At last, Loki’s big question has been definitively answered: This is not a very good show.
The season-one finale opens on familiar, iconic quotes from the Marvel Cinematic Universe. It’s honestly a slap in its own face—acting like this declining show can even live up to the mediocrity of the MCU’s glimpses of sharp lines. Loki, like the TVA, is an irredeemable corporate institution that, despite some very good performances and designs, really needs to go down.
The episode opens with Sylvie and Loki approaching the generic European castle teased at the end of the last one. It’s just a fucking castle—admittedly spruced up with some kintsugi elements—but it’s on an asteroid or whatever, and that’s the most anyone tried with this unfathanomably terrestrial idea of a place beyond all space and time.
So Loki and Sylvie pull up there, and it’s almost annoying how cool Loki now looks. He’s traded the TVA jacket for a shortsword sheath that doubles as a shoulder holster, and it is pretty cool. As much as we’ve vocally pleaded for Owen Wilson’s Mobius to get a Columbo-style weekly timystery (time mystery), a hard-boiled, neo-noir The Loki Goodbye doesn’t seem so bad right now.
And that is pretty much the best part of the finale.
The little cartoon clock immediately shows up (it’s also worth mentioning how it’s nice they got an actual voice actor instead of, like, Holly Hunter doing this Southern timepiece), and we immediately know that Loki’s capital-C&D fan-fic Character Development means he will not take the tiny watch’s deal to be reinserted in the timeline as victor of The Battle of New York. He and Sylvie need to meet whoever is behind this—however unbearably hammy they may be.
And they are very hammy.
It’s Jonathan Majors! We were teased by Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania casting news that he’s meant to be Kang the Conqueror, and here he notes he’s known as a “conqueror” beyond being known as “He Who Remains,” so yeah. It’s Kang. Or at least some version of him.
To again, for the last time (at least this season), harp on how fucking boringly Earth-based this thing is, this Kang is just a dude. Quantumania may well give us a different timeline’s more interesting Kang, fully decked out in a purple helmet and bluing himself. But this one is just a dude. And an insufferable one at that!
Majors is a very solid actor, but woof. Did no one give this guy direction? It’s like he asked for a take where he could try “going big,” and they just went with only those. He is so big all the time—and rarely in a good way. It’s community theater and, as loathe as we are to use the term… cringe. He Who Remains is cringe. Sorry.
Kate Herron directed and executive produced all six episodes, and it seems increasingly clear how little she’s managed the acting side of things. Owen Wilson is just doing it as an Owen Wilson guy—and it works! Tom Hiddleston is just doing it as the Loki he already defined—and it works! But then we get this stilted TV performance from Gugu Mbatha-Raw and this scenery-chewing act from Jonathan Majors—who was perhaps the best part of the quite good The Last Black Man in San Francisco!—and it’s like, what is going on? Someone needs to speak up and guide these very accomplished actors to do the best they are able. Maybe the director/EP…?
The acting is so completely all over the place, and the “humor” reeks of the stain Joss Whedon left in his twice-over Avengers director’s chair. But ANYWAY.
So He Who Remains tells Loki and Sylvie how he and his timeline variants basically discovered the multiverse, they all got in a spat, and now he keeps all of time on the straight and narrow path of his own design. But, bear in mind, he says all of this like he’s doing a college improv set.
Meanwhile, Mbatha-Raw is potentially finally getting her time to shine but is of course sidelined by how none of this shit matters at all. She lets Mobius not get tased again and we find out she was previously a high school principal or something. Who cares?
Back at the castle, where the lighting situation is never clear, He Who Remains painfully explains the mechanics of this dumb world. He’s seen every timeline, and the only way things work out to whatever unclear end is to do it his way. Or, Loki and Sylvie can just kill him, and he’s apparently also cool with that.
Loki, now so Character Developed, is of course the rational one. He pleads with Sylvie to at least maybe take a breath before derailing the timeline. They have a theatrical little dagger battle and, this being a Disney product, that will be as close as they get to fucking.
Yes, it’s closer than the kiss they share soon after.
Loki, guard down and dick up, is vulnerable, and Sylvie uses the opportunity to kick him through one of the orange time-door things. She then unceremoniously creates a new character: He Who No Longer Remains.
Back at the TVA—where Loki was sent, incidentally—everything immediately goes tits up. Turns out, killing He Who Remains caused everything to rapidly splinter—which is weird because He wasn’t doing anything to keep things non-splintered to begin with. Wasn’t the TVA the one doing all the heavy lifting? Seems like things would continue to branch off at the usual rate, no?
Loki’s running around the place and finally finds his pal Mobius in the library. Mobius is like, who the fuck are you (but I guess you work here since you’re in a sharp little shirt and tie)? Loki looks over at the TVA’s Time-Keeper statues, and you will not believe this, but now it’s just a statue of Jonathan Majors.
It’s honestly not all that dramatic, given that the Time-Keepers were just a pretty pointless figurehead for him to begin with. Him saying he was The Sole Time-Keeper the whole while would not affect things whatsoever. But the forced gravitas at least resonates in that we end the season knowing Loki is now in a different timeline.
Which seems like the worst way to move forward.
The charming relationship between Loki and Mobius was basically all that was selling this thing, and now we’re just going to start over on that? Maybe there’s some brilliant way the writers have come up with to do it, but at this point, it does not seem likely.
Marvel’s typical post-credits bullshit teases that all this multiverse stuff will not be tidily wrapped up in Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness and the multiverse-implicit Spider-Man: No Way Home. There will, for better or worse, be a second season of Loki.
Why won’t they just give us what we want? Which is Owen Wilson and Tom Hiddleston’s Mikey and Nicky.