Each week, as new episodes of Loki release on Disney+, LTN writers will reflect on each episode. You can find what we think about the Sacred Timeline here. Spoiler warning for Loki Episode 5.“Why the hell is there an alligator in here!?”
In a time-wrecked ruin, Loki confronts himself…and himself…and himself…and himself…and herself. Cascading through funhouse mirrors of alternate selves and variant lives, he faces his most frightening encounter yet, himself.
After a calamitous and confusing encounter with the “Time-Keepers,” Loki finds himself pruned, not destroyed as we have imagined but instead transported to a wasteland at the end of time. Once there, he is welcomed by a new party of variants—Classic, Alligator, Kid, and Boastful Lokis. Each of them pruned from their own timelines and abandoned to be hunted endlessly across the wastes of the Void by Alioth, a living cloud of hunger and consumption that swallows variant realities and all within them.“You’re different. Why?” “No, I’m not, you see? I’m the same, really. I’m the same as all of you”
Here we find Loki in a strange state. He is both hopeful and yet despondent, surrounded by these reflections and distortions of himself. And to his dismay, they each seem to hold the same crucial flaws—arrogance, pride, betrayal, failure. If the previous episode was about Loki learning to love himself, “Journey into Mystery” is about the agonizing difficulty of the task.“Damn it! Animals, animals! We lie and we cheat and we cut the throat of every person who trusts us, and for what? Power, Glorious Power. Glorious Purpose! We cannot change. We’re broken, every version of us forever.”
How can Loki become something, someone new? Not simply a Variant, like the half dozen or so Variants we have been introduced to, but a truly new person. For all of their strangeness, each of these Void Variants is still fundamentally Loki. No divergence or alternate history seems capable of changing who he is. He has to wrestle with himself, with all of his flaws in full display in every variation.
I’m reminded of Paul speaking in Romans 7:15-20 (NRSV). Loki is literally at war with himself, both within and without. And yet, despite the frustration and the sorrow, this journey seems to be leading him at last to the kind of person he wants to become—the journey that began with an infinity stone, that began with watching his own betrayal, his mother’s death, and his own.“I betrayed everyone who ever loved me. I betrayed my father, my brother, my home. I know what I did and I know why I did it. And that’s not what I am anymore.”
Just before he leaves to confront Alioth with Sylvie, Kid Loki hands him Laevateinn, the fabled burning sword of Loki myth. A tangible representation of the gifts he has received from his other selves, the perspective and compassion he has gained for himself.“I think we’re stronger than we realize.”
And in the final moments, we see a Loki change. Old Loki, consummate survivor sacrifices himself, raises an entire illusory Asgard to draw away Alioth’s ire over the victorious strains of “Ride of the Valkyries.” Perhaps there is hope yet for Loki to become the better vision of himself that he is pursuing—hope for all of us to become bigger than our flaws and failures, bigger than the worst versions of ourselves.