So…that happened…Sylvie and Loki reach the citadel at the end of time and shit hits the fan.
When you deal with heady concepts like freewill, space-time, and multiverses, you’re going to inevitably confuse some people. These are subjects about which much discussion has been had, many a debate engaged in, and of course, many a fight started over. Is there such thing as freewill? Is it possible to move in space-time? Are multiverses real? And, if they are…can we travel between them? Also, perhaps less broached is the interesting idea of power and who wields it.
Power is a sore subject right about now, considering what the country is going through. Considering what the allocation or consolidation of power can do to humanity. But here we get the devil’s advocate argument – our boogeyman (as Sylvie puts it) says that for there to be true order someone must rule. Oddly enough, he’s arguing against “evil” versions of himself, while acknowledging that he could be called evil as well. Is your head spinning yet?
Ok. Let’s take a breath and go back for a second. We’ll look at this episode from the ground instead of the intellectual mushroom cloud it’s released.
Loki and Sylvie stand outside the doors of the citadel. Sylvie is, admittedly, nervous. She’s worked her whole life for this moment, will it pan out the way she wants it to? Will she have the nerve to do what needs to be done? Loki gives her the space needed but her decision seems preordained as the massive entrance cracks open to allow them inside.
Looking around doesn’t provide any relief or answers but they do get accosted by none other than Miss Minutes! Those adorable cartoon eyes of hers have a certain sinister quality to them, even as she offers them everything their double-crossing hearts could desire. You want to rule Asgard, beat Thanos and the Avengers? It’s yours, but you have to take the deal right now. You want a quiet life where you never have to run? Done, but you gotta sign on the dotted line. I’ve never trusted offers that sound too good to be true, and by their actions, neither do the Lokis.
Miss Minutes disappears and from an elevator emerges a man (Jonathan Majors). “He Who Remains” as she put it, is a middle-aged black man dressed in purple with a mischievous smile on his face and a penchant for avoiding the blades of his enemies. How does he do it? Sylvie suspects the temp-pad (which by the way looks absolutely nothing like any of the temp-pads we’ve seen so far, so how the fuck she knew what it was is questionable to say the least), but Mr. No Name argues he simply knows all. He knows everything that has happened and will happen. Well…for now.
Our great and powerful Oz explains that the story given to them at the booking station of the TVA isn’t entirely bunk. Eons ago a version of himself figured out that a multiverse exists, and versions of himself from those multiverses also figured out the same thing around the same time. For a little while everything was masturbatory fun (I’m sure, if you didn’t know, the Rick and Morty of it all is becoming painfully clear), but then evil versions of himself began to emerge. Those versions were hostile, understandably, and eventually war broke out among the worlds for fear of being eradicated by each other. This version of himself, which now exists at the end of time, discovered Alioth and created the TVA in order to prevent war by maintaining a singular timeline. So, while he is, in some respects, a dictator, he’s also a necessary evil.
Loki takes his words to heart. He’s been through a lot, seeming to finally grasp the concept of a greater “good”. Sylvie is not convinced. She’s sure the man is a liar, that he’d say anything to keep his power. Which is odd given that “Oz” presents them with his position of power. Thus, we return to our initial conundrum: Is there such thing as freewill? The man in purple argues that he knows everything that will happen in their encounter…except when it comes to the choice they make.
Which, for me, kind of spoils the whole omniscience thing. Though, I guess that’s the kink in branching timelines. See, as the man explains all of this to Loki and Sylvie there’s an unspoken clock running. At a certain point in their interaction the clock reaches 0 and the wizard’s all seeing-eye craps out. Granted, he’s certain of at least two possible outcomes. Either the Lokis take over, keep the TVA running, and avert all-out multiversal chaos, or, they kill him, destroy the TVA, and the timeline gets to do whatever the fuck it wants (i.e. evil versions of himself will come a calling).
Loki becomes representative of the first option. He understands that, while not ideal, the concept of the TVA and the reason for its existence is vital. Sylvie is fully on team free-will (heh, bet you never thought you’d see that phrase again outside of Supernatural), she believes that what the TVA is doing is evil and people should have the option to exist, even if they are gonna turn out evil. Both of these views come from victims of the TVA, which makes this a very unique set up. Instead of one viewpoint being a loyal solider of the bureaucracy, neither is.
But Loki’s take makes sense if you consider him. After all, wasn’t his whole argument in Avengers that free will is a burden? It’s not surprising that Sylvie sees his position as a power-grab, because, well, frankly, that’s the optics. Even if he is doing it for the greater good, he can’t avoid the truth – taking over the man’s job; ensuring the continued work of the TVA, is a throne. A lonely throne, but still a throne. For once the idea of “glorious purpose” can be seen truthfully. As not glorious at all. As a necessary evil that prevents destruction on a grand scale while appearing callous. Loki is, in a weird way, Old Man Loki at this point.
Sylvie is young. She’s spent her whole life driven by one singular quest. To stop the TVA. To kill the Time Keepers. To free others like herself. She has righteousness on her side. Which is why, sadly, she’s the villain. Or is she? Therein lies the problem: if free will is real, should it be? Do Sylvie’s actions make her a villain?
The two Loki’s clash, but our Loki can’t bring himself to hurt Sylvie. It’s actually one of the more entertaining fights in this series, if only because you’re left wondering how much did Loki hold back? Sylvie finally kisses her male counterpart, then reminds him that they are different before pushing him into an open time door and slamming it shut behind him. For whatever reason (maybe the man in purple is a fan of free will after all) the man’s temp-pad is left on his desk for Sylvie to filch. It’s possible, after eons of being alone and knowing everything, the man welcomes a surprise. Hell, he basically knows one of the two outcomes he predicted will happen. And he’s right. Sylvie kills him once Loki is gone. Her mission complete, she sits down on the floor looking tired and lost.
Back at the TVA Ravonna is on a mission of her own: to find out what the fuck is going on. She gets some mystery files from Miss Minutes and the next time we see her she’s preparing for a long trip. Mobius confronts her, but he’s a lover not a fighter and is easily bested by her. She spares his life this time, leaving him and Hunter B-15 to man the TVA. Where is she off to? No fucking idea.
Loki, also returned to the TVA, takes a few minutes to lament his lost love then meets up with Mobius and Hunter B-15 only to discover they don’t recognize him. He gazes out into the vastness that is the TVA, taking sudden notice of a change. The massive time keeper statues which used to litter the space have morphed, now displaying the face of the man in the citadel. Did an evil version of the man take over? If so what other changes are there?
The episode ends here with a small after credit scene providing some relief: there will be a season two! Which, so far, is a first for the Marvel Disney+ series. Not to say I’d be surprised if Captain America and the Winter Solider happened…but still, first Disney+ Marvel series with a confirmed second season. Which is good, because overall this ending was awful.
Don’t get me wrong, I loved watching Loki and Sylvie have it out, but the man in purple was anticlimactic to say the least. Also, he doesn’t get a name. Fan theories point to Kang, and the man himself even hints to having had many names, one of which did include conqueror, but come on! While I have no doubt all these Loki interferences will lead comfortably into the next Dr. Strange movie I would have still liked some consideration in the form of a solid reveal. Now we have to wait god knows how long to find out: Where Ravonna went, what’s up with Miss Minutes, what happens to Sylvie now, did an evil variant of the man in purple take the reins as predicted, will Loki ever be recognized by Mobius again, will Loki be able to get back to Sylvie, and, if he does, will he kill her or fuck her??? Ok, so fucking is unlikely given how incredibly chaste this god of mischief has been. None the less, that’s a lot of answers to wait on.