Can’t Miss Episode of the Week: ‘Loki’ & ‘Legends of Tomorrow,’ a Time Travel Double Feature
Welcome to our weekly column Can’t Miss Episode of the Week! Every Saturday we’ll be spotlighting a different episode of television from that week that we thought was exceptional and a must-see. Check back to see if your favorite show got the nod — or to learn about a new one!
What’s better than one wacky, mischievous, completely bonkers time-travel show? Two of them! Luckily for viewers, both DC’s Legends of Tomorrow on the CW and Marvel’s Loki on Disney+ effectively employed that sci-fi story trope this week to produce their best episodes so far this season. Legends, now in its sixth season, has broken out of the rut it’s been in since it misguidedly sidelined fan-favorite Captain Sara Lance (Caity Lotz), and Loki, seems to have finally hit its stride in the third episode of this first season’s six-episode run. So enjoy a time travel double feature!
Interestingly with Loki, this episode’s break from the show’s setup with the TVA (Time Variance Authority) is what makes it so successful. While we love watching Tom Hiddleston, who plays the Asgardian trickster god, banter with Owen Wilson’s sly Agent Mobius, their exposition-heavy dialogue in those scenes have been a drag on the show. Not this time. Here, Loki escapes with the dangerous variant he and the TVA have been hunting – the one audiences have been calling Lady Loki, who we now know prefers to go by the alias Sylvie (Sophia Di Martino). The two wind up stranded on an alien moon soon doomed to be destroyed — as Sylvie points out, the worst of the possible apocalypses Loki could have transported them to.
This leads to what Lokis do best: come up with various hair-brained schemes to get what they want, which right now is just to survive. With the TVA keeping Loki on a short leash, this is definitely the element that the series has been missing: the idea that anything can happen because we never know what Loki is going to do next. Half the fun is he and Sylvie butting heads over exactly what the plan should be, but we also get genuinely touching moments as the variants share their pasts, and what drives them. There’s still much we need to learn about Sylvie, but she’s clearly not the monster the TVA made her out to be. And this episode truly swings for the fences: Loki reveals that he’s bisexual, making him the first openly queer named character in the MCU.
As usual, in spite of his brilliance, Loki’s arrogance dooms him. The episode has a rather gutsy ending with nothing resolved. Loki and Sylvie run out of ideas, and face the fact that they’re likely going to die on this moon. It’s hard to see what can possibly save them now (unless Agent Mobius comes to the rescue), but not knowing is thrilling.
While Loki thrives by going in a different direction this week, Legends of Tomorrow, one of the most wonderfully weird shows on television (this is the show that once pulled off a Jane Austen-Bollywood mashup episode after all), re-finds its rhythm by returning to what makes the show a real success. As previously mentioned, Sara, one of two original series regulars left, got separated from the team in last season’s finale when she was abducted by aliens. Sara (also bisexual, by the way) has spent the first six episodes of the season trying to get back to the Waverider so she could propose to girlfriend and co-captain Ava Sharpe (Jes Macallan). While we’ve been following her efforts, Sara is at her best when she has the rest of the team to command and riff off of, and the Legends are at their best when they have her to ground them.
Thankfully, this episode gets the gang back together and is a total rollercoaster as the Legends try to save Sara by committing a time-don’t and going back in time to stop her from ever being abducted in the first place, in an homage to one of the greatest time travel films of all time, Back to the Future Part II (1989) — the episode is actually called “Back to the Finale: Part II.” Unlike Marty McFly, their plan utterly fails, but it’s okay because Mick (Dominic Purcell) succeeds in bringing home the current Sara (in her new clone/alien body). To fully stick the landing on this homecoming, Sara finally gets engaged to Ava in a truly heartfelt scene.
These episodes are both wildly fun and rich in emotion and character development. When Loki and Sylvie aren’t using magic to board a train or making a mad dash through a doomed city in a last ditch effort to board an arc spaceship, they’re connecting with each other and with us. The Legends, meanwhile, break all the rules to try to get their friend back, and that’s what we love about them.
Other observations that we thought made these episodes standout:
- The scene where Loki sings an Asgardian tune on the train is hauntingly beautiful.
- We learn some Earth-shattering new information about the TVA, which is that everyone who works there are variants who once had human lives but can’t remember them. I wouldn’t be surprised if the TVA winds up being the ultimate villain of the show.
- Loki doesn’t seem to care about many people, but here he once again shows that unabashed love he has for his mother that we saw when he was grieving her death in Thor: The Dark World.
- With Sara being in space all season, she hasn’t had the chance to meet new character and team member Spooner (Lisseth Chavez), but in one of the episode’s best scenes the two have a heart-to-heart, and quell some of each other’s more pervasive doubts about themselves.
- In this episode, Legends has a lot of that great meta-humor that they often have, as they try to explain to Spooner what a “finale” is.