Well, readers! Sometimes one must admit when one is wrong. While it certainly seems likely that we’ll never see Hunter C-20 again, Hunter B-15 did indeed survive the climactic brawl of last week’s episode. Even more surprising, Mobius lives as well!
This week’s episode is titled after the comic book that started it all for Marvel’s iteration of Norse mythology. Thor first appeared in Journey Into Mystery No. 83, cover dated August 1962, and Loki himself showed up only a couple of months later, in No. 85.
Marvel’s Asgardian exploits continued in that book until No. 126, when it was officially renamed Thor, and Loki of course continued to guest star there throughout. Loki would eventually star in his own Journey Into Mystery (affectionately shortened to JiM) series in 2011, which laid much of the groundwork to modernize him. As an episode title, “Journey Into Mystery” makes a charming nod to the character’s history.
In last week’s episode, Loki awoke after being “pruned” (TVA parlance for erasing a variant from the timeline) to find three — excuse me, four other Lokis before him. Classic Loki, resembling the art above, was played by Richard E. Grant, Boastful Loki by DeObia Oparei, and Kid (or rather, King) Loki by Jack Veal. The fourth, a Loki who is also an alligator, was added digitally, but does have a real-life counterpart:
Pruning, it would seem, is not immediately fatal for Loki (any of them). In fact, it’s not immediately fatal for anyone, technically; this episode reveals that when a person or place is pruned, they are sent to a place at the end of time called The Void, a broken wreck of a world preyed upon by a large, hungry cloud monster known as Alioth (pronounced similarly but not exactly like goliath). Alioth consumes variants that are sent to The Void, devouring them and leaving behind only battered wrecks of metal and stone. Because Alioth is a singular, if very large, creature, this predation is not perfect. One can flee Alioth and continue to do so, scrambling across the wreckage of the The Void, if one is smart and lucky. Lokis are generally both of those things, and so, as of this episode, we have not just four additional Lokis, but many.
When these first four rescue our Loki, they decamp to Kid Loki’s throne, located in a bunker underground. There, the others share their stories. Boastful Loki is the most Thor-like of them, boisterous and loud, telling stories of his exploits. Classic Loki is a sadder, somber figure, having spent untold ages living in isolation rather than continue the vicious cycle of plot and failure that our Loki has slowly been awakening to. Kid Loki, styled as a King here, killed his version of Thor. We do not, unfortunately, learn how Alligator Loki came to be; he’s treated largely as a sight gag, with the idea that one simply shouldn’t question it — of course there’s an Alligator Loki. Why wouldn’t there be? At any rate, Loki attempts to hatch a plan to kill Alioth so that they can all escape. The others, having been in The Void longer, laugh him out of the room, and so he sets off away from them to do the job himself, only to run into the rest of the Lokis.
MCU teaser footage has always been great at a bait and switch. We’ve known that we would see a version of Loki known as President Loki since before the show started, and those teasers certainly made the idea seem prominent! Here we learn the truth: that Loki (also played by Hiddleston) is the leader of a splinter faction of Lokis stranded in The Void, who arrive to challenge Kid Loki for the throne, such as it is. This results in a brawl that Classic Loki, Kid Loki, Alligator Loki, and our Loki escape from, before subsequently encountering both Mobius and Sylvie, who has recently pruned herself, after extracting the truth of pruning from Ravonna Renslayer.
Ah, Renslayer. First, can we just take some time to appreciate what a great name that is? It just rolls off the tongue. Gugu Mbatha-Raw plays the character delightfully throughout the series, and this episode is no exception. She’s a staunch authoritarian at every turn, continually trying to play even the most dire situations to her advantage. Even when the Timekeepers are revealed to be robotic fakes, she holds true to her ideals, using the power of the TVA at her fingertips to maintain order so that she can figure out what the truth is. She’s a fine foil for any Loki, really, every bit as crafty and capable as they are.
I particularly liked the scene with her and Hunter B-15 in this episode. As B-15 points out that she and Sylvie are aiming to uncover the same truths, she tells Renslayer that Sylvie will win. When asked why, she says because Renslayer only wants to know the truth, but Sylvie needs to. It’s a question of priorities — Renslayer isn’t willing to let go of the power she wields in order to single-mindedly chase that truth, while Sylvie pointed the business end of a Hunter weapon at herself in order to find it. It’s also a move that says something about Sylvie as a character, since Renslayer pruned her entire home when she was a child. Single-minded revenge would’ve meant Renslayer dying on the spot last episode, but instead Sylvie kept her alive, pumped her for information, and fled, chasing the true goal, the mystery of the Timekeepers, beyond The Void.
This brief scene is all we see of B-15 this episode, but she did indeed survive, which is important. Given that Mobius leaves The Void for the TVA, it’s a fair bet both of them will play a role in the series finale next week.
Back in the Void, the team of surviving Lokis hatch a plan. Sylvie believes she can enchant Alioth, who is essentially functioning as a guard dog between The Void and whatever future the Timekeepers are weaving beyond it, and thus gain access to that future. Of course, Alioth is very large, and very hungry. Loki attempts a distraction, waving a flaming short sword given to him by Kid Loki, but it’s not enough; Alioth continues to pursue Sylvie. It very nearly becomes a disaster, but for the last-minute save of Classic Loki, who specializes in illusion magic. He weaves a massive image of Asgard before Alioth, presenting a target entirely too tempting, if ephemeral.
This allows our Loki to reunite with Sylvie, who points out that as a Loki, he can do everything she can, even if his specialties are different. It’s a cute bit, and it sort of recalls the fact that he has used enchantment before, albeit with one of the Infinity Stones. At any rate, there is a final scene of dramatic, paired magic-working, and the two of them are able to take control of Alioth, causing the flaming-orange smoke monster to turn a brilliant emerald. It’s unfortunately too late for Classic Loki, but it’s an impressive scene all the same, as the smoke parts to reveal the final destination of Loki, Sylvie, and the series: a journey into the mystery of an unknown future.