CAST: Tom Hiddleston, Owen Wilson, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Wunmi Mosaku, Sophia Di Martino, Richard E. Grant, Jack Veal, DeObia Oparei
RUNNING TIME: 50 mins
PREVIOUSLY, ON LOKI: Loki (Hiddleson) and the rogue female “variant” known as Sylvie (Martino) have been apprehended by the Time Variance Authority after briefly escaping their clutches. Loki manages to convince TVA agent Mobius (Wilson) that he and countless other agents are variants themselves, only for Mobius to be seemingly wiped from existence by his superior Ravonna Renslayer (Mbatha-Raw). Loki and Sylvie are able to work their way to the Time-Keepers, but find that they are android decoys for the TVA’s mysterious true ruler. Loki is unexpectedly “pruned” by Renslayer, and ends up in a mysterious realm surrounded by other Loki variants.
IN THIS EPISODE: Loki must find a way to escape the purgatory-like world of The Void, a place where variants pruned by the TVA are dumped and destroyed…
NOW FOR THE REVIEW…
Even with the series’ established unpredictability and wildly bonkers twists, I find it unlikely that most people would have seen coming the fact that the break-out star of the fifth, and penultimate, episode of Loki would be an alligator wearing Loki horns. That glorious little reptile – first glimpsed during last week’s mid-credits stinger, along with the likes of Richard E. Grant as “Classic Loki”, i.e. his vintage look from the comics – is in a lot of this episode, titled Journey Into Mystery, and every single time he threatens to steal the entire show right from underneath Tom Hiddleston’s nose (or, more accurately, his hand – watch the episode to find out what I specifically mean by that).
Alligator Loki, as he’s officially called, is a fun new addition even this late to the party, and it makes the overall episode quite the ride in a number of ways, along with its own brand of epic sci-fi/fantasy action, humour and warm character development that shows how far, even across five of six overall episodes, this series has come.
Journey Into Mystery, of course, picks up right from where last week’s thrilling episode left off. Loki (Hiddleston) has just been “pruned” – basically, zapped and seemingly removed from existence by the TVA – and transported to The Void, a vast and desolate wasteland where variants are sent to be consumed by a giant cloud monster named Alioth. There, he finds himself teaming up with other Loki variants including Grant’s Classic Loki, Jack Veal as “Kid Loki” DeObria Oparei as “Boastful Loki” and – last but certainly not least – Alligator Loki. Meanwhile, back at the TVA, Sylvie (Sophia Di Martino) prods the deceitful Ravonna Renslayer (Gugu Mbatha-Raw) for answers as to who’s really pulling the strings of the organisation, because it sure as hell isn’t the Time-Keepers who last week turned out to be mindless androids. When that proves fruitless, Sylvie takes matters into her own hands and finds a way to The Void, where she tries to find a way past Alioth and discover who the real mastermind is once and for all.
This episode, similar to the first, is more about setting up how certain things work regarding The Void, the variants who are sent there to effectively die, and what that giant cloud monster may or may not be guarding, although the exposition quickly shifts aside in favour of some satisfying character growth and some visually-dazzling set-pieces. As ever, the cinematography in this series continues to be outstanding, with this episode – as it was in the third entry – soaked in other-worldly shades of purple, blue and plenty of other colours that are used to strong eye-pleasing effect; they even found a way for grey to look stunning in this episode, which is very difficult to do in just about anything. The visuals lend a strong fantasy vibe amidst all the science-fiction, especially as the episode dives further into a quest-like narrative as Loki and his allies – among them Owen Wilson’s Mobius, who thankfully survived last week’s pruning – attempt to take down a rather powerful enemy, complete with Lord of the Rings-style heroism and an epic orchestral score (by the series’ undisputed music maestro Natalie Holt). As far as these Marvel mini-series go, this episode perhaps boasts the most cinematic set-pieces of the lot, and it’s down to how gorgeously they’re executed by a keen-eyed cinematographer and director Kate Herron’s wistful and ambitious style.
There is also a lot of fun to be had with the fact that, since this is essentially a land of Lokis that we’re in, we get to see how all these different variants of the character interact with one another. You get some good moments with Richard E. Grant’s Classic Loki, and of course Alligator Loki is a star in and of itself, but then you have very funny interactions between a figure known as “President Loki” – who’s pretty prominent in the series trailers, with his “Vote for Loki” badge and ripped suit – and several other variants, and this being the traitorous character we all know by this point, there’s double-crosses aplenty across the board. When it comes to some of the more tender interactions – Loki and Sylvie continue to share impeccable chemistry with each other, as do Loki and Wilson’s good-hearted Mobius – the episode also works because you’ve spent enough time with these characters to be charmed by their charisma and screen presence that you certainly feel empathy towards their plight, and you do root for them when they embark on dangerous missions such as the one they go on here. Again, the writing is very good at giving you characters and scenarios to care about while it’s also indulging in plenty of mind-boggling sci-fi, and it makes you all the more curious as to what exactly lies in store during next week’s finale.
With one episode left to go, I’m already running out of ways to say how Loki is by far Marvel’s strongest mini-series to date. I know that I’ve said this in every episode review so far, but it really is high-level storytelling that Marvel is working with here, and succeeds where previous Marvel series didn’t quite make the landing when it comes to making each entry consistently entertaining and with barely a lull in-between, not to mention that it explores vast new corners of the Marvel Cinematic Universe without reneging on certain promises, and actually seeming to follow through on the increasingly high expectations placed upon it. That continues with this penultimate episode, and is almost certain to conclude with next week’s surprising, and hopefully satisfying, final instalment – even if there is no Alligator Loki to fall back on.
SO, TO SUM UP…
Loki: Episode 5 – Journey Into Mystery is a gorgeous and rather epic-feeling penultimate episode that has fun with its fantastical setting as well as the numerous Loki variants interacting with each other (Alligator Loki, of course, being a major highlight), setting itself up nicely for what is certain to be a thrilling and satisfying conclusion to the series.