Loki, like Disney+’s WandaVision and The Falcon and the Winter Soldier before it, is telling a new story about its titular character as he embarks on a journey of self-discovery that spotlights him in ways Marvel Studio’s movies previously haven’t. But the series’ premiere episode, “Glorious Purpose,” featured a handful of interesting plot details that, while important to what’s going on in the series, are also alluding to some of the major events set to unfold in Marvel’s upcoming Phase 4 films.
Loki picks up in 2012 at the point where the Avengers of the future had jumped back into the past in search of the Infinity Stones to defeat their present-day Thanos. As a result of Ant-Man and Iron Man literally fumbling the Tesseract, this version of Loki (more on that in a bit) is able to get ahold of it and transport himself to the Gobi Desert.
There, he briefly attempts to grandstand before a few confused Mongolian people until a number of enforcers from the Time Variance Authority detain the errant Asgardian and proceed to drag him to time jail. Before Loki actually interacts with any humanoid TVA employees like agent Mobius M. Mobius, he’s greeted by the organisation’s welcoming presentation, an animated broadcast hosted by Miss Minutes (Tara Strong), a talking clock who explains how the TVA came to be.
Though Miss Minutes’ video is full of cute gags, it’s also chock full of fascinating information about the origins of what we understand as the MCU’s established timeline. Before the existence of the current reality, a multiversal war raged between different timelines jockeying for supremacy. Seeing how this war came close to ending with the complete destruction of the multiverse, the Time Keepers emerged and worked together to merge the multiverse’s many timelines into one “sacred timeline,” which the TVA was established to help maintain.
The thing Loki balks at the most is the idea that everything that’s occurred within the sacred timeline is part of the Time Keepers’ grand design — a reality that they are in control of. As a chaotic being of mischief, Loki firmly believes that he’s fully in control of the choices he made that led to his being apprehended by the TVA.
But what’s really interesting about Miss Minutes’ presentation is her explanation of what happens when people like Loki wander off the Time Keepers’ beaten path. All-knowing as the beings might be, people do still have the ability to do things they’re not “meant” to, and the TVA labels them as Variants. When Variants go off-script, they create what the TVA calls Nexus Events, moments in the timeline that can lead to offshoots being created that threaten the sacred timeline.
Throughout Miss Minutes’ timeline, the words “nexus,” “madness,” and “multiverse” are all mentioned rather casually, and while the episode doesn’t spell it out exactly, it all feels like a rather obvious glimpse into what’s to come in Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, Sam Raimi’s upcoming MCU film starring Benedict Cumberbatch, Elizabeth Olsen, Benedict Wong, and others.
Both Miss Minutes’ presentation and the Nexus commercial from WandaVision’s seventh episode appear to be the MCU’s answer to the Nexus Beings of Marvel’s comics — individuals like the Scarlet Witch, Kang the Conqueror, and certain versions of Franklin Richards and Jean Grey — who have the innate potential to alter timestreams on a universal scale.
Where Marvel Comics’ Nexus Beings are all ridiculously powerful individuals whose actions often make it easy to see them as villains, the MCU’s reframing seen in Loki makes them somewhat more narratively dynamic, and may explain how all of these stories come to intersect. Even if Loki doesn’t touch back on the idea of the multiverse as its antihero begrudgingly begins working with the TVA to track down other Variants like himself, the show’s premise builds on the idea that these Nexus Events are dangerous enough that the Time Keepers have created an entire police force to prevent them from happening.
Given how Loki’s technically a magical being, it’s interesting to consider whether other magic users like Wanda are similarly on the TVA’s radar, and if so, whether Wanda’s actions in Westview were in accordance with the Time Keepers’ vision for the sacred timeline.
Watching WandaVision, The Falcon and The Winter Soldier, and now Loki, it’s been easy to get the sense that things in the MCU’s universe have been unsettlingly “calm” considering how half of the living population was recently snapped back into existence. Things haven’t been peaceful per se, but by and large, the cataclysmic alterations to reality seen in Infinity War and Endgame haven’t upended the world in ways you might expect to see.
But Loki’s first episode makes clear that while things might seem to be relatively chilled out on the surface, the threat of a multiversal collapse is apparently never all that far away. This, presumably, is why you have doctors on call.