Last week, Loki season 2 episode 3 embraced the series' more adventurous and wacky side with a little trip to '1893' that felt both fresh and kind of messy. It worked well as another key chapter of the bigger story, but was more meandering and filler-y in its execution than the show usually is. With episode 4 – 'Heart of the TVA' – things are back on track… until they literally aren't.
Despite the Marvel Cinematic Universe's current problems on many fronts, both Phase 4 and 5 have managed to sneak in a handful of big swings and twists that are shaping both the Multiverse Saga as well as "smaller" stories. Marvel Studios has traditionally excelled at this ever since the huge HYDRA reveal in Captain America: The Winter Soldier, and Avengers: Infinity War's shocking ending is a modern all-timer. While there are two episodes left to go in season 2 of Loki, the cliffhanger of 'Heart of the TVA' might be another one of those earth-shattering MCU moments. After all, the season 1 finale already achieved that.
If you're enjoying the adventures of the God of Mischief, then you might also want to check out some of the other best Marvel TV shows. Want even more? Then you'll want to see our best Marvel movies ranked list (do you agree with our selection?). Or if you're after something slightly different, then the best sci-fi TV shows of all time will be a big hit.
Spoilers ahead for Loki season 2 episode 4: 'Heart of the TVA'
"Heart of the TVA" is off to a strong start as we're thrown back into the End of Time to see what the next step in Miss Minutes and Ravonna Renslayer's plan is. We were fully expecting the writers to put them aside for a bit to create some suspense while our main group of heroes (and maybe a villain) figured out the Temporal Loom and tried to "fix" the Time Variance Authority (TVA). But nope, we get a glimpse of He Who Remains (the dead one) and Ravonna's past alliance right after the Multiversal War. She clearly wanted to rule by his side, and maybe even had feelings for him, but the former judge ultimately got her memory wiped like everyone else chosen to work in the organization that would keep the Sacred Timeline safe.
Betrayal is a strong fuel for revenge, but Ravonna's aspirations go beyond that. She still believes in the necessity of a Sacred Timeline, but wants to do things her way. Can Miss Minutes be trusted though? We're leaning towards "hell no" after last week's revelation about the rogue AI and why she's doing what she's doing. They may share some goals and need each other, but their relationship probably won't work out in the long run.
Back at the TVA, Victor Timely is both fascinated and scared by what he sees, but the employees (that includes our Loki) quickly talk him into meeting with O.B. and figuring out what's wrong with the Loom and how to properly fix it. Two-thirds into the season and most of the plot has revolved around this giant device. This could be a criticism, but it's quite literally the heart of the story we're being told. All the timelines and character paths go back to it, and there's no show without it. If season 1 was all about learning the truth behind the Sacred Timeline and the TVA, season 2 is about saving them (and the branches) while trying to do better if the mission succeeds.
O.B. and Victor's first meeting reveals the first of two closed time loops in the episode, as we learn O.B. was inspired to create everything he made by Timely, who worked on his inventions after reading Ouroboros' TVA handbook. If you're not doing neat loops in your time travel story, why even bother?
Before the plot starts moving at a rapid pace again, we get more juicy character (and thematic) developments all over the TVA. Mobius' sweet tooth gets him into trouble with Sylvie, who seems completely unable to calm down for a bit and is worried about all the timelines in danger of disappearing while they calmly wait for a random He Who Remains variant and O.B. to fix everything. She has a point about the big system failing to do enough to save lives as it transforms into something else, but it's not like they can do much about it at the moment.
Meanwhile, Hunter B-15 wants to make sure the TVA transitions into a system worth keeping around. As we already mentioned in past reviews, this is perhaps the boldest (for a MCU story) idea the show is currently handling, and we were hopeful about its chances of actually going somewhere. So far, the writers are handling it well enough, and having Wunmi Mosaku's character at the center of it all only strengthens what they seem to be going for. Kate Dickie's General Dox is also brought back into the fold, as she and her forces could still do some good by protecting the branching timelines instead of destroying them. Is the "time police" reform possible if old parts are kept around?
Loki and Sylvie also question this in their own ways, as they're undoubtedly held back by each one's troubled past. At this point, it's clear that Loki strongly believes they can make something good out of the old TVA's ruins – seeing Loki bring up topics from his brief "evil dictator" run in The Avengers but under a different light and with all the baggage that comes with doing some good is great. This Loki has changed so much in just 10 episodes of TV, and we totally buy it. As for Sylvie, well, she's more stubborn yet ultimately willing to trust Loki (some love is still in the air).
Things are about to get violent again as Ravonna and Miss Minutes break (via a time door) into the room where Dox, her followers and X-05 (Brad) are kept. We have to wonder why the TVA doesn't have a "suppression field" of sorts for their prisons, but they probably never accounted for that tech falling into the wrong hands or their entire system falling apart. Another option is that Miss Minutes hacked into the system ahead of them showing up, since she's essentially the brain of the operating system after all.
Ravonna clearly needs some backup if she wants to take over the TVA, and Dox and her people shared her ideals. However, things have changed a bit, and everyone feels like they're being played all the time, so Dox has come around and rejects the offer of yet another megalomaniac. This seals their fate, as the group of soldiers are crushed into a cube of meat and bones (off screen, of course) with the containment-torturing machine we saw in the second episode. Even if we don't see the gruesome image, the idea and sounds alone are more than enough to make it a very disturbing scene. It's easy to tell that horror veterans Justin Benson and Aaron Moorhead are behind the wheel for this one.
X-05 joins Renslayer and the off-the-rails AI though. We could already tell he was a coward, always looking to save his skin or earn something, and his actions in this episode send him further down that path, yet we can't help but wonder if there's more in store for him than just being a fidgety, treacherous jerk.
The machine that can fix the Temporal Loom is almost ready, but after an off-beat hot cocoa moment, Victor Timely is kidnapped by X-05 and taken before Ravonna and her AI companion (the latter of whom is trying to slow the heroes down), starting with an "elevator trap" for Sylvie. Victor stalls his explanation of the device Ravonna seeks just enough for Loki and Sylvie to reunite. Present Loki (if there's such a thing anymore) is responsible for pruning himself during his jump to the future in episode 1, by the way, so that's another closed loop. Loki didn't prune himself at the last second, which is what allowed him to stop his weird time-slipping condition; it was his future (now present) self who saved the day all along. Cool stuff.
Together, Loki and Sylvie once again bring out their Loki-ness and mind-control X-05, who brings them to Ravonna and prunes her away in the process. Miss Minutes is also shut down, reverting at some point to her most basic form: that of a simple clock app. This is a meaningful win for the team, but not in the way you think. Wait and see.
After a very brief discussion (time is literally running out), the heroes decide Timely is the one who should step out and walk up to the Loom to launch the device that can save the bigger device and all of existence as they know it. The logical expectation here was that this event would lead to him becoming a Kang or at least the He Who Remains we knew from season 1. Instead, the massive time radiation just completely spaghettifies him as soon as he steps outside. Another big sci-fi horror moment from Benson and Moorhead.
We're pretty sure Timely is effectively cooked (we saw his entire body be ripped apart) and not spreading across countless timelines as multiple Kangs or whatever. Regardless, the mission has failed and the Temporal Loom blows up. The end... unless it isn't. Now that's a wild cliffhanger, and we think Ravonna might ironically be the only person who can get things back to normal somehow. Expect the unexpected though.