*Warning: This piece contains spoilers for episode six of Loki.*
Well…wow…em…holy shit…they did it. They did it. They pulled it off. Accomplished the impossible. I can’t believe it. I cannot believe it. I’m still trying to process what I’ve just seen as I’m writing these words. If you were disappointed at how WandaVision‘s story was more “contained” and didn’t have *that* much ramifications for the future of the MCU, except for seeing Wanda Maximoff (Elizabeth Olsen) morph into the Scarlet Witch, well, then Loki’s finale, titled “For all time. Always.”, will more than satisfy your cravings of endless fan theories and speculation until the next title of the MCU comes out. If you thought you would be able to skip the Disney+ shows and understand the films, well, I don’t think it’s going to be possible. Black Widow‘s post-credit scene was the perfect reminder of that, with a character introduced in The Falcon and the Winter Soldier showing up without reintroduction nor explanation. So the ones that knew, knew, and the ones that didn’t watch the show might’ve gone “huh?” or “who’s that?”
Final warning: if you haven’t seen the Loki finale and are reading this (first off, why?), please stop, watch the episode, and come back.
Loki‘s finale not only features an immensely satisfying reveal, where Loki (Tom Hiddleston) and Sylvie (Sophia Di Martino) finally learn who the person behind the TVA is but likely sets up Marvel’s next Thanos-like antagonist in the process. In one elevator door opening, Kevin Feige, Michael Waldron, and Kate Herron have opened the door for multiversal madness with the introduction of Kang the Conqueror (Jonathan Majors) or, in this case, “He Who Remains.” Of course, in the back of our heads, we all knew “he” was coming eventually but didn’t know if it ever was going to happen or if Marvel was going to do something as ballsy as introducing their big antagonist on a Disney+ show. But they did it. And guess what? It didn’t disappoint.
Some will argue that an MCU film or show now solely serves as a backdoor pilot for endless spinoffs and future films. That was my main problem with Black Widow: a weightless action film that only serve to pass the baton from Natasha Romanoff to Yelena Belova (not that I had a problem with Florence Pugh’s performance, I thought she killed it, but I would’ve hoped it could’ve focused more on Natasha’s story, rather than making it clear to the audience that we’re basically following Yelena’s mission, featuring Natasha.) While this argument is true, of course, I still find it fascinating to see how Marvel manages to pique my interest every single time I think they’ve done it all. And with Kang’s introduction, the franchise is going to become more ambitious than ever before. I get the criticisms on “multiverses of madness” or “multiversal wars”, at how it’s just a giant cesspool of Intellectual Property crossovers, but I also have no issues with it if the writers/filmmakers can justify it through its plot and make it urgent.
When the timelines “branched” in episode two after Sylvie stole multiple reset charges, I thought there was going to be a clear set up for a multiverse of madess, right then and there. Unfortunately, all conflict was resolved off-screen as a “distraction.” I believe I spoke too soon about this faux-conflict, since Loki’s finale went ahead and planted the seeds for the rest of Phase Four. Jonathan Majors is, obviously, the episode’s standout, as he magnificently blends an overall human charm with a rather mysterious aura. Most of the episode is comprised of “sitting and talking”, and yet Majors makes every ounce of his performance amazingly gripping, right from the moment he steps out of the elevator to the scene where he gets “killed” by Sylvie. He Who Remains explains how the origins of the TVA, with a calm demeanor, while Loki and Sylvie start to get bemused at who exactly is the person pulling the strings, and makes this entire sequence enticing to watch, never knowing what any of the characters will do.
What’s most interesting about this particular scene is how it sets up Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness and Spider-Man: No Way Home, farther than WandaVision ever dreamed of. Sylvie believes freeing the sacred timeline will let everyone “live their lives”, but what she doesn’t realize is how “killing” Kang and opening the sacred timeline will eventually lead to the ultimate Nexus event, henceforth creating uncontrollable chaos. Even if this entire episode is nothing but bait for future MCU installments, Majors’ central portrayal of Kang is so gripping he manages to make every ounce of exposition dump Loki and Sylvie [quite literally] sit through to be a pure pleasure to watch. Heck, this episode mirrors to near-perfection Neo meeting The Architect at the end of The Matrix Reloaded, only with dialogue that sounds less robotic (and pretentious). Kang is the ultimate architect of the Sacred Timeline and the TVA, controlling unsuspecting variants under his pawn and multiple timelines that never branch for a reason. Future MCU projects will now solely focus on the ramifications of Sylvie’s actions, which quite literally changes everything.
Whenever a critic reacted to a Marvel Studios film saying that “it changes everything we know about the MCU”, I didn’t really believe it. Yes, some films did change the direction in which the MCU was going, like Captain America: The Winter Soldier‘s reveal of HYDRA infiltrating S.H.I.E.L.D., but a film like Captain Marvel or Black Widow doesn’t really “change everything.” It introduces new characters while expanding on the characterizations of old ones. WandaVision and The Falcon and the Winter Soldier didn’t really “change everything” except morph iconic side characters in the best version of themselves, setting them up for future films. However, trust me when I say this: Loki [quite literally] changes everything. This affirmation is exacerbated through two moments inside the finale:
- Multiple Kangs will now be the main antagonist of the MCU’s new “saga”. This feels like the most plausible theory to happen, though we never really know what Feige’s hiding under his sleeve.
- The ending of the finale winds up permenantly damaging the sacred timeline, with Loki being thrwarted in an alternate version of the TVA, with Mobius (Owen Wilson) and Hunter B-15 (Wunmi Mosaku), not knowing who he is, where another Kang reigns supreme.
I truly have no idea how this will play out in future installments of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. I’ve given up on continuity, with the timeline already been screwed multiple times and installments of the franchise not taking place in “chronological order” or in “real time”, if you will. Whether you love or hate the MCU doesn’t really matter here, but Kevin Feige’s transmedial project is about to become a heck of a lot more ambitious than anyone else ever thought possible. And if he manages to brilliantly pull it off, his recipe for success will only grow stronger, never showing any signs of fatigue.
Loki was the first visually dazzling series of the MCU, with a real eye for the kinetic and brilliant performances from Tom Hiddleston, Sophia Di Martino, Owen Wilson, Wunmi Mosaku and Gugu Mbatha-Raw. Even if it did serve as a backdoor pilot for the next 40+ movies/shows of the MCU didn’t really matter–I marveled at the show’s technical prouesses and highly enjoyed the ride from beginning to end. The MCU shows no signs of stopping, and I’m continuing my journey with them every single step of the way. Bring on What If…?