After a third episode that at times seemed to be running in place, “Loki” finally pulled back the curtain — in almost “Wizard of Oz”-like fashion — in a fourth that contained some genuine shocks and a bit of (weird) romance, but remained stingy in terms of revealing what’s happening and who’s responsible for it.
The Time Keepers and their organization the Time Variance Authority turn out not to be the benign entity initially presented, but rather a façade for something more nefarious. Mobius (Owen Wilson) was understandably skeptical about trusting Loki (Tom Hiddleston) — and his explanation that Mobius and his fellow agents were also variants, plucked from their pasts — before learning the truth.
That revelation cost Mobius his life (or resulted in his “pruning” from the timeline), but not before he amusingly mocked Loki for his apparent infatuation with Sylvie (Sophia Di Martino), another Loki variant, in what he laughingly characterized as the ultimate act of narcissism: “You fell for yourself!”
That was followed by Loki’s apparent death, only to have him pop up during one of Marvel’s signature post-credit sequences, in a “Come with me if you want to live” moment that introduced three additional characters and left plenty of questions.
Finally, the episode expanded on Sylvie’s origin story, and the role that Judge Renslayer (Gugu Mbatha-Raw) had played in it, exposing her role in the larger plot. As for what that plot is, tune in next week, since Sylvie closed by demanding an explanation.
It was a lot to process, and that doesn’t even mention the comedic bit that involved bringing back Jamie Alexander as Thor’s friend Sif for old time’s sake, smacking Loki around over and over as part of a time loop.
All three of the Marvel shows for Disney+ have taken their time advancing the story, approaching the narrative as one long movie diced into chapters. The search for clarity here has been particularly vague and deferred — a byproduct of how complicated time-travel stories tend to become — ratcheting up pressure on the final installments to bring it all home.
Based on where the producers have gotten so far, that looks like a tall hurdle. But with an antihero this resourceful, where there’s a Loki — or rather, several of them — there’s potentially a way.