Welcome to this week’s journey into “Journey Into Mystery.” What a fantastic title for an absolutely bonkers episode, and incidentally also the original title for the pre-Marvel comic book series that ran Thor and Loki stories back in the 1950s. Nice callback.
I’ll get into the breakdown in a bit, but I have a little bit of promotion to take care of first. Later today, I’ll be hosting a virtual Marvel Happy Hour along with my friend and fellow Watercooler contributor Liz Coopersmith. There’s still time to be a part of it if you’d like to join us. You’ll find the details here. Once you’re signed up you’ll receive the Zoom link 30 minutes before the event. Hope to see you there!
And here’s the spoiler jumping off point if you haven’t seen the episode yet. I’ll be discussing “Journey Into Mystery” in detail below, so you’ve been officially warned.
It’s All Gone Topsy-Turvey
Now that all that business is out of the way, wow was this episode full of mind benders! Right from the beginning, that unsettling opening shot with the slowly rotating camera sets the tone — taking us upside-down through the the TVA office to that golden elevator. It should have been the first clue that things are going to get weird. Which is saying something for a show that begins with Loki being pulled out of the desert by time cops and put on trial for crimes against the Sacred Timeline. This show is so weird that I, like Loki, didn’t even question the existence of an alligator Loki Variant. I mean, as Richard E. Grant’s Classic Loki (I prefer to call him “Classic” rather than “Old”) says, he is green (ha!).
Most of “Journey Into Mystery” is spent in the void, the vast wasteland at the end of time where everything pruned eventually ends up. Considering how much pruning the TVA does, I would have expected it to be even more crowded. There are lots of big set pieces here, and so, so many Easter eggs (more on that later). I have to give some long overdue credit to the visual effects team here. They’ve been creating amazing worlds on this show week after week, some of it so seamless it barely registers as a digital creation. Other times, like in this episode and on Lamentis-1, they get the opportunity to absolutely show off.
I gave you all a job last week, so why isn’t a “scheme” of Lokis trending yet? It should be the accepted collective noun for a group of Lokis by now. Sheesh. There’s still time before the final episode, so pass it on.
I’m embarrassed to admit it didn’t hit me until the middle of last week that the promotional image of politician Loki (from the 2016 Vote Loki comic series) we’ve been seeing since the first trailer was not the Loki Variant we’ve followed since the beginning of the show. This multiverse of Lokis has been there from the start, right in plain sight, and I never noticed. It’s the promo folks behind this show who are the real trickster gods.
It makes sense, though. Whatever happens in the final episode, so far Loki has been a fascinating and in-depth character study in a way that goes far beyond anything I think I’ve ever seen before. Each Variant is a different facet of Loki, feeding into what we know about him. And Loki himself learns more about himself through his counterparts. That’s kind of the entire point. Seeing the boastfulness, the ruthlessness, the back-stabbing antics from an outsider’s perspective is one thing (and it was hilarious), but learning that Classic Loki was so powerful he created a life-size illusion of frickin’ Asgard was eye-opening. And then he sacrificed himself so Loki and Sylvie could succeed. Truly a Loki to aspire to.
Loki is capable of anything, even being good (as his friend Mobius told him last week), but despite his posturing he hasn’t ever truly believed in himself. He’s always been certain, deep down, that he’s destined to be alone. That’s why he has no qualms about betraying anyone, because they’re just going to leave him anyway. It’s not until he learns to love himself (literally, in the form of Sylvie) and trust that others, like Mobius, will have his back, that the path to being a hero opens up for him.
Whether he’ll follow that path remains to be seen, but he’s taking the steps necessary to change and improve. If the universe will let him.
The Kang is in the Details
As I mentioned earlier, they threw a ton of Easter eggs into this episode. I’m sure I didn’t get them all, but I’m sure some of you did. Among the things I noticed: the ruined Avengers tower, the Thanos helicopter, Yellowjacket’s helmet, a helicarrier, Thor’s hammer, and Throg (Frog Thor) in a jar (!). There are also a lot of nods to conspiracy theories throughout history. Apparently, everything that has ever mysteriously disappeared has ended up here in the void at the end of time.
There’s more than one reference to Kang the Conqueror in this episode, who’s due to appear in the next Ant-Man movie Quantumania, and possibly other MCU features (Jonathan Majors has reportedly been cast in the role). He has a long and complicated history in the comics I won’t go into here (it involves a lot of time travel, alternate timelines, and alternate identities). They really seem to be leading towards him being behind the TVA. Much like the reveal in WandaVision that Agnes was “Agatha all along,” if Kang really is the big bad of this series, it won’t come as a shock to longtime Marvel fans.
Those same fans should be familiar with another new element introduced in “Journey Into Mystery”—Alioth, the scary, sentient cloud. He (it?) looked appropriately nasty. The idea that this thing could be merely a guard dog for whatever it is that lies within that mansion Loki and Sylvie are headed for makes their destination even more worrisome. But at least they’re walking in hand in hand (aw!). Whether you ship these two romantically or not (I’m still on the fence), you can’t help but rooting for them as a team. They make each other better!
Speaking of romantic relationships, comic fans may also know that Kang and Ravonna Renslayer were once a thing, so that may give us some clues as to what part she’ll play in the finale. Which brings us to …
And what of the formidable Judge Renslayer, who has a few tricks up her sleeve herself? She seems to have been in the dark along with everyone else about the Time Keepers being automatons. As I suspected last week, they let her in just enough to make her feel superior to the rest of the Variant workforce at the TVA, but this information is new. And she is pissed. It doesn’t feel great to be lied to, does it Ravonna? You’d better be ready because your friend Mobius (no, actually he’s Loki’s friend!) is coming for you. I know I’m ready for that epic showdown.
Which we’ll have to wait until next week’s finale to see. I can’t believe there’s only one episode left. Looking back on it, this series hasn’t been at all what I expected, but I’m enjoying it nevertheless. We’ll have to see where they leave it, but this feels more like a limited series than an ongoing one. I just hope we haven’t seen the last of the TVA, in whatever form it ultimately takes.
Until next week then, for all time. Always.
- I mentioned the theremin music last week, but really the entire score has been fantastic so far, and nearly stole the show in “Journey Into Mystery.” Kudos to composer Natalie Holt for consistently nailing it.
- It was cool seeing all the different Lokis, but I wish more of them had been played by Tom Hiddleston.
- At the end of the last episode Sylvie’s hair is still wet from her trip back to Roxxcart when she’s demanding Ravonna tell her everything. But when we first see them in “Journey Into Mystery” she’s completely dry. We know that Loki can dry himself off magically, but we’ve never seen Sylvie do it. Maybe I’m nitpicking, but the discontinuity of that took me out of the action for a moment.
- Reserving this space to praise Richard E. Grant’s performance as Classic Loki. Despite being dressed in that ridiculous (comic accurate) costume, he managed to give the character weight and dignity. I believed he was that powerful, and even got a bit emotional when he sacrificed himself. He was everything.
- That said, he’s still only my second favorite Variant we met in this episode. At the top of the list, Alligator Loki (some are calling him Croaki) reigns supreme.