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Loki’s Surprising Fourth Episode Introduces Shocking New Ideas

Some pruning has occurred, Lokis are on the scene, and we're still trying to fully understand the Nexus Event.

by | June 30, 2021 | Comments

With its fourth episode, Loki pivots beyond its initial conflict and introduces a handful of new shocking ideas. But just what is a nexus event so powerful that it threatens the Sacred Timeline by itself? And, for that matter, what was Sylvie’s (Sophia Di Martino) great crime against the timeline? In an episode full of unmasking, introspection, loss, and a very special cameo, our own assumptions about the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s reality are also once again in doubt. So let’s start delving into variants, beings behind the curtain, and the nature of choice.

Spoiler Alert: The following reveals details of the fourth episode of Loki season 1. Stop here if you have not watched “The Nexus Event.” Speculation includes information from Marvel comic books and may also be considered spoilers to some.

Is Ravonna a Variant?

Gugu Mbatha-Raw in Marvel Studios' LOKI

(Photo by Chuck Zlotnick. ©Marvel Studios 2021. All Rights Reserved.)

Perhaps a strange question to ask, but it feels pertinent going forward — is Ravonna Renslayer (Gugu Mbatha-Raw) a variant? Everyone else in the TVA is one, as both Hunter B-15 (Wunmi Mosaku) and Hunter C-20 (Sasha Lane) have now confirmed for us. And then there’s the discovery that she was the hunter who brought Sylvie in when she was a child. Upward mobility is seemingly possible at the TVA, which seems strange if they are all mind-wiped variants.

The early scene in which she encounters the Time-Keepers suggests she is a variant. Although, anything could have happen in the cutaway and her uncomfortable meeting could have been with the real power behind the TVA (more on that in a bit). See also how hard she worked to keep C-20’s discovery under wraps. Then there’s her seemingly genuine affection for Mobius (Owen Wilson) and her sadness in pruning him. And while that would appear to make her an accomplice to whatever is really going on, there is still a modicum of doubt there. All of her actions could be those of a variant compelled to keep the secrets of the TVA at any cost without understanding their true implications.

So, if she is a variant, what is the “real” Ravonna Renslayer up to in the Sacred Timeline?

Of course, the answer to that depends on whatever info Sylvie obtains from Ravonna next week. Presumably, it will reorder everything.

What Is Sylvie’s Crime?

Owen Wilson and Sophia Di Martino in Marvel Studios' LOKI

(Photo by Chuck Zlotnick. ©Marvel Studios 2021. All Rights Reserved.)

The episode’s opening moments seemingly answers, once and for all, that Sylvie is Loki and not another character — like either of the Enchantresses — but it also brings up a new question: what crime against the Sacred Timeline could a 9- to 12-year-old Frost Giant commit? We think we have an answer: she presented as female.

As we saw in episode 2 — and subsequently saw again here at the end of episode 4 — Loki variants tend to be present as male even if Loki (Tom Hiddleston) is technically genderfluid. As it happens, we’ve really yet to see a Loki slip between genders, so it is possible female-presenting Lokis are pruned early on. Or, perhaps, Laufey himself deals with “the problem” back in Jotunheim shortly after their birth. No matter why female-presenting Lokis are a rarity, it leads to the new question: Why does the Sacred Timeline need a male Loki?

Presumably, this goes back to one of the show’s central themes: whether or not Loki (or anyone in the MCU) has free will. If we accept that the Sacred Timeline is preventing Multiversal chaos, then there is no free will as every “wrong” choice is clipped to ensure one outcome. Loki, for example, has been pruned to serve the exact purpose he serves in Thor, The Avengers, Thor: The Dark World, Thor: Ragnarok, and Avengers: Infinity War. His glorious purpose was to, ultimately, hand the Space Stone to Thanos and leave Thor with warm memories about his deceased brother.

Well, provided that Loki actually died. Notice how often “our” Loki boasts of cheating death in this episode?

But to bring it back to Sylvie, a female-presenting Loki is, seemingly, the ultimate expression of the chaos the Sacred Timeline strives to avoid. Sylvie says as much herself toward the beginning of the episode. Well, she frames it more as the universe attempting to break free of some stricture, but it still feels like part of her “crime.”

Also, there is a fantastic meta-commentary buried in the narrative if her crime really was choosing her own gender expression. And it ties back into our belief that the show is ultimately about Loki’s right to choose his/her/their role in the MCU.

Is Love the Nexus Event?

Sophia Di Martino in Marvel Studios' LOKI

(Photo by Chuck Zlotnick. ©Marvel Studios 2021. All Rights Reserved.)

Loki and Sylvie’s heart-to-heart on Lamentis seemingly triggers a nexus event the likes of which no one in the TVA has ever seen before and, in all likelihood, made Sylvie’s audience with the Time-Keepers possible. But what was it, really? Mobius seems to think it was a romantic bond between the two variant Lokis. As we would still like to see Loki become an aromantic character going forward, we are going to suggest something different: The nexus event is Loki caring about someone other than himself — even if the other person is still Loki.

That change is key as Loki’s selfless acts in the Sacred Timeline are meant to serve a different purpose. A Loki who discovers any sort of empathy years before the destruction of Asgard is a danger to the proscribed flow of time.

And though we’re weighing most of this toward Loki, a seismic change also occurs within Sylvie as simple survival is, for once, not her main thought. Those key changes to who they are “meant to be” could trigger an unprecedented nexus event just as easily as two Loki variants falling for each other.

Then again, Mobius’s description of the nexus event leads back to the joke about Loki only being capable of loving him/her/themself. Mobius almost even gets to that punchline.

All that said, a “power of love” solution may draw the comparisons between Loki and Doctor Who even closer, but we hope the show is using that as another dodge before revealing the true nature of the TVA and the Sacred Timeline.

Oh, also, it seems Sylvie’s time bomb had no effect on the Sacred Timeline. We suppose the TVA had enough Hunters around to undo that damage.

The Being Behind the Curtain

Timekeepers character poster for Loki

(Photo by Marvel Studios)

OK, we’re ready to accept the Time-Keepers are just “The Great and Powerful Oz.” Their existence was always in doubt. But that leaves someone behind the curtains pulling the strings and securing the Sacred Timeline for an unknown purpose.

Thankfully, the comics give us one key suspect — He Who Remains — who will serve as this week’s candidate for a comics character the series might introduce. In Marvel Comics lore, He Who Remains was the final director of the TVA in the previous universe. Continuing on to the next cycle of creation, he created both the Time-Twisters and the Time-Keepers in the hopes of instructing the new multiverse in the correct path. His attempts lead to adversaries for Thor.

Yeah, it’s the heady, cosmic stuff you’d expect from mid-to-late 1970s Thor comics (courtesy of Len Wein, John Buscema, and Joe Sinnott), but it is also a way forward for the MCU if He Who Remains is the man behind the curtain. For one thing, the notion of a previous Marvel Film Universe is fascinating. Galactus is also said to originate from an earlier multiversal cycle and that could matter when he finally appears in a Fantastic Four film. A previous universe could also be a nice way to include all of the Marvel films made before Iron Man while still giving Marvel Studios breathing room to recast the Fantastic Four and, eventually, Wolverine.

Miss Minutes character poster for Loki

But then there’s also the apparent truth within the TVA: the Sacred Timeline. If He Who Remains is behind the curtain, then maintaining a complex sequences of decisions from the beginning of time to the end has to have some value beyond his own continued existence — he’s already the ultimate survivor. Miss Minutes’ (Tara Strong) mention of that war in the Multiverse is a good place to start looking for clues. Although it could easily be another lie, there may be some more truth there, as He Who Remains could be the last survivor of that conflict. Forcing the MCU into a certain path may be preventing an number of sorrows and cataclysms beyond the things we’ve seen in Marvel Studios pictures and shows thus far.

Or it’s just about control and cruelty. In which case, we’ll add Kang (Jonathan Majors) and Mephisto to the list of suspects. And if we need a few other impossibly powerful to add as potential powers behind the TVA, there are Those Who Sit Above in Shadow — the beings who allegedly created the Asgardians and literally feed off the Ragnarok cycles — the Beyonder (an entity with a habit of kidnapping Marvel superheroes and villains), and One-Above-All, the apparent creator of the Multiverse itself. Loki taking on the ultimate authority does have a certain appeal.

A Multitude of Lokis Invade the Stinger Scene


(Photo by Marvel Studios)

Then there’s that whopper of a mid-credit stinger: An apparently pruned Loki wakes up to encounter Classic Loki (Richard E. Grant), Boastful Loki (Deobia Oparei), Kid Loki (Jack Veal), and Alligator Loki (an alligator) in the destroyed remains of New York. Presumably, they are also pruned variants, but their appearances suggest direct ties to Marvel history and possible story threads.

Kid Loki, for example, seems to be a tip of the horns to the Marvel Comics Kid Loki — a manifestation of Loki who sought to be different, but was murdered by the older Loki to obtain a new body. A shred of Kid Loki remained to haunt Loki by shouting he is “the crime that cannot be forgiven.” He also, in the long run, symbolizes the way Loki cannot go against his nature.

Richard E. Grant

The Classic Loki, meanwhile, is a brave attempt to make Jack Kirby’s design for the character work in a MCU context. Presumably, he will revel in being the villain — if he isn’t the Old Loki we talked about last week — and is not to be trusted simply via the virtue of wearing Grant’s face. Also, since we mentioned Doctor Who once already this week, Grant is also the face of a Doctor pruned from the show’s canon and the face of one of the Doctor’s long-standing foes.

Oh, and what is he carrying in that bag?

By virtue of holding a hammer and being called “Boastful Loki” in the credits, we’re going to assume this is the variant who was deemed worthy of the power of Thor. Such an event has occurred in Marvel Comics history, but under wildly different circumstances and only for a brief moment. Taking a closer look at Boastful Loki’s hammer, though, it is always possible the weapon is meant to mock the God of Thunder.

And Alligator Loki feels like a reference to the time he manifested as “Cat Thor” in the pages of The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl or the time he turned Thor into a frog.

But the quartet’s purpose is a complete mystery. Are they the true power behind the TVA or are they just more refugee Loki variants because the power behind the agency needs Loki to be a certain person? Or, perhaps, they are remnants of the Multiverse trying to get their realities back.

It remains to be seen, of course, but it at least gives us hope that Mobius will somehow be saved despite his apparent pruning.

Loki episodes debut each Wednesday on Disney+.

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