As Loki’s become more familiar with the inner workings of the Time Variance Authority over the course of his Disney+ solo series, the Asgardian’s conceptualisation of reality’s been repeatedly torn asunder, in moments where he’s presented with truths about the wider multiverse the MCU takes place in. Take, for example, the existence of multiple Lokis — Variants — from drastically different realities.
After giving audiences a small look at a handful of Loki Variants early in the series, and subsequently establishing that Sylvie, apparently a female Loki, was one of its main antagonists, Loki’s focus shifted largely to following her and the prime Loki as the pair decided to team up and thwart the TVA.
Even though Sylvie’s been shown to be a formidable fighter and sorcerer whose powers threaten the TVA’s goal of maintaining the Sacred Timeline, it’s always seemed inevitable that the timeline-pruning organisation itself would eventually be revealed as nefarious with half of Loki’s first season already over, there was a possibility that the series was through playing around with fun bits of world building like other Lokis in order to ramp up to the finale. But this week’s episode, “The Nexus Event,” ended with an interesting mid-credits scene that opened up the possibility for a bit more mischief in the coming weeks.
When Loki was first dragged into the TVA for processing, he only began cooperating after witnessing first hand how it was nothing for TVA guards to erase people from existence entirely with just a simple jab from one of their batons. It was never explained what, exactly, happens to a person after they’re hit with the pruning stick and their bodies disintegrate. But given how the TVA was created to completely destroy errant timelines before they metastasise into a multiverse of madness, it stood to reason that “pruning” was tantamount to meeting one’s true death with no hope of resurrection.
In the final moments of “The Nexus Event”, Loki and Sylvie finally manage to get that face-to-face with the Time Keepers they’ve both been hellbent on, and they’re devastated when they realise that the three majestic beings in front of them are merely robots, and whether or not there’s real Time Keepers behind them is suddenly a different question.
Having killed multiple TVA agents and exposed themselves as being every bit the threat to authority Ravonna Renslayer insisted they were, Loki and Sylvie know that there’s likely no way either of them is going to escape the time prison alive. Figuring that they’ve got nothing to lose, Loki takes a moment to profess something earnest and important to Sylvie, who’s come to see her multiversal counterpart as something like an ally — but before Loki gets a chance to say anything, a very much alive Renslayer pokes him in the back with a pruning stick.
“The Nexus Event” first ends with a furious Sylvie threatening Ravonna’s life unless she divulges everything she knows about what’s really going on at the TVA, but after the episode’s first round of credits begin to roll, the episode cuts to a still-alive Loki coming-to wherever pruned things end up. When Loki wonders if he’s finally “died” and been transported to Hel, a quartet of strangers inform him that while he’s not dead yet, that will change if he doesn’t join them:
If the characters costumes were not indication enough of who the four people are, the full credits that play after their appearances spells it out clearly. At some point, Classic Loki (Richard E. Grant), Boastful Loki (Deobia Oparei), Kid Loki (Jack Veal), and Reptile Loki all ended up being pruned and sent to whatever desolate place “our” Loki now finds himself in, and their unintended meeting feels especially portentous.
Because of Loki’s multiversal conceit, one of the most promising things about the series was its potential to pull stunts like this to incorporate vastly different incarnations of the same character into a singular, tightly-crafted live-action story. Each of the Lokis’ appearances speak to what sorts of home realities they all come from, all of which are callbacks to different takes on Loki that have appeared in Marvel’s comics over the decades.
Classic Loki’s cartoonish cape, Kermit-like collar, and unwieldy horns all resemble Loki’s comics self during the Silver Age of Comics, when he first began appearing as a megalomaniacal pain in the Avengers’ side. Like Classic Loki, Kid Loki also has a direct comics parallel in the young Loki who was first introduced in Matt Fraction and Pasqual Ferry’s Thor #617.
The comics Kid Loki steps onto the scene following the original Loki’s (and the rest of Asgard’s) death at the hands of Sentry. Rather than being transported to Hel following his death, Loki is instead reborn as an amnesiac teenager who sets out to atone for his former self’s sins. What’s interesting about Loki’s Kid Loki is both his youth, and the crown-wearing Reptile Loki he holds much in the way one might a pet or a familiar.
While Loki hasn’t spent a considerable amount of time as an alligator in the comics, comics Kid Loki does end up transforming the malevolent echo of his former self into a magpie familiar he dubs Ikol to emphasise how they are one another’s opposites. Loki’s reptile Loki sporting his own pair of golden horns suggests that whatever the creature is, it’s of some importance to the Lokis, and if it turns out to be Ikol, the character could go on to have a much larger role to play in the MCU down the line.
Rounding out the quartet is Oparei’s ‘Boastful Loki’, a Variant who has no direct comics parallel, but wields a curious golden hammer fashioned out of a wrench. In the comics, Loki’s managed to get ahold of and life Thor’s magical hammer Mjolnir on a number of unique circumstantial occasions that negated the enchantments preventing anyone but the god of thunder or those deemed ‘worthy’ from lifting it.
Loki being “inverted” into the God of Heroism and Truth during Marvel’s AXIS event made him worthy of Mjonir’s might, and a larger issue with Thor made it possible for Loki to briefly pick the hammer up in Donny Cates, Nic Klein, and Matt Wilson’s Thor #4. Of all the things Boastful Loki might boast about, besting his brother and snatching his hammer seems rather high on the list, and it’s going to be interesting to see which bits — if any — of the comics Lokis’ lore is incorporated into that specific character.
What’s really especially promising about these new Lokis, though, is how their presence gives Loki a chance to play around elements of Loki’s comics identity in ways that a typical MCU story might otherwise not. In the same way that WandaVision created a space in the MCU for the stylings and tones of 20th century American sitcoms, Classic Loki could easily bring some much needed levity to Loki in the form of nonsensical Silver Age antics that, by his reality’s standards, are quite normal, for example.
There are just two episodes of Loki left in which the series is going to tackle whatever secrets Ravonna’s been hiding about the TVA — and presumably seeing at least some of the Loki’s escape the place they’re in to make a stand against the Time Keepers, or whatever force has been mucking around with the timeline. An awful lot can happen over the course of two episodes, though, and it would be fantastic to see more of these new Variants in their natural (or native) elements if only to add just a little bit more of that What If…? energy to Loki’s already wild story.