The first season of Loki ended its run last week, delivering the final details we needed to move forward with the MCU Phase 4. The finale revealed Marvel’s next big villain in the best possible way and introduced the multiverse rules we were missing. The TVA taught us how the Sacred Timeline works and what it takes to manage it. This made us realize how complicated the multiverse might be. It also caused us to question everything that came before Loki, especially the Avengers: Endgame timeline.
It turns out the answer is staring us in the face, and it’s much simpler than we thought. But make sure you’ve seen the whole series before you proceed because massive Loki spoilers follow below.
From the Endgame timeline to Loki and back
Without the events in Endgame, there is no Loki. We learned as much from the first episode. Loki (Tom Hiddleston) was not supposed to escape New York the way he did. That action attracted the TVA’s attention immediately. A Hunter team came to arrest Loki and prune that branch.
But the TVA never stopped the Avengers from going forward with their Time Heist. That’s something Judge Ravonna (Gugu Mbatha-Raw) reveals to Loki in the first episode.
Later in the finale, we learn that the Kang (Jonathan Majors) variant paved the way for Loki and Sylvie (Sophia Di Martino) to reach him. That meant ensuring the events in Endgame happened just as they did, at least until Loki stole the Tesseract.
The unpruned alternate timelines in Endgame
The TVA might have pruned the Loki timeline as soon as he escaped with the Tesseract. But the agency left at least two other alternate timelines intact that were created by the Avengers.
One is the timeline where 2014 Thanos (Josh Brolin) captures 2023 Nebula (Karen Gillan), watches her recordings, and recreates the technology that will allow him to jump into the future. When Thanos leaves his timeline behind, we have one reality that will not have to deal with the Mad Titan.
The second one is the timeline where 2023 Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) decides to retire and marry late 1940s Peggy Carter (Hayley Atwell). Cap’s actions created another reality.
We know from Loki that the TVA takes action right after a Nexus event. It doesn’t try to prevent it by going back in time before the Nexus event happened. And it has a limited amount of time to reset the branch before it can’t be undone. The Loki finale tells us the Sacred Timeline is just one reality: He Who Remains and the TVA have been micro-managing it for eons. They reset everything that doesn’t go according to plan, and the bits that survive end up in the void where Alioth consumes them.
But the TVA never intervened with 2014 Thanos or 2023 Cap, allowing those two realities to develop beyond the red lines.
The simplest explanation was in the Loki finale all along
After the Loki finale, I told you that Endgame is basically a lie for the audience. If Kang lined things up in a certain way, then the Avengers were at no point in any real danger. The Avengers themselves didn’t know that their actions were predetermined. So for them, it felt real, and everything was incredibly dangerous.
Marvel later explained that Loki takes place chronologically after Endgame. Yet, we still wondered about the correlation between the events in the Loki finale and the Endgame rogue timelines. When exactly does Kang lose control of the timeline respective to the 2014 Thanos and 2023 Cap alternate realities?
It turns out it doesn’t matter. Marvel needs a simple explanation for everything, and it already has one. It’s right there in the final episode if you pay close attention.
The TVA and Kang are not in Endgame’s timeline
When Kang says he no longer knows what’s going to happen next, that’s the moment when the Sacred Timeline starts branching. I’ve often told you that the branches appear in various places at the same time, including the past, present, and future. And they move at a remarkable pace. Without Kang and the TVA in control, there’s nothing to stop them. And we see them growing simultaneously from various places during the finale.
How does this relate to Endgame? It’s quite simple, actually. The moment Kang allows Loki and Sylvie to decide what to do next with the Sacred Timeline, the Timeline starts branching out. It’s at that moment that the 2014 Thanos and the 2023 Cap branches might spawn and evolve at the same time.
While the audience is in the castle with Kang, Loki, and Sylvie, or at the TVA, we experience time differently, too. Everything in the past, present, and future happens at the same time from our perspective. We see all the timeline branches in real-time.
Imagine watching on a screen as Thanos decides to travel to the future, or when Cap realizes he will retire with Peggy in the past. These are Nexus events that the TVA could prune immediately. But with Kang and the TVA temporarily out of order, these Nexus events evolve at the same time. One leads to the massive battle at the Avengers compound. The other gives us Steve and Peggy’s dance.
But what if…
There’s another super simple explanation for everything. What if Kang had planned everything in Endgame to happen exactly that way. That includes letting Thanos leave his timeline and letting Cap retire with Peggy.
If that’s the case, the TVA could have pruned the Thanos timeline the minute it happened. Destroying Steve’s timeline would have been impossible, however. Steve growing old with Peggy means that this new timeline has most certainly moved beyond the red line.
Either way, these are the simple explanations Marvel needs to move on with the multiverse after Endgame and Loki. We’ll just have to wait for Doctor Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) to explain it all in Multiverse of Madness.