"Marvel's first two Disney+ shows had one thing in common: their endings weren't nearly as strong as their beginnings," says Brendan Morrow. "After WandaVision and The Falcon and the Winter Soldier didn't fully impress with their last episodes, there was some concern Marvel was running into a consistent endings problem with its streaming shows. WandaVision's finale was far less inventive than its earlier episodes, while The Falcon and the Winter Soldier's ending was undermined by a weak villain. But on Wednesday, the studio bucked this trend with Loki's finale, 'For All Time. Always.' The conclusion was mind-blowing in the way it revealed game-changing implications for the franchise, but it was all the more refreshing because it didn't culminate with the kind of massive, CGI-filled action spectacle we expect from Marvel." Morrow adds: "With WandaVision, the finale was a bit underwhelming in that it discarded the weirdness of the rest of the show in favor of a standard superhero fight. But after Loki got some spectacle out of the way in the season's penultimate episode, the ending turns into something more unique...All in all, for a series that made great use of long conversations about intriguing sci-fi concepts, it was appropriate for Loki's first season to end that way, too. No huge final action sequence arrives to distract from these themes, and instead, the episode's last moments are eerie in their restraint."
Loki Season 1 offered the best of Marvel without the MCU baggage: "Loki did something remarkable: it made me forget about the rest of the Marvel Cinematic Universe," says Andrew Webster. "That’s not how it’s supposed to work. The entire conceit of the MCU is that every story, whether it’s a blockbuster movie or a streaming television show, is in service to the greater narrative arc. You’re not just watching what’s happening to the characters on-screen, but also hints of what comes next. Loki doesn’t get away from that entirely, particularly with its conclusion that sets up the universe’s next big villain. But like the variants who inhabit Loki’s world outside of time, the six-episode first season carves out its own timeline — a few of them, in fact — making it perhaps the most standalone part of the MCU to date. You can enjoy it as part of the all-encompassing cinematic universe or as what it truly is: an excellent piece of science fiction."
Loki had the boldest MCU finale yet, but it was also unsatisfying: "Across its six-episode first season, Loki has proudly worn its influences on its sleeve: Brazil, Doctor Who, Seven, The Wizard Of Oz," says Caroline Siede. "But in the end, it all comes down to Charlie And The Chocolate Factory. It turns out Loki has ultimately been the story of an eccentric old man trying to figure out who should inherit the keys to his kingdom. And like the kids on Willy Wonka’s tour, Loki and Sylvie have been pawns in a game they didn’t even know they were playing. Loki’s first season finale doesn’t weave together all the threads of the season so much as throw them out the window and start a new tapestry altogether. It’s a bold move that makes for a riveting episode and the most unexpected MCU finale yet—even if it’s arguably a wildly unsatisfying non-conclusion to the season of TV we just watched."
Loki finale proves MCU's TV shows are already in a rut: Over the course of six episodes, Tom Hiddleston's Loki was transformed from a charming villain to a dull, passive hero, says Karen Han. "Perhaps it’s in character that Loki is ultimately a little bit of a letdown," says Han. "The new series, which just wrapped its six-episode first season, has certainly conjured up some memorable moments, as well as breaking free of the anodyne quality that can plague some of Marvel’s larger efforts (the score, by Nathalie Holt, and the show’s visual design are standouts). But it doesn’t quite manage to stick the landing, as its finale exposes the same weakness that the Marvel series that preceded it—WandaVision and The Falcon and the Winter Soldier—have both been hobbled by. At the end of the day, the series’ primary purpose is to serve as connective tissue. And what’s worse, the show also neuters its lead character’s appeal."
How Lost and Doctor Who influenced Loki's season finale: "Both Loki and Lost are trying to grapple with themes of fate, free will, elemental evil, redemption, reality-altering love stories, and the question of whether someone can ever truly change their fundamental nature," says Joanna Robinson. "Both shows also happen to involve time travel and a character who, thanks to a document (transcript or journal), knows everything that’s going to happen…right up until they don’t. I could keep you here all day making Lost allusions, but that’s not the only famous time travel text that seemed to influence the Loki finale. An iconic episode of Doctor Who, 'Blink' also features a transcript from the future (or is it the past?)—and while you may not have watched that episode, you may have heard a nerd or two quote its most iconic line: And even those who are not nerds enough to have watched Doctor Who or even Lost will probably have dabbled in the most audience-friendly on-screen time travel story: Back to the Future. (Head writer Michael Waldron also cited Back to the Future as an influence on Loki. Steal from the best!)"
Loki's finale finally gave the MCU a worthy villain: "Prior to Loki‘s season 1 finale, one could argue that Loki himself has been the best Marvel villain to date," says Kaila Hale-Stern. "For Loki to become an antihero and now the hero of his own story means there’s a pretty big void—and the Marvel Cinematic Universe has a villain problem. Many of them are underwritten and overblown, and it was hard to take big bad Thanos seriously when he resembled a giant grape. But the last episode of Loki gave us a villain we can believe in."
How well Loki Season 2 works depends on if Marvel treats it as a movie or a TV show: "How exciting that return will be depends largely on if creator Michael Waldron and his Time Keepers at Marvel treat Loki like a TV show or a movie," says Ben Travers. "With a blockbuster film, you greenlight a sequel in the hopes of recreating the magic of the original — sure, you need to be able to continue the story, but the big studios typically just want the same movie, told all over again, only bigger and 'better.' But in TV, first seasons are a learning experience. The writers observe what works and what doesn’t, and adjust accordingly for Season 2."
Loki cinematographer Autumn Durald Arkapaw on shooting the show in blocks: "Everything was always given to us as much as it was ready, upfront," says Arkapaw. "Things obviously evolved and changed, but there was always a script. I knew these arcs that you speak of would be happening, and I think episode four is very special. It’s my favorite episode–the more I talk to people who saw it internally, they say that as well. I’ve seen online a lot of people are sharing that sentiment."