Warning: The following contains spoilers for Loki! Turn back now if you haven't seen the season premiere on Disney Plus.
Ever since Marvel introduced time travel in Avengers: Endgame, there has always been the potential for things to go very, very wrong in the MCU. But now: enter Loki.
The new Disney Plus series has not only given us a peek behind the temporal curtain with the TVA, but has also introduced several new ‘rules’ that can help explain away any paradoxes or plot-holes. These are seemingly small changes, but also significant ones – they could even help decide what is and isn’t canon in future. With Marvel yet to introduce (or re-introduce) the likes of X-Men, Daredevil, and multiple Spider-Men into the fold, this could be one of the most crucial lore dumps in recent memory.
How has Loki achieved all that in just one episode? It’s all thanks to the Sacred Timeline. At TVA HQ, an infomercial-style video featuring the organization’s mascot Miss Minutes (voiced by Harley Quinn voice actor Tara Strong, no less) reveals that everyone has a set path they must take to avoid diverging from the Sacred Timeline and creating a new timeline.
So, certain things are set in stone and deemed ‘canon’ by the TVA. That even includes the Avengers traveling back in time to 2012 in Avengers: Endgame, an act deemed ‘acceptable’ by the omniscient and mysterious Time Keepers who oversee the flow of time in the universe.
However, Loki scarpering off with the Tesseract is in violation of the Sacred Timeline and he has been labeled a Nexus Event and a "Variant", both temporal anomalies that need to be brought back under control. That’s due to the potential for a "multiversal war" sparking off with various Lokis and who knows what else existing at the same time in the multiverse and doing battle across multiple versions of Earth.
This all echoes the Ancient One’s warning on time travel from Endgame. There, she explains that taking an Infinity Stone from one timeline – as Bruce Banner wanted to do to help assemble Tony Stark’s gauntlet in 2023 – would lead to a new timeline being created where that Stone is no longer present. That, to put it mildly, is not good news.
Captain America, thankfully, helped tidy all that up by returning the Infinity Stones to their rightful place in the timeline – and it also explains why the TVA didn’t get involved at any point: they knew Cap was going to fix the timeline and revert its back to its original straight-line self. Boom. No plot holes, no Nexus Events, no Variants. Easy.
The Sacred Timeline, though, may not exist forever. One theory suggests it seriously runs the risk of creating a major cataclysmic event, one which would see several different universes and timelines all collide into all-out conflict.
For fans, it’d be a neat way to tie in the X-Men, Fantastic Four, and other new heroes without having to retread their origins by having them already existing in other parallel universes. It also allows for certain stories, such as Agents of Shield and Netflix’s Marvel series, to snugly fit just outside the canon as Nexus Events in much the same way the comics use ‘Earth-616’ as its ‘own’ mainline Earth with an infinite amount of Earths running parallel to it.
For the TVA, though, it could be a serious headache. As their ‘canon’ begins to collapse, thanks to Loki, the edges of the multiverse could start to pour in from who knows where – and it could helps turn Marvel Phase 4 into the ground floor for some seriously wild crossovers.
Find out what time Loki's next episode drops where you live with our Loki release schedule.