After letting my speculation run too wild with WandaVision, I’ve resisted dissecting every detail from the Marvel Disney+ shows. But now, one week before the season finale of Loki, I want to put some theories in writing, for shame or bragging rights next Wednesday. SPOILERS for Loki season 1, episodes 1-5… [Updated with outcomes from episode 6.]
The Big Bad
I think it’s a safe bet to dismiss fan speculation about Kang being behind the TVA. Kang is the red herring to bait the comic book fans, as Mephisto or Chthon was in WandaVision. Loki is a show about what it means to be a Loki, whether they are confined to a role or are capable of change, and why a Loki does what he or she does. The only possible identity of the person behind the authoritarian TVA bureaucracy is a Loki, one who never evolved out of his “glorious purpose” to save the world from free will. Now, preservation of the “Sacred Timeline” involves pruning away any potential rivals or opponents.
[EDIT: I will be impressed if it turns out Miss Minutes is “Roko’s basilisk,” a future A.I. creating a Sacred Timeline to ensure its own creation. That would be beautifully absurd and fitting the tone of episode 5, and is probably the only alternative to the Loki hypothesis I’d enjoy.]
[Boy was I wrong. The comics were a red herring for WandaVision, but for Loki, knowing about Kang–or in this case, Immortus–would have led you down the right path.]
[EDIT: I re-watched S1:E6 in anticipation of Spider-Man: No Way Home, and realized that the show would have been so much tighter, thematically, if The One Who Remained was Old Loki, and his reason for assuming control was to ward off an even worse evil, Kang the Conqueror. The One Who Remained tamed Alioth, just as Loki and Sylvie did, and we were assured that “Loki” was much more powerful than any individual Loki knew. And we never did meet a Loki who accomplished his original goal to rule. The idea of fighting for free will means annihilating predestination, and if the arc was for Loki and Sylvie to free themselves from their fate, it ought to mean a sort of self-annihilation: killing your future to free it. And all that could still be done against the threat of Kang. If Loki doesn’t rule, Kang will.]
How It Goes Down
The Loki that stands alone is defeated. The Lokis that trust and stand together prevail. That seems to be the theme, anyway. And Lokis standing together (including the kid and the alligator) are what creates a Nexus Event that the TVA can track, allowing the TVA Hunters to whom Mobius has revealed the truth to come and storm the castle too. We’ll have the talking villain exposition, the dark before the dawn, and the united triumph, which will take up at most half the episode. The rest of the finale will deal with the aftermath, and an obligatory scene of Mobius on a jetski.
[Nope. I got the theme right, but how that informed the ending was much different. I still don’t understand protagonist-Loki’s motivations this episode. Lokis are survivors. I couldn’t fully embrace his level of fear of Immortus’s variants that he’d act against Sylvie. Their conflict felt contrived. The Loki I know would just wing it and see what happens–unless he wanted to preserve the timeline where he died a hero to protect his brother Thor. But that never came up. Loki’s apparent evolution: 1. My glorious purpose is to rule all, because people shouldn’thave free will. 2. You should burn down the TVA, because they’re murdering free will and you should have a jetski. 3. Free will is a small price to pay to save us from Kang the Conqueror, whom I just found out about.]
The TVA After Episode 6
The Time Variance Authority is too interesting an addition to the Marvel Cinematic Universe to end when Authoritarian Loki is revealed. The TVA will continue under new management–Mobius, naturally, with a new mission and methods. Instead of trying to preserve a “Sacred Timeline,” it will devote itself to stopping others from trying to control the multiverse. This may bring them into situations like Dr. Strange and the Multiverse of Madness and Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania.
[Wrong. Now we have a TVA run by Kang the Conqueror. Which raises the question: why did Immortus bother with the fiction of the lizardy Time Keepers anyway?]
Loki the Variant
Loki the Variant, AKA the protagonist of this season’s show, will join to the TVA to help out his friend Mobius. They make a good team, and they have great chemistry. But, much like Deadpool at the end of his second movie, he may be interested in tweaking some things in the timeline for fun. One of those things will certainly be saving his original self from Thanos using the methods Classic Loki described in episode 5, the image projection he took pains to explain in episode 2. This means that the original Loki, the one who died in Infinity War, didn’t actually die. I will watch for him hiding in the shadows in Thor: Love and Thunder.
[Well, there’s always Season 2.]
The Lokis deserve a happy ending, and Sylvie will join Mobius’s TVA too, but as a Hunter. Her motivation, we learned in episode 5, is revenge, and if the Loki behind the original TVA is settled, Sylvie won’t forget about Ravonna Renslayer’s role in her story.
[I wish we’d gotten a post-credits scene of Sylvie, after her catharsis over achieving her lifelong mission. She obviously didn’t stick around the Castle at the End of Time to govern the timelines, so what’s she doing?]
Ravonna may not have been behind the TVA, but she believes in its methods and original mandate. She may gather those sympathetic to the authoritarian TVA, and decide that she should decide the nature of the Sacred Timeline. And, of course, one of her adherents would be her real favorite analyst, Nathaniel Richards, who will later be known as Kang the Conqueror. That puts them at odds with the new TVA, and in the crosshairs of Sylvie, who might pursue them into Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania.
[This may be close to the truth, but it looks like she got instructions via Miss Minutes from Immortus, and she may be on a mission to ensure another Immortus variant comes to be. The most direct route for that is to cozy up to Kang and try to hasten his maturing into Immortus.]
We have or will soon have Cassie Lang, Eli Bradley, Kate Bishop, Kamala Khan, Miles Morales, the Maximoff Twins, America Chavez, and Riri Williams. Why not add a young Loki into the Young Avengers?
[Maybe in some timeline…]
MCU Phase 5 kicks off with Throg and the Amphibious Asgardians.
[Definitely in some timeline.]