Loki episode one is now streaming on Disney Plus, and while it delivers on more than its share of story hooks, new Marvel Cinematic Universe concepts, and Easter eggs, it also further establishes the connections the show has to its comic book source material.
Though only glimpsed as statues or animated figures, first in the Loki trailers and then in the first episode itself, the show quickly establishes the Time-Keepers as the leaders and bosses of the Time Variance Authority (TVA), upon whose vision and rules the TVA bases its policies.
This connection was implied by the trailers, but its confirmation also signals something of a departure from Marvel Comics history in which the TVA and Time-Keepers are connected in a different way - and it may hint at an eventual twist for later episodes of Loki.
Who are the Time-Keepers?
True to their nature as beings outside of time who exist and interact with people and events throughout Marvel history, the Time-Keepers have a somewhat unique timeline in terms of how their real-world origins line up with their comic book story.
In the continuity of the Marvel Universe of comic books, the Time-Keepers are actually the successors of the TVA, who exist far in the future after the TVA has all but disappeared. However, in real-world terms, the Time-Keepers actually predate the TVA, having been introduced years earlier before their stories were eventually connected.
To tell the tale of the Time-Keepers, we've got to jump around in Marvel history a bit, as the Time-Keepers have been added retroactively into the context of many Marvel stories that predate their actual debut. Oddly enough, the Time-Keepers are predated on the page themselves by their own evil duplicates, known as the Time Twisters - and it's all part of the origin of the Time-Keepers themselves.
Unlike the MCU, which presents the Time-Keepers as "space lizards" who come from a mysterious place to right the "Sacred Timeline" and quell the unrest caused by the worlds of the multiverse going to war with each other, comic books present the Time-Keepers as artificial beings created by a mysterious entity known only as He Who Remains, the last living agent of the TVA.
In order to maintain the order and chronological supremacy of the TVA, He Who Remains creates artificial beings meant to both channel chronal energy, and provide a record of the timeline to whatever society arises when the universe ends and restarts. However, his experiment goes totally awry, and instead of creating the Time-Keepers, He Who Remains inadvertently creates the Time Twisters, a trio of beings who, rather than maintaining order in the timeline, become unstuck in time and travel throughout the history of the Marvel Universe wreaking havoc.
Incidentally, the term "Time Twister" has appeared in Loki already, referring to the security devices the TVA uses to manipulate their captives' position in time and space, though no reference to "Time Twisters" as beings has been made yet.
As for the comic book Time Twisters, He Who Remains manages to enlist the help of Thor (though Loki isn't really in the picture at all) to defeat the Time Twisters, and successfully create a new version of the Time-Keepers, who take the form of three somewhat lizard-like beings called Ast, Vorth, and Zanth, and who begin their duty as the guardians of the end of time, working somewhat in concert with the TVA - though their connections aren't quite the same as in the MCU.
Still, that was not the end of the Time Twisters, whose villainy eventually ropes in characters such as Kang and Scarlet Witch, who have important MCU roles coming up. When He Who Remains creates the actual Time-Keepers after getting a visit from himself and Thor that shows him what the Time Twisters will become, the Time Twisters are shunted into an alternate timeline where they are never replaced by the Time-Keepers, and continue harassing and disrupting the timestream.
The Time-Keepers in the Marvel Universe
Weirdly enough, it's actually the Time Twisters who have had the most impact on the Marvel Universe rather than the Time-Keepers - but their influence comes through their tendency to impersonate the Time-Keepers to manipulate people.
Chief on the list of Marvel characters who have become unwitting pawns of the Time Twisters is Immortus, an older version of Kang the Conqueror who works as an agent of the Time-Keepers in direct conflict with his younger self, trying to right the wrongs of Kang's conquest.
However, when the Time Twisters impersonate and replace the Time-Keepers, they put Immortus on a quest to eliminate a variety of timelines and beings that the Twisters feel will threaten their supremacy.
Targeting what they call 'Nexus Beings' - beings tied to specific realities and timelines who have a direct connection to the Multiverse - the Time Twisters task Immortus with eliminating none other than Wanda Maximoff, the Scarlet Witch and the Nexus Being of the core Marvel Universe, with the intent of using Immortus as a receptacle for them to absorb her vacated power.
As part of the scheme, the Time Twisters also try to kill alt-reality versions of Franklin Richards, Jean Grey, Vision, and Odin. Though these machinations are eventually stopped, Immortus' plans to get at Wanda Maximoff eventually result in the events of House of M, in which Wanda has a psychological break and rewrites reality entirely.
Immortus' associations with the Time-Keepers/Time Twisters don't stop there. In fact, it's Immortus' orders from the Time-Keepers to stop his younger self Kang from altering the timestream any further that result in the story Avengers Forever, in which a group of Avengers from past, present, and future are brought together to help end a war for the timestream brought on by Kang.
And of course, Immortus and Kang's rivalry also includes Immortus' partnership with Ravonna Lexus Renslayer, played by Gugu Mbatha-Raw as one of the TVA's Judges in Loki, who in comics is Kang's jilted lover turned enemy. Ravonna acts as an agent of Immortus, reuniting with Kang in a secret ploy to destroy him at Immortus' behest.
These schemes-within-schemes eventually lead to Ravonna trying to take over the Avengers by manipulating one-time member Doctor Druid and others, along with an attempt by Kang to do the same thing by subverting Tony Stark, who is then temporarily replaced by his own younger self.
During their last attempt to destroy the so-called Nexus Beings, the Time Twisters were apparently eliminated themselves.
The Time-Keepers are teased to be returning to comics this August as part of the Kang the Conquerer limited series, as they've been shown on Peach Momoko's variant cover.
Coincidence? We think not.
The Time-Keepers in the MCU
If your Easter egg alarms were buzzing while reading about the role of the Time-Keepers and Time Twisters in Marvel Comics, you're right on the money, as many of the ideas, plotlines, and characters that are central to the story of the Time-Keepers and Time Twisters are either already in the MCU, planned to come to it, or were hinted at directly in Loki.
First off, there's the origin story of how the Time-Keepers and the TVA came to be the monitors of what they call the "Sacred Timeline" of the MCU.
Told in a '60s Disneyland attraction-style animated vignette, the story of the Time-Keepers begins with a multiverse at war, as numerous timelines vie for conquest and supremacy. According to the story, the Time-Keepers took it upon themselves to eliminate the troublesome timelines and bring peace to the Multiverse by creating and maintaining what they see as the core, essential events of the Marvel Cinematic Universe - their Sacred timeline. To do this, they employ the TVA.
Also explained in the animated vignette are the concept of 'Variants' (such as Loki), people or beings whose actions have put them at odds with the Sacred Timeline. Per the TVA's explanation, 'Variants' are created when beings who have some importance enact so-called 'Nexus Events' - like Loki changing the events of Avengers by escaping with the Tesseract, as seen at the start of the show - that would alter the events of the Sacred Timeline if not corrected, resulting in "madness."
Right off the bat, your MCU Spidey-Sense should be tingling. For one thing, 'Nexus Events' sounds a lot like 'Nexus Beings' from Marvel Comics, as in Wanda Maximoff and other important characters who have unique, formative roles in their respective worlds of the Multiverse. Wanda is the MCU's Scarlet Witch, a term which in MCU continuity dictates someone with the power to truly alter reality through their connection to magic and the Multiverse, meaning that she's likely to play a major role in whatever Loki is building to.
Wanda will also play a role in Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness - and if that title is immediately making your hair stand on end since Loki episode one describes Nexus Events as causing "madness," you're likely on the right track as Loki is said to lead directly into that film.
What's more, the MCU Time-Keepers, like the Time Twisters, are said to eliminate problem timelines and to have ended a war for conquest of the multiverse. That sounds a hell of a lot like the way the Time-Keepers and Time Twisters have approached Kang the Conqueror, who in comics is a dictator who rules across multiple timelines and realities, and is an enemy of the Avengers.
Kang is scheduled to be the villain of Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania, played by Jonathan Majors. With the Quantum Realm which allowed the Avengers to time travel in Avengers: Endgame likely at the heart of the film, which apparently takes its name from the concept, it seems that Kang's MCU origins could tie right back to the explanation offered by the TVA's narrative of the Time-Keepers.
And that's to say nothing of the potential implications of the idea that the Time-Keepers (and by extension the TVA) aren't what they claim to be in their own narrative of their history, especially considering their ongoing rivalry with the Time Twisters. With Ravonna already in the show as an agent of the TVA, could her connections to Immortus and the Time-Keepers also come into play, perhaps as a way to lead into Quantumania's introduction of Kang himself?
Also, since it's Loki we're talking about, it's worth remembering that Thor played a direct role in defeating the original Time Twisters and creating the Time-Keepers.
The further implications of Loki episode one go far beyond the surface of the Time-Keepers' connections to Wanda Maximoff, Kang, Thor, and more, with potential references in the show's first episode to Mephisto, Doctor Strange's enemy Nightmare, the Marvel Comics dream police known as the Sleepwalkers, and of course the idea of multiple variant versions of Loki all running around making trouble.
With such a tangled web - and all of the Multiverse and its timelines in play - it's almost impossible to predict exactly how the Time-Keepers and the Time Twisters will affect the MCU and the overall role they will play. But as you can see, the concept of the Time-Keepers and their personal view of the Multiverse has more than its share of connections and implications for whatever is coming next in the MCU, including some stories that have already been established.
If you're reading this, you're probably a Loki fan. In that case, make sure you've read all the best Loki stories of all time.