Editor’s Note: This article contains spoilers for Loki Episode 4… obviously.
“Is that the only reason you brought us here? To kill us? I’ve lost track of the number of times I’veLoki, ‘The Nexus Event’ – S1, Ep4.
been killed. So go ahead. Do your worst!”
In many ways, it was the least surprising ending to an episode imaginable.
Loki, Prince of Asgard, God of Mischief was dead, killed in an appropriately sneaky attack by duplicitous Time Variance Authority judge, Ravonna Renslayer in the midst of a battle to overthrow the Time-Keepers. The adopted son of Odin was gone. Deceased. Seemingly pruned from existence, just at the moment that he seemed on the brink of declaring his true feelings for the female variant, Sylvie. Admittedly, any feelings of love Loki (Tom Hiddleston) had developed towards Lady Loki/Enchantress (Sophia Di Martino) might be seen as fairly narcissistic. Sylvie is, after all, as close to being an exact female equivalent to Loki as it’s possible to be. But let’s not quibble: Loki had died at the very moment he seemed on the verge of making a very real and important personal breakthrough.
Regular viewers may have been forgiven for feeling a sense of déjà vu at this point. For they had not only already seen Loki die on screen many times before in the last decade. Not only that, but he had always returned in some form or another fairly soon afterward.
“There will be no resurrections this time,” Thanos had quipped the last time we saw Loki despatched in the early moments of 2018’s Avengers: Infinity War. Thanos had snapped the somewhat-redeemed ner-do-well’s neck like a twig. In the past, audiences had witnessed Loki being cast out into the furthest reaches of space at the end of the first Thor (2011) and again appearing to enjoy an extended death scene in the second, Thor: The Dark World (2013) before discovering he had spirited Odin away to a nursing home and been posing as the old man in the interim.
Every time, the trickster had somehow always conspired to return. Even Loki himself, speaking shortly before his most recent onscreen demise seemed fully aware of his growing reputation for having what may at best be described as a flexible relationship with mortality.
This may seem surprising, after all the Loki we are seeing in this series is an escapee from 2012 and thus has never experienced anything that happened in any of the later Avengers films – although he did get a clipshow digest of them back in Episode 1. Yet knowing the sort of lifestyle Loki leads it is easy to accept he may have enjoyed a few similar brushes with death.
Even before the end-credits reveal from Team Loki that he wasn’t dead quite yet, few could have seriously believed that this was it for the fan-favorite trickster god.
“We may lose, sometimes painfully. But we don’t die. We survive.”Loki, ‘The Nexus Event’ – S1, Ep4.
In truth, even viewers unfamiliar with Loki’s history of dodging death may have felt they had grounds for for suspicion. Loki is, after all, starring in a TV series entitled Loki. Admittedly, the British crime drama, Taggart ran for several years following the death of the actor playing Taggart, but with Loki only just past the halfway point of a six-episode run, it is difficult to imagine this particular series continuing for long without its charismatic central character. Just as few of us were probably really convinced James Bond had been killed during the pre-credits opening sequence of You Only Live Twice (1967) – particularly with any knowledge of the film’s title and of the numerous later films also featuring 007.
After a slightly runny and shouty Episode 3 (‘Lamentis’) which disappointed some, it was clear even before the arrival of the closing credits that Episode 4 had raised many questions. And this was before, a mid-credit sequence which saw a waking Loki accosted by a foursome of assorted weirdos standing against a briefly glimpsed post-apocalyptic landscape. Such ‘…but wait, there’s more!’ segments have been the norm in MCU films, but this is the first time it’s happened on Loki.
As might be expected, the brief sequence answers a few of our questions but raises a few more. We still don’t know for sure if Loki is alive or dead or not, or what death actually means for an Asgardian. Wouldn’t he just go to Niflheim, or Hel, the underworld of the Nine Realms? And if so, couldn’t he just break out like his sister Hela (Cate Blanchett) did in Thor: Ragnarok (2017)?
For all we know (or perhaps, we hope), this scene may serve as a prequel to a new series called Loki in the Underworld. But at least his being has not been utterly extinguished and that ‘pruning’ is not necessarily the end. This bodes well for Owen Wilson’s much-loved Agent Mobius. Presumably, he can also make his way back from death’s antechamber for the classic buddy cop showdown we deserve.
One wonders if the now transparently malevolent Ravonna (Gugu Mbatha-Raw) realizes her ‘pruner’ is in fact sending its victims elsewhere rather than simply killing them outright? A perhaps more pertinent question is where exactly Loki has been sent? Is it Earth in the future, perhaps another of those apocalypse scenarios off the TVA’s grid? And why are a gang of alternate Lokis – highlights being, of course, alligator Loki followed in distant second place by Richard E. Grant as high camp classic comic-book Loki – awaiting his arrival?
[See also: Loki | From Myth to MCU, Loki Was Always Queer by Clint Worthington]
“To love oneself is the beginning of a lifelong romance.”Oscar Wilde, An Ideal Husband (1895)
Another issue raised by Loki’s continued existence is the potential romance between Sylvie and Loki. Although normally the softening of a scoundrel like Loki always risks making him duller and less fun, we’ve already seen this process work a treat with the character, and we’re confident that Sylvie’s presence will only serve to further entrench his narcissism – after all, he’s effectivelly falling for himself.
Does Sylvie herself feel the same way? It’s an interesting question but one perhaps not quite as interesting as the questions Sylvie herself seemed poised to ask the temporarily impotent Ravena as Episode 4 ended. As she and Loki fought to overthrow the seated trio of Time-Keepers it soon became clear that something funny was going on. Why were the Time-Keepers playing so little role in the intense physical skirmish between the two Variants and the minions of the Time Variance Authority? Why in such an expensive, FX-heavy show did the Time-Keepers look and sound quite so kitsch? As end-of-game baddies go, the Time-Keepers proved something of a letdown and in answering one question, they revealed the existence of a dozen more that hands off a steep challenge indeed of the next two episodes.
“Time-Keepers? The Sacred Timeline? Who actually believes this bunkum?”Loki, ‘The Time Keepers’ – S1, Ep1.
Clearly then, this trio of melodramatic Muppets were not the true Time-Keepers. How could they, after all, govern the timelines if they cannot keep their own heads intact? This begs a few final questions. If they were not the Time-Keepers, who is? Are there any real Time-Keepers at all? If not, who did start the TVA? Is the TVA really doing anything at all, or is it just a front? If so, who is keeping our timelines in order? What’s stopping the Aztec Empire from launching a manned mission to Mars or preventing a Megalodon attack from disrupting the progress of the Spanish Armada? Will Viking longboats be sighted off Nazi-occupied Europe? Will drones be sighted over the Battle of Waterloo?
The people demand to be told.
Hopefully, all these questions will be answered in Loki Episodes 5 and 6. But much like the matter of Loki’s death, things are seldom as they seem.
Podcast | Loki Episode 4 Recap: Self-Love and Animal Avengers
From Myth to MCU, Loki Was Always Queer
Chris Hallam is a published author and freelance writer based in Exeter. In the past, he has written for magazines such as DVD Monthly and Geeky Monkey. He provided all the written content for the Star Wars Clone Wars and Smurfs annuals for 2014, and the Transformers annual 2015. He continues to write for Yours Retro, Best of British and The History of Comics, 1930-2030.