Loki – Season 1 Episode 6
“For All Time, Always”
Loki ends its first season by revealing the power behind the TVA and answering many of the lingering questions.
There’s an art to teasing and then concluding a mystery that this show has taken to very well. Much of this season has been about answering who is behind the TVA, the management of the timeline, the loss of free will, the exploitation of people in pursuit of those goals and many other side questions both large and small. The opening moments of this episode depict that in microcosm with a collection of audio clips from the real world and the MCU bringing the action to the -relatively speaking- present followed up by the delayed reveal of who inhabits the citadel.
It isn’t for long but the delayed reveal of Kang (Jonathan Majors) is long enough to create ample tension early on. Miss Minutes talking about an offer and referring to a mysterious “he” builds the suspense until the understated reveal of nothing more than a man behind a door. The anticlimax is exactly the point and it works in tandem with the “What did you expect?” question that exists in the background. Kang eating an apple early on has some obvious biblical connotations with the apple representing knowledge, temptation, sin and fallibility. All things that can be attributed to Loki and Sylvie in abundance.
Kang was a popular theory for being the architect -that word was chosen very carefully- of everything this show has featured. As someone who knows him from the comics it’s fair to assume that anything involving time travel and manipulating time can be attributed to him but the bulk of the audience Marvel is looking to capture with these shows will be unfamiliar with the comics so the storytelling has to be internally consistent with what the content being presented is doing. This makes introducing someone like Kang a risky proposition because a single episode has to introduce him, develop him and make a case for why it matters without any background knowledge being assumed.
What this normally results in is a very exposition heavy experience which isn’t a bad thing if it’s presented in such a way that holds the attention of the viewer rather than feeling like a long dump of information. This episode falls somewhere in the middle with a lot of the content being interesting but a failure to continually keep it engaging. Uncomfortable comparisons can be made to the infamous architect conversation in The Matrix: Reloaded -see- where a lot of time is spent throwing confusing explanations at the viewer in a misguided effort to make an overly convoluted plot seem less convoluted. What is delivered here isn’t on the same level of convoluted but at the same time there’s a distinct lack of weight to it.
Part of the problem is that the information provided is a variation on what is already known. Back in the first episode of the season there was mention of a Multiversal War necessitating the creation of a “Sacred Timeline” to bring order to the chaos that was branching realities. Policing the Timeline is the TVA. All of that is still true with the only difference being that Kang was responsible rather than the “Time Keepers”. It takes him a significant amount of time to explain this but he doesn’t offer anything new beyond the fact that he was responsible rather than the “Time Keepers”. The reveal that the “Time Keepers” were robots put in place by him seems to have fallen by the wayside as no justification was given for why such a thing was necessary. It amounted to a shock reveal for the sake of a shock reveal which is never good.
The idea of the whole thing being started by variants of Kang who initially got along before going to War with one another is theoretically interesting but not enough is known about this version of Kang to give that explanation any weight. It’s little more than a procession of details that he tells to Loki and Sylvie who act largely as audience surrogates for most of the episode. The stakes are clearly outlined, the consequences of not managing the timeline properly are continually teased and the idea of Kang being his own worst enemy remains consistent throughout. This connects him to Loki in the abstract as a lot of this season has been spent exploring the notion of Loki getting in his own way both internally and externally but these are ideas that are presented with no development.
Kang himself is a problem though I suspect this will largely come down to personal taste in terms of how people react to him. I personally found the character to be incredibly irritating because of how obnoxiously quirky he was. Most of his lines were delivered in a frustratingly aloof way which countered the supposed gravity of the information he was providing. The performance is a clear homage to Gene Wilder’s Willy Wonka and the idea of him looking for a replacement to carry on in his stead invites another comparison to that character but his personality felt at odds with the content itself. Jonathan Majors delivers the material well and his performance as his knowledge of how things are “meant” to play out ends is incredibly chilling. After this point he comes across as more of a lonely God who has burdened himself with a task that can never be complete. When he says he is tired and has been at this for a very long time the sincerity is believable with a palpable sense of fatigue in his voice.
There are a lot of ideas and implications associated with what Kang brings up. Some of them have been covered already such as whether control is necessary to maintain order. Free will has been in the background of the whole season with it being proven to not exist since everything is pre-ordained by the TVA -or Kang- who decide what is supposed to happen. Anything running counter to that is removed and things progress as Kang believes they should. Even Loki and Sylvie breaking free of that control is itself part of that control. Everything they are doing is revealed to be part of the script that Kang has access to, at least to a certain point where everything beyond is uncertain. In trying to reclaim free will Loki and Sylvie have actually simply been playing their part but so has Kang which raises another interesting question.
Everyone in this show is trapped in a pre-ordained sequence of events designed to mitigate chaos in the timeline in order to prevent another Mulviersal War. Kang himself has lines in this script that he recites while gleefully pointing out he knows exactly what happens and when it happens. This is true until the script runs out so the natural conclusion is that Kang is also trapped in his role. If he controls it then who trapped him in that role? Is it a sacrifice he made for the good of the timeline or is there another power at work? Is that power another Kang not trapped in a particular role? These are all open questions that aren’t addressed though they don’t necessarily need to be addressed as leaving some things unanswered can be a good thing.
In this case the questions and inconsistencies are very confusing. The exposition is really quick and lacking in detail with the information being presented as definitive. Loki failing to address Kang also being trapped in a role is frustratingly out of character for him. All he and Sylvie do is repeat the accusation that Kang is a liar. He may well be but there isn’t enough information to say either way though the episode puts forward that everything he says is true judging by how it ends.
Sylvie reiterating that she believes free will is important and that she condemns Kang for manipulating the lives of others. It’s something he shrugs off as necessary and by pointing out that they’re all villains which works considering who is interacting in those scenes. Kang does seem to have no concept of “good” or “evil” because he has boiled down his actions to what he believes to be necessary. It’s a difficult argument to accept because the rules have never been outlined so it’s impossible to determine how this all matches up.
The whole point of this is to offer Loki and Sylvie a choice. They can either take his place and run the TVA as he did in order to preserve the status quo or they can kill him and plunge the timeline into chaos again. Kang states that the second option will restart a cycle that will end up in the same place -which once again uncomfortably references The Matrix: Reloaded– but not knowing what comes next is something that excites him.
Loki and Sylvie’s discussion about what to do next works well as a culmination of their shared journey. After hearing everything Loki makes the case for taking over because there’s too much at stake for them not to assume this position. Sylvie passes judgement on him assuming this is another power grab prompted by the irresistible lure of arguably the biggest throne in existence though Loki insists that it’s not about that and all he said about being a better person was genuine. He makes an emotional plea for her to work with him on this and tries to affirm his feelings for her which she uses to manipulate him, banish him back to the TVA, kill Kang and allow the timeline to break. The kiss they share being a deception designed to lower his defences and manipulate his feelings for her was a strong moment that calls back to the way she has behaved around him since they met. It also works that they are too similar while also being too different to fully trust one another and only being able to work together as long as it suits both of their current interests.
Sylvie breaking the timeline by killing Kang and refusing to let the control continue leads to a cliffhanger ending that will be picked up in the -now confirmed- second season as well as presumably a number of other MCU projects in the meantime. As an ending it doesn’t mean much by itself as there is only mention of a nebulous threat that will be unleashed as a result of this with no payoff in the midst of other teases that promise to be picked up later. Among them is Mobius no longer knowing Loki therefore making their friendship one sided which is tragic in its own right and a variant of Ravonna being found in 2018 that means nothing for now. This does tie into the dawning realisation that they have all been lied to and manipulated in service of a grander plan but the content itself was repetitive, failed to make good use of the characters and ultimately culminated in a promise to answer it later rather than deliver much of substance now.
A disappointing finale that delivers repetitive exposition, largely fails the characters and is little more than a tease for next season without delivering much of substance to end this one. The slow tension filled build up to Kang’s introduction was handled really well with the characters and viewer being kept waiting just long enough before introducing him. Kang being presented as a homage to Willy Wonka was incredibly frustrating though I suspect this will come down to personal taste. His quirky personality was at odds with the gravity of the information being presented and a lot of what he had to say was very repetitive. Much of what he had to say invites other compelling questions around the idea of free will and whether Kang himself actually has it though for some reason they aren’t properly addressed which is bafflingly out of character for Loki. Jonathan Majors plays the part well and his performance as Kang realises everything that was pre-ordained has played out with the future being uncertain is chilling. The presentation of him as a lonely God tired of being in a particular role from then is far more interesting.
The choice presented to Loki and Sylvie with the friction it creates between them is compelling. Sylvie sees Loki’s reaction as being lured to the biggest throne in existence where he insists that he was being genuine about having changed and the feelings he has for her. She manipulates him with a kiss before banishing him to the TVA, killing Kang and allowing the timeline to break because her belief in free will is so absolute. It amounts to a cliffhanger ending with no clear indication of what is coming next in the midst of other cliffhangers that serve as little more than a tease for a second season.
- the slow and tense build up to Kang’s introduction
- the shift in Kang’s personality once he had no idea what would come next
- Sylvie’s manipulation of Loki to facilitate his banishing to the TVA
- Sylvie continuing to be an unflinching supporter of free will
- repetitive exposition
- posing intriguing questions around Kang and the overall situation that aren’t even addressed
- failing to make good use of the characters for the most part
- Kang’s frustrating quirky personality being at odds with the gravity of the information being delivered
- doing little more than teasing the next season
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