‘Loki’ Season 2, Episode 5 Recap: (Origin) Stories We Tell Ourselves
‘Loki’ Season 2, Episode 5 Recap: (Origin) Stories We Tell Ourselves
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‘Loki’ Season 2, Episode 5 Recap: (Origin) Stories We Tell Ourselves

‘Loki’ Season 2, Episode 5 Recap: (Origin) Stories We Tell Ourselves

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Spoiler warning

Last week’s episode of Loki ended with the biggest cliff-hanger of the season. After Loki and his friends at the TVA failed to repair the Temporal Loom in time, the device was torn apart, emitting a blinding light in the process that soon consumed everything in its path. In “Science/Fiction,” Loki emerges from that light to find himself alone at the TVA, with no trace of anyone else left behind. To make matters worse, he begins to slip in time again, with his body apt to disappear and reappear elsewhere at any moment.

With a little bit of help, Loki soon turns his time-slipping problem into a solution that might just save his friends and everyone else, in every timeline. “Science/Fiction” is one of the strongest episodes of the second season, a character-driven departure that slows the show’s recent frenetic pacing and gives the series a chance to reset in myriad ways ahead of next week’s finale. Loki has been moving so fast lately that some of its characters have been lost in the mix, but the penultimate episode takes stock of where they are in their journeys and even answers some questions that have lingered since the very beginning of the series. Perhaps above all else, the fans have finally gotten what they wanted: Mobius on a Jet Ski.

Screenshots via Disney+

In the fifth episode of the first season, Loki left the TVA behind to travel to the Void, introducing a strange new setting that explained the true nature of the organization’s pruning methods. This season’s fifth episode, “Science/Fiction,” transports the audience not to a bold new world, but rather to the past lives of Loki’s friends at the TVA, with Loki again serving as our guide. Mobius, for one, is revealed to be a man named Don who’s living on a branched timeline in Cleveland in 2022. He’s a single father of two children and a salesman of Jet Skis and other action sports equipment. (But mainly Jet Skis, of course.) The most important friend who Loki reunites with, though, proves to be Ouroboros, whom Loki finds on another branched timeline in Pasadena, California, in 1994.

In O.B.’s original timeline, he’s actually a struggling science-fiction writer named A.D. Doug who happens to also be a scientist teaching theoretical physics at Caltech. His love for science fiction means that he not only immediately believes Loki’s nonsensical story about time travel and the TVA, but is also able to get up to speed hilariously quickly to help Loki make sense of the perplexing situation he’s found himself in with this seemingly random time-slipping phenomenon.

“It isn’t random, because you keep ending up around exactly the people you’re looking for,” A.D. speculates. “And it’s evolving, because you’re not just slipping in time, you’re also moving around in space. It’s like you’re a better version of one of those TemPads.”

Like some sort of time-travel guru, A.D. helps Loki turn his time-slipping dilemma into an asset that can be used to their advantage. That process begins with Loki identifying the reason it’s happening to him in the first place. “With science, it’s all ‘what’ and ‘how,’” A.D. continues. “But with fiction, it’s ‘why.’ So why do you need to do this?”

“Why do I need to do this? I’ll tell you why,” Loki replies. “Because if I can’t save the TVA from being destroyed, there will be nothing to protect against what’s coming.”

This framework of “fiction” and stories proves to be the throughline for the entire episode, and the question of “why” turns out to be a crucial step in Loki eventually mastering his time slipping. But this mastery doesn’t come easily. Loki ends up slipping in time again after he gives a copy of the TVA guidebook to A.D. and then reappears at Mobius’s home (or, rather, Don’s home). As Loki struggles to explain to Don the bizarre circumstances of the threat they all face, A.D. emerges with a newly-built TemPad, the construction of which required him to make some unfortunate sacrifices:

(Ke Huy Quan continues to be a delight in this series; his comedic timing here is impeccable.)

It took 19 months, the dissolution of his marriage, and the loss of his job, but A.D. was able to build his world’s first time machine, providing Loki with the tool he needs to get the TVA band back together. Loki proceeds to recruit B-15 and Casey to the TVA’s cause, failing only when it comes to Sylvie, the one person other than Loki who actually remembers what happened at the TVA. The God of Mischief is left rudderless after having a little heart-to-heart with Sylvie at a bar in Broxton, Oklahoma, and just for a moment, Loki gives up on saving the TVA.

It isn’t until Sylvie returns from a spaghettified Broxton that Loki is vindicated in his quest to bring everyone back to the TVA. Soon, A.D.’s workshop receives the spaghetti treatment as well, and Loki finally manifests his ability to control his time slipping, reversing the catastrophic events just enough to revive his friends and explain his breakthrough. “It’s not about where, when, or why,” Loki says to the group. “It’s about who. I can rewrite the story.”

“Science/Fiction” ends with Loki slipping back in time and space to return to the TVA, before the Loom was ever destroyed. He’s given himself a second chance to save the TVA and the dying branches of the multiverse, and with this new ability at his disposal, he might be able to do it. Loki continues to play around with time loops in Season 2, with time slipping reemerging just ahead of the finale. With this discovery transforming Loki into something of a human TemPad, saving the TVA could be just the beginning of what he’s capable of changing.

Past Lives

“Science/Fiction” works so well in part because of the extra time it affords some of the key players in Season 2. As Loki gives us glimpses into the past lives of every member of Team Loki, we can see reflections of the characters they become in the TVA, even after their individual histories and idiosyncrasies are stripped away.

The first character we’re reintroduced to is Casey, in the form of a man named Frank in 1962 San Francisco who’s escaping prison. More specifically, Casey is revealed to be none other than Frank Morris, one of three real-life inmates who escaped Alcatraz in June 1962 after placing papier-mâché heads in their beds, breaking out through ventilation ducts and utility corridors, and using an inflatable raft to navigate their way off of the island. As in the Season 1 flashback that revealed Loki to be D.B. Cooper, the series puts a playful twist on a strange moment in history, adding a bit of science fiction to flesh out some of the unexplained details surrounding the story. Casey’s origins are a bit of an anomaly, in that we don’t see too much of this crafty Frank Mason character in the man we’re familiar with at the TVA, but perhaps that’s unsurprising given how recently Eugene Cordero has emerged as a more prominent member of the cast. (There is, however, a little callback to Season 1 as Frank mentions the prospect of them getting gutted like fish, an analogy that Casey couldn’t wrap his head around when Loki threatened him with it in the pilot.)

As for B-15’s past life, we learn that she was a doctor in New York City in 2012. (That’s certainly an interesting time to be living in New York in the history of the MCU, but the fact that she doesn’t seem to recognize the God of Mischief makes it seem as if the Battle of New York hasn’t happened in this timeline.) The conversations between Loki and Dr. Willis are brief, but in a scene that focuses on the doctor and one of her young patients, we see the same sort of caring and compassionate individual that B-15 has become in Season 2. She has proved to be absolutely terrible at crisis management at the TVA, but her driving motivation to save lives remains the same.

The alternate versions of Mobius and O.B. take on larger roles in “Science/Fiction” than the other supporting TVA members, and their previously-hidden histories can be seen even more clearly in their lives at the TVA. Don’s obsession with Jet Skis has obviously shown through in Mobius, but more enlightening than anything else is the sudden introduction of Don’s two sons. Earlier in the season, “Breaking Brad” teased the mystery of Mobius’s previous life on the Sacred Timeline, and in Mobius’s fierce objection to discovering his history, Loki revealed a more vulnerable side to a typically nonchalant guy who enjoys the simple pleasures of life and cares about the TVA more than anything else. Although “Science/Fiction” illuminates where Mobius’s personality traits come from, it also shows the responsibility and care that he has for his kids, who in another lifetime were everything to him.

(As for O.B., the parallels between his two selves are almost too seamless, with A.D. wasting no time in reclaiming the role as the group’s invaluable tech genius. Production designer Kasra Farahani and his team also had some fun reimagining O.B.’s workshop at the TVA as A.D.’s workspace in Pasadena, as the two locations echo each other across time and space.)

The fact that so much of these characters’ lives stays intact in the jump between realities to their new existences at the TVA complicates what we’ve thought to this point about how everything works at the TVA. Now that Loki has seen each of his companion’s histories, we have to wonder what he’ll do with this newfound information. And more importantly, how will someone like Mobius react if and when he discovers the truth about the life he’s been actively refusing to investigate?

What Makes a Loki Tick?

The driving question in Season 1 was “what makes a Loki tick?” As Mobius recruited the God of Mischief to hunt down another Loki variant, this question came up again and again, as Loki and Sylvie redefined what they were believed to be capable of. “Science/Fiction” takes some much-needed time to reevaluate where both Lokis stand in this regard, and how the latest multiversal events have impacted the people they’ve become.

In Broxton, Sylvie shows a more compassionate side of her character that’s been missing all season, as Sophia Di Martino finally gets the chance to do more than just yell about the need to destroy the TVA or He Who Remains. And for once, Loki is placed in a position where someone else helps him recognize the emotions that are blinding him to the reality of the situation, as Sylvie pushes him to uncover his true motives for bringing everyone back to the TVA. “I want my friends back,” Loki admits. “I don’t want to be alone.”

“See, we’re both selfish,” Sylvie replies. “I know this is hard, but your friends are back where they belong.”

“But without them, where do I belong?” Loki asks.

“We’re all writing our own stories now,” Sylvie says. “Go write yours.”

While Loki’s takeaway—to just give up on the mission—ultimately proves to be the wrong one, the truth of why he’s doing all of this is enlightening nonetheless. The Asgardian’s desire to be loved and accepted was one of the key developments for his character in Season 1. His continued evolution into a full-fledged hero this season has been a bit rushed, but here we see that some of his selfish nature—a character trait that has existed in him since he first appeared in Thor—is still intact, even if it’s ultimately in service of the worthy cause of defending the multiverse. Loki’s overall development seems more well-rounded as we see shadows of his former self shine through while he learns to navigate the complexities of his emotions and relationships.

With this bar conversation and a subsequent scene that depicts Sylvie’s routine of visiting the local record store in Broxton, Loki belatedly dedicates some space to further exploring how and why Sylvie has relinquished any duty to the multiverse in favor of finding peace in the freedom of choice that she’s never had. As Sylvie’s friend Lyle gets spaghettified while Sylvie vibes to the Velvet Underground, we witness the simple life she’s always dreamed of get torn apart before her eyes. It’s a heartbreaking moment reminiscent of the dusty aftermath of the snap in Avengers: Infinity War, and it serves as a reminder of how tragic a figure Sylvie has always been.

The God of Stories

Loki has been known by many names. The God of Mischief. The Trickster of Asgard. The Prince of Lies. In the comics, he also takes on a unique title that stands out from the rest of them: the God of Stories.

This transformation comes within the pages of Loki: Agent of Asgard, a series that started in 2014 and was written by Al Ewing and illustrated by Lee Garbett. In Agent of Asgard, Loki gains the very meta ability to use his magic to manipulate narratives, time, and the fabric of reality. In a very fourth-wall-breaking sort of way, he can then wield the power of stories themselves, rewriting them however he chooses.

Loki: Agent of Asgard no. 13
Screenshot via Marvel Comics

These ideas emerge in a major way in “Science/Fiction,” with Loki even vowing to “rewrite the story” as he rewinds the season’s narrative back to before the TVA’s destruction. In the final moments of the episode, just as Loki discovers this new, all-powerful ability, Sylvie’s voice can be heard amid Loki’s disintegrating surroundings. “Do you think that what makes a Loki a Loki is the fact that we’re destined to lose?” she asks.

It’s a question that Sylvie raised in Season 1, and an idea that was repeated by other Loki variants whom the God of Mischief encountered in the Void. Loki has been determined to change that narrative, just as Sylvie has sacrificed just about everything in a quest for free will. And now Loki actually has the ability to control and manipulate time like never before, paving the way for him to become the God of Stories.

There are still plenty of unanswered questions leading into next week’s season finale, including the fates of Miss Minutes, Ravonna Renslayer, Victor Timely, and the rest of He Who Remains’s variants. Now that Loki has gained potentially limitless power, the series will soon test just how much the reformed villain has changed.

SOURCE : https://www.theringer.com/marvel-cinematic-universe/2023/11/3/23945405/loki-season-2-episode-5-recap-science-fiction

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