Written by David Holland
At last we get some answers! The primary question driving the plot of “Loki” has been who, exactly, is in charge of the TVA. The first answer, that the Timekeepers were a race of benevolent overlords keeping all of time safe and writing the end of all things, was unsatisfactory from the start. Now that the Timekeepers have been exposed as frauds, it’s time to get to the true source behind all this power:
My one complaint about this episode is that it was VERY heavy on the talking. Loki and Sylvie talking, the pair of them talking to Miss Minutes, then to He Who Remains, then to each other again, and every once in a while cutting to Mobius so he could talk to Renslayer. But the question of who is behind the TVA doesn’t have an easy answer and that answer itself raises more questions.
The source behind the TVA, who lives in a castle with strong Sanctum Sanctorum vibes, is a person simply called He Who Remains. He has stayed in his lair waiting for a confrontation with Sylvie and Loki that he knew was coming, just hanging out at the end of all of known time. When Sylvie asks why the TVA was necessary, he points the finger at the individual responsible: himself. He Who Remains describes himself as a scientist and scholar who learned how to access other parallel dimensions where he met other similar, but slightly different versions of himself. At first the versions got along, shared knowledge, improved each others’ universes. But soon there was war, a war that crossed the multiverse and time itself. This version of He Who Remains is the winner, and in order to prevent the chaos and death of another Multiverse War, he collapsed the alternate universes into a single Sacred Timeline and created the TVA, and endless bureaucracy designed to preserve his victory. But now his time watching the Sacred Timeline has come to an end. He wants to pass its control to someone else – or someones. He makes Loki and Sylvie an offer: take over his role, preserve the Sacred Timeline, and run the TVA as they see fit. It’s what Loki has always wanted: a crown, a kingdom, power – a Glorious Purpose.
Loki wants to discuss the offer, but Sylvie does not. She wants to complete her glorious purpose by killing He Who Remains. They fight, and Loki tries to reason with her. His heart has changed, he no longer wants a crown or a kingdom. What he really wants is Sylvie. When he lowers his guard, she attacks, throws him through a time door, and kills He Who Remains. Time begins branching unpredictably. Variants cause nexus events across the timeline, leading to whole new worlds – which is not as much fun as the song makes it out to be.
Mobius, meanwhile, attempts to reason with Judge Renslayer, but she still won’t stand for it. Realizing that Mobius has instigated a full-scale insurrection at the TVA, Renslayer leaves searching for free will. Loki, thrown from the Citadel, finds Mobius and attempts to explain what happened only to realize that Sylvie didn’t hurl him through time, she hurled him through the multiverse. He’s in another version of the TVA, one where He Who Remains appears to be less a man behind the curtain and more a conquering overlord.
What Does It All Mean?
This episode represents a huge transformation in Loki’s character development. Ever since we met him in “Thor”, Loki was in search of a crown and a glorious purpose. He tried and failed to rule Asgard, then tried and failed to conquer Earth. He temporarily replaced Odin to rule Asgard again, but Thor saw right through that. Even at the end of Ragnarok, when returning to save the Asgardians, he announces himself as their “savior”. He is desperate for glory. But in this episode he sets all that aside for Sylvie. Throughout the series Loki has struggled with the idea that losing is “in his nature”, as Colson once said. When he met the other versions of himself, he wondered if they were all destined to play out different versions of the same story over and over again. But something about Sylvie broke that cycle for Loki. Of course, there’s still the narcissistic factor of falling in love with another version of yourself, but having grown the way he has, it is hard to imagine this version of Loki repeating the mistakes that led to Frigga’s death, Odin’s exile, or his own death at the hand of Thanos. And now that the TVA is gone, they have the freedom to choose what to do with their lives.
What about He Who Remains? Sylvie killed the version on the Sacred Timeline, but it is obvious from the alternate TVA in which Loki ends up that we have not seen the last of him. He Who Remains was a canon character in his own right, but based on what he said about fighting different versions of himself and once referring to himself as a “conqueror”, most speculation seems to be that this version of He Who Remains is also the character Kang the Conquerer. Kang is a super-advanced time and multiverse travelling villain in the Marvel universe who has been known to interact with different versions of himself, including creating a Council of Kangs. If He Who Remains really is Kang the Conqueror, I would expect him to stick around for at least more of “Loki”, if not to play a larger role in this Phase of the MCU. He would be an ideal force given this phase’s focus on alternate dimensions and the multiverse.
We also know thanks to an end credits scene that Loki will return for Season 2. That means more TVA goodness, and hopefully more adventures with Sylvie, Mobius, and all the other characters we have come to love.
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