Fans are noticing a ton of Marvel Comics Easter eggs in the latest episode of Loki, from license plates that spell significant names to full-on character cameos. But there’s one more reference in Loki’s fifth episode, “Journey Into Mystery,” and it has nothing to do with Marvel Comics.
And while we’ve known about it since the first footage of Loki was revealed, now we can take a guess at how it fits into the wider Marvel Cinematic Universe.
[Ed. note: This post contain spoilers for Loki through episode 5.]
In episode five, we are introduced to the strange bunker/hideout of four pruned Lokis, banished to the end of time for crimes against the Time Variance Authority. Inside a converted bowling alley is a motley collection of pruned objects from across history, including, of all things, a Polybius arcade cabinet.
Polybius is the stuff of urban legend. The myth of Polybius involves an arcade machine that was supposedly test marketed in Portland, Oregon in the early ’80s. Players quickly became addicted to the game, the story goes, but suffered from psychoactive side effects. Adding to Polybius’ mystery are tales of man-in-black-style government agents monitoring the machines and collecting data about players’ behavior. Polybius has been cheekily referenced by The Simpsons and was eventually made into a real-life video game by Jeff Minter, developer of trippy fare like Tempest 2000 and Space Giraffe.
The Polybius cabinet appears in more than one shot of the episode of Loki, as if some set dresser really didn’t want it to be missed in the edit. Perhaps the presence of the game is the entire reason this bowling alley was pruned — man-in-black-style government agents certainly sounds a lot like the TVA.
In a way, the use of a Polybius cabinet in the background is not unlike Loki’s early flashback that reveals that Loki is the mysterious criminal, D.B. Cooper. It ties a real mystery/urban legend to the events of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, hinting at a supernatural explanation. The episode doesn’t go out of its way to explain how it fits into our own timeline, but simply leaves it there for those in the know to pick up on — just like the best Easter eggs.