The finale episode of Loki didn’t just set up a second season of the Disney Plus series, it laid the groundwork for at least one upcoming Marvel Cinematic Universe movie — and potentially even more.
When we last saw Loki and Sylvie in episode 5, they were trying to get past Alioth, a scary storm monster that gobbles up time and reality itself, to find the mind that created the Time Variance Authority, ripped variants from their timeline to work in it, and made them all think that they were doing it for the all-knowing Time-Keepers.
This episode, they found who they were looking for — exactly the character the show had been tiptoeing around all season.
[Ed. note: This piece contains spoilers for Loki’s season finale, “For All Time. Always.”]
Loki and Sylvie met He Who Remains (Jonathan Majors), the figure who, in deep Marvel Comics lore, created the Time Variance Authority. But the folks behind the Marvel Cinematic Universe have merged that obscure character with another of much greater renown.
As Loki’s He Who Remains explains, he was once a human scientist living on Earth in the 31st century, when he discovered the existence of the multiverse and reached out to contact his infinite multiversal selves — many of whom were, of course, also scientists who had just discovered the existence of the multiverse. But not all Variants of this scientist were particularly nice people, and some of them sought to conquer the alternate worlds they encountered, thus begetting the Multiversal War. That conflict ended when the original scientist tamed Alioth (that scary reality-eating monster), put down his multiversal duplicates, and created the Time Variance Authority to keep his own alternate selves in check.
He Who Remains warns Loki and Sylvie that if they kill him,
he will become more powerful than they can possibly imagine they will unleash an infinite number of his alternate selves, many of whom will have very bad intentions for the timeline. And that’s exactly what happened. In the final moments of Loki, Loki returned to the TVA to find that the Sacred Timeline was splintering into thousands of different realities, no one there knew who he was, and the supreme ruler of the TVA was now a variant of He Who Remains. The variant’s outfit makes him a dead ringer for the Marvel supervillain Kang the Conqueror.
Who is Kang the Conqueror?
Created by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby themselves for 1964’s Avengers #8, Kang has gone by many names in Marvel Comics continuity, including Immortus, the Scarlet Centurion, and Iron Lad. He even spent a while in ancient Egypt as a guy called Rama-Tut.
Basically, Kang started out as a scientist in Earth’s future and eventually became an extremely long-lived time-traveling despot, Marvel Comics’ own version of the Master from Doctor Who. You never know when he’s going to crop up in the timeline, or whether he’ll be his youngest self, the superhero Iron Lad; his evil self, Kang; or his somewhat-reformed-but-still-really-annoying older self, Immortus — or if he’ll show up under a completely new identity. The Marvel Cinematic Universe could go pretty much anywhere it wants with Kang, simply by explaining that this is Kang from a different branch of his timey-wimey existence.
Will Kang come back in an upcoming MCU movie or show?
You can bet your tempad he will.
In late 2020, Jonathan Majors joined the cast of Ant-Man & The Wasp: Quantumania, which is set to hit theaters on Feb. 17, 2023. Reports at the time suggested that he was set to play the role of Kang the Conqueror, and now we know that to be true. With the Pym-particle-access-only Quantum Realm as the key to all the time traveling in Avengers: Endgame, it seems certain that a movie with “Quantumania” in its name and Kang in its character lineup will have some time-traveling shenanigans.
That’s where we know that Kang will appear again. But we could see him even earlier. Loki was all about Nexus Events, and Marvel’s biggest Disney Plus hit, WandaVision, also made reference to Wanda Maximoff’s comics-lore status as a Nexus Being, one whose very existence warps reality around her.
In Marvel Comics, Immortus (that is, another version of Kang) and the Time-Keepers once got very involved in trying to control the Scarlet Witch’s powers because of the threat she posed to the timeline. We’ll see the Scarlet Witch again in 2022’s Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, which was written by Loki showrunner Michael Waldron. It seems very likely that Loki’s destruction of the singular Sacred Timeline into an infinite multiverse of timelines will play a role in Doctor Strange’s exploration of the multiverse.
What about Kang in Loki season 2?
One of the plot threads Loki left dangling with its cliffhanger finale is the story of Judge Renslayer, who, in Marvel Comics, has very close ties with Kang indeed.
Ravonna Renslayer began Marvel editorial life as a damsel princess in Earth’s 40th century, in the pulp mold of John Carter of Mars or Flash Gordon. Falling in love with the time-traveling despot Kang, she leapt in front of a laser blast meant for him, saving his life and ending her own. Lots of time-travel shenanigans later, she got a new lease on continuity as a time traveler herself, locked in an eternal love-hate battle with her ex-husband Kang across all of reality.
With Loki’s Judge Renslayer last seen absconding into the timeline to search for He Who Remains and call him to account, the series could be setting up a similar rivalry — or perhaps even an enemies-to-lovers (to enemies again???) dance across all of time.