Hasitha Fernando on the biggest takeaways from Marvel’s Loki and what they might mean for the MCU going forward…
Of the three MCU TV shows that have debuted on Disney+, Loki was undoubtedly the one that had the most significant impact on the Marvel Cinematic Universe going forward. Capitalizing on Tom Hiddleston’s innate charm and inherent charisma, series creator Michael Waldron crafted a thoroughly fascinating multi-layered drama with multiversal repercussions that’ll have your attention hook, line and sinker. But I digress, let’s waste no time and dive right in to have a look at the biggest takeaways from Marvel’s Loki and what they might mean for the MCU going forward…
The Deceptive TVA
The TVA or the Time Variance Authority is an infinitely vast bureaucracy responsible for monitoring the timelines of the Marvel universe and maintaining temporal interference to a bare minimum. In simpler terms they can best be described as a kind of time police that act as the authority to whom individuals who muck around with time travel and screw up the established order are answerable to. Since their first appearance in Thor #372 on October 1982, created by Walt Simonson and Sal Buscema, they have metamorphosed into an important component of the greater Marvel Comics universe. However, the TVA’s influence over time is not absolute. And there have been several instances in the past where they’ve been on a collision course with the likes of Kang the Conqueror, Alioth, the Delubric Constortium and Revelation throughout the timescape.
The MCU incarnation of the TVA differs slightly from the source material in several ways. In episode 4 of Loki, we are told that all employees of the TVA are actually variants from different timelines with modified memories. In the comics most of those working in the TVA are born and bred for their respective functions, genetically cloned to weed out inefficiency and increase productivity. The decision to imbue individual TVA employees have an identity of their own in the show’s context was most likely a creative one, and it certainly added an extra layer of emotional stakes especially concerning the likes of Hunter B-15 (Wunmi Mosaku) and Hunter C-20 (Sasha Lane). In the series finale He Who Remains (Jonathan Majors), describes to Loki and Sylvie how the TVA first came into being. A multiversal future war created by the Kang variants brought about tears in reality, which lead to the birth of Alioth. He Who Remains (also a Kang variant) weaponized Alioth and pruned the multiverse down to one timeline, effectively ending the multiversal war and creating the TVA to police its activities. And if the first season’s conclusion was any indication it’s fairly obvious that this won’t be the last time, we’ll be seeing the TVA, as Loki will indeed be returning for another round of mischief somewhere in the near future.
The Loki Variant Named Sylvie
Most of us, pretty much, assumed that actress Sophia de Martino would be playing the MCU incarnation of Lady Loki. Our assumptions turned out to be equal parts right and wrong simultaneously, as it was revealed in episode 2 that Sylvie was in fact a rogue Loki variant hellbent on bringing down the TVA at all costs. Now Sylvie’s mission-of-destruction was certainly justifiable from her perspective, as she was suddenly snatched from Asgard by Ravonna Renslayer and a gang of Minutemen when she was just a child. But it does make us wonder ‘why’ she was chosen to be pruned? Perhaps she was already straying from her chosen path, contemplating on becoming a hero instead of the more villainous role destiny had planned for her.
In any case, Sylvie was kidnapped by the TVA because she inadvertently caused a Nexus event, and as explained by Miss Minutes in episode 1, these Nexus events could be something as huge as starting a revolution you weren’t supposed to or something as mundane as being late to work. But even the sands of time would’ve been able to guess the next audacious move she was about to commit – slaying He Who Remains. In the beginning of the series finale both Loki and Sylvie enchant Alioth, eventually gaining access to the Citadel at the End of Time. There they meet He Who Remains and after an unsuccessful chit-chat with the charming brigand Sylvie pushes Loki through a Timedoor back to the TVA, and lands a fatal blow on our antagonist. And it is then that Sylvie realizes the ramifications of her horrific act…she had brought about the beginning of the end through the fracturing of the sacred timeline. We’ll no doubt meet Sylvie again in Loki season 2, but the fact that the aftermath of her actions will be felt in Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, Spider-Man: No Way Home and Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania, speaks volumes of the chaos that lies ahead in the MCU.
Two Timin’ Ravonna
Ravonna Renslayer was first introduced to comic book readers in the pages of Avengers #23 published in 1963. The daughter of King Carelius, a ruler of 40th Century Earth, she was the love interest of none other than Kang the Conqueror. And because of Kang’s soft-spot for her, he spared the Kingdom of Carelius, thereby making it the final untouched bastion of civilization. Initially Renslayer did not return the affection Kang gave her, as she was royalty and he was a mere commoner. Unfazed Kang tried to win her heart by imprisoning the Avengers in his future-time to show off his prowess in battle by fighting them. Although Renslayer wasn’t receptive to his effort initially, she professed her love for him with her dying breath, when she threw herself in the path of an energy blast meant for Kang. Refusing to let his love perish, Kang used advanced science to keep her in a state of suspended animation, neither dead or alive. Following a battle with Thor sometime later, Kang ‘Prime’ ended up in the timeless realm of Limbo, where he uses a device to pluck Renslayer from harm’s way, thus creating a divergent reality where Kang gets killed instead of her.
Getting back to the MCU version of the character, we find that she’s actually a variant captured by He Who Remains, gets her memory wiped and made to work in the TVA as one of its loyal employees. As Hunter A-23 Renslayer played an integral role in the capture of the Loki variant Sylvie and later went on to become a TVA Judge, carrying out the Time-Keepers’ bidding. Fiercely faithful to the cosmic bureaucracy she’s part of, Renslayer firmly believed that without the TVA the whole multiverse would fall into chaos. However, during the events of episode 4 Renslayer understood that the Time-Keepers had been a ruse and began to question what it all meant, even requesting Miss Minutes to locate the files pertaining to the beginning of the TVA. At the conclusion of the series finale Renslayer used her TemPad to open a Timedoor and disappeared through it to ‘find her free-will’. But judging by Renslayer’s past involvements with Kang in the source materials it’s certainly likely that we should be seeing more of her and the uber-talented Gugu Mbatha-Raw pretty soon.
Mobius M. Mobius ESQR.
In the comics Mobius M. Mobius was something of a bureaucratic authority at the TVA. A member of its senior management, the character created by Walt Simonson made his debut in the pages of Fantastic Four #353. Mobius’ physical appearance was based on prolific comic book writer Mark Gruenwald, who worked as Marvel’s Executive Editor in the late 80s. Even Owen Wilson who played the character in the show was made to resemble Gruenwald’s uncanny likeness. Starting out as a loyal employee of the TVA Mobius eventually realized that everything, he believed in was a lie. Like Renslayer he too was a variant who led a normal life before being snatched up and had his memory wiped by the TVA.
Apart from the two leads, Mobius’ character arc in the TV show was also one of the most interesting, metamorphosing from an individual who never questioned the status quo to someone who questioned his very purpose and existence. However, following He Who Remains unceremonious send off by Sylvie, we saw that the TVA and its occupants-including Mobius- now belonged to a new timeline where they’ve no knowledge of what took place before. Suffice to say season 2 will be a bag full of surprises now that the TVA is under a ‘new management’ a.k.a Kang the Conqueror and Mobius has no clue who Loki is. Ah good times lie ahead!
The God of Mischief in the Multiverse of Madness
How can we not talk about the God of Mischief himself in a TV show titled after him? And what a rollercoaster ride it has been! Loki discovers the existence of the TVA, meets He Who Remains, bumps into Sylvie and falls in love. Yep, it’s been quite an adventure for everyone’s favorite trickster. While in one timeline he tragically gets killed by Thanos, in another Loki somehow manages to escape this dire fate using the tesseract to escape during the Avengers’ time-heist in Endgame. He gets transported to somewhere in the Gobi Desert where the pesky TVA Minutemen apprehend him, for setting off a Nexus event. One thing leads to another and soon we find ourselves in a dilemma where the fate of the universe now hangs in the balance. Despite He Who Remains’ insistence that his death would inevitably open a proverbial Pandora’s Box, Sylvie kills him anyway and this leads to the collapse of the sacred timeline and multiversal madness ensues.
As pointed out previously, the repercussions of Sylvie’s impulsive act will reverberate throughout the MCU for years to come, making Star Lord’s reckless mistake in Avengers: Infinity War seem almost…forgivable. It’s uncertain if we’ll see Loki in any MCU related film anytime soon (he’s rumoured for Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness) we know for certain that we’ll see him next in the second season of Loki as he tries to wrestle with a TVA now run by none other than Kang the Conqueror.
…But in the end it is He Who Remains
Marvel certain threw a real doozy of a curved ball when they introduced Jonathan Majors as He Who Remains in the season finale. I mean we all knew Majors had been cast as Kang the Conqueror for Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania, but no one in their dizziest day dreams woulda thought that he’d also be He Who Remains! In the comics He Who Remains was the final Director of the Time Variance Authority and the creator of the Time-Keepers, who dwelled at the Citadel at the End of Time. First appearing in Thor #245 published in March, 1966 the character was depicted as a wizened old man who was ‘the last of his race, and the only guardian left at Eternity’s end.’
Kevin Feige & company certainly took some liberties with their interpretation of He Who Remains, making him a variant of Kang the Conqueror and allowing a mercurial Majors just have fun with the role. Like his comic book counterpart this version too was a scientist possessing a genius level intellect who had the foresight to create the TVA, to monitor and maintain the sacred timeline- a timeline where there are no annoying disruptions from evil variant versions of himself. However, with He Who Remains’ demise we witnessed that the present timeline will not be a very Kang-free one, as evidenced by the gigantic statue of him towering over the TVA ominously. It’s still early days to start presuming but, I think we’ve just a got a small taste of our next Thanos level threat of the MCU. Let the Multiversal war begin!
SEE ALSO: Read our review of Marvel’s What If…?
Hasitha Fernando is a part-time medical practitioner and full-time cinephile. Follow him on Twitter via @DoctorCinephile for regular updates on the world of entertainment.