunter B-15 (Wunmi Mosaku, who finally gets a bit more to do here to delightful effect) to stop asking questions around his case — especially after Loki desperately tries to reveal the truth revealed to him by Sylvie, that the TVA is staffed by mind-wiped variants itself — and just close the deal and Loki and Sylvie both desperately try to upend the facade the TVA and its masters are hiding. Mobius turns the tactics Renslayer used on him on his former buddy cop to almost devastating effect, trapping him in a “time cell” to relive an embarrassing past moment with Lady Sif (the returning Jamie Alexander in a brief guest appearance) — telling him that he’s not just failed, but that Sylvie has already been erased and that he’s next.

That now Loki’s even lost Mobius, he is now truly alone, and therefore powerless against the unified might of the Time Keepers’ will. The repeated loop of Sif punching him to the floor for cutting her hair might ultimately be therapeutic for Loki — the chance to once again litigate his awareness that he’s been kind of an arsehole to push away the people around him his entire life — but it is this loneliness that cuts the most.

Mobius, like Renslayer did with him, seeks to hide the truth (not just Sylvie’s fate, but that he himself is beginning to doubt the TVA’s as on-the-level as he’d been lead to believe) in isolating his opponent, in robbing Loki of the strength he has come to find in connection, whether it was once with Mobius or now with Sylvie. In connection, the truth can set them free, along with B-15 and the rest of the TVA, but in isolation, the lie of the Time Keepers and Judge Renslayer can persist.

Well, for a short time, at least. Mobius’ curiosity gets the better of him, freeing Loki from his Sif-loop to get the gang back together; likewise, Hunter B-15 frees Sylvie, whisking her back to the Roxxmart they last encountered each other in, to get a glimpse of her pre-TVA life. While Sylvie and B-15 get to make some progress Scot-free, Loki and Mobius aren’t so lucky, as Mobius pays the ultimate price as Judge Renslayer comes knocking, using her baton to wipe him off the face of existence.

From there, all hell breaks loose, and in true style for Loki, both the show and the character (after all, as Sylvie mentions near the episode’s start, the universe demands chaos, and it’s why gods and goddesses of mischief exist in the first place) embrace it to stunning effect. What could’ve been an endgame showdown — Loki and Sylvie, and now B-15 for good measure, against Renslayer and the Time Keepers — becomes an immediate clash, both shocking in its significance and in how it’s undercut as actually not as dramatic as our heroes thought it would be. The Time Keepers are simply androids, Renslayer is simply a cog of an algorithmic lie that she’s leveraged to hold power for untold time, and, uh…

Image: Marvel Studios Image: Marvel Studios

Loki’s dead? Well, “dead,” but we’ll get to that. The undercut drama of the Time Keepers’ falsehood is given a momentary jolt by Renslayer shoving her baton into Loki’s back mid-confession to Sylvie — once again, an act that feels as much about him embracing the possibility of loving himself as a person as much as it is sharing feelings for this alternate version — seemingly offing our hero for good, and a heartbreaking endcap to “The Nexus Event” despite us knowing they’re not really going to bump off the title star with two episodes to go. And, of course, that’s exactly what happens.

As Sylvie is left seemingly alone and at the behest of Renslayer, the latter’s power dynamic hanging on by a thread, a post-credits scene reveals that Loki is still very much alive… and among friends. Friends who all happen to be himself, from guest star Richard E. Grant clad in Loki’s classic silver-age comics costume, to Young Avengers’ Kid Loki (Jack Veal), to a hammer-wielding variant (Deobia Oparei) and even, hilariously, Gator-Loki, in the most adorable little crown.

As shockingly chaotic a reveal as it is, brimming with Marvel’s most favourite loves, comic book easter eggs, and the mere possibility of questions (my favourite of them all being “is this something that happens to every variant ‘killed’ by a baton, and is Mobius now just having his own Crisis on Infinite Owens Wilson?”), the real thesis of the moment is not in idle theorycraft.

It’s a reminder of a lesson woven throughout “The Nexus Event”: There’s a power to connection, both to one’s self and to others around you. There’s strength in numbers, in the power of multiple perspectives and facets of a thing. And a whole multiverse of Lokis is a fearsome might to bear on the ever-isolated power structures of the TVA, no matter how many faux-disintegration batons Judge Renslayer wants to shake at it.