Editor’s Note: The following contains spoilers about the fifth episode of “Loki” on Disney+.
The penultimate episode of “Loki” began with the main Loki blustering that he had “several thousand questions” for the new variants that he had encountered, which was understandable after the fourth-episode cliffhanger. Yet like the third installment, this frustrating placeholder of an episode left any major revelations for another day – presumably (fingers crossed) the finale.
Instead, this Disney+ series continued to follow the maturation of Loki (Tom Hiddleston), as well as his unexpectedly tender romance with another variant of himself, Sylvie (Sophia Di Martino), a relationship that has somehow made narcissism seem oddly endearing.
Loki’s admission that he had “betrayed everyone who ever loved me” reflected the gradual growth of the character, which for many fans has been “Loki’s” greatest pleasure. Ditto for his friendship with Mobius (Owen Wilson), who, like Loki, had actually survived the “pruning” process, which still leaves the yawning question of what lies beyond the time to which they had been dispatched.
The highlights, alas, have been offset by the pacing. Appropriately, the latest episode made another overt reference to “The Wizard of Oz,” but the tantalizing prospect of finally getting to see “the man behind the curtain,” as Judge Renslayer (Gugu Mbatha-Raw) put it, was again deferred.
The show thus settled for expanding on the key players through small moments as well as bizarre and whimsical ones, like the fact that one of the Loki variants is an ill-tempered alligator, wearing little golden horns. Surely a Howard the Duck version of Loki must be out there somewhere, trapped in a time he never made.
The other permutations of Loki – most notably Richard E. Grant as an older incarnation, a.k.a. “Classic Loki,” who survived the events of “Avengers: Infinity War” – have added to the general strangeness, but the prevailing takeaway is a nagging sense of killing time. (To kill a bit more time, Disney+ also dropped a “The Simpsons” short devoted to “Loki,” a clever use of the platform.)
So who – or what – lurks behind the curtain? Loki might be known for magic and mischief, but “Loki” is going to have to do more than just pull a rabbit out of a hat to make good on the prolonged buildup to find out.