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Just like that, Loki establishes the next major arc for the Marvel Cinematic Universe. If there was ever a wham episode for the Disney Plus shows, this one is it because it will have an impact on everything that follows in the Marvel universe for the foreseeable future. Despite all of this setup, however, this is still Loki and Sylvie’s story. The ending fits who each of these characters are and the journey they’ve been on, both individually and together.
Spoilers ahead, obviously, so don’t read if you haven’t watched the episode.
The opening sequence depicting the expansion and then contraction of the universe to a single point was exceptional. It showed that everything we’ve seen up to this point is part of the continuity created by the Time Variance Authority at the behest of a single individual. We soon meet this individual, known only as He Who Remains (played with unhinged glee by Jonathan Majors, best known for his work on Lovecraft Country). This character is an amalgamation of a pair of characters within Marvel Comics canon, He Who Remains and Immortus. The revelations that arrive thanks to He Who Remains are abhorrent but not untrue, as we discover at the end of the episode.
Before getting into that, there’s a few small scenes in the TVA involving Ravonna. Her ending is not yet determined, based on her entering a Time Portal after disarming Mobius. Where she was sent by He Who Remains and Miss Minutes is up in the air but I have little doubt that she will make another appearance in the future. Ravonna is seeking the power to actually possess free will, something she states is only available to the one in charge of a given organization. The crux of this series has been this: does the TVA serve a purpose or is unhindered free will the better option? Ravonna’s point of view would state that only those in power have true free will. Sylvie and Loki represent the opposite side of that coin, pushing against what their designated fates are written to be.
He Who Remains reveals that he was responsible for bringing about the Multiversal War the TVA uses as part of its dogma. He Who Remains used advanced technology to access the multiverse, encountering other variants of himself. In the beginning, each of them began to cooperate, mainly out of narcissistic enjoyment at meeting each other. Inevitably, though, these variants went to war with one another in an attempt to control or eliminate the other universes. He Who Remains corrected this mistake by creating the Sacred Timeline and the TVA is used to enforce that timeline. In doing this, He Who Remains ensures that one of his variants is not able to reappear and destroy the multiverse as we know it.
Naturally, Sylvie thinks the whole thing is hogwash and I can’t say that I blame her. Sylvie’s life was destroyed because she was a variant branch that didn’t flow with how the Sacred Timeline said things should go. This catapulted her onto a path of vengeance that led her into the path of our Loki and to this point. Loki, despite his earlier assumptions, believes He Who Remains when he warns that his death will fracture the universe, resulting in one of his variants assuming control and beginning the Multiversal War all over again.
Loki and Sylvie’s journey together has forged a bond between them but that bond is tested sharply here. And it fails in the end. Sylvie, despite her growing affection for Loki, cannot help but think he wants to take over the TVA to assume the throne, as Loki has always desired. Loki, for his part, just wants Sylvie to remain safe, which he believes will not remain the case if she goes through with her revenge. This version of Loki has grown immeasurably over the course of the series, reaching this point where his only concern is the well-being of another person (granted a version of himself, so those narcissistic tendencies haven’t completely gone away).
In the end, Sylvie could not turn away from her revenge, sending Loki back to the TVA’s headquarters and killing He Who Remains with her blade.
And just as He Who Remains predicted, everything changed. The Sacred Timeline fractured completely, opening the multiverse to chaos. Loki discovers this first-hand when he encounters Mobius and Hunter B-15 in the Archives of the TVA. Where a moment before Mobius and Hunter B-15 had been calmly watching the fracturing of the timeline, they are now fretting over how to contain the situation. Neither of them recognizes Loki when he tries to explain the situation. Loki looks on in horror as the statues of the Time Keepers, which have been shown multiple times throughout the course of the series, has been replaced by a singular status depicting a human who looks just like He Who Remains.
Kang the Conqueror has come to the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
Where this leaves things in the larger story is still up in the air. Personally, I’m excited to see where things go. And the good news that Loki will get a second season is awesome. I’ve enjoyed this series immensely and can’t wait to see what new time travel shenanigans the writers come up with.