Kate Herron, Michael Waldron, and Tom Hiddleston all teased in Loki’s promo tour that Episode 4 would take everything we know and make us question everything – well, they weren’t lying. From the outset, the squeaky-clean image of the TVA is muddied by the truth behind Sylvie’s ‘Variant’ status – merely existing. With Renslayer taking her in personally, and equally being responsible for her escape, it makes much more sense why the “Time-Keepers” were so determined to erase her. It’s personal, after all. We’re not given much as to why Sylvie was targeted, but it seems to revolve around her unique nature as a female Loki – perhaps because she’s part-Loki, part-Enchantress.
The thematic resonance of Loki has definitely shifted, as we move into a spy thriller/grand conspiracy, instigated through the post-case briefing between Renslayer and Mobius. Mobius’ continual questioning and Renslayer’s defensive closed-off answers destabilize our initial perception of the TVA, which also feels like a clever thematic call-back to Loki telling both Mobius and us “no-one good is ever truly good.” Perhaps we should’ve been listening to Loki all along. What’s truly compelling about this thematic complexity is the reflections of the current socio-political climate – although it’s clear Loki isn’t trying to be inherently political, it’s an interesting parallel to institutional corruption within authoritarian forces. Considering the TVA supposedly govern all of time-and-space, proclaiming themselves as the true protectors, their insidious methods of interrogations and concealed evidence of their corruption feels like a clever commentary without feeling painfully transparent or blunt. It’s quite funny that Loki is able to do what The Falcon and the Winter Soldier couldn’t, despite one being about wild space-time adventures with a trickster god, and the other proclaiming to reflect complex socio-political issues around race and authority in the Western world.
Waldron continues to build his Loki into something that both evolves the original and also forges their own path – as Sylvie and Loki begin to deepen their connection, continuing this thread of a lonely longing for love, there’s also a humour to them falling for one another. There’s really nothing more narcissistic than you literally falling in love with yourself, is there? It’s definitively Loki. Another thing that’s definitively Loki is pranks, as we see a surprise Sif cameo! Hopefully we get to see a proper return of her later in the MCU, in Love and Thunder, but I’ve no expectations to her being peppered in as the perpetual torturer of Loki’s time cell.
This is easily the best episode of Loki thus far and perhaps may end up being the greatest because of the sucker punches it packs along the way. It encapsulates this paranoid destabilization whilst maintaining this far-out sci-fi feel, and compels you by ensnaring in mystery-upon-mystery, like a cosmic Agatha Christie tale. Particularly toward the last 15 minutes, when things begin to completely unravel, there were moments that had me shouting at my TV in disbelief. If you’ve seen the episode, you’ll understand the moments I mean but I shan’t share them here – however, Waldron and Herron have taken us to a very exciting final act, and it feels like a brilliant thematic denouement. What better way to crescendo this series about a trickster than to up-end everything you’ve established, and to just say to your face “nothing you’ve seen has been real, here’s what’s really behind the curtain.” Loki’s our Dorothy, and he’s just pulled back the curtain to reveal the ‘Wizard’ is nothing more than a couple of gears and some leaky oil – so who made the robot? Time to find out.
Episode 4 of Loki is now streaming on Disney Plus.