'Loki' Episode 1 Drops a Multiverse-Level Bombshell on the MCU
Loki doesn’t pick up where Avengers: Endgame left off so much as it actually starts a few minutes before the end of Loki’s screen time in that movie: In a quick recap of the Time Heist, we establish the events that led to the 2012 iteration of Tom Hiddleston’s God of Mischief — that is, before his redemption arc and death at the hands of Thanos — getting ahold of the Tesseract and teleporting to who knows where.
Now, we know where: the Gobi Desert in Mongolia, where he’s promptly picked up by intergalactic time cops. Wunmi Mosaku’s B-15 informs Loki that he’s being arrested by the Time Variance Authority for “crimes against the Sacred Timeline,” and when he resists, bitch slaps the hale out of him in splendid slo-mo. Meet the TVA!
The TVA isn’t all kicking ass and taking names, though, as we quickly learn the organization is first and foremost the bureaucratic middle-managers of all sorts of timey-wimey stuff in the MCU. Perhaps the biggest bombshell of episode 1 comes in the first 10 minutes: The first true mention of the multiverse. (Sure, Mysterio talked about it in Spider-Man: Far From Home, but he was a liar.) This is thrilling stuff, considering it could pave the way for the next Spider-Man, the next Doctor Strange and Feige knows how many other future projects.
“It’s my job to catch you up before you stand trial for your crimes. So, let’s not waste another minute,” the adorably twangy Miss Minutes (voiced by animation legend Tara Strong) says in an animated intro video primed for Disney Park synergy. I’m going to transcribe this part in its entirety because it’s important:
“Long ago, there was a vast multiversal war. Countless unique timelines battled each other for supremacy, nearly resulting in the total destruction of, well, everything! But then the all-knowing Time Keepers emerged, bringing peace by reorganizing the multiverse into a single timeline — the Sacred Timeline. Now, the Time Keepers protect and preserve the proper flow of time for everyone and everything. But sometimes, people like you veer off the path the Time Keepers created. We call those variants. Maybe you started an uprising or were just late for work. Whatever it was, stepping off your path created a Nexus event, which left unchecked, could branch off into madness, leading to another multiversal war!”
(Madness. Multiverse. Let me just drop an eyes emoji here.)
Standing trial before Judge Renslayer (Gugu Mbatha-Raw), Loki Laufeyson, aka the Loki variant L1130, learns why he was arrested and every single Avenger was not, despite, you know, going back in time to heist half a dozen Infinity Stones. “What they did was supposed to happen. You escaping was not.”
Ultimately, Loki is given a choice: Be erased from time and space (something the TVA can and happily will do) or partner with Agent Mobius M. Mobius (Owen Wilson) to help track down a dangerous variant traveling through time and killing TVA Minutemen along the way. Naturally, Loki opts for the latter.
Let’s pause here to talk about the Time Keepers for a moment. In the series, Loki refers to them as “three space lizards” who “decide the fate of trillions of people across all of existence.” In the comics, yeah, that is basically who they are: Lizard-looking entities named Ast, Vorth and Zanth (because there’s always a Zanth in the mix), created by He Who Remains to protect time. Now, the Time Keepers aren’t always the most benevolent beings on the page, so we’ll be curious to see how Loki runs up against them.
Back to the show: Mobius takes Loki to the so-called Time Theater, where we discover the TVA also has a Disney+ subscription. Mobius plays Loki’s Greatest Hits from The Avengers and Thor, plus a previously unseen footnote from Loki’s past: While running down his biggest and best escapes, Mobius reveals Loki is D.B. Cooper, the infamous plane hijacker who’s remained an unsolved mystery since the ’70s.
Loki creator and episode 1 writer Michael Waldron gave ET the backstory on the bit. “The truth is, if it wasn’t going to be Don Draper, it was going to have to be Loki,” he said. “That’s a story that I love that’s such, like, amazing American folklore and, in that moment, happened to be the perfect way to sort of illustrate, ‘Why does the TVA not interfere with that sort of thing?’ [and] help prove Mobius’ point… When I wrote it, I was like, you never quite know if that will make it in. But it made it in and we’re so glad it did. Loki is D.B. Cooper, now we know!”
With that case closed, Mobius interrogates Loki about what he really wants to know: “What makes Loki tick?” He shows him footage of what would — or should — have been had Loki kept on the Sacred Timeline: Aka Thor: The Dark World, in which he brings about his mother’s death. “Do you hurt enjoy hurting people?” Mobius asks. “You weren’t born to be king, Loki. You were born to cause pain and suffering and death. That’s how it is. That’s how it was. That’s how it will be. All so others can achieve their best versions of themselves.”
Following a brief, hijinks-filled escape, Loki winds up back in the Time Theater scrolling through his own would-be future — The Dark World, Thor: Ragnarok, Endgame — with Hiddleston providing his first Emmys clip of the season without uttering a single word. Loki comes to dual epiphanies: He can’t return to his timeline. And he doesn’t enjoy hurting people; fear is simply his greatest protection mechanism.
“I can’t offer you salvation, but maybe I can offer you something better,” Mobius informs Loki, asking for Loki’s help track down the fugitive variant. “The variant we’re hunting is…” He pauses for dramatic effect, “you.”
The final scene of the episode shows a group of TVA Minutemen portaling off to Oklahoma, where they chalk up a timeline disturbance to some “jackass who found himself a time machine” (despite a known TVA serial killer being on the loose, but that’s their business). Before they can detonate a timeline reset, a hooded figure appears and sets fire to the field and everyone in it. If that is a Loki out there, what glorious (and murderous) purpose are they burdened with this time?
◦ The big bad of the Loki series is, it seems, Loki. Or, a Loki. (And not Mephisto, in case you were still thinking about that red devil the French child pointed to in the stained-glass window.) So, what Loki variant is it? The show could go any which way, but in the comics, Loki has appeared in a number of different variations: Like, Classic Loki, Lady Loki, King Loki and Kid Loki, to name a few. Once, he was even a unicorn!
◦ Judge Renslayer is the MCU’s take on comic book character Ravonna Renslayer, who is closely linked to Kang the Conqueror. Jonathan Majors will play Kang in Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania. That Kang’s whole thing is time travel and Renslayer is “one of few in rank to stand in the presence of the Time Keepers themselves” (according to Marvel) cannot be a coincidence.
◦ Fun fact: Casey, Eugene Cordero’s lovable TVA office drone, is actually based on a character from Marvel comics. (Fantastic Four #353, to be exact.) “He’s an alien who wears a train conductor hat,” Waldron says. “I think he has one line [in the comic] and we always laughed about him, so Casey is near and dear to all of our hearts.”
◦ Let’s end with a little bit of wild speculation: The Time Keepers will have to show their space lizard faces sooner or later. Is Oscar nominee Richard E. Grant playing all three? And if he’s not, is it too last to reshoot the season so he is playing all three?
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