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If the Time Masters were bunk, who was really behind the Time Variance Authority? Loki has been posing this question for weeks, but after the two previous Disney+ shows ended without introducing a major new villain to the Marvel Cinematic Universe, we weren't necessarily expecting such a canon-shaking reveal in the finale.
As it turns out, we did get just such a reveal. Kind of. Mostly. There’s room for variance, but because of certain casting that is set for the future of the MCU and certain actors who appear in the sixth and final episode of Loki's first season, it becomes a very (very) safe bet as to who the big bad of this series is, and who one of the next major MCU threats is going to be.
It’s not Mephisto, at least not right now.
***WARNING: From this point on there will be major spoilers for the Loki episode “For All Time. Always.” If you have not watched yet, hop on that jet ski and branch off.***
Sylvie (Sophia Di Martino) and Loki (Tom Hiddleston) arrive at the castle which appeared to them once they’d made it past Alioth last week, and who is waiting for them? Miss Minutes (Tara Strong), who gives them a big “Hey y'all!” She welcomes them to the Citadel at the End of Time and says that “he” is impressed. Who is she talking about? “He Who Remains.”
According to her, this person “created all and he controls all.” He can give both of them everything they think they want, and they can co-exist on the same timeline too. Neither Loki nor Sylvie are buying, so Miss Minutes wishes them luck and pops in on Ravonna (Gugu Mbatha-Raw) at the TVA and assigns her reading from the mysterious “he.”
Who in Helheim is “he” exactly? A big door opens in the Citadel, and out comes Jonathan Majors, who was recently nominated for an Emmy for his star turn in Lovecraft Country. He invites them up to his office.
He never says what his actual name is in this episode, but come on. We’ve known for some time that Majors has joined the MCU movie Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania as Kang the Conqueror, a big, time-bending villain from Marvel Comics. Kang has connections to both Ravonna and Alioth, just like “He Who Remains” does. Also, you know, it's Majors playing the role.
He never comes out and says, “My name is Kang the Conqueror” but come on. He may be a Kang variant or a proto-Kang of some kind, but he’s Kang. He monologues at Loki and Sylvie for a while, playing that he knows everything that has happened and everything that will. How did they get here? He “paved the road.” Also, they can’t end until they’ve been changed by the journey. Don’t they know that?
While all of this happens, Mobius (Owen Wilson) returns to the TVA and confronts Ravonna. She calls for backup, but B-15 (Wunmi Mosaku) is in the middle of discovering Ravonna’s past, going to 2018 Ohio where Ravonna apparently began working at a high school. There’s a white jar of pens marked, “Franklin D. Roosevelt High School” and as we saw Ravonna use such a pen earlier in the series, this is surely how B-15 found where Ravonna initially came from.
“What are you doing in my school?” is all we get from the oblivious Ravonna.
TVA Ravonna is another story, as she rails to Mobius about how the TVA is necessary. Mobius is more on the side of free will. Ravonna scoffs, and spits, “Eons of friendship, and you threw it all away on a couple of Lokis.” She overpowers him, but doesn’t prune him. She opens a portal and flees. Back in the Citadel, Jonathan Majors is also ranting about how the TVA is necessary, and starts to go into his own history.
“Oh. I’ve been dubbed many names by many people,” he says. “A ruler. A conquerer. 'He Who Remains.' A jerk. But it’s… it’s not as simple as a name.”
According to him, eons ago a variant of him lived on Earth in the 31st century, and there they discovered universes stacked on top of each other. “At the same time, other versions of us were learning the same thing,” he continues. “Naturally, they made contact. And for a while, there was peace. Narcissistic, self-congratulatory peace.”
At first, things were good, but he adds, “…not ever version of me was so pure of heart. To some of us, new worlds meant only one thing, new lands to be conquered. The peace between realities… erupted… into all-out war, each variant fighting to preserve their universe and annihilate the others.”
Did the Time Keepers swoop in to save them all? No, because this is where they “diverge from the dogma,” as he says. The first variant discovered Alioth, weaponized them, and ended the “multiversal war.” The TVA was then created to manage all of the branching timelines. “Hence, you’re welcome.”
What happens if the TVA gets taken down, just as Loki and Sylvie intend? Multiversal war. “I keep you safe,” Majors says. “And if you think I’m evil, well, just wait until you meet my variants.”
That’s the gambit: “Stifling order, or cataclysmic chaos.” They may hate the dictator, but what will fill the void once that dictator has been deposed? It could be something far worse.
Sylvie isn’t buying, but Loki is concerned. Majors gives them a choice, either they kill him and end up with “multiple devils” or the two of them can run everything themselves. He’s been looking for someone to replace him, and “…it turns out that person came in two.”
“We’re all villains here. We’ve all done horrible, terrible, horrific things,” Majors says. “But now, we, you, have a chance to do them for a good reason.”
Right then, a rumbling is heard, and he tells them that they’ve crossed a threshold. He “fibbed” earlier when he said he knows the outcome of everything, at this point he doesn’t know what is going to happen. Will Loki and Sylvie run the TVA, or will there be Multiversal War? Sylvie thinks it’s all just another manipulation, Loki is being careful, and as the timelines branch out of control right outside the window, Majors says, “I love this. I love all this honesty.”
Sylvie snaps and tries to kill him, but Loki stops her. He denies that he wants the throne, any throne, what he wants is to avoid unleashing something. He promises her from his heart that it’s true, but she accuses him of pulling a long con. They just aren’t seeing this the same way, because as Loki says, “…you can’t trust, and I can’t be trusted.”
What’s left to do? Have a fight with swords and magic. Sylvie comes close to killing Majors once again but Loki stops her. He pleads with her again, saying he seriously does not want a throne.
“I just… I just want you to be OK.”
Sylvie drops her sword and they kiss. Loki kisses Sylvie, Sylvie kisses Loki, Loki kisses Loki, Loki kisses herself/himself, we could go on and on. There’s learning to love yourself and then there’s this, and this will require a multiverse of therapists to unpack.
Once the moment passes though, Sylvie says she isn’t him and boots Loki through a portal back to the TVA. She stabs Jonathan Majors as he chuckles, and he says, “See you soon.”
The timelines grow even crazier out the window, just as they do back at the TVA. A very upset Loki runs to B-15 and Mobius, telling them what happened and who is coming: “Countless different versions of a very dangerous person and they’re all set on war. We need to prepare.”
Neither Mobius nor B-15 has any idea who he is. In place of a Time Master statue, the TVA now has a large statue of… Jonathan Majors.
Is he Kang the Conqueror? It would be quite odd for this show to cast Majors in a mysterious unnamed time-bending role when he is also cast to play a very similar character in a future movie. They never came out with the name (or Kang’s signature space/time ship that is shaped like a giant sword) but the show also ends on a cliffhanger. The fates of Loki, Sylvie, and everyone at the TVA are unknown.
That’s because this is not the end. In the middle of the credits, a big rubber stamp comes down on a Loki file, and when it lifts, the following words are revealed in red ink: “Loki will return in Season 2.”
Loki (and Loki) will live on, and for the moment so will Sylvie, Mobius, jet ski dreams, and the untitled Jonathan Majors character who is almost certainly Kang. The show’s not-so-final trick was that this wasn’t a series finale, it was a season finale.
We greatly look forward to another round. For all time. Always.
All six episodes of Loki Season 1 are now streaming on Disney+.