So long WandaVision. Hit the road Falcon and Winter Soldier. It’s Loki time. Thepremiered on Wednesday, with an episode entitled “Glorious Purpose” sending the morally dubious Marvel Cinematic Universe villain on a solo adventure after his escape in Avengers: Endgame.
The show’s version of Loki (Tom Hiddleston), however, isn’t the one who made peace with his brother Thor shortly before being slain by Thanos — this is actually Loki from an earlier point in the MCU timeline.
After his defeat at the Battle of New York in 2012’s Avengers, Loki was originally brought home to Asgard to face justice. However, the Avengers revisited this moment through time travel and inadvertently gave him the chance to teleport away with the powerful Tesseract, a move that created a branch in the timeline. Whoops.
This show follows the meaner, crueler Loki immediately from that moment. Let’s follow the new timeline into SPOILER territory.
The other variant
In the episode’s final moments, Loki accepts that he can’t compete with the powers wielded by the chronological cops of the Time Variance Authority. Agent Mobius (Owen Wilson) reveals that our Loki isn’t the only Loki variant running around — another version of him has been creating timeline chaos by killing teams of TVA agents in various eras and stealing their reset charges.
We know the variant traveled to 1549 France and 1858 Oklahoma to draw agents into traps. It’s unclear why they chose those points in the timeline, but it proves that TVA employees can be killed — you just need to know how to counter their gadgets and get the drop on them.
One of the TVA agents notices oil in 1858 Salina, Oklahoma, and assumes someone used a time machine to travel back from the future to get rich. In real life, oil was discovered in the town in 1859, so it’d make sense for an enterprising time traveler to try such a stunt.
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The Multiverse of Madness
As Loki is shepherded through the TVA, he comes across a lovely tutorial video that reveals a bunch of rival timelines once fought in “vast multiversal war” that nearly destroyed reality. The trio of Time-Keepers imposed order by organizing them all into a single “Sacred Timeline.”
Anyone who steps off the predetermined path creates a “Nexus Event,” a branch in the timeline that could easily go out of control. The TVA arrests the offender and sets the timeline back to its original path with reset charges.
I suspect the Time-Keepers aren’t as altruistic as the tutorial makes them seem; they’re essentially imposing their will on every living being. The TVA also has a major totalitarian vibe, since a security guard straight up murders a spoiled rich kid for failing to take a ticket, and hapless Casey has lived his “entire life behind a desk” in a drab office.
Also, poor Loki is kind of innocent in all this. TVA Judge Ravonna Renslayer (The Morning Show’s Gugu Mbatha-Raw) says that what the time-traveling Avengers did “was supposed to happen,” but Loki’s escape wasn’t. But he only escaped as a result of the Avengers’ actions and couldn’t have known his escape would damage the timeline, so who’s at fault? Seems like the Time-Keepers just weren’t doing their job.
It also seems likely that the multiverse will be restored to some degree by the end of this show’s six-episode run, given the title of the next Doctor Strange and reports about Spider-Man: No Way Home.
In the comics, Wanda Maximoff is a Nexus Being — something whose power can affect probability and change the flow of time. Such people are monitored by the TVA, and MCU Wandain WandaVision.
In that show’s, we also saw for Nexus antidepressants, which can “anchor you back to your reality. Or the reality of your choice.”
“Side effects include feeling your feelings, confronting your truth, seizing your destiny and possibly, more depression,” the ad said. It fit Wanda’s journey, and could describe what Loki will go through.
Loki the Oppressor
When Mobius asks Loki why he wants to make others submit to his will, his answer reveals how his thinking mirrors that of the Time-Keepers. It also seems like a twisted take on the Robert Frost poem The Road Not Taken.
“The first and most oppressive lie ever uttered was the song of freedom,” Loki says. “For nearly every living thing, choice breeds shame and uncertainty and regret. There’s a fork in every road, yet the wrong path always taken.”
He’s furious at the TVA because he knows, on some level, that he’s no better than they are.
Escape from 2012 New York
This episode also reveals the moments immediately after Loki’s escape in Avengers: Endgame — something we’ve all been wondering about since that movie came out. The poor lad teleports halfway around the planet and lands hard in the Mongolian part of the Gobi Desert.
Dusting himself off, he tries hitting some locals with a grandiose speech before a squad of TVA agents bust him. Loki might be a god, but we immediately see that the agents wield powers far beyond his. Later, Loki’s concept of power is thrown even more when he finds a bunch of Infinity Stones sitting in a desk drawer, and learns that TVA workers use them as paperweights.
“Is this the greatest power in the universe?” he asks as office workers go about their dull duties, no doubt seeing opportunity in all the bureaucracy. Paperwork features heavily in the end credit sequence, perhaps hinting at the dullness underpinning power.
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Loki catches up with the MCU
When Mobius reveals the original timeline’s Loki file to the Loki Variant, he sees that he’s responsible for the death of his adoptive mother, Frigga. Later, he witnesses the final moments of his adoptive father, Odin, his future self making peace with Thor, and finally his heroic death at Thanos’ hands.
This Loki sees the fate the “Sacred Timeline” has in store for him — reconciliation, redemption and ruination. Who wouldn’t want to rebel against that?
Observations, WTF questions and Easter eggs
- Years visited: 2012, 1549 and 1858.
- When Loki teleports away with the Tesseract at the beginning, we hear 2012 Thor calling after him as the Marvel Studios logo appears (in a rather fetching Loki green).
- As Loki arrives in the TVA, there’s a variant Skrull reporting to the front desk. These shapeshifters are .
- Loki realized that the Avengers had time travelled back to 2012, since he could smell the cologne of two Tony Starks. Probably Axe Body Spray.
- Could the title sequence, with its shifting fonts, be hinting that we’ll see a whole bunch of different Lokis?
- The kid in 1549 France suggests the Loki variant is the devil. Better form a fresh set of Mephisto theories.
- Mobius’ spiffy look is modeled after the late Marvel Comics editor and continuity expert Mark Gruenwald, who had an excellent mustache. In the comics, TVA agents are clones of Gruenwald.
- Loki: not a robot (or Life Model Decoy).
- Loki is called “Laufeyson” rather than “Odinson” because his father was the Frost Giant king Laufey, who abandoned wee Loki as a baby. Odin saved the little guy and raised him as a brother to his biological son Thor. Loki learned of his true heritage and killed Laufey in 2011’s Thor.
- Turns out Loki was MCU D.B. Cooper. In real life, an unidentified man (dubbed D.B. Cooper by the media) hijacked a Boeing 727 flying between Portland, Oregon, and Seattle in 1971. He leaped from the plane with a parachute and $200,000 in ransom money, never to be seen again. Loki did it after losing a bet with Thor, and was teleported back to Asgard after leaving the plane.
- What kind of intense bet ends with the loser hijacking a plane?
- When Loki refers to Phil Coulson as “a dead man,” Mobius doesn’t mention the character’s resurrection in Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. I guess it would’ve been a long tangent.
- The TVA agents are a bunch of jerks. Mobius is the only one who shows any compassion — maybe this will lead him to rebel against the Time-Keepers?
- Who are the guys in sashes that Casey is complaining to? His managers, or human resources people?
- This episode doesn’t include a post-credits scene — those will likely come in later episodes — but if you wait until the end of the titles you’ll hear TVA mascot Miss Minutes, played by voice-acting legend Tara Strong. “Thanks for visiting the TVA!” she chirps delightfully. “Don’t hesitate to let us know how we’re doing!”
Join us for more Easter eggs and observations next Wednesday, June 16, when episode 2 of Loki hits Disney Plus.