As predicted, no one’s dead, but they’re not unaffected either. Loki’s time slipping is back – not sure why – and it’s taking him to specific places. The TVA (before its destruction, obviously), Casey’s timeline (who knew the guy was such a rebel!), Sylvie’s timeline (this is an issue we’ll come back to), B-15’s timeline (poor girl still doesn’t get a name), and Mobius’ timeline (the jet ski connection is finally explained), until he seems to settle on O.B.’s timeline.
Lucky for him O.B. is an aspiring science fiction writer who teaches theoretical physics on the side. Since Loki’s tale reminds him of the book he’s unsuccessfully trying to sell, he’s all ears. His theory is that in order to return to the TVA Loki needs to find others who have a strong connection to it. As Loki’s time slipping has taken him to each one of these individuals, O.B. further surmises that the God of Mischief should be able to control it, after all he hasn’t been slipping randomly. Following many failed attempts Loki suddenly slips after giving O.B. the TVA handbook.
From here the episode becomes a heist movie recruitment sequence – especially once O.B. creates a working temp-pad prototype. The added complication of amnesia makes things a bit tricky but seeing a time door goes a long way to changing people’s minds. The only hold out? Sylvie. The Lady Loki is content to be selfish, sticking to her own world while convincing Loki his motives are no less self-serving. The crisis of faith here really doesn’t compute, but it’s a moot point when Sylvie shows up to warn everyone that the thing Loki’s been saying would happen, is. Without the TVA the branched timelines are dying (uh…why? We’ll be coming back to that, no worries). And, while it makes no sense, it proves motive enough for Loki to get his time slipping under control, leaving us with hope for the finale.
Not a bad episode given the weight of the previous one, but it sure has some issues. As mentioned earlier, my biggest problem is the mythology surrounding the TVA, the variants, and the branched timelines. All three are on full display in this episode. Before we get to those, because it will be a long discussion, let me briefly complain about the crisis of faith here.
When Loki goes to 1982 to recruit Sylvie to the cause, she refuses him. She explains that her motives are purely selfish – she wishes to live out her life, left alone by the drama of the TVA. Ok…sure, I get that. She’s got a lot of issues with the TVA for obvious reasons, but then she turns the argument against Loki. Granted, he kind of forces her hand since he doesn’t fathom why she wouldn’t want to help an institution that tried to hunt and kill her for decades just for existing. Still, she pushes him to admit that his desire to save the TVA has nothing to do with “glorious purpose” (in this case saving the universe and all its timelines), but is rather about getting his friends back. It tracks – Loki, like Sylvie, hasn’t exactly had much luck in the way of personal relationships. Even his failed courtship of himself (Sylvie) had to sting, but at the TVA he bonded with Mobius and to an extent with Casey and O.B., this season. However, even if that is true, and his only reason for wanting to save the TVA is to get his friends back is that so terrible? He has faith that the TVA is an important institution to the fabric of the universe, even if logic says otherwise, so saving the TVA, while tied to his friends, is no less important.
There’s also the very real fact that Sylvie isn’t necessary for him to save the TVA. Or she shouldn’t be, all logic considered. Let’s be honest, Sylvie may have strong feelings about the TVA, but she doesn’t have a strong connection to it in the way that O.B. presents it. B-15, Mobius, Casey, and O.B. all make sense because they worked there, for a long time presumably, but Sylvie didn’t. Sylvie spent her time running away from it and hating it, and ultimately tried to destroy it before learning to ignore it entirely. I mean, just take the hint that she doesn’t want to join your mission and move on man, why take the bait and suddenly give up on this thing you’ve been fighting for the entire fucking season?
OK, back to the larger issues at hand. As I understand it, the TVA’s sole purpose was to prevent branched timelines from being created out of the fear that variants of Kang would eventually come into being and lead to a multiversal war. Before the TVA, the timeline branched without issue (excluding the Kangs). So, why, without the TVA, do the branched timelines suddenly die? If it’s a Kang issue – if Kangs are at the source of the problem – at least show some indication of this. There’s zero mythological explanation for why the branched timelines can’t survive without the TVA.
Issue number 2: If the whole purpose of removing variants from the timeline is to prevent branched timelines, then how do the variants of the TVA have lives to return to on branched timelines? The easiest explanation is that without the TVA pruning variants those original branches happened to get recreated by different variants, but that’s me being generous. Realistically, this is a flaw in the logic.
Lastly there’s Loki and Sylvie. Why didn’t they return to their respective branched timelines? Why did they retain their memories? Let’s tackle the latter first.
It’s possible this has to do with their not being a part of the TVA. All the other variants purposely had their memories erased by Kang, but Loki and Sylvie were meant to be pruned so there was no reason to wipe their minds. Though, it does inspire new questions like, how long ago did Kang wipe everyone’s memories? Did he pick the employees specifically and completely all at once and no one new ever joins the ranks? Loki’s story suggests that any new recruits would be shown their ultimate fate, meaning staying at the TVA would be the better option, but then…isn’t everyone’s ultimate fate death? Also, the trajectory of Loki’s life shown to him is a lie if you think about it. Loki is a variant, his branched life could have gone very differently, he may have lived a lot longer than his “sacred timeline” self. The point is, the memory retention can be understood, even without the memory-wipe aspect there’s the fact that Loki and Sylvie are gods. It’s entirely plausible their magic shields them from memory loss, especially given most of their magic is in mental projection and manipulation.
The branched timeline side of things is tricker. Because my argument would have been, well, the branched timelines didn’t happen because they were removed. However, since all the others returned to their respective branched timelines and I already covered how that might be OK, the question remains. For Loki, the time slipping could be key here. Although, that leaves Sylvie without a proper excuse. My theory then becomes due to their magic Loki and Sylvie were able to return to places they wanted to be, instead of places they were supposed to be. Places they felt were “home”.
A small comment on Loki’s time slipping – how exactly is it back? I get that it was tied to the loom and all but, we never really got an explanation for why it started in the first place, so why is it back? I’m gonna go with plot on this one because it appears to be the only solution to the problem of preventing the destruction of the TVA. It also serves as the means by which Loki is reunited with his friends from the TVA. I did notice, and perhaps I missed it the first time around simply because of the novelty of the thing, that it is a purposeful act. When Loki slips into the future, some part of him knows he’ll be there to prune himself. Here, he slips when the effort to speak with his comrades is either impossible or not helpful, just getting a glimpse until O.B.. With O.B. he only slips again once he gives the physicist the key to the TVA.
I’m curious to see where this goes for the finale (also, will it be a series finale?). Since the temp-pad gets built, I don’t think getting the band back together was actually necessary, but for the thing he needs to accomplish he’ll need all the help he can get. I’m expecting Ravonna, Victor, Kang, and Miss Minutes to return. Likely X-5, Dox and the bunch, and D-90 too. Can I get the odds-on Miss Minutes getting a human form? I don’t know the status of a season three, so if this is a series finale, I’m wagering it’ll be an optimistic one.
Will Loki combat Kang? Will he go back and baby Hitler the man at the end of time? Will he build his own TVA and run it with Sylvie for the purposes of good? Only…wait for it…time will tell!