Warning: this Loki episode 4 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...
Can a great ending justify a middling episode of television? The latest instalment in the Loki saga concludes with a brilliant, hair-raising reveal: Tom Hiddleston’s Loki has been neutralised, the Time Keepers are not the Time Keepers at all, and Sylvie’s demanding information from Ravonna Lexus Renslayer. On top of that, Owen Wilson’s Mobius looks set to never ride that jet-ski. This is surely the darkest timeline.
All those revelations happen in a climactic scene that’s wonderfully weird. The Time Keepers and their throne room are pulled directly from a Rick and Morty episode (Loki scribe Michael Waldron cut his teeth on Dan Harmon’s animation) and that’s a good thing on this occasion. I’ve been desperately hoping Loki would lean more into the weirdness, rather than over-explaining Sacred Timelines and Nexus Events, and the show has finally teased that things are about to become very strange indeed. The post credits scene – go back, quickly, if you missed it – is the biggest hint at what’s to come: obscure Loki Variants in this otherworldly place. There’s a bloomin’ Alligator Loki! The possibilities of where this is going seem almost endless – just like the number of Lokis we could be about to meet. (Plus, seeing Richard E. Grant in classic comic-book Loki garb is a thrill.)
Getting to that point, though, slides into being a slog. Wilson and Sylvie actor Sophia Di Martino continue to light up the screen, as Mobius struggles with the nature of his existence and Sylvie shows growing signs of empathy. Likewise, Wunmi Mosaku plays the confused TVA member Hunter B-15 perfectly, and as the character hunts for answers there’s still a mild fear she may not believe Sylvie, making B-15’s triumphant return all the more impactful.
The weak link then, as much as I don’t want to write this, is Tom Hiddleston’s Loki. Fans love the character, enough to have persuaded Marvel to make an entire show about him, yet Loki’s antics have become tired all-too quickly. The most obvious example comes in a repeating scene where Loki gets repeatedly kicked in the cajones. The moment should play for laughs, and the reappearance of Jaimie Alexander’s Sif is fun, but everything falls flat as the writers are unable to find the right balance of having Loki being genuinely annoyed, scheming a new plan, and giving an earnest apology to Sif. Likewise, the interrogation scene between Mobius and Loki has Wilson doing all the heavy lifting despite a Loki outburst. There’s no denying that Loki, the show, has been stolen by its side characters.
And yet, that ending – a chef’s kiss of a cliffhanger that recalls the best endings to buzzy shows like Lost. Everything aligns for a moment of shocking perfection. Sylvie, quickly becoming the show’s breakout character, is now the central focus in the TVA. Seeing the Time Keepers mystery answered in such quick fashion, their animatronic bodies broken and Gugu Mbatha-Raw’s villainous nature laid bare, allows the show to finally step out from the spectre of over-exposition, of which there was way too much. We absolutely took too long to get to this point, especially considering last week’s episode (I’m reluctant to call a character development episode filler, but…). However, we are now finally at a truly interesting junction.
Can Loki deliver a follow-up episode worthy of such a thrilling moment? Let’s hope so. There are so many directions the show could walk down, and the Loki Variant-infested New York offers a lot of promise. Even the potential of a Loki-Loki relationship is an interesting one (though I suspect the online essays about to be written are going to be a bit much). The Falcon and the Winter Soldier’s penultimate episode was one of that show’s strongest hours, and WandaVision’s eighth episode was likewise an excellent look at the main character’s grief. Let’s hope Loki delivers, too.