Loki in the bar talking to Sylvie in Loki

Loki Isn’t the Most Complicated Character in ‘Loki’

Loki season 2, episode 5, “Science/Fiction,” is now streaming—and it finally provides some of the meaty, fraught character development we’ve been waiting for all season. In particular, Loki and Sylvie’s heart to heart at a Broxton, OK dive bar is as good as the trailer promised.

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Why? Because Sylvie is just as temperamental, aggravating, and satisfying a character as she was in season 1.

Even after his revelation in the bar, Loki’s motivation this season—to save the multiverse and avoid a lifetime of loneliness by getting his friends back—is still pretty straightforward, compared to his mercurial character from the Thor and Avengers movies. Sylvie, though? She’s still kind of a mystery, and I love it.

What does Sylvie really want?

In the bar, Sylvie proves that she’s good at seeing through Loki’s self-deception. Over and over, she asks him what he really wants, forcing him into a mess of circular logic (“I want to save the TVA because I want the TVA back!”) until he admits that he doesn’t want to be alone.

On the surface, Sylvie seems to know exactly what she herself wants. “I want a life,” she tells him. “I want to live.” She doesn’t care how selfish she’s being, because she’s earned her reward. After a lifetime of being a fugitive, her desire for a quiet, peaceful life is completely understandable!

Things get interesting, though, when Sylvie leaves Loki at the bar and goes to the local record store. She tells the shop owner that she’s had better days, and he gives her a Velvet Underground record to listen to. The moment the needle drops, Sylvie’s facade drops, too. She’s miserable.

Why, though? Did seeing Loki again bring up painful memories of their fight in the Citadel? Is she unwilling to admit that she still has feelings for him, and regrets pushing him away? Is she just as lonely as he is? After all, she seems to have plenty of acquaintances in her new life, but we don’t see any close friends.

What’s great about Sylvie’s character is that we genuinely don’t know what exactly is going on in her head. Maybe, in the record store, she wishes that Loki had followed her out of the bar and declared his undying fidelity. Maybe she’s still smarting at what she sees as his betrayal in the Citadel. Maybe a life as a small-town McDonald’s employee isn’t the paradise she thought it would be. That mystery is what makes her so intriguing.

Is Sylvie in denial about He Who Remains?

There’s another aspect to Sylvie’s character that Loki tries to get at over and over again: her sanguine attitude about the destruction of the TVA and the looming multiversal war. How can she be so carefree when the whole multiverse is in danger?

The simplest explanation for Sylvie’s attitude is that she simply doesn’t believe the war is actually coming. Is that the case, though? Every time Loki confronts her about it in seasons 1 and 2, she brushes him off—but that could just as easily be a reflection of what she wants to believe, rather that what she actually believes. After all, who would want to admit that their own freedom will doom all of existence?

The warmth at the heart of Sylvie’s character

The best thing about Sylvie’s character, though, is the warmth at the heart of it.

Once she’s safe from the TVA, and has a few months to build a life for herself in Broxton, Sylvie shows her capacity for kindness. She’s gentle with her young boss, Jack, making sure he has a ride home after work. Everyone in her orbit seems to know and like her (even if no one is really close to her).

One of the sweetest moments in the show, though, might be when she sees Loki time slip for the first time. It’s a moment of deep vulnerability for Loki, and Sylvie’s first reaction is compassion: she tells Loki to get in the car so she can buy him a drink. After all the conflict they’ve been through, after she apparently just walked away from the meltdown of the Temporal Loom, her instinct when Loki is in trouble is to respond as a friend.

And when the timelines start to spaghettify? Loki is her first destination. She probably still has feelings for him, but she definitely wants to help save reality.

This season, Loki has suffered a common protagonist’s curse: the more heroic he gets, the less interesting his character becomes. That leaves Sylvie as the show’s most interesting antihero, and so far, she’s playing the part with aplomb.

(featured image: Disney+)

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Julia Glassman
Julia Glassman (she/her) holds an MFA from the Iowa Writers' Workshop, and has been covering feminism and media since 2007. As a staff writer for The Mary Sue, Julia covers Marvel movies, folk horror, sci fi and fantasy, film and TV, comics, and all things witchy. Under the pen name Asa West, she's the author of the popular zine 'Five Principles of Green Witchcraft' (Gods & Radicals Press). You can check out more of her writing at <a href="https://juliaglassman.carrd.co/">https://juliaglassman.carrd.co/.</a>