Loki Just Broke a TV Rule — and Reversed the Biggest MCU Curse
Episode 4 of the Marvel series takes a big swing — and sets the stage for an earth-shattering finale.
Say what you will about Loki; the series is not afraid to take risks. Sure, its second season has gotten a bit of flack for its lack of narrative focus or truly bonkers pacing — but there’s something about this wild ride that almost makes Marvel’s Multiverse Saga worth the time.
Even if some of its biggest swings don’t entirely pay off, Loki is, at the very least, trying something new. It’s a welcome challenge to the other projects in its native cinematic universe, the bulk of which have offered diminishing returns since Marvel’s last big bang with Avengers: Endgame. It’s been especially dismal on the small screen: Marvel still has yet to figure out how to make the rules of television work. Loki is the closest the franchise has gotten to its goal of must-see, actually-episodic TV; ironically, it has everything to do with the series’ penchant for bending the rules.
Spoilers ahead for Loki Season 2 Episode 4.
After some time-skipping detours, Loki (Tom Hiddleston) and Agent Mobius (Owen Wilson) return to the Time Variance Authority with the missing key they need to save the multiverse, courtesy of Victor Timely (Jonathan Majors). But they’re once again hindered by the opposition: Ravonna Renslayer (Gugu Mbatha-Raw) and the vengeful Miss Minutes (Tara Strong) sneak back into the TVA to restore the Sacred Timeline — and kill anyone standing in their way.
Their scorched-earth assault is definitely one of Episode 4’s most exciting moments... even if it doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. Loki is, admittedly, still a mess, bogged down by the minutiae of who’s fighting who, and why. Stakes are similarly murky for the TVA itself: no matter what path our heroes take, there doesn’t seem to be any clear solution. Does it actually matter what Loki does? Does anyone actually have the power to restore order, or govern the rapidly-expanding multiverse?
The final moments of Episode 4 answer these questions with a resounding, and shocking, “no.” Team Loki’s efforts to fix the Temporal Loom fail spectacularly: Timely is obliterated by a wave of temporal radiation, and his allies seem to meet the same fate as the multiverse reaches critical mass. Loki and co. stand by, helpless, as they’re enveloped in a wave of white light. It feels like the end. For any other story, especially in the MCU, it easily could have been. But Loki still has two more episodes left before the season is over, which means that it just defied a classic TV structure... and set the stage for a staggering finale.
That Loki ends its fourth episode on a cliffhanger isn’t too out of the ordinary: television is nothing without a loose thread or two. The MCU is especially fond of episodic storytelling. It’s the very thing that makes this interconnected universe feel so seamless. But other chapters of the franchise typically save reveals of this scale for massive events like Infinity War. It’s been years since a Marvel project has taken such an ambitious leap forward, and left still more room for the story to continue.
Episode 4 could have easily been Loki’s season finale, forcing another show or film to pick up where it left off. Given the disappointing conclusions in recent efforts like Secret Invasion, few would have batted an eye. But Loki has never done anything in half-measures. Episode 4 just barely takes the season over the halfway mark, and there’s no telling where things could go from here. It’s effectively reset the board, rewritten the rules for Marvel TV, and made the stakes even higher in one fell swoop.
Will Episode 5 open with a complete reset, reintroducing its heroes somewhere in this new, vast multiverse? Time will tell, but this may be the biggest risk the MCU has taken in a long time. Hopefully Loki can pull it off.