[Editor’s note: The following contains spoilers for Loki, Season 1, Episode 5, “Journey Into Mystery.”]
The cliffhanger at the end of Loki Episode 4 left us all on a humdinger, as both Loki (Tom Hiddleston) and Mobius (Owen Wilson) were pruned, only for a post-credits scene to reveal that they’re not actually dead. Instead, they had both been sent to an unnamed world populated by Loki variants, and in Loki Episode 5 we learned all about said world, which is called “The Void.”
However, the ending of Loki Episode 5 still leaves us with some questions, and the episode flies by so quickly you’d be forgiven for having some questions about The Void — how does it work? Where is it, exactly? Who controls it? And what in the world is Alioth? Let’s break it down.
What Is the Void?
So defining what, exactly, The Void is depends on whether you trust Ravonna Renslayer (Gugu Mbatha-Raw). Early in the episode, she explains to Sylvie (Sophia Di Martino) that Loki isn’t dead, he’s been sent to The Void, and she breaks down exactly what happens when the TVA prunes someone or something:
“When we prune a branched reality, it’s impossible to destroy all its matter. So we move it to a place on the timeline where it won’t continue growing. Basically the branched timeline isn’t reset, it’s transferred… to a void at the end of time. Where every instance of existence collides at the same point and simply stops.”
So if Renslayer is to be believed, every single thing we’ve seen that’s been pruned is sent to this void. That seems to track, as this Void is not only full of Loki variants but a number of objects that, for one reason or another, have been pruned from the “sacred timeline.” You’ll notice Ronan’s ship from Guardians of the Galaxy, the Thanos Copter from the comics, and even Frog Thor. Tons of Easter Eggs abound in this episode as Loki pulls some deep cuts from its source material to have some fun.
What Is Alioth?
So how can the TVA know they’re safe when they send someone or something to The Void? Because Alioth ensures nothing ever returns. At the beginning of the episode, the Loki variants explain to our Loki that the “monster in the sky” is called Alioth, and it is a being of pure destruction. Boy Loki puts it this way:
“This is the place where the TVA dumps its rubbish. Everything they prune. And Alioth, he ensures none of it ever returns.”
Boastful Loki adds some poetry to what, exactly, Alioth is made of:
“It’s a living tempest that consumes matter and energy. They send entire branched realities here that are devoured in an instant.”
Indeed, throughout the episode we witness an entire WWII-era battleship being consumed by Alioth, each person turning to a skeleton when it comes into contact with the beast. But when Sylvie shows up and makes contact with Alioth, she sees something, something that leads her to believe she can enchant Alioth and reveal what’s on the other side.
What’s Beyond the Void?
Sylvie’s theory is that this Void is actually hiding the end of the timeline, and there is where we’ll find out who’s actually running the TVA since the Time-Keepers turned out to be androids. “I think the person we’re after is beyond The Void at the end of time,” she tells Loki when she shows up in The Void. “And if they are, that thing is just their guard dog protecting the only way in.”
As we reach the end of the episode, the Loki variants work together to help enact Sylvie’s plan, and in the process we see that Lokis are more powerful than they believe they are. “Classic Loki” is able to conjure an entire Asgard that distracts Alioth while Loki and Slyvie try to enchant it. And when Sylvie can’t enchant Alioth all by herself, she joins hands with Loki who miraculously begins to enchant the being as well, despite not exactly knowing how.
The episode ends with a peek behind the curtain – the enchantment works, and a door of sorts opens up to reveal a castle behind Alioth. There’s a big light on the top of the castle that could be a satellite of sorts that links up with Alioth and/or the android Time-Keepers, but if you look closely you’ll also see a ship flying away just as the door opens. Could whoever controls the TVA be making a run for it, or is this a heavily populated area full of the beings who are controlling the “sacred timeline” for their own benefit?
You’ll recall that earlier in the episode, Renslayer noted that “the dogma states that the end of time is still being written, that the Time-Keepers are transforming it into utopia.” Could whoever’s behind all this be trying to create a utopia for themselves, at the expense of all the variants they’ve been pruning? Can Renslayer even be trusted at this point?
Who Is Controlling the TVA and What Happens in Episode 6?
So what is the ending of Episode 5 setting up? Theories abound as to who, exactly, is controlling the TVA and who inhabits the castle glimpsed at the end of this episode. One popular theory is that the finale will introduce Kang the Conqueror, a character from the comics who is fond of time travel and is in love with Ravonna Renslayer. This doesn’t seem entirely unlikely because we already know that Jonathan Majors is playing Kang in the upcoming Marvel movie sequel Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania.
Another theory is that the person controlling the TVA is yet another Loki variant, which could set up some nice thematic symmetry for the story – the only way for Loki to win is to defeat (a version of) himself.
A lot of questions remain as we head into Loki Episode 6 – the season finale but maybe not the series finale – but one thing’s for sure: if the finale sticks the landing, Loki may just solidify itself as the best, most surprising MCU TV show yet.
Downey Sr., who directed ‘Putney Swope,’ passed at the age of 85.
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