By now, just about everyone is familiar with the Marvel Cinematic Universe. As the pioneer of the modern shared universe in film, each new entry into the MCU has pushed forward the idea of an interconnected continuity between themselves.
The latest of the MCU’s offerings, Loki, may have opened the door to quite possibly any and every type of story going forward with its season finale. Let’s examine the ending of Loki and find out why it might signal that the MCU may actually never end.
‘Loki’ and the new MCU multiverse
In Loki, we follow the Norse god Loki (Tom Hiddleston) immediately following his appearance in the 2019 film Avengers: Endgame, when Captain America travels back in time to right after the events of 2012’s The Avengers and accidentally lets Loki escape custody. From there, things get a bit stranger.
Almost as soon as Loki gains his freedom, agents from the TVA — Time Variance Authority — show up to apprehend him. These “time cops” explain that their job is to keep the timeline of events we saw play out in the last 21 MCU films intact and that Loki’s escape was never meant to happen (ironic, given that scene was never meant to set up the show in real life).
In hopes of saving himself, Loki reluctantly teams up with TVA agent Mobius M. Mobius (Owen Wilson) to track down a dangerous alternate timeline version of himself known as Sylvie (Sophia Di Martino) who poses a threat to reality itself.
However, the characters learn that things aren’t as they seem. The TVA isn’t as benevolent as it appears, their efforts to protect the “sacred timeline” being directed by a character known as He Who Remains (Jonathan Majors), a man who fought a war through time with other versions of himself until only he remained.
At the show’s climax, Sylvie kills He Who Remains despite his and Loki’s warnings that it could upset the balance of reality, this threat coming to pass as we see that another version of He Who Remains has taken the old one’s place, only now without a single timeline to keep things in order. The multiverse was born.
The multiverse in future MCU stories
Comics fans are no stranger to the idea of a multiverse. For many years, characters in the Marvel books have hopped between worlds to adventure with other versions of themselves and fight new villains who seek to take over all of time and space. Even the Marvel universe most are familiar with in comics is labeled as Earth-616, demonstrating just how deep this concept goes (incidentally, the MCU is labeled as Earth-199999).
The ending to Loki shows that the film and television side of Marvel is finally getting in on the concept in earnest. While a few alternate realities and teases to a greater multiverse have been present in films before, Loki marks the first time alternate versions of existing characters have been shown to the audience.
With the knowledge that Sylvie’s actions have changed the course of history forever — in that, history no longer has a course — just about anything is possible for these stories going forward.
With multiple universes and timelines worth of potential stories to tell, the MCU could just keep going forever if the higher ups at Disney wanted it to. Despite losing Chris Evans’ Captain America and Robert Downey, Jr.’s Iron Man in Endgame, the franchise hasn’t slowed down even a step.
In fact, we’re about to see versions of these characters from other realities in the upcomingWhat If…? series. Even He Who Remains is slated to come back as Kang the Conqueror in 2023’s Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania.
As one Reddit user put it, “There are so many storytelling possibilities, from the down-to-earth to the cosmic-level, and yet everything is still connected in the end. It’s quite unimaginable but they have made it a reality.” At this point in time, there’s really no way to tell exactly what the MCU could become years down the line, but plenty of people are excited to find out.
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