Loki Episode 6: For All Time. Always. Review

*SPOILERS, MAYBE?*

Tricky to the end, FOR ALL TIME. ALWAYS. sees LOKI end its debut season not only subverting the usual Marvel formula for finale fireworks but double down by pulling out a few more surprises before things end in the most unexpected and intriguing fashion possible. Getting there, though, sees the series finally make good on all its flirting with Whovian tropes and lean fully into some very Gallifreyan gallimaufry.

Arriving at the fortress at the end of time, Loki (Tom Hiddleston) and Sylive (Sophia Di Martino) find themselves confronted by Miss Minutes (Tara Strong) who offers them the last chance for a deal from He Who Remains. Rejecting the offer, the pair set off to confront the author of all their misfortunes only to find themselves caught in a longer game than they ever thought possible. Meanwhile, back at the TVA, Mobius (Owen Wilson) tries to reason with Ravonna Renslayer (Gugu Mbatha-Raw).

There’s a moment when Miss Minutes refers to Loki and Sylvie as two incarnations of the same individual that something clicks in FOR ALL TIME. ALWAYS. and it starts to seem strangely familiar. It’s a Marvel Cinematic Universe spin on DOCTOR WHO’s tradition of multi-Doctor stories and specifically the 20th Anniversary Special THE FIVE DOCTORS which saw the titular Time Lords return to their home planet of Gallifrey. In almost every sense, the castle at the end of the universe is Gallifrey and He Who Remains is very much The President of the High Council of the Time Lords. The episode even plays its own variation on the idea that “To lose is to win: And he who wins shall lose”.

In place, though, of the comedic bickering and banter that usually accompanies Doctors crossing over each others’ timelines, FOR ALL TIME. ALWAYS. continues LOKI’s penchant for examining its eponymous character through the unique perspective of existing outside the confines of the sacred timeline. The magnetic polarisation between Loki and Sylvie continues to pull them inexorably closer while simultaneously pushing them apart, especially now that they have reached their goal and the stakes have been revealed to them. The duality of Loki’s untrustworthiness and Sylive’s inability to trust are the forces drawing them together and, crucially, pushing them in different directions when it matters most.

Manipulating those forces is He Who Remains, played by Jonathan Majors. Anyone with a passing familiarity with Marvel’s rogue’s gallery will be able to piece together who Majors is playing and why what happens at the end of the episode absolutely doesn’t mean we’ve seen the last of him. Quite the opposite in fact. It’s a bravura choice to replace the expected fireworks with a major exposition dump but Majors plays it so well and so captivatingly that you don’t miss the usual visual pyrotechnics. It’s largely a three-hander scene although He Who Remains is playing with at least half a deck of extra cards up his sleeve. Jonathan Majors is set to be the big bad of the next Marvel saga – in multiple variations including but not limited to Kang the Conqueror – and where Josh Brolin surprised everyone with the depth and nuances he brought to the role of Thanos, on the strength of this debut, Jonathan Majors is poised to surpass even that.

The paradigm-shattering final moments of this season again harken back to DOCTOR WHO and dwarf in both scale and coherence what Chris Chibnall tried to do with THE TIMELESS CHILDREN and leaves both these characters and the universe they inhabit in a much stronger and more interesting position. For both Sylvie and Loki the future is uncertain, but at least there is a future – for now. For Mobius and the TVA, a fresh start of sorts and for Judge Renslayer – who knows? The biggest question now, though, is what is in store for the Marvel Cinematic Universe now that it’s explicitly the Marvel Cinematic Multiverse. Answers will no doubt come in SPIDER-MAN: NO WAY HOME, DOCTOR STRANGE IN THE MULTIVERSE OF MADNESS and, perhaps most surprising of all, LOKI season 2.

If the rest of Marvel Phase 4 can live up to the hype and audacity of LOKI, we’re in for something that could make the Infinity Saga look like, well, a paperweight.

9/10