Note: Here there be spoilers for all of the MCU plus episode 5 of Loki. Proceed at your own risk.
Also, I am continuing to use the convention from the comics which is that Loki uses the pronouns of whatever gender Loki is at that moment. If the show ever indicates that MCU Loki has a different way of handling it I will adjust accordingly.
I liked the episode. I feel like that's something I need to get out of the way first because I'm also going to go off on a bit of a rant here and I want to be clear my rant is not about the episode per se. It's about a pattern which has emerged with the series as a whole which was made even more apparent by things which took place in the episode. Namely, the show's handling of sexuality and gender. Also a tiny bit race but that one is more specific to this episode instead of an overall series issue.
To that end let's just get straight into it.
The Episode Was Good
As I say, as an episode I liked it. I liked the pacing, I liked that it involved characters being smart and clever, especially since cleverness in particular is supposed to be Loki's whole schtick. (Example of cleverness: Sylvie ending the standoff with the TVA by turning the baton on herself.)
I loved the soundtrack. I know the music's been great in general for this series but I felt like this episode was a particular standout given the various themes - literal and figurative - that it had to incorporate. And I mean come on: if you're not going to use Ride of the Valkyries for an epic moment involving a giant illusion of Asgard when the heck are you?
I adored Gator Loki. Gator Loki is officially my favorite Loki ever and I am accepting no further candidates at this time. I slightly less adored the way the FX team noticeably forgot that there are distinct visual differences between alligators and crocodiles but I can easily handwave that as Gator Loki having fun with his appearance. I would like a Gator Loki plushie complete with the little horns, thank you.
Richard Grant getting to eat entire swaths of the scenery as Classic Loki was wonderful, and I will forever love his janky Spirit of Halloween clearance sale version of the Loki costume.
I also liked how Classic Loki was translated for the MCU. Not to get into any comics spoilers, but broadly speaking I'll just say that Classic Loki in the comic storyline Journey Into Mystery has a different role and relationship to other Lokis than what we saw here. That particular storyline (as opposed to the other versions of Journey Into Mystery) is one of the more famous Loki stories, not the least of which because it makes Kid Loki a more significant character in the comics. So it presents a challenge for Loki the series to figure out how to take inspiration from it, honor it, but still make it their own. Again I don't want to get into spoilers so suffice it to say as somebody who came into this assuming they'd do something similar to the comics, I thought they did a great job making it different.
Could I be more vague? Possibly. Read the series, it's very good.
Finally, I liked how they did what I feel is a pretty good mix of Easter Eggs. Which is to say it wasn't just a pile of things that made you go "Hey that's a reference to a thing that I know!" (aka "Avengers Endgame") but things which were fairly obvious on the Easter Egg scale (eg Throg), slightly less so (Thanos-Copter), and things which rewarded you for having actually paid attention when you read the comics, (eg Kid Loki's comment about Lokis trying to improve themselves, which again I'm being vague about to avoid comics spoilers.)
I'm aware this can come off as damning with faint praise given how with other shows I've gone into raptures about things like choice of color. To which I say 1) I will actually briefly touch on color in Lagniappe and 2) I genuinely don't mean it as such. It was a fun episode with a great combo of action and humor and pathos. To that end they did good.
Which naturally means we're coming to the bit that I'm less than thrilled about, which is what ep 5 indicated for the show as a whole, particularly when it comes to gender.
The Problem With Loki and Sylvie. No, Not That One
Let me be clear: I have exactly zero problem with Loki and Sylvie as a romantic pairing. Even if it was incest (which I don't think it is) or some sort of perverse, weird, amoral whatever (which I also don't think it is), it's still in character for Loki. Again: fucked a horse. Marvel put Sleipnir into the first Thor movie, they were fine at the very least alluding to the story of Loki fucking a horse whether or not they intend it to be MCU canon that it happened, ergo Loki fucking a version of himself is pretty much too boring to even be worthy (heh) of discussion.
Here's the problem I do have with Loki and Sylvie though: the show's Russo-esque victory lap for LGBTQIA+ inclusion when it is becoming screamingly clear that a female version of Loki was only introduced so that Tom Hiddleston's version of Loki would fall in love with her.
Let's start with receipts. Though Kate Herron, in an interview after episode 3 aired, said that Loki and Sylvie were not intended to have romantic tension, Michael Waldron, the head writer (which is the Disney+ version of a showrunner without the clout and, I assume, higher paycheck) said that the pairing of Loki and Sylvie was the pitch for the show.
Which again: I'm fine with! I come with receipts for myself on that one! I think the idea that Loki's greatest love is himself is wonderful! I think it's awesome to use a version of Loki to similarly symbolize that he's learning to love himself in spite of his self-hatred. Psychological metaphors are my jam.
BUT - you don't get to break an arm patting yourself on the back for including Loki's genderfluidity when it is only there to provide a heteronormative way for this storyline to play out.
Case in point: the failure of language for Loki as a genderfluid person. Now I myself am cisgender so I am by no means an expert. But even so I'm pretty sure that someone who is genderfluid wouldn't say "Have any of you met a woman variant of us?" as though woman is the thing which makes that version stand out. In the lead up to that comment Loki said he was the same as the other Lokis (Kid Loki: "You're different... why?" Loki: "No, I'm not you see? I'm the same. I'm the same as all of you.") which means that at the very least to this version of Loki it should be assumed that they are all genderfluid and shapeshifters. A "woman" version is not an outlier.
And I'm going to go on the side rant to add: neither is the alligator. I would cheerfully allow that MCU Loki doesn't have shapeshifting powers like his comics or Norse myth counterparts except that they made that canon. One of the most memorable things out of Ragnarok, after "Is he though?" and Valkyrie's power walk on the Rainbow Bridge, was the story of Loki turning into a snake. It's not even weird that he can become a reptile! Gator Loki shouldn't be standing out to them as worthy (again heh) of comment even if the comment is to lampshade that it's not the weirdest thing that happened that day.
Back on the concept of woman, though, not only is "woman" considered strange enough to be the thing worth mentioning (as opposed to, I dunno, Sylvie's name? Which we know is something that supposedly makes her stand out? Because she actively decided to not be a "Loki"?) but Classic Loki says "Sounds terrifying" as though the very concept is unthinkable.
Moreover, in the Void the vast majority of Lokis that we see are male. Even the gator is male! I'll grant that there's one Loki in the fight scene who might be female-presenting but that's about it. They could spend the time and money on creating "Bike handle helmet Loki" but not on even a glimpse of a proper Lady Loki?
Which means that, other than putting down "fluid" on that form and thus allowing for the possibility that someone like Sylvie could exist, the show has clearly given no thought and put no work into actually honoring the gender fluid part of Loki's character. The closest we got to honoring that was Loki not mentioning it in episode 3. Otherwise it was "Great! We have a canon excuse for a girl! Next!"
Which then gets us to the point about how Loki's bisexuality isn't being truly honored either.
Now as a bisexual myself let me remind everyone that dating someone of a different gender from you doesn't invalidate one's bisexuality. Being open to all genders is what we bisexuals call the point. (Or pansexual if you prefer. I think the pansexual flag is ugly so I'll be over here with the blues and purples, thank you.)
(Yes, I am that petty. ANYHOO...)
So it's not that Loki is romantically interested in Sylvie in and of itself which is the issue. It's that it is obvious that options for Loki which weren't female weren't even remotely on the list of possibilities.
Now I recognize that the MCU and Disney in particular has a huge fail history with LGBTQIA+ representation. I'm not saying I expected the show to have Loki making out with a male version of himself. But at the same time what's your gut reaction to the idea that Sylvie switches over to boy mode for even a minute? Is it that it feels wrong to you? Does the mental image of Loki's interest in her suddenly become extremely platonic? Is that possibly because the show has done no work to acknowledge her gender fluidity or her and Loki's bisexuality?
Look, I'm willing to give credit for providing bisexual and gender fluid rep at all but at the same time I'm gonna call BS when the handling of those things is a betrayal of what they are supposed to be. They've been provided purely to fling a female body into the mix for Tom Hiddleston's Loki to fall in love with. That's some bullshit and it can go into the pile of supposed representation next to the Russos' obsessive desire to give themselves and everyone in their family a SAG card.
As always, things that didn't fit anywhere else:
- On the topic of gender, Hunter B-15 was originally written as male except Wunmi Mosaku rocked the audition so they gave it to her. I'm still holding out hope we get more of Wunmi before the show is over, though I understand that episode 6 might not have enough time for that.
- In news of cool things, Sophia Di Martino revealed that Christine Wada designed her costume so that she could easily nurse her baby during filming. That's badass.
- Speaking of Sylvie's costume, I liked that her boots are practical with good treads.
- Belated shout-out to the continuity in last week's episode that Sylvie, who isn't as adept with magic as Loki is, didn't have the ability to use magic to dry herself off from the rain. Though that did get erased this week when Sylvie's hair went from "understandably wet rat" to "cute bouncy curls" again. But I don't hold that against anybody.
- The closed captions for this episode were frequently not matched to the dialogue. Nothing that significantly changed the meaning of anything but things like clauses in sentences in orders that didn't match what was spoken, or word choices which were effectively the same but not precisely so.
- Count me in among those who loved Kid Loki's juice box.
- I feel like there were scenes or lines of dialogue cut for time which would've explained things more. Like why did Kid Loki have a remote control which could summon variants at will? And since he did have it, why didn't he use it when Sylvie needed a distraction so she could try to enchant Alioth?
- It's not a great look that the one "bad" Loki in the "good" group was the Black guy. I'm just saying.
- The show had the opportunity for the easiest fanservice in the world by having a scene of Tom Hiddleston talking to himself and didn't take it?
- Frankly the blink and you'll miss it nature of President Loki's time on the show makes me suspect they are desperately hoping we don't notice that the only answer to "Why do we care about this Loki in particular?" is "Because he's the one played by Tom Hiddleston."
- I'm fine for how it's highly likely explanations for what makes a variant a variant are not supposed to make sense. I get that it's probably part of how the TVA lies about everything. However, there still needs to be an explanation for why the real power behind the scenes grabs variants when they do. And to be clear my standards are very low here. I will cheerfully accept "They throw darts at a board and the TVA grabs the variant they land on" as an explanation. But there still needs to be one. Hopefully we'll get that next week.
- For my aforementioned comments on color: We get the reminder that green=Loki in this episode, which makes me point to how the entire color scheme of the TVA is that shades-of-my-clinical-depression-green I've been whining about. Which makes me wonder if we're headed to a reveal that the real power behind the TVA has been another form of Loki all this time.
- Given that Loki, Sylvie, and Mobius just so happened to get dumped near a cluster of Lokis instead of anywhere else, it makes me wonder if this is a hint that the fan theory that Mobius is also a Loki variant is true. (I get why they would be dropped near each other, but them being near all the already present Lokis is a bit of a coincidence.)
- I'm going to be 100% honest with you: I'm kinda hoping the Mobius is a Loki variant theory is real because I want to see the skid marks on the ground as all the "OMG Loki and Sylvie is incest ewwwwwwwwwwwwwww!" people suddenly U-turn as they decide they don't mind variants pairing up after all.
- (I'm not saying a lot of the people who have issues with Loki and Sylvie do so because of misogyny, I'm just saying I've met fandom before.)
- Loki and Sylvie's "more important things" conversation is making me suspect we're heading to a moment of Sylvie nobly sacrificing herself so Loki can live. Most likely with some kind of post-credits "OR IS SHE???" scene, but still.
- There is still no inclusion of Sam as Captain America in the Marvel Studios logo which is frankly against the Geneva Conventions or something. Honestly.