REVIEW: Loki – Season 1, Episode 5 “Journey Into Mystery”

"I guess when you think the ends justify the means, there's not much you won't do."

“Journey Into Mystery” adds insult to last week’s injury, further derailing this once-promising show and acting as a poorly-fitting puzzle piece that’s been jammed in where it doesn’t belong by people who want to end the game and go to bed. Like the similarly truncated The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, Loki’s short episode order is catching up with it, forcing it to jettison character development and push the players along so they can get to where they need to be for the finale. But take heart – there are plenty of comic book references and special effects to distract you from the collapsing plot!

Loki joins a group of variants and tries to survive the hellscape in which his “pruning” has left him. Sylvie uses Renslayer to get to the power behind the Time-Keepers. All potential suspense and dread are undercut with goofy humor because Thor: Ragnarok was popular.

The very first moment of “Journey Into Mystery” is the mid-credits scene from last week, which makes me think it was included then so people wouldn’t abandon the series altogether after they pretended to kill off Loki on his own show. He meets several variants of himself who’ve been pruned and sent to what is called the Void: Classic Loki, Kid Loki, Boastful Loki, and Alligator Loki. There are only two episodes left, so the troupe quickly exposits that all pruned variants are sent to the Void, where they’re hunted by a giant smoke monster called the Alioth. The Time Variance Authority doesn’t much care whether the variants die because they weren’t supposed to exist in the first place; the Lokis tend to survive, however, by virtue of simply being Loki. This is one of many contradictions to be found on the show; if it’s in Loki’s nature to survive, why is every Loki’s purpose to die? I’m not holding out much hope for this to be addressed because no one seems aware that it doesn’t make sense. Most of these early scenes are little more than an excuse for Loki to regroup before making his big plan of action.

*SPOILERS*

Loki, Journey Into Mystery

And, like last week, this plan is all about Sylvie. “Journey Into Mystery” reiterates that she is now the protagonist of this show because everything, even when she’s off-screen, centers around her. When Loki makes his impassioned rallying speech to his other variants, they’re all about how Sylvie is the only unique Loki among them, that she is better and stronger than he is, and can take down the TVA, with him lending a hand. Everything he’s doing is passive, while Sylvie is the active character who drives the plot. While Loki lounges with the variants, Sylvie moves closer to the string-pullers behind Rennslayer. Even the ways they get to the Void bear this out; Loki is sent there against his will, while Sylvie sends herself there. Sylvie, in other words, is acting while Loki is reacting. When they join up again, she mocks Loki’s plan to kill the Alioth while replacing it with her own, better one. Nerdrotic has highlighted the trope of “the girl who is the key to everything” on his YouTube channel many times, and that is what’s become of Sylvie. It’s a shame because I like her, but I don’t like the way she’s being used at all.

Where does this leave Loki? Remember in The Avengers when Loki said to Thor that he was “living in the shade of [his] greatness”? That’s what the Loki of this series is to the Loki of the films – even the oaf they turned him into in Ragnarok. This Loki has turned his back on dreams of power and conquest because of a few home movies based on a life he will never live. The God of Lies is now a champion of truth, wanting to expose the TVA as evil frauds because it’s the right thing to do rather than to steal their power. He’s not a manipulator but a full-blown follower, chasing after Sylvie like a boy would his first crush. Mobius – who is still alive, which we probably all figured after Loki turned up in the Void – is now his best friend, a guy he’d rather hug than shake hands with, as if they’ve been through a war together. And the biggest problem with all of this is that not one drop of it feels earned. Loki’s transformation happens so quickly and in such a vacuum of storytelling or legitimate development that it has no impact except to elicit a sigh of resignation because it’s clear nobody working on this show (aside from Tom Hiddleston, who is working overtime to attempt to make this palatable) cares.

Loki, Journey Into Mystery, Richard E. Grant

It isn’t just Loki’s story that feels forced and unearned, though; Mobius is similarly short-shrifted. “The Nexus Event” shattered his entire perception of reality, brought his belief system crashing to the ground, and exposed as a lie everything to which he’d dedicated his life (or thought he did, anyway). You’d think a man in that situation would be broken, depressed, maybe terrified at the thought that the universe is not what he thought it was and that he had been helping the bad guys all along. It’s ripe for some juicy character moments; we could see a decent man torn down and then watch him rebuild himself. But “Journey Into Mystery” bypasses all of that because Mobius is just his usual, amiable, Owen Wilson-y self, making jokes and performing his duty, or what he believes it to be now. His new resolve is there because the plot needs him to go from A to B, and it makes his character frivolous.

The other Lokis are much the same; Richard E. Grant is as good as any actor could be as Classic Loki, and his backstory is full of interesting ideas that won’t be fully explored because he was fast-tracked through “Journey Into Mystery” and given a heroic moment that’s the payoff to a few quick lines of dialogue that were delivered fifteen minutes before his sacrifice. That ending looks amazing, with movie-quality special effects and a grandiose feel to it, but it amounts to empty spectacle because of the bungled characterizations. Kid Loki exists to hand Loki a sword so they can pretend he’s still important while he does nothing. Boastful Loki (I got these names from IMDb; they’re never mentioned in the episode) is there to be a traitor because no Loki can be trusted except for Sylvie (Perfect Loki?) and our Loki, who is now a sap (Placeholder Loki?). This is also the episode where the variant known as President Loki shows up – I know I’m probably not the first or even the four-hundredth person to say this, but it’s astonishing how much he looks like Gavin Newsom – but he amounts to nothing as well, there to be a danger for all of five seconds before he’s revealed as an idiot too, and a played-for-laugh fight scene ensues. It’s boring because it’s pointless; there is no tension or excitement because everything is a joke.

Loki, Journey Into Mystery

“Journey Into Mystery” is another dud of an episode, further transforming Loki the show and Loki the character into wastes of time. Once more, Loki is fashioned into a sidekick for Sylvie, who has replaced him as the hero. Any promise held by things like the darkening nature of the TVA or those wacky new Loki variants is discarded for bad humor and a general air of pointlessness. I can’t imagine the looming finale will redeem this squandered series.

Loki – "Journey Into Mystery"

Plot - 4
Acting - 7
Progression - 6
Production Design - 8
Entertainment - 4

5.8

Lacking

“Journey Into Mystery” is another dud of an episode, further transforming Loki the show and Loki the character into wastes of time. Once more, Loki is fashioned into a sidekick for Sylvie, who has replaced him as the hero. Any promise held by things like the darkening nature of the TVA or those wacky new Loki variants is discarded for bad humor and a general air of pointlessness.

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