The wait has been excruciating, but Loki, the Marvel/Disney+ series focusing on the further adventures of everyone’s favourite god of mischief, has finally arrived, with the first episode landing Wednesday morning.
And the episode, titled ‘Glorious Purpose’, was certainly an entertaining kick-off for the series, starring Tom Hiddleston as the adopted Asgardian himself, picking up where we last left Loki – or a version of him, at least – after he nabbed the Tesseract in Avengers: Endgame and made good his escape.
Before we move forward, those who have yet to see the premiere should be aware of minor spoilers as we dig into the bureaucratic fun that made up most of this initial offering.
Still with us? Right then… The show’s first episode explains that Loki, shortly after he time/space-jumped, was collared by the Time Variance Authority, an extremely powerful organisation that is none too pleased by him disrupting the flow of time. What follows is a chatty, revealing peek into the many layers of Loki and much entertaining frustration as he attempts to assert his godlike authority, with varying levels of success.
You can read our review here, and let’s dig into the biggest questions of the episode.
Who are the Time-Keepers?
As initially explained by cheery expository cartoon welcome mascot Miss Minutes (voiceover veteran Tara Strong) and further mentioned by Gugu Mbatha-Raw‘s superbly monikered judge Ravonna Renslayer, the Time-Keepers are the creatures who believe in maintaining what they see as the proper flow of time, the “sacred timeline”. Dismissed by Loki as “space lizards”, in the comics they’re semi-humanoid beings who have enormous abilities to manipulate temporal energy, able to crumble civilizations to dust or age someone backwards to before their birth.
They were created by an ancient character called He Who Remains, who saw the heat death of the universe and hatched a plan to help the next time cycle do better. Unfortunately, his first attempt led to the Time-Twisters, flawed beings who ended up messing with time (the TVA tech that keeps Loki in line might well be a nod to them). The Time-Keepers were an attempt to correct that mess, so it stands to reason that we could end up seeing hints of that conflict down the line. Oh, and there is also mention of a fourth member of the group that was created and then exiled to ancient Egypt, so we’ll see if that concept is explored in the series at all.
The Avengers in the comics have had encounters with these beings before, usually not positive, and the Time-Keepers have been particularly concerned with Wanda “Scarlet Witch” Maximoff’s (Elizabeth Olsen in the MCU) status as a Nexus being, who is the same in whichever multiverse timeline you visit, and can cause serious issues. Given WandaVision‘s finale and the character’s future appearance in Doctor Strange In The Multiverse Of Madness, this might be something that could come into play given Marvel’s increasing appetite for playing with the multiverse on TV and in the movies.
Beyond the initial briefing Loki (and the audience) receives, we don’t really glimpse the Time-Keepers themselves. The video mentions a multiverse war that nearly destroyed, well, everything and the creation of the Time-Keepers to restore order. And a crucial element of maintaining that is the Time Variance Authority, which brings us to…
What – and where – is the TVA?
The TVA is another comicbook creation that has made the leap to screens relatively unchanged aside from some cosmetic differences. In Loki, the TVA is still a giant bureaucracy dedicated to maintaining order and making sure the timeline isn’t harmed by the likes of our favourite mischief-maker, who leaps out of his allotted timeline and into a world – sorry, multiverse – of trouble. Inspired by the likes of Douglas Adams, Mad Men and particularly Terry Gilliam‘s Brazil, with its byzantine retro-future offices and numerous layers of rules and regulations.
The TVA is organised into various departments, with Hunters (such as Wunmi Mosaku‘s B-15), who track down Variants, Minutemen, their associated police force (in the comics they’re made up of robots, clones and cyborgs) Judges (including Renslayer) and Agents such as Owen Wilson‘s low-key comics-drawn Mobius, who investigate Variant activity. Apparently there’s also a department that deals with nightmares. We’re hoping there’s also a department of foreshadowing, because that nugget belongs there.
When offered a look at the TVA’s domain through a window, Loki sees a huge vista of buildings , pathways and flying vehicles that wouldn’t look out of place in a 1950s sci-fi film. Or Star Wars, for that matter. Maybe even Guardians Of The Galaxy, if we’re keeping it MCU-centric. As for where it is, that isn’t specified, though it naturally appears to exist out of time (cue Huey Lewis And The News).
This is also clearly a domain of great power – it can tamp down Loki’s magic and even the seemingly all-powerful Infinity Stones are effectively reduced to paperweights here. Which has us thinking that the next threat our heroes will face is going to be on a whole other level. While you have to wonder what enormously powerful beings need with paper-pushers, well, the Time-Keepers can’t be everywhere at once, can they? Maybe everywhen, but even godlike entities need to delegate occasionally.
It’s worth noting that the TVA also hand-waves away Tony Stark and co.’s time-altering mission in Endgame, with Renslayer offering that that was always meant to happen. Convenient! But they’re definitely concerned about Variants, so let’s get into that.
What’s a variant?
In the simplest term, a person who has jumped (or somehow otherwise been pushed) out of their own timeline. Loki Odinson (né Laufeyson) is one such example, and the TVA cannot abide variants since they threaten what the Time-Keepers see as the sacred, proper timeline. And that way lies a multiverse of madness, with the potential for another conflict and the end of ev… Well, you get the picture.
Yet Loki as we first meet him is considered a low-level variant; a problem, yes, but more a nuisance than a major issue, despite all of his big plans. The TVA clearly has Loki’s number (according to the paperwork, it’s L1130).
Far more serious is the existence of another variant, who has been killing TVA officers and stealing their time-resetting charges. This one, who a young witness to one of their crimes, identifies as a horned creature (cue the Mephisto rumours again!) is, according to Mobius… another Loki variant, one with even more dastardly, if as-yet-unspecified aims. The figure at the end is left purposefully cloaked (and cloaked in mystery), so we can only speculate about A) which Loki it might be and B) whether it’s someone or something else pretending to be him.
There have been several versions of Loki in the comicbook past, including Lady Loki, Kid Loki and President Loki and more, so any one of them could conceivably be the big bad here. Though there are also other powerful types who might be responsible. On a pure speculation level, Ravonna Renslayer in the comics has ties to Kang The Conqueror (Lovecraft Country‘s Jonathan Majors reportedly has that role in Ant-Man And The Wasp: Quantumania, so there’s a potential connection there).
Variants can lead to Nexus events, which put the entire multiverse in danger. We’d guess that will be one of the big plot lines here going forward, alongside a look at some very different Lokis. The fun has just begun!