Our God of Mischief can only watch as reality unravels and explodes in “Heart of the TVA.”
This piece was written during the 2023 SAG-AFTRA strikes. Without the labor of the actors currently on strike, the works being covered here wouldn’t exist.
On another series, this sort of episode would be the season finale cliffhanger. In this case, though, it Is simply Loki Season 2 Episode 4, “Heart of the TVA.” Written by Eric Martin and Katharyn Blair and directed by personal faves Justin Benson & Aaron Moorhead (back in charge after kicking off the season), it’s merely 2/3 of the way to the season’s end. And while the team behind Loki Season 2 Episode 4 might have time for false endings and finale-seeming episodes in the middle of the season, our time is far more limited and precious. So let’s get into this.
As noted in last episode’s recap, one thing I greatly appreciate about Loki this year is how they aren’t drawing things out. Last week closed on Miss Minutes (Tara Strong) promising revelations to Renslayer (Gugu Mbatha-Raw). This episode, we immediately see her deliver. The AI reveals to her current, but likely temporary, ally the source of the recording Loki (Tom Hiddleston) heard in episode 1. Sometime long ago, Renslayer aided He Who Remains (Jonathan Majors) in triumphing in the Kang Way. He told her he was thrilled to rule with her, she went to check on things at the TVA, and he told Miss Minutes to mindwipe not only her but everyone involved’s memory of the events. Kind of makes you wonder what role Mobius (Owen Wilson) or B-15 (Wunmi Mosaku) might have played in that conflict.
I’ve, unfortunately given everything, enjoyed Majors in this series, a position I know I’m in the minority on. I like his twitchy Victor and how that character uses his natural awkwardness in service of his hustle. Here, we get a different look at He Who Remains, a far less gregarious version of what Majors did at the end of last season. Still, he does integrate the Kangs’ apparent fear of partnership into this moment well. His performance leaves it ambiguous if he always intended to take everyone’s memory. It seems equally likely he realized he proposed an equal alliance with Renslayer and simply had to scorch Earth to protect himself from that impulse.
Victor, meanwhile, arrives at the TVA and himself facing down, in a manner of speaking, his variants via that mural Loki unveiled in episode 1. Before long, the rest of the team catches up with him. While Mosaku is still getting the short end of the stick in terms of being given things to do, she once again kills what she got. She plays so small in meeting Victor, and it is the exact right choice.
OB (Ke Huy Quan), on the other hand, is typically awkward, a situation only enhanced when he and Victor discover they have a sort of looped relationship. The TVA manual written by OB inspired Victor. At the same time, OB insists that Victor’s journal helped him write the manual. Again, I know Marvel won’t do this, but making Quan the next Kang is right there for the taking.
After some squabbling about what needs to be done and who should do it, Casey, OB, and Victor figure out that his prized prototype—which looks like a miniature version of his timecraft in Quantumania—can be inserted into their Temporal Loom fixing device to make it work. They get to work on that.
While Mosaku is still getting the short end of the stick in terms of being given things to do, she once again kills what she got.
Meanwhile, in holding, Dox (Kate Dickie) and her loyalists still sit after getting pinched in episode 2. X-5/Brad (Rafael Casal) is among them, but we learn quickly they’re all aware of both his abandonment of post to try and claim a life on the timeline and his revealing of Dox’s big plan.
Two former allies trying to win them to their side soon visit. B-15 attempts to appeal to Dox’s love of the TVA. She argues that even if this isn’t precisely the TVA the General committed to, they still want her to be part of the team and mission. Dox remains noncommittal, so B-15 leaves her to consider it. Before long, Renslayer and Miss Minutes gold door in to try and recruit Dox and the Doxettes. When only Brad agrees, Minutes and Renslayer painfully murder the rest via the infamous crushing cube machine. It’s a deeply unnerving scene from Casal’s guilt and horror to Miss Minutes’ almost sadistic glee. As viewers, we barely see anything. Still, the sound design makes it all too clear how awful a death they’re suffering. Only the score, which overly asserts itself, undermines the scene’s effectiveness.
Unaware of the invasion and waiting for the tech trio to get their work done, Mobius suggests pie. Sylvie (Sophia Di Martino), in reply, blows a gasket. In her tirade, she becomes yet another person demanding of Mobius why he won’t even try to figure out what his non-TVA life might be. There’s lots of speculation online about that question. Who knows the answer, but it does seem like the show is building to something big.
While Loki tries to get Sylvie to introduce some grey into her worldview regarding the TVA, Mobius returns to the tech trio, hot cocoa consolation prize in hand. Victor gets very excited at the idea, and they send him to the vending machine with an escort. While there, Brad prunes the guard and abducts Victor, bringing the professor con artist to see Renslayer.
Victor proves to have a spine, refusing to tell Renslayer where to find his device. When she threatens him, he seemingly folds, but it becomes clear he is now telling her too much, not only dragging things out but giving her so much information it becomes difficult to figure out what matters and what doesn’t. Nonetheless, it seems like it will only be a matter of time before Renslayer and Minutes get what they want.
In general, Di Martino’s face acting in this episode is a delight.
Unfortunately for their plan, Minutes can’t resist signing her work. By locking everyone out of the tempads and computer systems, not only does it tell OB et al. who’s responsible for Dox and the loyalists’ murders, but it gives the team a way to shut down Minutes. OB hard resets the systems which shuts down Minutes. Renslayer, in an ill-advised moment, sends X-5 out to investigate, allowing Loki and Sylvie to get to him. Sylvie takes over his mind and puppets him into pruning Renslayer and saving Victor.
Everyone races back to the bridge where Victor overrules Loki to become the going into the time radiation volunteer. Sadly, he immediately unravels into flesh ribbons upon stepping outside, the TVA’s timesuit proving no protection this time. With that, all is lost and Loki and his allies can only look on as the Temporal Loom bursts, seemingly erasing all existence.
Moments From the Sacred Timeline
- The episode kicks off with what I can only describe as some very Sliders-esque graphics. If you are too young to know Sliders, first, I’m sorry, you missed out. Second, it was a multi-season series about characters moving from alternate world to alternate world. Just something to keep in mind if you ever consider complaining about how limited or stake-less multiverse storytelling can be.
- Miss Minutes and Renslayer’s talk after Minutes reveals the secret of what He Who Remains did would feel very typical on TikTok. Without either saying it, it is all about emotional labor and the whole “men get praised for just showing up at the park as a Dad” energy. This is not a criticism to me.
- Miss Minutes again shows off how talented she is at manipulation, successfully getting Renslayer so angry with Kang(s) that she doesn’t seem to clock (haHA) that it was Minutes who ultimately wiped her memory.
- There’s a moment where several characters walk in on Casey and OB as they’re talking. One of them says something like, “We’ve adjusted everything we can adjust,” as though they’re mid-conversation. It sounded so tinny, so improv scene setup that it stuck in an otherwise very well-acted installment.
- Sylvie knows the term bromance?
- In general, Di Martino’s face acting in this episode is a delight.
- OB’s a very diligent diorama maker.
- Sensualism again gets a spotlight, this time in the form of a cup of cocoa. Never have I coveted a vending machine hot beverage like I did when Loki Season 2 Episode 4 put on the full-court press about it.
- Sylvie mumbling to herself about herself, “Pretty tech-savvy,” is legitimately amusing.
- For the first time in a while, a Disney+ show used darkness effectively when X-5 comes upon Loki in a hallway. It is dark enough to convey that X-5 likely can barely see, but audiences can still see Loki’s outline slowly come into focus. If Disney wants to use darkness in their shows, and clearly they do, they should use this version over the “truly no one can see anything” version more often.
- While a decidedly scary moment for mortals, Loki should be semi- ok with the Loop explosion given his relationship to the Norse concept of a recursive apocalypse, Ragnarok.
- Again, this is not a thing that will happen, but imagine if Marvel took this opportunity to spike the ball on multiverse storytelling. Episode 5 starts. All our characters are back in one timeline. All the Doctor Strange Madness and Spider-Man No Way Home ness have been rendered a brief phase. Again, no chance, but it would be so easy to use this moment to leave behind this evidently unpopular—or controversial at least—storytelling device.
From the Lips of Gods
- “We don’t need him. Maybe we never did.”
- “Trust me, it’s not that great.”
- “It’s like a snake eating its own tail.”- Oh dear…that’s like me using “clocked” above talking above Miss Minutes level writing.
- “It’s wearing a helmet. It doesn’t look like anyone.”
- “Clocks don’t tick at the TVA.”
- “It’s like the Caribbean of the Midwest.”
- “I earned my life.”
- “He’s just trying to see in the dark like the rest of us.”
- “Hope is hard.”
- “Sounds like no matter what we do, we’re playing God.”
“We are gods.”
- “I’m working on myself.”
- “You’ll never be him.”- Miss Minutes last words to Victor before her forced reboot have a variety of possible interpretations. It could be a reassurance of sorts (“Don’t worry, you’ll never be as bad as him.”), a taunt (“He’ll always be better.”) or a warning (“You won’t live long enough to be He Who Remains.”) All are intriguing, especially if we are to assume she has some knowledge of alternate timelines for the Kangs.
- “Is that safe?”
“I haven’t tested it. Theoretically.”