Fail Safe Mode Initiated.
Let’s talk about Loki episode 2-5, the one after everyone died.
TVA Code 1229
You gotta hand it to Loki’s producers. They hid their intentions in plain sight.
During the promotional phase of Loki season two, Marvel emphasized the visual gag of Loki “Time Slipping” around the TVA.
With the benefit of hindsight, that wasn’t a joke. It was a spoiler.
Yes, at the end of episode four, everyone on Loki ostensibly died due to the collapse of the Time Variance Authority and Sacred Timeline.
How, then, can Loki remain? And that answer comes from Time Slipping.
We start this episode with Loki crying a single tear as all timelines collapse.
Perhaps Loki’s fate is that he will always fail…but maybe not.
In the blink of an eye, Loki discovers that he remains at the TVA in the same place where the multiverse had just exploded.
Now, the Time Loom appears okay. Something has happened to reset the order of things.
Perhaps Loki has time traveled, or maybe someone like He Who Remains had accounted for everything that happened.
We don’t get the answer yet.
Instead, we watch a dazed and confused Loki roam through the empty TVA, even entering the Automat briefly since Key Lime Pie Is Life this season.
A female automated voice, perhaps a precursor to Miss Minutes, suggests that TVA code 1229 has been activated.
According to the disembodied voice, “Fail Safe Mode” has been initiated. Also, the voice thanks the TVA employees (or Loki directly) for their service.
Time Still Keeps on Slipping
We then skip straight to the Doctor Who timey-wimey stuff when Loki notices himself reading on the other side of a familiar room.
Loki says hello to his more literate self before he Time Slips. At this point, he finds himself in the same room, which is now empty.
Loki approaches a console and proceeds to read a copy of the TVA Handbook. At this point, he realizes he’s not alone.
The Loki he’d been a moment ago says hello to him. Then, Loki notices a spaghetti effect that consumes the room.
That’s a connection I’d failed to make in the aftermath of last week’s events.
The spaghettification of Victor Timely looks unmistakably similar to the spread of the threads of the Sacred Timeline as they spin out of control.
Folks, I hate to break it to you, but the entire multiverse is in danger of Archer’s worst fear, spaghettification.
We’re barely five minutes into this episode, and Marvel has already blown my mind.
We’re all Victor Timely unless someone like, say, Loki or Sylvie saves the day.
Speaking of Loki, we cut to a prison cell. No, Loki isn’t in it for a change.
Instead, someone who looks like Casey is making a Shawshank Redemption-esque escape.
The year turns out to be 1962, and the setting is Alcatraz. The trio of escapees are doing extraordinarily well until the impossible happens.
Loki Time Slips into Casey’s vicinity and addresses him by name. This confuses the three prisoners, as the guy’s name isn’t Casey. He’s Frank.
Get used to this, as it’s about to happen a lot.
Through force of will or science or fiction or whatever, Loki keeps Time Slipping to his friends.
Loki Gets the Band Back Together
Throughout the episode, Loki struggles to control the Time Slipping, which we later learn is at least theoretically possible.
The God of Mischief unwillingly teleports to Piranha Powersports and a 1982 McDonald’s before landing in a TVA Time Theater (#25 if you’re keeping score – I have no idea what’s significant at this point).
The one connection I notice is that each time Loki Time Slips, he lands in a year ending in a 2, except with O.B., who is a 4, which is two squared.
Does that mean anything? Again, I have no idea, but I’m putting it out there in case it gets your synapses firing.
Loki encounters a lovely variant of Hunter B-15 in New York City in 2012.
She’s demonstrating exemplary bedside manner as she treats a child with a broken arm.
B-15 had previously indicated that she’d seen herself in the Sacred Timeline and that she’d looked happy. We see why now. This person is wonderful.
Loki cannot even speak to her before he Time Slips, though. She watches in confusion as she watches him spaghetti-fy in front of her.
That’s also what Time Slipping looks like. In hindsight, I missed some obvious visual clues in the earlier episodes.
Each Loki character resides on the “Branched Timeline.” We find Mobius in Cleveland, Ohio, in 2022. He’s a single father who sells jet skis.
Loki engages with Mobius but Time Slips before they can advance the conversation.
The Wisdom of Ouroboros
Finally, we meet the most significant character for this episode, Ouroboros. He’s a struggling science-fiction writer in 1994.
Also, O.B. is a theoretical physics professor Cal Tech. You can guess which of these skills is more valuable at the moment. Oddly, both kinda help, though.
As a bored Sci-fi writer, O.B. is open to ideas. As a theoretical physicist, he understands at least some of the underlying temporal mechanics.
Notably, O.B. remains consistent with the concept of the snake devouring its own tail as well.
The author sneaks his own books on the shelves of a local bookstore. Then, he tries to buy them.
An author buying their own books is a metaphor for the ouroboros. It’s a self-defeating practice…and I say that as someone who has done it. (Don’t judge! It was a gift for mom!)
O.B. has thoughts on how time travel works as well as what Loki has experienced.
Specifically, Loki has traveled to a place that doesn’t exist, which is impossible. Now, he wants to return, which is also impossible.
The concluding thought is, “Therefore, it’s something you might be able to do.”
I suspect this logic would only make sense if I were at Burning Man.
Anyway, the two remaining members of the TVA – I’m ceding Loki honorary status – determine a tactic.
Loki will attempt to reunite the other members who were present when the world ended.
A theme in this episode involves Loki’s motivation in attempting to save the TVA, a point that O.B. and Sylvie drive home.
As part of the process, Loki attempts to control his Time Slipping. Not coincidentally, the first person he encounters is Mobius.
Friends of Loki
After some failed attempts, Loki teleports to Cleveland at a location conveniently beside Mobius’ backyard.
Loki explains who he is and the plight he faces. Mobius is perfectly willing to call the cops…until Ouroboros exits from a time portal.
Mobius had asked O.B. to build a TemPad in 1994. Even with a copy of the TVA Handbook, it apparently took the physicist 18 or 19 months.
Also, O.B.’s wife left him. I’m gonna tell myself this is an Everything Everywhere All at Once reference. I don’t care whether it’s true or not.
Anyway, Mobius cannot argue the point once he watches someone use a time portal. So, the former TVA agent (eventually) agrees to follow Loki.
Soon afterward, Hunter B-15 and Casey join Loki, although the latter gentleman appears to have an ulterior motive. He is an escaped convict, after all.
Loki realizes that he has compiled a nearly complete set of his friends.
So, he teleports to 1982 Oklahoma and plans to explain everything to Sylvie.
Nobody else has any idea what’s going on…but Sylvie is a Loki variant. She has a total recollection of the Sacred Timeline explanation.
Sylvie recognizes from the Time Slipping that Loki is having a bit of a day. She takes him to a bar and buys him a drink.
Once again, the two debate their natures, with Sylvie pressing Loki on why he needs the TVA to return.
Ultimately, Loki realizes it’s as simple as wanting his friends back. But Sylvie doesn’t need friends. At least, that’s what she says.
The two go their separate ways, with Loki believing he has failed.
Have You Watched Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation?
For her part, Sylvie heads to what’s apparently her favorite hangout when she’s not at McDonald’s. It’s a local record store.
The kindly shop owner recommends an album for her, which she proceeds to play.
As a Mission Impossible superfan, I quickly deduce what’s about to happen.
In Rogue Nation, the protagonist watches helplessly as a record store employee dies.
Sure enough, the spaghettification of all timelines chooses this moment to come to Sylvie’s beloved 1982 Oklahoma.
To the record store owner’s credit, his only thought as he recognizes their peril is to run to and hopefully save Sylvie. He doesn’t make it.
Still, no matter what she says, Sylvie has made at least two friends in Oklahoma.
She’s just like Loki in that she has a need for personal connections.
I really love how deftly the show handles this particular subplot. It’s wholly understated and moving.
That dude playing the record store owner is on the show for like 90 seconds, but he makes an impact.
After her friend turns to Chef-Boyardee, Sylvie watches the spaghetti in amazement as her universe fades to black.
Then, the Loki variant calmly triggers her TemPad and exits via a portal.
Moments later, the TVA band is back together.
Every New Beginning Comes from Some Other Beginning’s End
Two new problems arise, though. First, Loki is missing the TemPad he needs to reset the TVA and the Sacred Timeline.
All eyes glare at Casey, who denies he’s the thief. And that brings us to Problem #2. Casey turns to spaghetti.
So do O.B., Hunter B-15, and Mobius. As a reminder, Loki is at its core a show about two variants.
In this moment, we’re watching a variant on the ending of Avengers: Infinity War. Rather than turning to dust, they become spaghetti.
Only Sylvie and Loki remain. No, wait. Sylvie winds up in a Chef Boyardee can, too.
We hear voices that call back to previous moments of dialogue from the season.
O.B. says, “It was a fiction problem,” which were also his dying words.
Sylvie ponders, “Do you think what makes a Loki a Loki is the fact that we’re destined to lose?”
That’s a brutal assessment at this moment because Loki is losing in the most horrifying way imaginable.
He’s just realized the importance of his friends and then immediately watched them die horribly.
The Beginning of the End
As Loki screams in frustration, he accidentally unlocks the key to his Time Slipping power.
First, he rewinds to just before Sylvie died. Then, he cycles backward to when Sylvie joined them moments earlier.
Finally, Loki identifies the key to fixing everything. He confidently states, “I can rewrite the story.”
Then, Loki willingly Time Slips to the TVA at a moment before the Sacred Timeline had collapsed. He’s standing beside O.B. when the episode ends.
I dunno what’s gonna happen next, but the dude who once called human beings ants is now willing to sacrifice everything to save all humanity.
Next week, we’ll find out what that entails, and it’ll presumably tie directly into The Marvels, which debuts in theaters the following day.
This season of Loki has been spectacular, and while I found some of the O.B./Loki discussion in episode five a bit ridiculous, it provided brilliant storytelling.
PS: Mobius finally got to sit on a jet ski. That’s reason enough to love episode five.
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