REVIEW: ‘Loki’ Episode 5 Shows the Power of the Longform Narrative

As Loki nears the completion of its second season, it continues to stand as the nonpareil of what Marvel Studios television was initially intended to be and should endeavor to continue to be. Thanks in no small measure to the continued brilliance of Tom Hiddleston, the show continues, in modern parlance, to slap, slay and dish out weekly bangers. While it’s illogical, even preposterous, premise all but guarantees it’s not for everybody, Loki continues to embrace its place as a true sci-fi show and seems with each passing episode to submerge further into those depths. To that end, it’s no surprise that Season 2’s fifth episode, “Science/Fiction” turned out not only to be the most convoluted and nonsensical entry to date but also one of the series’ best and maybe one of Marvel Studios’ best episodic efforts.

As the penultimate episode of Season 2, “Science Fiction” does what penultimate episodes do. It makes real the consequences of the season’s ongoing concerns about the stability of the Temporal Loom which finally gave out in Episode 4’s cliffhanger. The destruction of the Loom, which refines raw time into the timelines where people live their lives, resulted in both the destruction of the TVA and, as revealed in Episode 5, the destruction of those timelines. When the Loom isn’t Looming, entire realities and their inhabitants are reduced to spaghetti, something that not even Sylvie, the colder-hearted Loki Variant, can abide. The loss of the Temporal Loom also puts Loki back in a familiar predicament as his time-slipping, thought to have been remedied in the season’s first episode, resumes albeit with an interesting twist as he bops about to different realities where familiar faces from the TVA are living their lives. By episode’s end and with the help of Ke Huy Quan’s A.D. Doug, PhD, Loki is empowered to control time-slipping, creates a bare-bones TVA and puts himself on the path to make an effort to save all of reality in the Season 2 finale. Job well done.

(L-R): Wunmi Mosaku as Hunter B-15, Owen Wilson as Mobius, Tom Hiddleston as Loki, Eugene Cordero as Casey, and Ke Huy Quan as O.B. in Marvel Studios’ LOKI, Season 2, exclusively on Disney+. Photo by Gareth Gatrell. © 2023 MARVEL.

However, as part of Marvel’s longest longform episodic narrative to date, “Science/Fiction” serves as a linchpin not only for Season 2 but for the series as a whole. Season 2 head writer Eric Martin’s presence as a key contributor to Season 1 allowed for continuity of the creatives behind the series which means that the big ideas from the first six episodes are far from forgotten. Indeed, “Science/Fiction” may have just put Loki and Sylvie right in the same boat in which they found themselves when they met He Who Remains in the Citadel at the End of Time. In that meeting, He Who Remains offered the pair the power to be curators of the Sacred Timeline as his replacement as the man behind the curtain of the TVA. By assembling an all-new, all-different team and learning to slip time at will, Loki has put himself in position to prevent the destruction of the TVA (man, the time wimey stuff here is so fun–and painful–to think through) and, with no leadership left to speak of, take control. Take a bow, Al Ewing, as Loki is about to become the God of Stories.

There is, however, one fairly large question left to ponder as we wait for Episode 6: is Loki really writing this or any other story? Should Loki end up in charge of the TVA, isn’t that right where He Who Remains wanted him? Of course, as the God of Stories, Loki may somehow find a way to use Victor Timely’s Multiplier to allow the newly branched timelines to continue on but if not, if the decision is made keep all of reality intact by refining time back into the Sacred Timeline, won’t He Who Remains have accomplished exactly what he wanted? While he’s not the most trustworthy narrator, He Who Remains made it very clear that he was the architect of Loki’s existence and it was through his machinations that Loki ended up in the Citadel in the first place. As this Variant of Loki who has come so far on his road to redemption finally finds himself on the precipice of becoming the hero of all time, always, would Marvel Studios dare take his agency from him and reveal that he’s simply been He Who Remains marionette all along? With one episode left to go, it looks like we’ll all find out together just how much of this story has truly been written for Loki and how much has been written by him.

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