Disclaimer: Full spoilers for the season finale of Loki below.
Going into Loki, I honestly thought it was going to be a fun, time-traveling romp that would be more focused on developing the titular character, as opposed to extending the meta-narrative of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. More WandaVision than Civil War.
So, I was fucking wrong.
Wednesday’s surprisingly subdued finale wound up having larger implications for the MCU as a whole. When we last left Loki (Tom Hiddleston) and Sylvie (Sophia Di Martino), they had just beaten the cloud beast Albioth and opened a portal to the Citadel at the End of Time. (Can I just say I loved how fucking comic book-y this show was?) After entering the citadel and having a brief conversation with Miss Minutes, who seems to be more than just a fancy A.I. used by the Time Variance Authority, they’re greeted by He Who Remains (Jonathan Majors).
While he’s never called by his name, it’s all but made explicit that He Who Remains is actually Kang the Conqueror. Also, there’s the fact we learned last year that Majors would be playing the character in Ant-Man: Quantumania.
The episode was a surprisingly talky affair, with He Who Remains explaining his role in shaping the multiverse and protecting it from one of its most dangerous threats: himself. He explains that multiple variants of himself have discovered there are multiple realities all stacked on top of each other. Some of the variants only wanted to learn and share knowledge with each other, while others had decidedly less noble pursuits. (Considering the word “conquer” is in his name, it doesn’t take much to imagine what those pursuits were.)
He Who Remains gives them an ultimatum: let him live and stay where he is, protecting the timeline from all his variants, or they can kill him and potentially start another multiverse war.
Sigh. If only I could go back to 2008 and tell 16-year-old me that there was going to be a multiverse war. Pretty sure teen me’s response would’ve been “Wait, Marvel has a multiverse? I had thought that was DC’s thing. ”
Anyway, Sylvie and Loki get into a fight because Loki is like “Yo, this man is saying that if we kill him we might just unleash a new level of hell upon reality.” Sylvie, on the other hand, was like “All my life I had to fight, Loki. You don’t know what this man took from me, Loki. Now you best get up out the way, before I get you out the way.”
Spoiler: she gets him out the way and then drives her blade right through He Who Remains’ heart. This sends to multiverse into chaos, with the timeline that surrounds the citadel fracturing off into various avenues.
Unfortunately, given how things are announced so far in advance these days, we know a lot about where the MCU is going. We already know that Doctor Strange and the Multiverse of Madness and Spider-Man: No Way Home are going to explicitly deal with the multiverse. We also already know that Majors is set to return as Kang in the next Ant-Man. Based on all that information, it very much sounds like Kang is being positioned as the next big bad of the MCU. The next Thanos, if you will.
I’m very curious to see what the endgame is here. Are we going to see Kang run roughshod through the Avengers across their separate movies? Will Loki season 2 act as a prelude to the multiverse war? Does Marvel’s What If…?, actually have more relevance to the larger story than we originally believed?
I don’t know, but I’m excited to see how it all plays out. Personally, I find the idea of Majors potentially embodying multiple versions of Kang incredibly cool. His performance as He Who Remains was charismatic, equal parts tragic, manic, and occasionally charming. I’m always happy to see Black people winning, and I love that an actor of Majors’ caliber has been given what’s looking like an incredibly pivotal role in one the most popular franchises in the world.