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Hear Me Out

Loki's Mobius Is Going Through a Severance-Like Identity Crisis

Lumon Industries could build an entire ad campaign around Mobius' steadfast commitment to the TVA over his old life.
  • Owen Wilson in Loki (Photo: Marvel Studios)
    Owen Wilson in Loki (Photo: Marvel Studios)

    In Hear Me Out, Primetimer staffers and contributors espouse their pet theories, hot takes, and even the occasional galaxy-brain idea.

    Either we're severely underestimating the appeal of a slice of cafeteria key-lime pie, or Loki's Mobius (Owen Wilson) has formed an attachment to the Time Variance Authority (TVA) that defies everything he — and we — have learned about his place of business over the last eight episodes of television. While the season's second episode, "Breaking Brad," shows Mobius beginning to crack under his folksy facade, he still doubles down on his commitment to his life in the TVA and his absolute disinterest in whatever his life was before he was plucked from the timeline to serve forever amid mid-century office decor and reams of paperwork at the behest of the Time Lords. Aside from setting up Mobius' psychological character arc for the rest of the season, this also marks Mobius as an excellent candidate for Lumon Industries' controversial mind-wiping procedure on Severance.

    The time-travel antics on Loki would be enough to send anyone off the deep end. Between the breakaway timelines, the variants, the Tem-Pads, the questions of free will versus determinism, the fact that a major player in this entire plot is a kitschy animated AI called "Miss Minutes" — it's a lot for one person to keep up with. And yet "Breaking Brad" was really the first time we've seen Mobius lose his cool. It happened when he and Loki were interrogating Hunter X-5 (Rafael Casal), who'd abandoned his Sylvie-hunting mission and instead had taken up a life as Hollywood megastar Brad Wolfe. After Brad failed to get Loki off his game, he instead tried to poke at Mobius. And used the truth to do it:

    "Do you have any idea what kind of life you might have left behind? Who might be waiting for you back there? Do you even care? I mean, you know they took us. You know they took our lives, and you're still here. I mean it's kind of weird, man. You need to wake up."

    Brad was half mocking Mobius and half imploring him, repeating the phrase "wake up" multiple times, until finally calling Mobius a "nowhere man," which earned him a most unexpected open palm across the face. It's the first time we've seen Mobius react this way about anything, which is a pretty good indication that what Brad was saying was probably important.

    Loki certainly noticed, and he kept pressing Mobius even further, while the two of them put their heads together over some key lime pie in the TVA cafeteria. The most vexing question, and the one thing Loki and Brad agreed on, was that Mobius doesn't even seem all that curious about what kind of life he might've had before the TVA. But Mobius doubles down to Loki, insisting that whatever life he might've had before, the TVA is where he belongs. "I'd like to thank the guy who kidnapped me and brought me here," Mobius insists. He's almost certainly protesting too much, but regardless, it's hard not to think of Mobius in terms of the characters in Severance, all of whom at least at one point imagined they would be fine never knowing the people they are outside of work.

    The titular procedure in Severance is a surgery, of course, but within the borders of their respective stories, is that all that different from whatever magical hoo-ha allows the TVA to factory-reset variants into unknowing new employees? The biggest difference between Mobius and the Lumon workers is that on Severance, those characters at one point or another made the active choice to undergo the severance procedure. Mobius and his fellow TVA employees were all taken from their old lives and forced into eternal service to the timeline. And yet, the way Severance depicts the lives of the "Innies" and "Outies" within their universe, it's very much as if the Innies have been imprisoned against their will by their own Outies.

    There are a few likely explanations for why Mobius is so stubbornly incurious about his old life. He could simply be lying, to himself and everyone else, out of a fear of losing the sense of purpose he's always felt with the TVA. He could be worried he wouldn't have liked his former life. He perhaps already has been made aware of his former life and rejected it and doesn't want to share that information with anyone else. Better to remain in his life as an eternal bureaucrat of the sacred timeline, daydreaming about Jet Skis and enjoying the hell out of a perfect slice of key lime pie. The devil Mobius knows hasn't been too shabby — why tempt fate by poking his nose around in a life he was never meant to live.

    Obviously, Loki is heading towards some kind of revelation about Mobius' old life, even if the audience finds out about it and he doesn't. It's just far too tempting to have the "real" Mobius living on a lake somewhere, giving Jet Ski lessons and living the good life. There's even a fan theory floating around that the teenager who works with Sylvie at McDonald's in 1982 Oklahoma grows up to be a version of Mobius. Probably not true, but fun to imagine!

    But we're also probably headed to some philosophical impasse for Mobius where he's forced to answer the same question that Mark, Helly, Dylan, and Irving have had to confront on Severance: Who is the "real" version of you when your life and consciousness have been split apart? Is the "real" Mobius the guy plucked by the TVA from the timeline? Or is the Mobius who found work, purpose, and dessert inside the retro-futuristic confines of the TVA as real as any other version of himself might have been? Feels like we're going to find that out sooner or later.

    New episodes of Loki drop Thursdays at 9:00 PM ET on Disney+. Join the discussion about the show in our forums.

    Joe Reid is the senior writer at Primetimer and co-host of the This Had Oscar Buzz podcast. His work has appeared in Decider, NPR, HuffPost, The Atlantic, Slate, Polygon, Vanity Fair, Vulture, The A.V. Club and more.

    TOPICS: Loki, Severance, Owen Wilson, Marvel Cinematic Universe