REVIEW: Loki – Season 1, Episode 6 “For All Time. Always.”

"One man's Void is another man's piece of cake."

Perhaps better than anything I’ve ever seen, “For All Time. Always.” epitomizes the phrase, “What the hell did I just watch?” All of the problems with Loki reach their apex in this finale, an oppressively boring “climax” that bungles its humor – the placement of which is, as ever, misjudged – fails to provide a satisfying answer to the timeline nonsense, and, if this were possible, pushes Loki even further into the background of his own show. But at least they’ve finally stopped saying “glorious purpose” in every other sentence.

Loki and Sylvie reach the castle where the mysterious figure behind the Time Variance Authority resides, but what they find is far from what they expected. Renslayer scrambles to preserve the institution she serves while Mobius tries to free her.

“For All Time. Always.” begins with a series of Marvel movie quotes accompanying the logo sequence. This leads into a special effects visualization of the “sacred timeline,” the one we’ve been told the characters we’ve followed and cheered for on screen for over a decade had no say in crafting. This might have been cool if Loki had been more interesting, but since it’s slow as a crippled snail and half as fun, you’re left waiting for the light show to end so they can get on with the story. Worse, because of the nature of the timeline plot, it feels like a reminder that nothing that has come before Loki means anything anymore – or maybe it does. There’s a lot of back-and-forth over what’s true and what’s not, and while these concepts could have been fascinating, the series’ poor handling of them has squandered all of that potential. And, after watching this finale, I’m convinced they never had a coherent plan for their big ideas.

*SPOILERS*

Loki and Sylvie – which is to say, Sylvie and her useless sidekick, Loki – are finally at journey’s end, facing the door to the castle that houses their ultimate foe and the keeper of the timeline. Notice, in the lead-up to their entering the castle, how the focus is entirely on Sylvie; she needs a moment to collect herself, to take stock of her life’s work reaching its conclusion. Loki, the show’s namesake, stands quietly, waiting for her to be ready. Watching this and the events that follow, can you give me a good reason why Loki is even in this show? Sylvie is clearly the lead, and it would have been a more successful narrative if they’d just made a series about her, dropping the pretense of giving fans a story about one of their favorite characters. But that’s the rub, isn’t it? Just like they knew they needed the Avengers and Thanos to buttress Carol Danvers, the Marvel folks knew that throwing an untested character into a series would be risky, so they used someone people like as a vessel through which to tell the story they really wanted to tell. It’s a shame because I like Sylvie a hell of a lot more than Carol, but it’s hard to get invested in someone who is stealing the limelight from one of your favorites and effectively transforming the show you were promised into something completely different. It’s not fair to either of them, or to us.

But Sylvie does take the lead – or, rather, maintains the lead she’d taken several episodes ago – and confronts the mastermind behind the timeline shenanigans. He never gives his name and is referred to on IMDb as “He Who Remains,” but a casting announcement from last year assures us that this is Kang the Conqueror, a longstanding villain from the comic books. I’ve only read a couple of stories involving Kang, and I never considered him all that interesting, so I was open to the MCU taking some liberties with him. But holy hell, this is bad. In “For All Time. Always.” Kang is a goofy, irritating buffoon, dancing around like an idiot and speaking to Loki and Sylvie like a circus clown would talk to a child. All that building was for nothing, and the power behind the TVA is a joke, impossible to take seriously for a moment. Once again, Marvel has lost the balance it once struck between humor and drama. A character like Kang can be funny, but it’s a particular kind of funny, one that doesn’t undercut his menace. I get the intention; like Loki, Kang is a trickster, and they’re trying to make him out-Loki Loki. But Kang isn’t supposed to be a trickster, and even in his worst representations, Loki isn’t this silly. A trickster is still supposed to be scary and creepy, and before Ragnarok turned everything in Thor’s orbit into a farce, Loki was always that. The people running this show don’t even understand what they’re subverting.

Anyway, Kang explains what’s going on as best as I guess this show ever will. He’s a scientist from the future who discovered the multiverse and met a number of his variants from different timelines. But those variants all went to war with each other, leading to much death and entire timelines collapsing. Kang’s solution was to create one timeline and a powerful agency to keep it from diverging, so he went back in time, set up the TVA, and eliminated any variants to prevent timelines branching off on their own. How he accomplished any of this isn’t explained because writing is hard, but at least it kind of implies that free will does exist, and the events of the past movies were based on choices the characters made for themselves. This is simply the one Kang chose – presumably because it’s his – and he cultivated it at the expense of all others. It still doesn’t explain how he has control over magic like the Infinity Gems (I don’t buy that being a super scientist from the future covers this), or how he controls an entity like the Alioth, or how the gods, mystics like the Ancient One, or especially entities like Dormammu, seemingly have no knowledge of him or the enforcement of the timeline. And there are many other problems, like how the futzing with the timeline in Endgame could be an integral part of that timeline.

Loki, For All Time, Kang

Of course, this could all be a lie. Sylvie certainly thinks so. Loki, however, is more inclined to believe Kang because he’s not evil anymore and in love or something. In another example of this version not resembling any Loki we knew, he buys everything Kang says and implores Sylvie to abandon their quest and accept Kang’s offer for them to take his place as the rulers of the TVA and keepers of the timeline. Here is another area where Loki drops the ball spectacularly. This would have been an excellent chance to show that Loki has been manipulating everyone from the start, dedicated not to setting things right but to taking power for himself once again. Sylvie believes that’s what he’s up to because it’s who he is, or who he’s supposed to be. But no, Loki is a hero now, and he wants to protect people from a cataclysmic war, even it means making them suffer under a dictator. What’s worse is that the show seems to believe he’s right. The MCU’s morality is really getting twisted; I don’t think this phase would consider SHIELD’s growing fascism a problem or illustrate the folly of Tony Stark signing away the Avengers’ independence. Loki believes, as he always did, that people were made to be ruled, and specifically by him, but that’s now presented as a good thing.

Worse still, the show’s functional lead, Sylvie, ends up agreeing, making herself the new master of the timeline, with Kang as the replacement figurehead for the Time-Keepers. (And that final image – how do you decide to rip off a Planet of the Apes movie and land on the one universally recognized as the worst?)The transfer of identity from one Loki to another is now complete. Sylvie is the conqueror, the one who wields power over all she surveys, while Loki is a clueless cog in the new machine she’s created. The mid-credits tease is the threat of a second season, and I couldn’t be less interested. I don’t expect a better understanding of how the show views time or how it reconciles the inconsistencies this creates with the rest of the MCU. I don’t think they’ll get Loki back on track as the mischievous trickster he’s supposed to be. I don’t think they’ll allow Sylvie to be considered the villain because she’s doing exactly what Loki wanted, only without him as her devoted co-ruler. And, since this series is supposed to lead into Doctor Strange and the Multiverse of Madness, even if it does those things, it won’t happen early enough for that film to make any sense. Loki has done more damage to the MCU than Loki ever did.

The rest of “For All Time. Always.” feels about as weightless as it probably is. Mobius is awake now, dedicated to revealing the truth and bringing down the TVA, but Renslayer steps all over his big moment, and he looks like a useless moron again. (No wonder he’s Loki’s new best friend.) Hunter B-15 is busy doing something more proactive and relevant, waking up TVA officers one at a time. The notion of changing the TVA from the ground up is an interesting one, but it’s hurt by Hunter B-15 barely even being a character and the rest of the show being as bad as it is. And, once Sylvie makes her move, none of this matters anymore because she undoes it all. Mobius and Hunter B-15 are right back where they started, unquestioning agents of the TVA who don’t even know who Loki is. I’m sure the brain trust behind Loki thought this was a mind-bending twist, but like everything else they’ve done so far, it just renders whatever came before it pointless. They can’t even keep some of the lesser details straight. For example, Sylvie tells Loki, “I was pruned before you were even born.” Doesn’t “pruning” refer to being sent to the Void? That didn’t happen to Sylvie until last week when she pruned herself. For all of the pomp and circumstance they shove into every episode, they put so little care into the story or characters that they can’t even remember what their own terms mean. Earlier on, I gave them way too much credit in assuming they were going someplace and that all of this would serve a purpose. I was wrong, and here we are.

Loki, For All Time

“For All Time. Always.” is a finale so bad it manages to ruin something that was already pretty well ruined. The villain is a joke, the explanation given for the timeline doesn’t make much sense, Loki continues to be diminished as a character, and even the poorly plotted story of the show is undone. And, maybe worst of all, it’s somehow gotten even more boring. Loki is an ordeal that saps away any enthusiasm one may have had to see the MCU continue.

Loki – "For All Time. Always."

Plot - 4
Acting - 6
Progression - 6
Production Design - 8
Entertainment - 3

5.4

Bad

“For All Time. Always.” is a finale so bad it manages to ruin something that was already pretty well ruined. The villain is a joke, the explanation given for the timeline doesn’t make much sense, Loki continues to be diminished as a character, and even the poorly plotted story of the show is undone. And, maybe worst of all, it’s somehow gotten even more boring.

Comments (2)

July 15, 2021 at 3:04 am

Yeah, this show lost me within the first five to ten minutes of the very first episode. It’s so unfair to Hiddleston. You’d think the “God of Mischief” would be the ultimate troll and should be one of the most fun characters. Up there with The Joker, only he/she has powers. He’s supposed to be an imp and a prankster, that Loki. https://www.britannica.com/topic/Loki

    July 15, 2021 at 3:17 pm

    Exactly. This should have been like Marvel’s version of a Breaking Bad or Sopranos; not that dark or anything, but with a villain as the lead character. Instead it’s the most boring redemption story every conceived.

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