Loki finale recap: He who remains
By joining their power together in the last episode, Loki and Sylvie discovered they were truly stronger than they ever imagined but their bond is tested once they discover the identity of the man at the end of time. In a simultaneously heart-breaking and mind blowing finale, they discover they aren't quite as similar as they thought when one of them makes a decision that turns the MCU on its head and finally unleashes the multiverse of madness.
While the MCU often saves the introduction of its latest villain for the end credits, Loki doesn't waste any time revealing the man behind the TVA and as many fans guessed, it is indeed a variant of Kang the Conqueror, played quite entertainingly by Jonathan Majors, who makes his first (but certainly not last) appearance in the MCU.
The word Kang is never actually uttered but as Majors lays out his character's backstory in the very long monologue that is the centerpiece of the episode, it's clear that's who he is playing and his appearance has far reaching consequences for every Marvel character going forward.
And that starts with Sylvie and Loki, who both wind up heartbroken by the experience. Once they enter Kang's fortress, which seems to be Chronopolis though it goes unnamed, Miss Minutes appears to offer them everything they ever wanted as a way of putting them off from finding the man that they seek. But both know that it would just be a fiction — they want to write their own destinies now, but that's harder than they ever imagined it would be once they discover the truth about the reality they've been living in. All their beliefs about free will and being in control of their choices has just been an illusion.
The discussion about free will extends to the TVA, where Mobius finds Ravonna, who is still dedicated to the TVA's mission even though she doesn't know who she's truly serving or the purpose behind it all. She doesn't even know she's a variant of Rebecca Tourminet, a principal of Franklin D. Roosevelt High School in Fremont, Ohio in 2018, which B-15 discovers while trying to show another Minuteman the truth behind the TVA. Both Ravonna and Mobius accuse the other of betrayal but Ravonna seems to be on her own quest to find free will and soon leaves the TVA to Mobius by exiting through a portal.
But the current goings on at the TVA seem pretty small potatoes compared to what Loki and Sylvie discover when they finally face the Kang variant that created the whole organization. He takes them to his elaborate office where, over coffee they don't drink, the sacred timeline stretches out beyond his windows. He lays out the real story of the universe they have been living in and Sylvie and Loki find much to their consternation that they've just been his pawns along with everyone else. Even the moments they thought were their own choices, like falling in love on Lamentis and defeating Alioth in the Void, were under his control. He paved the road, they just walked down it. He even provides them with printouts of their interactions as proof of his all-seeing, all-knowing power.
Sylvie and Loki both think he's lying and while he's very good at sowing doubt between them, as they respond, it's obvious they are both having different reactions to what he says and that glorious unity they found in the last episode starts to splinter. Sylvie just wants to kill Kang, but he lays out why that might be a very bad idea: Back in the 31st century (and you'll remember the TVA found a 31st century artifact in the pilot), a scientist variant of himself discovered there were universes stacked on top of each other. Other variants of himself discovered the same thing and eventually after a short-lived peace, an all-out war broke out between the universes all fought by versions of himself.
By finding and taming Alioth, the variant sitting before Loki and Sylvie was able to restore order by isolating their timeline and creating the TVA to prevent any further branches. He ended the multiversal war but without him, well, war would soon break out again and his other variants aren't so reasonable. But instead of killing him and causing the destruction of reality, this Kang offers them another option. They could just rule the TVA together in place of him and Loki would finally get the power he's been craving.
And that's where the conflict between Sylvie and Loki comes in. While Tom Hiddleston and Sophia Di Martino take a backseat to Majors for a good chunk of the episode, once Kang gives them that choice, it's obvious that there is no happy ending for them in sight. Sylvie, who has had a much rougher life under Kang's reign, wants him dead, believing everyone deserves free will of their own. But Loki realizes how many lives would be destroyed in a multiversal war and, showing how much he has grown in a short time and that there is good in him deep down, knows they can't let that happen.
While Kang said he knew everything that was going to happen at the beginning of their conversation, they seem to reach the end of time and the threshold where his knowledge ends. He takes off the TemPad on his wrist that he had been using to control everything as the timeline starts to rumble.
Sylvie takes a stab at Kang but Loki stops her, and they start to fight each other as he watches. It's the first real action scene in an episode that's been heavy on talking but it becomes its bruised heart as we watch Sylvie and Loki's trust in each other shatter into pieces. Loki just wants Sylvie to think about what chaos they will cause by killing Kang but she thinks all he wants is a throne to rule as the new leader of the TVA. Loki is devastated that she never really trusted him and she feels like a fool for doing so even for a minute.
Momentarily besting Loki, Sylvie aims a killing blow at Kang but Loki manifests in front of her stopping her blade before it goes through his own throat. He throws his sword away and through his tears, he confesses that "I don't want a throne. I just, I just want you to be okay." Sylvie cries too and they share one heart-breaking kiss before Sylvie shoves Loki through the portal that she opened with Kang's TemPad. Sylvie and Loki really weren't the same after all.
Loki winds up back in the TVA and to say that he is devastated by Sylvie's betrayal doesn't do justice to the look on his face. Nothing Thor or Odin ever did seems to have hurt him this much. But Sylvie doesn't seem much happier either once she kills this version of Kang by stabbing him through the heart. With an ominous, "See you soon," this version of Kang dies and outside Chronopolis the timeline starts cracking open around them. She drops her sword and collapses in tears at his feet, knowing that she probably did not make the right choice.
Back at the TVA, B-15 and Mobius watch the timeline fill with branches, knowing there is no turning back now. Betrayed and devastated, Loki weeps in a time theater until he pulls himself together. He runs through the chaos of the TVA, searching for Mobius and B-15 but gets another shock when they have no idea who he is, mistaking him for a confused TVA agent. As he looks around, instead of seeing the statues of the three Time-Keepers watching over the TVA, he only sees a statue of Kang and he realizes he's wound up in a different timeline from the one he knows. It's quite a cliffhanger so it's a good thing to find out in the end credits that Loki has been renewed for a second season. In the meantime, the consequences for the MCU are only starting to be felt and Doctor Strange has quite the mess on his hands.