I didn’t think Marvel would go there. The season finale of Loki (which will return for season 2) was the most momentous episode of a Marvel Studios TV series to date. Up until now, Disney+ shows have been about filling in gaps. We knew Sam Wilson was going to be the next Captain America. The Falcon and the Winter Soldier showed us how it happened. We knew that Wanda would have a part to play in the next phase of the MCU. WandaVision fleshed out her backstory and put her in position for the movies to come. Meanwhile, Loki set the stakes for all of Phase 4.
If you haven’t watched yet, be warned that spoilers for the season finale of Loki follow below.
What happened in the season finale of Loki?
In the sixth episode of Loki, we meet one of Marvel’s most imposing villains: Kang the Conquerer. The studio had already announced Jonathan Majors (Lovecraft Country) would play the part in Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania. The studio decided to surprise fans by introducing Majors and his character in Loki. But this isn’t the Kang that will serve as the next big bad in the MCU. Rather, this was a variant of Kang — one who was ensuring that no other Kangs would cross into his universe.
In the final moments of Loki’s first season, Kang (aka He Who Remains) gave Loki and Sylvie a choice. They could kill him and start a multiversal war, or take his place and run the TVA themselves. Loki was ready to take Kang up on his offer, but in the end, Sylvie could not find it in her to trust either of them. After tossing Loki through a portal back to the TVA, Sylvie killed the Kang that had been maintaining the Sacred Timeline. As a result, the timeline began branching out of control.
The Loki season finale kicks off MCU Phase 4
Not only did the season finale leave us with countless unanswered questions for Loki season 2 — it also set up the rest of Phase 4. I wasn’t convinced that Marvel would ever alter the MCU quite this significantly in a TV show. Kevin Feige proved me wrong. All of the rumors about Tobey Maguire, Andrew Garfield, Willem Dafoe, and Jamie Foxx appearing in Spider-Man: No Way Home suddenly add up. The timeline is broken beyond repair. Variants could theoretically appear anywhere, at any time. And all of the work to set that up was done in Loki.
Furthermore, the title Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness makes a lot more sense. Before He Who Remains took control, Kang variants were “fighting to preserve their universe and annihilate the others,” he explains. Now that He Who Remains is dead, there is nothing stopping the Kang variants from going back to war. Could this be the plot of the movie?
Loki head writer discusses the season finale
“We knew that we wanted this show to be huge, and we wanted it to really end with a bang and have a huge impact on the MCU moving forward,” head writer Michael Waldron told Marvel.com.
“Knowing that Kang was probably going to be the next big cross-movie villain, and because he is a time-traveling, multiversal adversary, it just always made so much sense,” he added. “I came up with that big multiversal war mythology and pitched it out in the room one day to our producers. And they said, yeah, let’s go for it. We knew we were going to end up meeting the man behind the curtain. And then it was just on us to make sure that that meeting really delivered.”
How will Marvel connect the dots?
Now it’s time for some speculation, which is one of the most fun elements of the MCU. How will Marvel explore the fallout of Kang’s death in upcoming movies? Personally, I don’t think it will have much impact on Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings or Eternals. Marvel really needs to focus on introducing an entirely new cast of characters. My guess is that when other Spider-Men start popping up in New York in Spider-Man: No Way Home, Doctor Strange will show up to explain the multiverse to our Peter Parker (Tom Holland). The events of No Way Home will then set off a chain reaction. We will then see the ripples Loki caused in Multiverse of Madness, Quantumania, and beyond.
In the meantime, I think Marvel’s What If…? is going to be more important than it appears. Here’s an intriguing quote from Tom Hiddleston during a recent interview on The Tonight Show:
I am intrigued because I haven’t seen the whole thing. And I know they’ve got, like, everybody from the Marvel universe to voice their characters … And then it sets up a bunch of stuff in the MCU, which I [of course] know nothing about.
Kang’s death opened the door to infinite timelines. The TVA watched the timeline branch in countless directions in the last episode of Loki. What If…? might be a window into those branches.