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Loki episode 1.05 “Journey Into Mystery” is a straight up bananaland episode of television which serves as a perfect “theme vs. anti-theme” mirror for our main character as it builds brilliant momentum heading into the season finale.
Let’s just make one thing very clear at the beginning of this article, any time, and I mean ANY TIME, you have an episode of television which features Richard E. Grant and Owen Wilson debating the true identity of an alligator, you know you’re in for a fantastic ride. Seriously, that just made my day.
Setting aside my love of all things reptile integrity, this is the EXACT kind of episode I was looking for when I first heard Loki was to become a series on Disney+ (#NotASponsor). Featuring incredible effects, multiple versions of Loki, well shot action scenes, and just the right amount of absurdity (I’m looking at you Frog Thor), I think this might be my favorite episode of any MCU show yet.
I will admit though, while all the aforementioned traits are certainly an asset to the penultimate episode of Loki, there is another, far more, important facet which really cements my sheer joy and that is the exquisite execution of theme and anti-theme.
As you all know, theme is NOT a word, or phrase like: “brotherhood”, or “love”. Those are nothing more than abstract notions. It is a Mary & Blake Media commandment that theme must be a question, or, an argument. What is a Loki? Can Loki be good? Who is a Loki? Or, in the instance of “Journey Into Mystery”, Lokis, most of all, want connection. Now that is a central theme which can be argued one way or another.
For our purposes here, there is a lighthearted introspection into who a Loki is when Old Loki and Mobius have a fireside chat about the true identity of Alligator Loki.
Mobius: You know the TVA has arrested a lot of Loki’s but I don’t remember an Alligator. I mean, who’s to say he’s even a Loki variant?
Old Loki: He is green, isn’t he?
Mobius: I don’t know – he could be lying. The Long Con. Of course, that just makes him more likely to be a Loki. It’s always the game within the game with you guys — which I respect.
Again, I cannot get enough of this conversation. Please give me a show with just Old Loki and Alligator Loki running around The Void vanquishing frogs, pseudo-peacock looking animals and all the other Loki variants. While it is fair to ask who a Loki is, and revert to Mobius’ initial assertion, Loki 1.05 goes so much farther than that. Yes, it asks who Loki is, but it also provides an interesting answer for our Loki, and even Sylvie.
The highlight of this episode, amidst all the pomp and circumstance of enchanting Alioth, or president Loki waging war against the rest of all the other Lokis who have been stuck in the void for eons, is the demure and quiet scene shared between Sylvie, Loki, and a rather ineffective blanket (or was it a tablecloth?).
Theme is how and why films or television shows can exist, because it can be argued. So how and why does this episode exist? Because of the moment Loki and Sylvie sit down in a field and talk about their future. It confirms everything the viewer needs to know about the struggles, battles, and even torture our characters have undergone not just in this series but their entire lives. It highlights change, but also a stasis in the definition of who Loki can be, and what a Loki most desires. It truly is a remarkable sequence.
If our active theme is “Lokis, most of all, want connection,” then our anti-theme would be “Lokis most desire power and to be alone.”
At the first mention of Mobius and how Sylvie confirms he truly cares about Loki, the wind picks up and Loki remarks that it’s cold. After which he magics up a blanket for himself, but not Sylvie – only offering to make a singular blanket for her. Holding on the silence for a few uncomfortable seconds, we see a natural push and pull of our theme, and the various sub categories that serve the theme. Who is Loki? Is it possible that Loki can have companionship? Is Loki stronger alone or with a partner? Are Loki and Sylvie actually free?
Sylvie: So, Mobius – about his theory? Our Nexus Event. Total rubbish, right? I don’t mean it wasn’t a nice moment…
Loki: Right, of course. It was great.
Sylvie: It just sounds like another TVA lie.
Loki: Yeah, I mean…totally. Totally…..yeah…
Notice the irony in the meanings during this conversation, and how they seem to feel each other out looking for validation and need. It’s a rejection of theme, and a bolstering of stasis (or anti-theme) for both characters.
“We don’t have to do this . . . I don’t have . . .anyone”, Sylvie meekly suggests to Loki, right before they agree on the last push for their stasis (or anti-theme) in the false bravado of how there are more important matters to worry about like bringing down the TVA, or saving the universe. (Not to be too dramatic about it, of course.) But then, something magical happens.
Yes, literally magic – Loki enlarges his blanket to surround both he and Sylvie. But there is figurative magic here too – a rejection of the anti-theme. Lokis do not have to be alone. Lokis do not only strive for power. Lokis long for connection.
Sylvie: How do I know that in the final moments you won’t betray me?
Loki: I betrayed everyone who ever loved me. I betrayed my father, my brother, my home. I know what I did and I know why I did it. That’s not who I am anymore. Okay? I won’t let you down.
Sylvie: You sure? Because if we make it, and the TVA is gone, there might be a timeline for you to rule.
Loki: Ah, yes. And then I’d finally be happy…
It’s a cute and endearing scene that obviously furthers Loki’s rejection of the anti-theme. He knows full well that he wouldn’t be happy. He would have no plan, just as he learned in episode 1.01. There is no fulfillment unless Sylvie is with him.
Loki: What about you? What will you do when this is all over?
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Sylvie: I don’t know.
Loki: I don’t know either. Maybe…maybe we could figure it out…together.
I cannot express how much I love this scene. Hiddleston’s sincerity in his delivery is equally matched by Sophia Di Martino’s somber final line of “maybe.” – when she also knows full well that she may not be able to give up her dream despite how much her connection to Loki has enlightened her existence. Nonetheless, this scene exemplifies everything that is truly meaningful in this episode.
Both Loki and Sylvie have strived to rule one thing, or take down another thing for their entire lives. They have been alone, deranged, and marginalized while they battled for significance in their existence of solitude. They’ve been incapable of friendship, trust, or love during this time only to be proven wrong by a genuine embrace of friendship between Mobius and Loki.
Another example of connection: Old Loki emphatically screams “Glorious Purpose” as he eaten by Alioth when he provides a distraction for Loki and Sylvie – yet another connection and self sacrifice for a Loki that emphasizes the theme. Perhaps our theme is most notable when Old Loki reflects on how he was caught by the TVA simply because he missed Thor and after his self preservation in avoiding Thanos.
As much as our theme is exemplified by these truly connective moments, our theme is also reinforced by the anti-theme at the same time. All the Lokis struggle for power – backstabbing one another for rule over a meaningless and empty Void. In a truly delightful moment, our Loki simply puts his hands on his face in total embarrassment over how childish and foolish all these Lokis act. Whether it is President Loki, Boastful Loki, Kid Loki, or even Old Loki, they all serve as a mirror for what Loki was and can still be. What’s brilliant is that despite his previous actions (remember this is the Loki at his most despicable just after he was caught in the Battle of New York in Avengers) Loki actively and avidly rejects the anti-theme for the sake of connection when it is presented to him.
Finally our theme is calcified completely when Sylvie tells Loki that they can enchant Alioth together because he has her powers too. Together, they recognize they have a power that is far stronger together than apart, and it opens the avenue to find whatever exactly it is they are looking for at the end of the The Void. Plus it’s also a badass cliffhanger that asserts a massive amount of momentum heading into the finale. LET’S FRAKKING GO.
APROPOS OF NOTHING FOR LOKI: EPISODE 1.05 “JOURNEY INTO MYSTERY”
- The title is appropriate on many levels – first, the theme for our character is in fact a mystery. Do Lokis want connection. It’s a mystery. Also, “Journey Into Mystery” was also the title of the comic series that first introduced Norse mythology (Thor, Odin, Loki etc.) into the Marvel universe
- Notice Mjolnir and Frog Thor as the camera moved down into the Loki Bunker? It’s a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it moment, but it’s a great callback to when Loki turned Thor into a Frog in the comics.
- Agent B-15’s comment to Ravonna Renslayer that she will never discover the man-behind-the-curtain faster than Sylvie because she simply wants it, while Sylie NEEDS it to survive is amazing. But it also does not portend well for Sylvie – as she may not be able to let go her goal despite her connection to Loki.
- It is a tad frustrating that our other Loki variants don’t seem to get more screentime after this. I’m not sure how much more narrative juice they have after this episode.
- My gut tells me I would much rather have spent more time here in The Void than how much we did on Lamentis-1. I would rather get more Loki variant time, and use that to mirror the connection shared between Sylvie and Loki – that seems more fertile for their relationship than riding a train, right?
- I like how Loki highlights many different forms of connection – whether it be with the Loki variants in The Void, the romantic relationship between Loki and Sylvie, or just the simple friendship between Loki and Mobius. That hug does not have the same heft if we do not have the emphasis on their buddy-cop relationship in the first two episodes. In other words, Loki values all forms of relationship and is not a one note punch.
- The Void is the place where all “pruned” objects go. It’s at the end of time, and Alioth is a super big entity that eats all the variant objects. He apparently protects whoever is in charge of the TVA too, and now Sylvie and Loki have tricked Alioth into letting them in.
- Alligator Loki drinking “Roxxi-Wine” from a box is great. But it’s not as great as Kid Loki drinking Ecto-Cooler. Yep, he’s got Ecto-Cooler. Does anyone know what the actual flavor of Ecto Cooler was?
- Here’s a fun bit of trivia: The U.S.S. Eldridge, the ship featured in the episode shooting at Alioth in The Void is a real life life destroyer said to be the subject of “The Philadelphia Experiment” – which is an urban legend that posits the ship was experimented on so that it would disappear to human eye.
- The music playing during Old Loki’s sacrifice to distract Alioth by conjuring a full size Asgard is the Loki theme mixed in with Wagners “Ride Of The Valkyries“. This was alluded to when young Sylvie was talking about how the Valkyries saved Asgard right before Ravonna Renslayer took her to the TVA.
- 1.01 – Glorious Purpose | Deconstructing Character Through Exposition
- 1.02 – Variant | Going Beyond “The Hook”
- 1.03 – Lamentis | Love Is Knowing And Accepting Fault
- 1.04 – The Nexus Event | Hiding A Twist In Plain Sight