Warning: this Loki episode 5 review contains spoilers. If you have not watched the Disney Plus show yet, then bookmark this page and come back when you're all caught up...
The Marvel Cinematic Universe has received a lot of criticism for being a rather loveless affair. Steve Rogers and Peggy Carter; Tony Stark and Pepper Potts; Wanda and Vision and… well, that’s about the extent to which we’ve seen romance successfully portrayed in this franchise. Perhaps there’s a reason the superhero series has often stayed away from showing characters falling in love – there are more misses than hits (Thor and Jane Foster, Black Widow and Hulk, Doctor Strange and Rachel McAdams) and Loki has been hurtling toward being a big miss.
At least the Disney Plus show’s title character is so vain that only another Loki will do, a fitting decision by writer Michael Waldron. Unfortunately, the time Sylvie and Tom Hiddleston’s Variant have spent together has been pretty difficult to watch, with the absolute worst scene shared by the pair – one that’s seemingly stripped from a teenage novel – coming around the half-hour point of “Journey Into Mystery”.
Loki and Sylvie sit on a hill talking through how they will kill the smoke monster defending the mastermind behind the TVA. Loki conjures up a blanket while Sylvie looks awkwardly at him, both characters unable to express their true feelings despite the TVA revealing their love created a Nexus event all those episodes ago. Loki eventually extends the blanket so they can both get under, but it’s not very snuggly. The scene has been hammed up to eleven – to the point of being unconvincing. When Sylvie says she doesn’t know what to do next, Loki replies, “Maybe... maybe we could figure it out together.” It took four minutes to get to that line.
Perhaps Loki, the show, should have followed WandaVision’s suit and kept episodes to a maximum half hour, because stretching out this storyline has led to momentum-busting moments like this. These Marvel series have been a great excuse to delve deeper into characters who have otherwise been neglected for big-name Avengers, but the stories have, at times, struggled to demand the extra screen-time. The Loki-Sylvie scene is an example of not being succinct enough, whereas seeing Richard E. Grant and Owen Wilson sitting around a fire is exactly why these shows exist. I could easily watch these two doing absolutely nothing and I would have a great time. A shame, then, that they are only afforded one minute together, though that’s perhaps why the moment is so sweet.
“Journey Into Mystery” also succeeds when it gets weird. The Loki uprising is fantastically imaginative. Seeing Boastful Loki pull a Loki and sell out his fellow Lokis, only for President Loki to be a backstabber, and his group of marauding Lokis to then turn treacherous is deliriously good fun. And yet, by the midway mark, we’ve left that plotline behind, with only a few select Lokis continuing the journey. That’s not mentioning how the initial multi-Loki scenes are broken up by Judge Renslayer and Sylvie sharing their own expositional scenes back at the TVA, helping explain how Hiddleston’s Loki has survived.
It’s disappointing that the fun of having all these Lokis – of having bloody Richard E. Grant in Asgardian cosplay garb – is squandered by the show’s impetus to get Sylvie and Loki back together again. The final fight with the smoke monster is, again, weighed down by Sylvie and Loki holding hands and essentially doing not very much. However, Grant laughing maniacally as his Classic Loki causes a distraction is a highlight, and I’m sad to see that his character may have already been wiped from existence.
The Loki finale now awaits. Sylvie and Loki, still holding hands, walk through a strange portal to a building that looks distractingly like an evil Hogwarts, and we can only speculate about what waits at the end. Hopefully, though, there won’t be any more predictably awkward “will they/won’t they” moments, and the Lokis can get on with the task at hand. And maybe take Alligator Loki with them, he’s a laugh.