‘Loki’ Review: Episode 5 Introduces a New Set of Variants, and One True King — Spoilers

[Editor’s Note: The following review contains spoilers for “Loki” Episode 5, “Journey Into Mystery.”]

After an inauspicious introduction in last week’s end credits, our new, true God of Mischief by and large got his due recognition during Episode 5. Whether he was drinking wine out of a kiddie pool or biting off the hand that did, in turn, feed him, Loki left an indelible mark on the week’s events, and we can only pray he finds a way to survive next week’s finale.

I’m talking, of course, about Alligator Loki.

At first, Alligator Loki was merely a cute bit of madness in a series begging for additional absurdity. (Like much of “Loki,” the idea of the TVA is fairly fanciful, until it’s realized like a darker, browner DMV.) But there he was, wrapped in the arms of Kid Loki (Jack Veal) before scampering through the grass as the four other Lokis fled Alioth (rhymes with Goliath), a “living tempest that consumes matter and energy.” Throughout it all, Alligator Loki is largely silent, save for a purring growl here and sharp snarl there. Luckily, Classic Loki (Academy Award nominee and all-around elite thespian Richard E. Grant) can translate, apologizing to our tiny horned leader for making a shark tank joke instead of an alligator tank joke and later, once the group has retreated to their hideout, calling out Boastful Loki (DeObia Oparei) for exaggerating his Nexus Event.

Here, in this moment, Alligator Loki exerts his command — on the group, and the audience. Chomping his teeth and hopping out of his luxurious bath, Al zips across the floor and latches onto Boastful Loki’s hand in a savage maneuver soon to be replicated with even more savagery. But before our champion is called to service yet again, he makes room to hear from his voice. Asked by Loki Prime (Tom Hiddleston) to share how he got there, Classic Loki explains that he came to a realization after Thanos attacked his ship: Everywhere he went, pain followed. So he retreated to a planet to live in solitude, only to discover that he eventually missed his family. When he decided to see them again, the TVA scooped him up and dropped him with Alioth.

Being a sagacious and courteous lizard, Alligator Loki clearly knew Loki Prime needed to hear this; he needed to know that love isn’t a flame easily snuffed out. Perhaps that’s what gave Loki Prime the courage to sit down with Sylvie (Sophia Di Martino) and share an honest conversation with his slightly better self. In turn, it could be what saved them from the smoke monster, as their shared assurances and resulting trust gave the two Lokis enough unified power to cast a spell on the “guard dog.”

Alligator Loki, or Prince Loki, the Alligator?

Courtesy of Marvel Studios

Or perhaps Alligator Loki knew that Classic Loki needed to hear that story for himself; that he needed to reflect on what sent him to live by himself (causing others pain) as well as what brought him back (the love he felt for his family and need to know if they felt the same way). Remembering his choice to go looking for Thor may have been what helped him abandon his “plan” to “not die” and instead sacrifice himself to save Sylvie and Loki Prime; who are these other Lokis if not family, and what greater way to avoid causing pain than saving others from imminent doom? Of course, Mobius’ assurance that it’s never too late to change certainly had an effect on Classic Loki, too, but Alligator Loki facilitated that conversation by engineering their escape.

And what an escape it was! When President Loki (also Tom Hiddleston) infiltrated their hideout (after a tip from Boastful Loki), he took things too far by disrespecting the group’s obvious leader. “Why the hell is there an alligator in here?” he says, to which said alligator again launches skyward, latches on to an offending hand, and this time, bites it clean off. In the ensuing melee, Boy Loki, Classic Loki, and Loki Prime sneak out and find Sylvie and Mobius (Owen Wilson), the former of whom escaped Ravonna Renslayer (Gugu Mbatha-Raw) to come save her slightly worse half, and the latter of whom scooped her up in a pizza delivery car having been sent there last week by the same TVA judge.

From there, things took an inexplicable turn for our alligator god. With Mobius heading back to the TVA to “burn it to the ground” and Loki, Sylvie, and eventually, Classic Loki, teaming up to take down the Alioth, Alligator Loki just kind of slinks off with Kid Loki. When Mobius offers them a chance to leave, they… choose… to… stay? “This is our home,” Kid Loki says, even though he was banished there by the TVA because he killed Thor. Alligator Loki’s Nexus Event is much less dramatic — he ate the neighbor’s cat — but we’re led to believe he’s formed an attachment to this dark, collapsing locale and would rather stay there than go off gallivanting with, I don’t know, the Guardians of the Galaxy or eat more cats or something. No matter the soundness of his choice, perhaps what hurts the most is there’s no clear return for our great leader. Only one episode remains. Alligator Loki has been left behind. Sure, characters have a convenient way of reemerging in this time-traveling series, but we’re led to believe Alligator Loki’s loop is closed. He’s happy here. This is his kingdom, and he is now the king.

Tom Hiddleston in “Loki”

Courtesy of Marvel Studios

But then I remembered what Mobius said, sitting around the fire, trying to pinpoint where Alligator Loki even came from. “I don’t know, he could be lying — [playing] the long con,” Mobius says. “Of course, that just makes him even more likely to be a Loki. It’s always the game within the game with you guys, which I respect.”

Alligator Loki’s game will play on. The only question is if we’re lucky enough to see it.

Grade: B-

Bonus Time:

♦ Two pet peeves unrelated to our lizard king:

1. When all the Lokis, Sylvie, and Mobius meet up, there’s no reason for them to take a break, sit down, and chat. They know what they need to do, and they just… wait to do it. While Mobius’ conversation is fun and Loki and Sylvie’s talk is necessary, providing a reason for them to have those heart-to-hearts lends more credibility to the story. Just cutting to everyone hitting pause on their “glorious purpose” makes it all the more awkward to build up momentum again. (Hence the awkward close-up shots of everyone staring at a dark cloud.)

2. How many times did people say something was impossible only to discover it’s not impossible because of some new made-up thing? If you get pruned, that’s it, you’re dead — except it’s not, you’re just sent somewhere else in time. It’s impossible to get past Alioth, but wait, no, they can enchant it… so long as it’s distracted for a second and they really, really want to? Sure, it helps that “Loki” called attention to its many, many it-works-because-we-say-so fixes by having Renslayer lie about the magic “spaceship” as a stalling tactic, but it’s still a lot to swallow.

♦ Prior to “Loki’s” premiere, certain MCU fans expressed a desire to see dozens if not hundreds of Lokis mixing it up onscreen at the same time — but they not only wanted lots of Lokis from across time, they wanted those Lokis to be embodied by the original Loki, aka Tom Hiddleston. The actor’s talents are proven enough to know he could handle the task of distinguishing that many look-a-likes (similar to when D’Arcy Carden played all the roles in “The Good Place”), and he did get to play one more Loki this week. I’ll be curious if that’s enough, or if they’re still hoping for more Hiddelstons before “Loki” wraps.

♦ Lots of “Lost” references, huh? The smoke monster, the hatch, the weird place out-of-time where everyone has to confront their past in order to forge a better future? OK, sure. That’s kinda fun.

♦ Richard E. Grant is… so good. His reaction to Owen Wilson’s line about changing is so specific and earnest. The Oscar nominee manages to channel so much into such a tight timeframe, that it entirely justifies his character’s mammoth choice soon after. In comparison, Hiddleston and Martino get nearly five minutes to hash out their internal struggles — and they do a great job, but damn. Grant just nails it in a hot second.

♦ Next week! The finale! Bring back our Alligator God or burn it all down, baby! OK, maybe you can do both. But definitely do the first one.

“Loki” releases new episodes every Wednesday on Disney+. The series finale is slated for July 14.

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