Wednesday, July 14, 2021

REVIEW: 'Loki' - Loki and Sylvie Find Answers and Must Make an Impossible Choice About Free Will in 'For All Time. Always'

Disney+'s Loki - Episode 1.06 "For All Time. Always"

The clock is ticking in the season finale which finds Loki and Sylvie on a date with destiny.

In 2020, the television industry aired 493 scripted shows across numerous outlets. The way people consume content now is different than it used to be. It happens according to one's own schedule. As such, it's less necessary to provide ample coverage of each episode in any given season from a show. Moreover, it is simply impossible to watch everything. As such, this site provides shorter episodic reviews in order to cover as many shows as possible. With all of that being said, here are my thoughts on the season finale of Disney+'s Loki.

"For All Time. Always" was written by Michael Waldron & Eric Martin and directed by Kate Herron

Sylvie can't trust anyone and Loki can't be trusted. Those are the fundamentals of these characters. This season has depicted evolution for both of them. The premise was established right away that there was much more power and control in the universe than anyone has ever imagined at this point in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. These two variants sought answers. They embarked on a bruising and daunting journey. It's one that brought them together and forced them to expand beyond what they have traditionally viewed as their core basis behavior. They found camaraderie with each other. That commanded a deep well of respect. Intimacy blossomed. It's a connection with a profound amount of depth. At first, the MCU shows on Disney+ felt like pure and simple brand extension in the hopes of providing more details for characters often overlooked and lost in the grand scheme of the movies. Subsequently, the big events in these series would only be of service to the central dynamics of the films. Nothing could happen in this particular medium that would dramatically reshape how the universe at large works. They could only aspire to providing entertaining stories for specific characters. Those criticisms are valid in some instances too. WandaVision's story was searing in its examination of grief and the ways people choose to cope with tragedy. It was also establishing plot for the forthcoming Doctor Strange sequel. Meanwhile, The Falcon and the Winter Soldier mostly flopped because it was incapable of matching the scale of its story with the limited ambition of its character developments. It had to hold everything so preciously in order for the more crucial developments to occur elsewhere in this universe. With Loki, it was clear right away that the narrative was driven by blowing up expectations and norms. And in the end, it succeeds in following through with that desire. It could be seen as incredibly annoying for the finale to build to a conversation Loki and Sylvie have with a completely new character who can explain everything that has happened throughout the season. It could also play as fan service for the people who know that Jonathan Majors has been cast as Kang the Conquerer in the next Ant-Man and the Wasp film. But so much of this finale ultimately works because of its intense focus on character and what these big developments mean for them. Sure, it serves as meta commentary for storytelling within the MCU overall. The fans are desperate to know how stories end and receive teases about some of the big events from the comics that will make their way to the screen. The journey getting to those points has to make sense. That is the only way to ensure that compelling content is created. It has to mean something. Here, the central conversation bounces back and forth between three villains. Their complexity extends far beyond that though. They are each faced with seemingly impossible decisions. The storytelling backs them into those corners where they are forced to confront what they want and what they are willing to do to achieve that. Those ambitions evolve over time. They then have to deal with the consequences. And now, that comes with the certainty that these stories will continue in another season. That is huge for the future of the MCU on Disney+. The future remains on this platform as its ambitions are insanely high.

Let's get back to the actual story here though. Loki and Sylvie enter the Citadel beyond the end of the timeline. They find the man who exists there. They find Miss Minutes as well. That servant of the TVA has long been aware of what's truly going on. Moreover, her inclusion means that free will is being extended to more people than just Loki and Sylvie. The variants make that ultimate decision themselves. However, others have to grapple with how to wield this freedom too. That includes the people who have prevented progress from being made in this regard earlier. Renslayer is off on some mission based on whatever files Miss Minutes delivers to her. That's a dangling plot thread left open-ended. It may not offer any easy resolution either based on the final choices that Loki and Sylvie make. They are told that they never had any control in their journey getting to this point. It's all exactly as one man dictated it to be. He is the only person in the entire timeline who can determine what happens. He is the sole being with free will. He wields it in order to protect the timeline from all out war with the multiverse. He saw firsthand the danger of that reality. He found a way to prevent it. This central timeline must be protected no matter what. And yet, he is old and tired of this work. Moreover, he knows that his impact on reality will continue beyond death in this moment. That's the choice that Loki and Sylvie have to decide. They too have to reckon with whether or not this man can be believed. Plus, they have to determine what they ultimately mean to each other. They started in one place. They have been on this profound and transformative journey together. And now, Loki's core drive is making sure that Sylvie is okay. That's what he wants. He no longer needs the throne and to wield over the world with absolute power. He has found a connection that is much deeper than that. However, Sylvie needs to seek vengeance for whomever is responsible for causing her a lifetime of pain and suffering. That has shaped her into the person she is today. She grew up in apocalypses. She could never trust anyone. She has survived. She has made it to this point. She has gotten her answers. All of that could change because of Loki. And yet, she is steadfast in her belief that the person in charge must die. That was true when the Time-Keepers were behind it all. It's true throughout her time in the Citadel. Loki cannot change that. So, the multiverse is officially born. Plenty of projects lately have been teasing this eventuality. It becomes real here. That's significant. It proves that this story should be as valid to the overall development of the franchise as some of the big movies. Every property continues to be a commercial success. Loki also happened to examine stories of desire and power in a way that provides new context while drastically changing the stakes for the future. Everyone knows change must occur. They can no longer be blind to the truth of the TVA. But Loki lands in a different timeline altogether. One where Mobius and Hunter B-15 don't know who he is or the urgency he suddenly declares himself with. That's a shocking development too. One that promises more disparate journeys for various versions of these characters. That too will change what the truth is for each of them. It's possible because of what Sylvie does. The consequences must be reckoned with as well. The certainty of that makes all of this even more satisfying.