We’ve reached the season finale of Loki. This is the one that ends where it started and starts where it ends. But before the episode is done, the MCU will be changed forever. It’s a predictable conclusion, but stronger for it. And more than any other series, Loki sets up everything to come.
Warning: This is a review of an ongoing tv series and will contain spoilers
Last Time on Loki
When we last left off with Loki, the two Loki and Sylvie found themselves in “the void” and surrounded other Loki variants. The highlight was Classic Loki, masterfully played by Richard E. Grant. Alas, he died. (Or did he!?)
But his sacrifice paved the way for Loki and Sylvie to enchant Alioth and open a doorway to the end of time. They step through, hoping to find the person truly behind the TVA. Meanwhile, Morbius traveled back to the TVA to burn the whole thing down.
The Beginning of the End, The End of the Beginning
This episode of Loki broadcasts its intentions from the very beginning. Every Marvel movie and series episode starts with the now-famous Marvel logo, featuring clips from the MCU. But this time, the audio is different. Throughout the entire sequence, you’ll hear quotes from many of the MCU movies and series. But midway through, quotes from real-life individuals start creeping through. Our universe bleeds into the MCU. And that sets up exactly where the finale is going.
We’re treated through a visually exciting sequence that jumps us from one black hole galaxy into another before going through a travel sequence, not unlike Stargate’s famous ‘travel between the stars’ look. Finally, we get a good look at the mysterious castle at the end of time, and there are loads of details to drink in. The windows are reminiscent of Doctor Strange’s Sanctum Santorum, and the literal timeline wraps around the entire floating island in space. And that’s an interesting detail because it looks like a circle, with no beginning and no end.
Loki and Sylvie take a deep breath and step into the mansion, intent on killing the person responsible for the TVA and all they’ve been through. Who do they find? Miss. Minutes, the holographic talking clock. I knew she was lying in the last episode. But she’s not behind all of this; she’s working for that person. She offers to somehow let both Loki’s exist in a perfect timeline, where our Loki defeats the Avengers and Thanos, and Sylvie lives a life of happiness. But they don’t believe her.
And finally, we do meet the “big bad,” and it’s none other than
Kang the Conquerer He Who Remains. Boy, did this twist annoyed me at first.
Not Not Kang the Conqurer
On multiple occasions, the thought that Kang the Conquerer would appear in Loki saw strict denials. And that’s technically true, from a certain point of view. We never see the name “Kang” used in the show, not even in the credits. Instead, we encounter “He Who Remains.” But it’s essentially Kang or at least a variant.
If you’re not familiar with the comics, Kang the Conquerer hails from the 31st century and is among the most powerful (if not the most powerful) villains who lives up to the name. His technology, including time travel, far outstrips any superheroes we know—even Iron Man. And between the “Qeng Tower” easter egg (Qeng becomes Kang), Alioth (who is associated with Kang), and Judge Renslayer (Kang’s lover in the comics), it’s easy to draw conclusions.
Those conclusions are essentially confirmed by He Who Remains’ story (brilliantly delivered by Jonathan Majors). He explains that in the 31st century, he discovered how to cross from one timeline to another. There he encountered a variant of himself, who also discovered the same technology. More and more of these variants met up and started research together for the betterment of all.
But some of his variants were not so noble and started a war that nearly destroyed everything. Ultimately this variant won the war by discovering and harnessing the power of Alioth. We can presume that means Alioth ate all the other variants. Ever since He Who Remains has done everything in his considerable power to prevent any of his variants from ever existing again.
Think about this for a moment—here is a man who has ended countless lives, destroyed countless realities, and removed basically all free will from the universe. But then he has this to say to the Lokis: “You came to kill the devil, right? Well, guess what? I keep you safe. “And if you think I’m evil, well, just wait till you meet my variants.”
Much like Sylvie, this variant seems to be a combination of two comic characters: the actual “He Who Remains” who created the TVA and maintained the time stream, and Immortus, a Kang variant which in his old age, grew tired of conquering and chose to “prune realities” to maintain order.
He Who Remains Is Tired
So, what does He Who Remains want? To retire, one way or another. He suggests that he’s maintained the timeline for countless millennia, that he’s seen all and knows all, and now he’s done. He wants someone to take over, or he needs to die, which will bring back the multiverse.
He’s been looking for the perfect person to accomplish his goal, and it turns out it’s two people in one—the Lokis. There’s Sylvie, who would definitely kill him. And Loki, who would choose to rule. And while we’ve seen that He Who Remains really does seem to know everything that will happen, including jumping out of the way of every attack and providing a script of every word said, we reach a tipping point.
After He Who Remains finishes explaining his goal, he reaches the moment beyond everything he knows. He doesn’t know what will happen next. Only that the Lokis have a choice. Kill him and bring back the multiverse, including all of his evil and terrifying variants. Or take over for him and rule the timeline from the Citadel. Become the monster that removes free will in the name of the greater good.
Predictably The End, Surprisingly The Beginning
We have a tale of two Lokis, one who only wants to rule and one who only wants to destroy the person who ruined her life. He Who Remains is absolutely right; if he wants to die or have someone take over, these are the two that can make it happen. It’s no surprise when Sylvie immediately tries to kill He Who Remains.
And while it isn’t a surprise to see Loki try to stop her, it IS a surprise to see why. Loki believes He Who Remains’ story. And he’s terrified of what will happen if they kill him. As horrible as this variant is, killing him will only unleash worse villains on the universe. He doesn’t rule for the sake of ruling; he wants Sylvie and himself to rule for the sake of all.
They fight, and ultimately Sylvie wins by kissing Loki and using the distraction to toss him through a time portal. Girl kisses the guy to distract him long enough to steal the thing and accomplish the goal is an overused trope. And it’s all the grosser when it’s really Loki kissing themselves. And naturally, Sylvie kills He Who Remains. He doesn’t seem even to care. After all, from his point of view, this will lead back to the war, which he’ll win again, and he’ll rule again. Time is a circle.
If you’ve been paying attention, of course, Sylvie won and killed He Who Remains. The next Doctor Strange movie is literally titled Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness. The next Spider-Man movie already confirmed it will feature previous Spider-Men from other Spider-Man movie continuities. And Kang the Conquerer, again played by Jonathan Majors, is already confirmed for the next Ant-Man movie, Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania. As it turns out, Loki is a giant setup for everything to come.
After Sylvie kills He Who Remains, we watch the timestream circling the citadel branch out more and more and more. It began even before his death, but now it’s happening at an exponential rate. Poor Sylvie sits with a look of dismay; perhaps her revenge didn’t bring her solace after all. But what about the TVA?
Every Choice Has Consequences
Not much happened with the TVA during the episode, but what did happen set up its own future storylines. Mobius went back to confront Renslayer and reveal the truth to the agents. That latter part even succeeded, as Hunter B-15 led them to where Renslayer’s true variant lives, revealing that they’re all variants.
But that doesn’t matter. You see, before Sylvie could kill He Who Remains, he left a message for Renslayer. Whatever it said changed her, and she time portals away to find “free will.” And Loki ends up back at the TVA, but everything changed. Neither Mobius nor Hunter B-15 recognizes Loki. And they keep talking about how “he wanted this to happen.” When Loki looks up, the Time Keeper lizard statues are gone. In its place is a statue of Kang. Oh boy.
Everything is about to change in the MCU. Anything you did know can easily be discarded. And it’s clear between the movies mentioned above and the upcoming What If series; Marvel fully intends to embrace that. We could see the return of dead characters. We could see others erased from existence. And whatever Kang the Conquerer is, it’s probably worse than Thanos ever was.
At times, Loki was plodding, driftless, and too talky. It’s surprising to say that this last episode, which featured the most talking yet, was probably its strongest. It landed the finale, and it set up the future of the MCU. And it even took the time to confirm the second season of Loki. Not bad, Marvel. not bad.