Our God of Mischief finally realizes his “Glorious Purpose.”
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.
Fittingly for an episode about repeating the past, Loki Season 2 Episode 6, “Glorious Purpose,” sends the season out as it came in, with Justin Benson & Aaron Moorhead directing an Eric Martin script.
Things start immediately where last episode ended, with Loki (Tom Hiddleston) slipping into his previous self moments before Victor Timely (Jonathan Majors). If you’re thinking that’s a poor choice if he wants to save the timelines from bursting again, you’re right. All the quick solutions—explain the directions faster, run down the walkway, drag Timely away from the interrogation—fail. Time after time, we and Loki’s crew witness Victor spaghettified only inches onto the walkway.
So Loki changes his strategy. As a nigh-immortal god, he has all the time in the world and the patience to use it. Thus, for literal centuries, Loki jumps back in time over and over and over again until he learns all he can from OB (Ke Huy Quan)about physics and the TVA. He sees every possible human error that might cause failure and accounts for them. Finally, things are ready. He has the timing and the science down pat. Nothing can go wrong, even as Mobius (Owen Wilson) seems to grasp something is very off with his deity friend/partner.
And it fails anyway.
As Victor points out, no machine can scale for the infinite. No matter the geniuses who created it, no matter the God of Mischief who spent hundreds of years mastering the solutions, infinity is unrestrainable. The infinite timeline version of reality is doomed to explode and reset all of existence.
But Loki won’t quit. If nothing can manage infinity, he’ll go back to the moment that became an issue and stop it. So he slips into another past self, the one who tried to stop Sylvie (Sophia Di Martino) from ending He Who Remains. Unfortunately, even a wiser Loki proves no match for his variant/love’s rage. She rejects all his arguments, repels all his attacks. He Who Remains dies on her blade no matter what.
After innumerable iterations, He Who Remains finally freezes time and invites Loki to discuss what is happening and what will happen. The Kang variant reveals he’s very aware that Loki has been repeating this moment in an attempt to thread a needle that keeps Sylvie and the infinite timelines alive. He tells our God of Mischief that that eventuality is an impossibility. Either Sylvie dies, and space-time retains cohesion, or she succeeds, sparking the crisis that explodes and returns everything to the one Sacred Timeline. While Loki gets to rock He Who Remains back on his heels a bit by revealing they’ve also had this conversation before—hinting at gaps in the timelord’s total knowledge—he ultimately recognizes that the villain is telling the truth. There is no way for Loki to truly win this situation.
This episode brings the season (and series, likely) in for an impressive landing.
The proverbial Sword of Damocles hanging over his head, Loki visits the two people most important to him—Mobius and Sylvie. He starts with Mobius, slipping into their first meeting. The encounter feels strangely lopsided. Wilson plays Mobius as he was in that first encounter, but the agent feels so much harsher now that he’s playing not off a petulant, prideful god but rather a Loki who views him as a friend. We’ve been so much more clued into Loki’s growth over two seasons, catching a glimpse of the “old” Mobius is striking.
Suitably psyched up to make the hard choices by his partner’s past self, Loki travels back to the home/bunker of OB, author variant edition. He arrives just as all his friends unravel, stopping time between that moment and when Sylvie joins them. Unsurprisingly, she’s already ahead of Loki in realizing the impossibility of squaring the circle Loki’s facing. The subtle shift in how Di Martino talks to him gives the scene a bittersweet undercurrent. She’s not letting him off the hook, but she’s not angrily dressing him down as she did in episode 4, either.
From there, it is once more back to the TVA just before Victor takes his fateful trip down the catwalk. This time, Loki doesn’t bother rushing anyone or convincing Victor he does/will volunteer. Instead, the God of Mischief walks down the stairs, seals the door behind, and walks out into the time radiation without any protection. As he strides forward, the waves of energy strip away his civilian clothes until he’s as close to classic comics Loki as we’ve ever seen Hiddleston.
Instead of trying to fix the Temporal Loom, he blows it apart. Then he steps off the platform, grabbing holding of the ever-increasing number of branching timelines. At first, these seem to be dying in his hands, suggesting he’s genuinely becoming He Who Remains’ replacement, shrinking the whole of reality back to one timeline. However, as he continues to strive forward, he sends green energy spiraling down each line, revivifying the branches. He reaches the center of it all and, fittingly, finds a throne waiting for him.
Over the course of the episode, viewers saw a version of Loki demanding a throne selfishly, and another reject the same offer. Here, he gets all he wanted when we first met the character in Thor. He’s not just the center of attention. He’s the center of all existence, sitting atop a throne. The mature Loki, though, is giving up everything he has discovered he truly wants. Friendship. Love. Freedom. Loki’s first wholly selfless act puts him precisely where he spent eons trying to reach, but he now wants no part of it. He becomes a god with infinite subjects as an act of sacrifice. Quite the journey for the guy who once turned into a snake so he could surprise attack his brother.
A title card telling the audience it’s “After” drops viewers into a kinder, gentler TVA. OB works on bringing back Miss Minutes (Tara Strong), regardless of the risks. B-15 (Wunmi Mosaku) seems to be running things on the floor. Casey (Eugene Cordero) has a place on the Ruling Council. Mobius has been monitoring the Kang variants but quits shortly after.
Speaking of nailing it, that last scene is [Owen] Wilson’s Emmy submission, no doubt.
Outside the TVA, a young Victor Timely never receives the TVA manual. While, inevitably, other versions of the character will find one and become some version of Kang, this quiet mercy suggests a safer, quieter life for the version we watch sacrifice himself repeatedly at the episode’s start. On the other side of the cosmic scale of justice, Renslayer (Gugu Mbatha-Raw) comes to that in-between place where the pruned go before they’re finally and fully erased from existence, the computer Recycling Bin of space-time.
After Mobius quits, he goes to look in on his Sacred Timeline self, the single father of two/power sports vehicle dealer. There, joined by Sylvie, he watches from across the street as the version of himself he’ll never be wrestle with his kids. She clasps his shoulder and moves on, leaving him in the golden hour light to contemplate lives he can’t have.
Finally, we return to Loki, stoic, surrounded by thriving branches. Smartly, the show doesn’t close on him smiling, but a quieter, sadder image. He acknowledges his friend Mobius—and the audience—with a gentle nod, one that someone dedicated to carrying his burden, if not exactly happily.
Moments From the Sacred Timeline
- This episode brings the season (and series, likely) in for an impressive landing. Feels honest to the stakes without either being too syrupy or too nihilistic.
- Hiddleston’s performance during the quick repetitions recalled Bill Murray trying to seduce Andie MacDowell in Groundhog Day with the God of Mischief rushing cues to try to get to the “good part.”
- Quan’s shrugged reaction to the prospect of Miss Minutes was a compelling reminder of what he brought to this season. He just nailed every take.
- Speaking of nailing it, that last scene is Wilson’s Emmy submission, no doubt.
From the Lips of Gods
- “You’re being so brave.”
- “And what makes you think this is the first time we’ve had this conversation.”
- “I make the tough choices. That’s why I get the big checks.”
- “You can’t. It’s impossible. But don’t let that stop you.”
- “You were never going to find comfort at the TVA.”
- “How do you live with it?”
- “I know what kind of god I need to be.”
- “I might just wait here a little bit. Let time pass.”