Marvel fans can rejoice after finally having months of speculation confirmed for the first time in over a year. Marvel’s “Loki” opened the multiverse, and I am freaking out.
Fan speculation is nothing new within this community; Marvel has been dropping hints about what’s to come since 2008’s “Iron Man,” when Samuel L. Jackson’s Nick Fury told Tony Stark about the Avengers initiative. With the end of the Infinity Saga months behind us now, fans have been racking their brains wondering what could happen next. We knew Scarlett Johansson’s final outing in “Black Widow” was going to start Phase Four, but we knew nothing else — until Investor Day.
In December 2020, Disney hosted an Investor Day Zoom call, made public partially as a publicity stunt. The event provided a preview of what Disney and Disney+ had to offer over roughly the next five years. Marvel’s president Kevin Feige did not disappoint as he showcased a slew of upcoming MCU projects.
Fans already knew we were getting three Disney+ original shows with “WandaVision,” “The Falcon and The Winter Soldier” and “Loki.” However, Feige surprised fans when he announced that Elizabeth Olsen’s Wanda (aka the Scarlet Witch) would reprise her role as a main character in the upcoming “Doctor Strange and the Multiverse of Madness.” Speculation about how Wanda and her show could tie into the next Doctor Strange film exploded almost overnight. Feige also turned heads with a surprise casting announcement: Jonathan Majors as time-traveling villain Kang the Conqueror in the next installment of the “Ant-Man and the Wasp” franchise.
Knowing all this information, fan channels started pumping out theory videos. Discussion about Kang was inevitable. In the comics, Kang is a time-traveling, murderous madman hell-bent on dominating the past, present and future. Basically, he makes MCU’s Thanos look like a Grimace-face little b—-. When Kang meets Thanos, he rips his skull out. Naturally, after the casting announcement, fans figured that he would be the next overarching villain. But why would he debut in an Ant-Man movie?
Marvel Studios has pioneered the ability to not only link their projects together but also to cohesively plan multiple projects years into the future. However, COVID-19 threw a massive wrench into the continuity of the MCU’s next phase, which was teased in detail during 2019’s Comic-Con. Phase Four had to be completely shifted and in some cases rewritten, including the Loki series and the release dates of both “Doctor Strange and the Multiverse of Madness” and “Spider-Man: No Way Home.” The latter was confirmed to be linked to “WandaVision” and “Loki.”
“WandaVision” aired in early 2021, setting the precedent for the next wave of MCU speculation. Fans were hoping the series would pay homage to its source material, “House of M,” and that we’d see a grieving Wanda create an entire new reality, thus adding Mutants to the MCU. This did not happen. As a result, fans felt the need to tone down their theories and expectations for the next two Disney+ series.
That’s until “Loki” episodes started airing and the #KangGang was born. Speculation grew heavier following the revelation that “Loki” was rewritten during the pandemic to help restore the continuity of the next phase. Fans feared that Kang would be the next Mephisto, and therefore the next Marvel boner joke. But finally, in a time when fans were desperate for something to lean into regarding the multiverse, “Loki” delivered.
“Loki” introduced an organization of time cops called the Time Variance Authority (TVA). Their job was to maintain the sacred timeline, which included every occurrence in the MCU since it began in 2008. After five fantastic episodes, the show’s finale did something unusual for the MCU: It centered around talking and exposition. Instead of a dramatic battle where Loki emerges victorious, fans were introduced to Jonathan Majors as He Who Remains, the being at the end of all time who created the TVA. He is what is known as a variant, similarly to how the titular Loki is a variant of the MCU Loki who died in “Infinity War.”
He Who Remains explains that there are multiple variants of himself. He gives Loki and Sylvie, Loki’s female variant form, the choice to let him retire and take over the timeline or to kill him and watch it dissolve into chaos. The latter would also result in the subsequent release of his more violent variants, who want to wage war. Sylvie tricks Loki and takes fate into her own hands by killing He Who Remains, whose last line is a chuckled “See you soon.”
The shot changes to show her action’s literal effects on the timeline, which has now begun to branch off in seemingly infinite directions. The season ends on Loki, who thinks he has arrived back at the TVA headquarters we’ve known, but soon realizes that madness has already set in: Other characters don’t recognize him, and he sees the statue of He Who Remains’ forewarned variant, Kang the Conqueror.
The Marvel Cinematic Multiverse is officially active because of this show. “Loki” has established different timelines that house variants of characters we already know, making the show Marvel’s biggest retcon. This could establish every non-MCU Marvel film (“X-Men,” “Deadpool,” “Fantastic Four,” the Netflix shows) as MCU canon, just in an alternate timeline.
This also explains the wild plot of “Spider-Man: No Way Home.” Fans already know Hollywood’s worst-kept secret, that Alfred Molina and Jamie Foxx are returning as their respective Spider-Man villains. However, there has also been heavy speculation that Tobey Maguire and Andrew Garfield will reprise their roles as Spider-Man. Now it all makes sense — even more so considering Doctor Strange’s inclusion in the film and how it leads into the upcoming “Multiverse of Madness.”
Yet again, even after the pandemic halted shooting schedules and caused massive rewrites, Marvel still exceeds fan expectations as it continues into its next phase. After a year of no MCU content, fans have been given so much more than we could have imagined. We now know that the possibilities are literally endless. All we can do is wait for the “Spider-Man: No Way Home” trailer — unless Sony enjoys pissing off Twitter.