This article contains nothing but spoilers for Loki episode 1. We have a spoiler-free review here.
Marvel’s Loki episode 1 has finally arrived on Disney+! And in the grand scheme of things, this one is much closer to WandaVision than The Falcon and the Winter Soldier in terms of its tone, weirdness, and overall sense of mystery. The halls of the TVA are packed with obscure Marvel Comics lore and hints of what’s to come for the MCU, and we’re here to try and help you make sense of all of it.
The MCU and Loki Timeline
It’s appropriate that the first thing we see in Loki is a scene from Avengers: Endgame, the time-iest, wime-iest Marvel movie of them all (so far) and whose timeline branching/headache inducing time travel rules are crucial to the central concepts of Loki.
Basically, the most important thing to remember here is that this ISN’T the Loki who died at the start of Avengers: Infinity War, but rather the Loki who had only JUST been a supreme dick in the first Avengers movies. And as we see in this episode, TV Loki has not lived through the events of Thor: The Dark World or Thor: Ragnarok (both of which we see shown to him by Agent Mobius) nor has he um…died through the opening of Infinity War. Yet. Which helps explain why he’s more incorrigible than usual.
The Time Variance Authority (TVA)
The Time Variance Authority was created by Walt Simonson in the pages of his legendary run on Marvel’s Thor comics (seriously, it’s one of the best of all time) back in 1986. They’ve made sporadic appearances in Marvel Comics continuity since then, always in their inimitable and quirky style. They’re a much bigger deal now, though.
If you’d have told us back in 2008 when Iron Man came out that the TVA would be the central piece of a Loki TV series, well…
Owen Wilson as Mobius
You mean Owen Wilson’s Mobius M. Mobius, TVA bureaucrat extraordinaire, and he of the tremendous onscreen chemistry with Tom Hiddleston’s Loki? THAT Mobius M. Mobius? Well, yes, he is indeed from the comics.
In fact, in the comics, all middle-management TVA “employees” look exactly like Mobius. This was a loving nod towards the brilliant Marvel writer/editor Mark Gruenwald, keeper of Marvel continuity in the ‘80s and ‘90s (and also author of one of the longest and best runs of Captain America comics, but that’s a story for another time). It appears that in the MCU, there’s only one Mobius, but who can tell with the TVA, right?
Anyway, it’s pretty cool that Owen Wilson is basically playing a legendary Marvel Comics writer, through a fun little meta lens.
Gugu Mbatha-Raw as Ravonna Renslayer
Gugu Mbatha-Raw (who you may still best know from Black Mirror’s standout San Junipero episode) plays Ravonna Renslayer, a former TVA Hunter-turned-judge. In the comics, Ravonna was a time-traveling princess linked to Kang the Conqueror, but Loki’s version of the character is quite different – at least so far. We do know that there’s some Kang-flavored stuff coming up in Ant-Man 3 though, so watch this space.
Mbatha-Raw has noted that the character has lots of future MCU potential, so we assume we’ll learn a lot more about her in upcoming episodes.
Wunmi Mosaku as Hunter B-15
As far as we can tell, Wunmi Mosaku’s Hunter B-15 isn’t directly based on any one Marvel Comics character. But her general badassery and take-no-shit-from-anyone attitude feels faintly reminiscent of Justice Peace, the very first TVA agent who was ever introduced, back in the first TVA story from the aforementioned Walt Simonson Thor run.
In Marvel, the main universe was created after the heat death of the previous one. The last living employee of that reality’s TVA, known as He Who Remains, created the Time-Keepers in order to protect the new timeline. His first attempt led to the Time-Twisters, who were flawed and used their logic and authority to destroy certain realities. They were introduced in Thor #282, where Thor split their reality in two. In the reality where the Time-Twisters were destroyed, He Who Remains replaced them with the more improved Time-Keepers.
While relatively more benevolent than their multiversal rivals, the Timekeepers did oppose the Avengers in the miniseries Avengers Forever, which was mainly a storyline put together to explain away certain issues of Avengers continuity.
The “orientation” video that Miss Minutes shows to new Variants includes a couple of fun nods to Marvel stuff of the past…
- A robot that looks suspiciously like HERBIE from the Hanna-Barbera Fantastic Four cartoon is here. This is now the 2nd Marvel Disney+ show to tease Fantastic Four stuff, but it’s a VERY safe bet that the generally-despised HERBIE will always/only be part of some alternate FF universe…or will he?
- The two warring armies we witness appear to be the Kree and the Wakandans. While that standoff hasn’t happened in the comics to the best of our knowledge, Ta-Nehisi Coates just wrapped up a long and excellent run of Black Panther comics where Wakanda became the inspiration for a colonial intergalactic empire, so maybe this is a tease for Black Panther 2.
Also, it’s pretty cool how it switches to a retro 4:3 aspect ratio for this segment, perfectly in keeping with the overall aesthetic of the TVA.
Oh yeah, and just as everyone suspected but Marvel refused to confirm when Miss Minutes’ voice was first heard in the trailer, that’s Tara Strong doing the honors.
The Marvel Multiverse
So, the TVA is in charge of making sure “the sacred timeline” remains intact. That “sacred timeline” is the main continuity of the MCU. They’re doing this because nexus events create new timelines, and they’ve had problems with that before.
To give you a small sample, the “main” Marvel Comics continuity timeline is referred to as “Earth-616,” while the MCU is “Earth-199999” So this means the “sacred timeline” referred to here is designation 199999.
This all happened due to a multiversal war. This seems to be a shout out to Jonathan Hickman’s Avengers/New Avengers run, which culminated in 2015’s Secret Wars. In this storyline, entropy was spreading through the multiverse and was causing alternate Earths to collide. Either both realities would be destroyed or one reality would live on by annihilating the other. This led to the mainstream Marvel Universe and the Ultimate Marvel Universe going to war with each other as the last realities standing. Thanks to the efforts of Dr. Doom, Dr. Strange, Molecule Man, and later Reed Richards, a new main timeline was created in the aftermath.
It also might be something of a reference to “Timequake,” a five-issue story arc that took place in the issues of What If #35-39 back in the 1990s. It involved a plot by the Time-Twisters and Immortus using various players from alternate timelines as pawns. They were eventually thwarted by Uatu the Watcher, the TVA, and a last-minute intervention from the Timekeepers themselves.
According to the TVA orientation video and its big Jurassic Park vibes, Variants cause Nexus events – unauthorized branches in the timeline – sometimes just by being late for work! If the word “Nexus” is ringing a bell, it’s because we previously saw it manifest in WandaVision during the antidepressant commercial in the seventh episode.
In Marvel Comics, the Nexus of All Realities first appeared in 1972’s Fear #11. It’s a cross-dimensional gateway that provides access to all possible realities and is a place where all the realities of the multiverse intersect (amusingly, Howard the Duck was brought to Earth in the comics via the Nexus of All Realities) Wanda Maximoff is often referred to as a “Nexus Being”, a multiversal anchor who protects us from threats outside our reality.
At another point during the TVA orientation video, Miss Minutes says that a Nexus event that is left unchecked could branch off into “madness” leading to another multiversal war. It’s probably not an accident that the word “madness” is used here, as next March we’re getting a movie called Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness.
Is it a pretty safe bet that at some point during this series the TVA is going to fail in their mission to keep the timeline sacred? Will a Loki Variant be responsible?
Oh, and speaking of Doctor Strange…
The Nightmare Department
Mobius makes reference to something called “The Nightmare Department,” which is presumably part of whatever bureaucratic cosmology exists behind the scenes of the MCU. The inter-dimensional being known as Nightmare is a key foe of Doctor Strange. Hmmmm…
Now, we know that we all had fun speculating about Mephisto’s inclusion in WandaVision, and a big ol’ red-horned devil in a stained-glass window in this episode sure is gonna have everyone doing the Leonardo DiCaprio pointing meme. But sadly, folks, this ain’t a Mephisto reference.
“The devil in the church actually genuinely is coincidental,” Loki director Kate Herron tells us. “That’s meant to be a reference to our show. It’s a metaphor for Loki with the horns and, you know, he was cast out of heaven so that is coincidental.”
Next time, baby…
And to think that back when Avengers: Infinity War was on the way, people were speculating that Loki would be taking the Mephisto role from Infinity Gauntlet. I guess we were just a few years off.
Believe it or not, the blue mouth gum that the variant Loki gifts kind of has a comics connection. Not as in it’s a Marvel easter egg or anything, but in that it feels like a nod to something that was omnipresent in old comic books.
Y’see, back in the day, every comic had an ad page that was nothing but novelty gifts: joy buzzers, whoopie cushions, X-ray glasses (which you may recognize as the Den of Geek logo), and gum that would turn the unsuspecting recipient’s mouth blue or black. Loki, in true trickster fashion, gave this poor little French kid some of that novelty gum, leaving him with a blue mouth.
It’s a clever nod to a piece of comic book history, and one that’s extremely appropriate for the God of Mischief.
The show depicts a real event in this episode, as it reveals that Loki was in fact famed skyjacker DB Cooper. For those who might not know, a well dressed and polite man known as “Dan Cooper” hijacked a plane flying between Portland and Seattle on Nov. 24, 1971. His master plan was to escape with $20,000 in cash and parachuted out of the plane somewhere over the Pacific Northwest…and was never heard from again.
Eventually, a portion of the cash that was identified as being part of Cooper’s haul was found in the woods (hence the historically accurate depiction of the cash scattering as Loki is yanked away by the Rainbow Bridge), but Cooper himself was never truly positively identified. So really, the idea that it might have just been Loki having some fun is as plausible an explanation as any.
Chalk this up as one of the great DB Cooper pop culture moments!
The vaguely dystopian propaganda vibe given off by the posters that line the walls of the TVA is no accident. We sense elements of The Prisoner here, with some of the messages feeling like they could have come from “the village” of that series.
We’ll have more from Ms. Herron about the influences of the show soon!
Aw, What’s in the Drawer?
Aside from the MANY Infinity Stones in Casey’s drawer, there’s also a medallion, a cross, and what appears to be a dagger of some kind. This is a stretch but…is this a hint that Dracula is coming to the MCU in the Blade movie and (ok, fine, fine we’ll stop).
All jokes aside, this tracks fairly well to how we know the Infinity Stones work in the comics. In Secret Wars, Battleworld was comprised of the bits and pieces of the multiverse that Doom and Dr. Strange could save before it was annihilated by the Beyonders. Strange suspected that Doom (all powerful at the time) might need to be taken down at some point in the future, so he made sure to grab a set of Infinity Gems to use on him. However, they only worked in their home reality, so on Battleworld, that meant that if you traveled to a different land with the Stones from the first, they’d stop working at the border.
Casey’s drawer looks like it’s full of inert stones from variant timelines that don’t work because they’re no longer connected to their home realm.
Who is Casey?
And was that a nod to Scream when Loki tells him “I’ll gut you like a fish?”
A favorite drink at the TVA is Josta, which was one of the first “energy drinks” before those were really a thing. It was manufactured by Pepsi and only briefly available in the mid-to-late ‘90s, back when everything had to be “extreme.” It’s pretty funny that in addition to using outmoded analog technology, the TVA also consumes outmoded soft drinks. We guess it’s pretty easy to get whatever you need when you can go anywhere on the timeline.
Miscellaneous Time Fragments
- There appears to be a variant Skrull in the waiting room of the TVA when Loki is first brought in. He’s the guy in the tracksuit.
- When we go to Salina, OK (1858) at the end of the episode, there’s a very cool piece of Jack Kirby-lookin’ technology laying around. What the hell is that, a shovel?
- Salina is a couple hundred miles east of Broxton, the spot in Oklahoma where Asgard reemerged after its Disassembled-related final Ragnarok in the comics. Coincidence? Probably.
- The consequences for not having a ticket during your TVA orientation are only SLIGHTLY more severe than the ones Indy dished out to a deserving Nazi in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. “No ticket!”
- It also sets up a fun parallel to Thor on Sakaar from Thor: Ragnarok. Like Thor, Loki is a confused prisoner in a bizarre new land, given an introduction via family entertainment (theme park dark ride/1950s-style cartoon), only to realize how serious shit is by seeing a fellow prisoner get horribly vaporized nearby.
The entitled jerk who gets vaporized by the TVA is named Martin. He doesn’t appear to have any significance to the larger Marvel Universe, but his dad is on the board of Goldman Sachs…don’t know if you’ve heard. Martin is played by Josh Fadem, who you may recognize as one of Jimmy McGill’s college student cameramen on Better Call Saul. He has also voiced characters on American Dad and The Powerpuff Girls.
Spot anything we missed? Let us know in the comments!