[This story contains spoilers for Loki episode five.]
Forced to the edge of time and space known as The Void, and saved by his counterparts from alternate timelines, Classic Loki (Richard E. Grant), Kid Loki (Jack Veal), Boastful Loki (DeObia Oparei), and Alligator Loki, and hunted by the matter consuming entity, Alioth, Loki (Tom Hiddleston) finds a power greater than lies, stronger than time, and more glorious a purpose than any he’s fought for before: emotional honesty. Serving as both a cosmic mystery and therapy session for its titular character, Loki, displays a sincerity that places the character’s arc a step above his brother Thor’s (Chris Hemsworth) initial journey. The result is heroism that’s being earned the hard way.
The penultimate episode of Loki, “Journey into Mystery,” directed by Kate Herron and written by Tom Kauffman, forces Loki and Sylvie (Sophia Di Martino) to come to terms with the fact that lives built upon cyclical patterns of betrayal and revenge will ultimately only lead to loneliness and unfulfilled purpose. The mystery then becomes a question of what will happen when they finally allow themselves to reach out and truly connect to another individual, outside of personal gain? What does a Loki become? Perhaps it’s the very thing that Loki has always sought in some shape or fashion. From seeking the throne of Asgard, waging war against his brother, Thor, and father, Odin (Anthony Hopkins), and seeking attention from his mother, Frigga (Rene Russo), Loki’s efforts, misguided as they were, have ultimately been an effort for one thing: to prove himself worthy.
But worthiness for Loki is more than hammer, and it’s more than possessing the power of Thor. It’s the ability to be valued as something more than what is seen, which can’t be easy for someone who is most often seen as a villain. Thor had it easy comparatively. His worthiness, as depicted in Kenneth Branagh’s 2011 film, Thor, sees the God of Thunder able to pick up the mighty Mjolnir after willingly sacrificing his life to the Destroyer to protect citizens in New Mexico, including his newfound love Jane Foster (Natalie Portman). There is a simplified nature to Thor’s heroes’ journey, in part because Thor was always meant to be worthy. Thor’s bravery and protection of innocents in front of him was never in doubt, thus his worthiness being defined by such an act does little to interrogate his character or showcase change. Thor is worthy because his role in the story is to be worthy. That was the path laid out for him. Loki on the other hand, was never meant to be worthy. From his place in myths, comics, and the MCU, Loki being worthy was never an expectation for the character. Because of that factor, the series can bend those expectations, bend the supposed definition of what makes a Loki, and allow the character to evolve beyond his formerly predictable nature.
Because there is no expectation or precedent for Loki being worthy, his journey to get to that point relies on a more intensive investigation of character than Thor ever faced on his path to worthiness. “We cannot change. We’re broken. Every version of us. Forever,” Classic Loki, an older version of Hiddelston’s God of Mischief, tells his younger counterpart. Except, as the series has shown, particularly with this most recent episode, Classic Loki’s self-deprecating statement isn’t entirely true. Lokis are, in part, the Gods of Lies after all, and no lies told have done more damage than the lies they’ve told to themselves and heard parroted back them, as the illusion of Lady Sif (Jaimie Alexander) did in the previous episode: “You deserve to be alone, and you always will be.”
For Loki, his worthiness is something that would ultimately be proved by not being alone. It’s what makes his connection to Sylvie so powerful. And it’s what makes Classic Loki’s efforts to save the day so meaningful — he has experienced the true depths of loneliness only to come away ultimately understanding the salvational quality of connection. And what emerges from Loki’s sincere connections? A legendary weapon of his own, an enhanced power set and true friendship. Thor’s journey has played a bit fast and loose with how much he values his connection to others, like members of his childhood friends the Warriors Three being killed off in Thor: Ragnarok (2017) and never given another thought, or the fact that much of his journey with the Avengers has consisted of him acting alone or going off on separate quests, ie. Age of Ultron (2015), Infinity War (2018), Endgame (2019). But for Loki, whose list of allies are few and far between, the connections he does share mean everything and the series gives them weight and “sentiment,” the very thing Loki scoffed at in The Avengers (2012).
At the end of time and space, and facing off against Alioth, Loki accepts his love of his Variant, and thus himself, and emerges better. As much as the mystery of who’s pulling the strings of the TVA remains to be seen in the final episode, the true impetus of Loki isn’t about laying the groundwork for a new villain but giving a former villain time to discover his own worth. And in that way, Loki has already proved worthy.