Cast: Tom Hiddleston, Owen Wilson, Sophia Di Martino, Wunmi Mosaku, Ke Huy Quan, Tara Strong, Jonathan Majors, Gugu Mbatha-Raw
Writers: Eric Martin, Katharyn Blair, Michael Waldron
Directors: Justin Benson, Aaron Moorhead
Available on: Disney+ Hotstar
Four episodes in, Loki has primarily chosen to focus on how the branched timelines can be incorporated into Time Variance Authority (TVA) without burdening its temporal loom. It is yet to address the mysteries it had introduced in the first episode. The latest chapter, chaotic with urgency, has the characters literally run against time, i.e. its resident creepy, sentient clock, to save the TVA from imploding. With Renslayer (Gugu Mbatha-Raw) and Miss Minutes (Tara Strong) back in the building, the contesting visions for TVA are swirling around, with people either being pruned or boxed to death as either coercive measures or temporary attempts at self-defence.
The episode starts with Miss Minutes providing Ravonna Renslayer with a glimpse into an erased memory. Renslayer and He Who Remains’ (Jonathan Strong) conversation in the past indicates that she was significant in building up TVA along with him. Once she leaves his fortress, located at the End of Time, he calls upon Miss Minutes to enact code 42, to erase Renslayer’s memory, along with everyone else’s at the institution. “I continued to do all the work to keep him there?” Renslayer asks Miss Minutes in the present, who concurs but menacingly. Miss Minutes is trying to fold Renslayer into a plan and expresses the two of them don’t need He Who Remains, but it is not simple to make sense of the sentient clock’s fidelity, whose disturbing crush on He Who Remains persists even as she is resentful about the lack of adequate acknowledgement on his behalf.
Back at the TVA, Loki (Tom Hiddleston) and Mobius (Owen Wilson) are trying to convince Victor Timely (also Jonathan Majors) to fix the temporal loom. Cajoled into repairing the device, which happens to be a larger version of Timely’s invention, Timely and O.B. (Ke Huy Quan) both realise the temporal loom’s capacity needs to be enlarged to incorporate the newer branches. The plan requires one of them to use a “throughput multiplier” to target the rings of the temporal loom, but the stakes of venturing out of the building are higher this time: O.B. discloses that the temporal radiation has increased to an untenable degree, which means whoever volunteers for the task would need to conform to a super-fast speed for the plan to work.
Additionally, the temporal loom’s penchant to decay is higher than its inclination to expand and repair itself. A solution, like neatly pressed linen, presents itself: Timely has an invention that could trump this proclivity, and can be fitted into the throughput multiplier.
Characteristically on edge, Sylvie (Sophia Di Martino) screams at Mobius who wants to have pie right after the group meeting where they decide how to fix the temporal loom. The jarring portrayal of Sylvie whose objectivity is clouded by her cynicism continues in the fourth episode, where Loki anchors her towards clarity. He accuses her of not helping them in good faith, and when she emphatically tells him that she is in the same room as him as a sign of her loyalty, he says she’s only there because Victor Timely is still alive and her allegiance is to surveilling him, rather than supporting the effort to save the TVA. She responds by asking why they’re still playing God even as they decide how to save the branched timelines? “We are gods,” is Loki’s remark as he walks out of the room.
Judge Gamble (Liz Carr) nudges the sceptical B-15 (Wunmi Mosaku) to reason with General Dox (Kate Dickie) that the new version of the TVA is worth protecting. Feeling compelled to have a heart-to-heart, B-15 visits her in the room of confinement where X-5 aka Bradley (Rafael Casal), and the rest of her team are also present. She makes a heartfelt plea to Judge Dox. Miss Minutes and Renslayer apparate in the room shortly after and demand a pledge of fealty to them in order to bring “stability” to the TVA. Dox unequivocally rejects this, and along with the other members of her team, is boxed to death — a punishment X-5 is able to evade as he joins Renslayer and Miss Minutes in their quest. B-15 later pays a visit to the room and is shaken by the sight of the dead bodies. If Sylvie’s character this season is used as a way to pronounce Loki’s moral clarity, B-15 is used to amp up the emotional quotient of the show. In the second season, she too remains only marginally useful, and is subjected to the same problematic feminised tropes as Miss Minutes and Sylvie.
Victor Timely is taken hostage by X-5 and handed over to Renslayer and Miss Minutes. The A.I. the clock also hacks into the system, significantly slowing down the functional capacity of TVA. Everyone’s tempads stop working, and all the files get corrupted in real time. O.B. suggests that they reboot the system, which would mean that the security safeguards will be temporarily removed. Thanks to this, we get a marvellous opportunity for both Loki and Sylvie to exercise their magical abilities.
Everyone who suspected that Loki had indeed pruned himself at the start of this season, give yourself a cupcake as reward. Finally, we have confirmation of this when Sylvie catches a glimpse of Loki effectively pruning himself. “It will make sense,” he promises. As the system gets rebooted, we have Miss Minutes glitch and fade, but not before she tells Timely that he will never be like He Who Remains. Renslayer is pruned by X-5, who is under Loki and Sylvie’s spell and doing their bidding. But even with the arch-villains temporarily out of the way, the larger and pressing concern about the TVA imploding persists. Timely ends up volunteering to venture out into the deathly radiation, but within a second of him going out there, we see a shocking burst of light, essentially implying that Timely has probably succumbed to the untenable conditions. The temporal loom is also seen imploding, with debris travelling towards the TVA at an alarming speed.
Of course, we all know the story is far from over, which begs the question: What is going on with these forced cliffhanger endings? There is an insecurity in this device, which we’ve now seen in two episodes. It is as if the franchise doesn’t trust its own audience to return if there isn’t a gasp-inducing, grab-the-edge-of-their-seats tension. It is doubtful that Timely has burnt into a crisp as is implied, and the final episodes are likely to show how Loki’s initial glitching would be tied to how he will try to save the TVA from imploding. However, with so much still feeling unresolved, it is hard not to feel like this season is more of a setup to hold on to the show’s fans, rather than take Loki’s story forward.