It's been almost a week since Marvel's Loki blew our minds by taking everything we thought we understood about the Disney+ series and turned it on its head in Episode 4 with a handful of shocking moments and surprising reveals all of which got the theory machines working overtime as fans tried to untangle things. The episode, "The Nexus Event," also gave fans another stunning development, one that sent people rushing to social media both freaking out and in some cases deeply uncomfortable. That development, of course, was the budding romantic relationship between Loki (Tom Hiddleston) and Sylvie (Sophia Di Martino). Since the episode, people have had no shortage of things to say about the relationship some have dubbed "Sylki" (a portmanteau of Sylvie and Loki), but while it's certainly a buzzy moment that elicits strong reactions, the dynamic between the two characters matters for far more than shock value.
One of the things about Loki as a series overall is that it is very much about an exploration of self. Specifically, the series is about self-reflection, learning to accept yourself, and, on a much larger scale, learning to forgive yourself. There's very much an aspect of the concept of who we are versus who we've been told we are in this series, with Loki himself being confronted with that very question in the first episode when he sees his "greatest hits" played for him and with the TVA, Mobius (Owen Wilson) in particular, seemingly having already decided exactly who he is. Loki's sense of self gets shaken when he discovers he is not the only "Loki" in existence and we see him, in a very real sense, trying to establish himself as the "best" of them. Loki is insecure, isn't really sure who he truly is, but also doesn't fully accept himself as he is, either.
Meeting Sylvie starts to change that for Loki. She is "him" but she is also not him. We see him trying to draw parallels between them only to find that while they understand one another and have similar feelings, they've both taken different paths. By seeing Sylvie, Loki is able to see himself and vice versa. That is where the Loki-Sylvie relationship becomes something more than just a love story. It is very much a literal representation of the question of whether a person could love themselves if they were to meet them as a stranger. And for we viewers, that's an uncomfortable question. As human beings generally, we have love and care for our fellow man. We care about our friends, our neighbors, our family, even strangers and we show care for those people on a daily basis. However, when it comes to offering ourselves the same care and affection, that's a different story. We are often our own worst critics and even those who have solid self-esteem may struggle with offering themselves the same kind of love and grace they would a family member. By having Loki "love" himself as another person, it signals that he is capable of having that personal empathy (and, of course, that holds true for Sylvie as well.) It's a huge moment of growth.
The Loki-Sylvie love story also helps shed some light on Loki more generally. Loki is widely seen as being a narcissist - and Mobius even calls him that in the episode, commenting that of course, Loki would fall in love with himself - but if anything Loki's care for Sylvie actually may go further in highlighting that Loki isn't the narcissist he portrays himself to be. We've seen little glimpses of Loki caring about others beyond himself, but his concern for Sylvie takes things to the next level. While there is no question that Loki has narcissistic tendencies, caring about Sylvie fully cracks that persona he's put on. Loki is just a man who has always felt like the other and has always been seeking to prove his worth and in Sylvie has finally found someone who understands what it's like to be him.
While it may be a little weird or uncomfortable that Loki loves "himself", Loki and Sylvie's relationship matters because it works on not just a narrative level for the series by further developing Loki as a character and continuing his overall arc, but on a personal level, it prompts viewers to ask some difficult questions about the nature of love, self-acceptance, and what it means to have compassion. That personal aspect of things is one of the things that the Marvel Disney+ series have been doing very well overall, but it's especially beautiful here. After all, if Loki can learn to love himself, so can we.
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