Loki Season 1, Episode 5 (Disney+)
Written by Tom Kaufmann
Directed by Kate Herron
Loki continues to be the Marvel series I’m warm up to the most. While Wandavision was good, I particularly appreciate the silly fun of Loki. This particular episode plays a lot with the potential fun of having a Multiverse, which is a welcome addition. The plot doesn’t slow down for this slight detour and ends up developing our protagonists by framing them against versions of themselves. I think time travel stories always benefit from a balance of the serious and the humorous (see Back to the Future). When dealing with those types of science fiction narratives, you can’t take yourself too seriously.
Loki wakes up in the Void, the dumping ground for all the TVA variants pruned from the timeline. This reveals that they cannot actually erase these people, and so they get put in what is essentially cold storage. Keeping the variants on the run and from escaping is Alioth, a massive living cloud of cosmic energies. Loki meets four variants: Kid Loki, Thor Loki, Alligator Loki, and Old Loki. They try to convince Loki that any ideas he has about escaping are pointless because of Alioth, but he believes there has to be a way. Finally, Sylvie arrives, getting help from Mobius and learning that something is hidden by the Void. Eventually, she and Loki are reunited and devise a plan that defeats Alioth and opens the door to the reality behind these illusions.
I’m a little invested in the mystery the show has built up and have some theories about where I think the season finale will lead. I’m iffy if we will be introduced to Kang in episode six despite him being an incredibly logical choice for how this should go. I know Kang is set to be the antagonist of the next Ant-Man movie, so that makes me less likely to think he will be who they meet because Marvel is saving his introduction for later. This doesn’t mean we won’t meet some version of Kang the Conqueror as that character is the chief example of variants in the Marvel Universe.
The prime Kang is from Marvel’s Earth-6311, and every variant has come as a result of interactions between himself and the main Marvel world, Earth-616. He was born Nathaniel Richards in the 30th century where war and strife were gone. That resulted from the arrival of another Nathaniel Richards from Earth-616 (the future father of Reed Richards of The Fantastic Four). Nathaniel became aware of his potential future as Kang and attempted to subvert it and became the hero Iron Lad, a member of the Young Avengers. He eventually goes back to his original point in time and continues his evolution as Kang the Conqueror. Nathaniel finds a time machine and goes back to ancient Egypt using the alias Rama-Tut and making the people worship him. The Fantastic Four end up in that time and help to oust him after revealing his deceitful nature.
Nathaniel escapes, still as Rama-Tut, and crosses paths with Doctor Doom, who he learns could be a possible ancestor. This inspires the future man to drop the pharaoh identity and make himself the armored Scarlet Centurion. The Centurion was eventually beaten by the Avengers and went back to the 30th century, where he reevaluated what he was doing. He finally dons the mask and outfit he once saw as a teen and becomes Kang the Conqueror. This leads to a campaign of conquering the galaxy, yet he is plagued with memories of his defeat in the past and keeps going back to the 20th century to exact his revenge but failing. The rest of Kang’s history is mostly his appearances in the Marvel Universe plaguing the Avengers and Fantastic Four.
The other route I could see Loki taking is by introducing Immortus, also Nathaniel Richards. A divergence occurred in the Multiverse when Rama-Tut escaped Egypt. Instead of becoming the Scarlet Centurion, Nathaniel ends up in Limbo, a dimension where forgotten and discarded remnants of the Multiverse end up. This realm is ruled over by the Timekeepers, and where Nathaniel learns this version of himself will end up serving them. He won’t have this and creates the identity of Immortus and works to ensure that he serves no being for the remainder of existence. I could also see the writers going with the less exciting route of making the final big bad He Who Remains, the canonical creator of the Time-Keepers, a being of such ancient age he is a husk. He Who Remains lives at The Citadel at the End of Time, which is likely what we glimpsed at the end of this episode. It should be noted this character was a very minor antagonist in the pages of Thor in the late 1970s. There’s not much there, so it gives the writers space to develop him.
I would like to see Mobius become Immortus, though, because his character arc is so similar to that comics’ figure. My dream would be a final scene, maybe post-credits, Mobius is placed back in his timeline with not a second missed. They’ve dropped hints he came from a version of the 1990s based on the jetski magazine and the soda he was drinking. Mobius goes inside and is greeted by his wife, who refers to him as Nathaniel, and then he visits his son, Reed, who is in the middle of a science experiment in the garage. I would love that tease for the eventual reveal of the Fantastic Four, and it would make that Mobius character a really special part of the MCU. But I’ve found the Disney shows have been more on the disappointing end when it comes to those fun teases, so who knows what we will see.