Loki Episode 1 Answers The Question: What's Stronger Than An Infinity Stone?

The third MCU TV show has hit Disney+, here's a recap of Episode 1, Glorious Purpose.

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This week saw the premiere of a brand-new MCU TV show on Disney+ in an all new timeslot. Loki will be released weekly on Wednesdays, rather than Fridays like its precursors WandaVision and Falcon and The Winter Soldier--but all this change really means for most fans is their theorizing and speculating will now have to be done mid-week rather than over the weekend. And Episode 1, "Glorious Purpose," left plenty to start theorizing about--including the introduction of a brand-new (to the MCU, at least) bureaucratic body that is more powerful than even the Infinity Stones.

The premiere picked up where you'd expect, with Loki's surreptitious escape from the Avengers back in 2012, thanks to the Tesseract. This event was shown in Endgame, leading fans to speculate that Loki, the show, would actually follow Loki's adventures using the Tesseract, which contained the Space Stone, as he hopped around the universe causing chaos. It turns out that isn't the case--Loki's teleportation with the Tesseract from Avengers Tower sent him to Mongolia, where he was able to give about a minute's worth of villainous monologue to the locals before he was interrupted and apprehended by the Time Variance Authority (TVA).

The TVA is an extra-dimensional organization charged with maintaining the "sacred timeline." It turns out that Loki was flagged as a variant for stepping off his predetermined timeline. He was swiftly apprehended and brought to the TVA headquarters, located somewhere outside of normal time and space, to stand trial for his offenses.

In the TVA, he (and we, the viewers) learn that long ago, there was a great multiversal war where multiple timelines battled for dominance and nearly caused the destruction of reality. That's when the Time-Keepers, a trio of "space lizards" as Loki calls them, stepped in and organized the disparate timelines into one--the "sacred timeline"--and then created the TVA, an organization charged with maintaining the flow of events and preventing any splintered timelines from branching out to cause another war.

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In the comics, the TVA's mission is less focused on the prevention of a multiversal war. Instead they guard what is called the "omniverse" and all its associated realities from temporal and reality-hopping threats like Kang the Conqueror. It's all a lot of very comic book sci-fi logic--if it helps, think of them as a sort of meta-commentary on complicated superhero continuity, similar to the Monitors over at DC. Several agents are even designed to look like past Marvel editors as a little in-joke about editorial responsibility and continuity management. The exact extent and scope of the comics TVA is vast but mostly fluid--they don't show up very often and are rarely major players in top tier events, so it's safe to assume that the MCU version is getting a considerable makeover in ways we have yet to really see in the show.

Notably, this episode establishes that both magic and magical objects--including the Infinity Stones--are totally useless within the TVA's headquarters. They've even collected enough Infinity Stones, presumably from thwarted nexus events and variants, that the bureaucrats literally use them as paper weights and desk baubles. This of course begs any number of questions about the limits of the TVA's power and authority--for example, how many Infinity War and Endgame-level crisis events has the TVA had to circumvent in the past? What would happen if a rogue officer were to escape HQ with a pocket full of Infinity Stones to play with? Is there anyone even remotely capable of standing up to the Time-Keepers for any reason, should they turn out to be evil?

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With any luck these questions will be answered by the end of the series. But in the meantime, there's more to the TVA than just mind boggling power. Among their agents is a man named Mobius (Owen Wilson) who happens to be on a very challenging case. There's a variant who has been hopscotching through time and evading the TVA's strike teams as they go, threatening the integrity of the timeline and, notably, stealing TVA equipment in the process--specifically temporal charges, meant to detonate and "reset" time after a variant-caused event.

Mobius believes that Loki can help him catch this variant--and for good reason. Apparently, the TVA has identified that the rogue variant actually is a version of Loki. That's unfortunately all the info we get about that particular bombshell, so how and why a version of Loki is galavanting around time is left a mystery.

Needless to say, the TVA higher-ups, specifically Ravonna Renslayer (Gugu Mbatha-Raw) aren't exactly thrilled about Mobius's plan, but eventually acquiesce, and we end the episode with Mobius and Loki forming a tenuous agreement.

Some things to note in this episode:

  • The TVA is so powerful that not only can Loki not use his magic, but even the Infinity Stones are rendered completely useless. Office workers can use them as paper weights.
  • There are lots of explicit nods and callouts to the multiverse in this episode alone, something that the MCU is obviously building towards for the upcoming Dr. Strange in the Multiverse of Madness movie. With the added context from the TVA's infomercial, we can assume that the creation of a multiverse will involve a lot of branching timelines and, presumably, hasn't actually happened yet.
  • The Time-Keepers themselves seem to be a little shady--just listen to the way Revona talks about them during Loki's trial.
  • It's too early to tell just how much this version of Revona will relate to her comics counterpart but in the books, Revona has a history that connects to Kang the Conqueror.
  • How does the TVA know that it's a Loki variant causing all this trouble and what makes this Loki variant so dangerous? Where did they come from?
  • Notably, the infomercial calls the events where timelines diverge "nexus events," which is the second time we've heard the MCU use that word in that way--WandaVision Episode 7 which featured a commercial for an antidepressant drug called "Nexus." In Marvel Comics there is the concept of a "Nexus Being," which isn't often used but describes entities that have the ability to affect and change probability and the future. Notable Nexus Beings include Wanda, Kang the Conqueror, and Franklin Richards.
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