Marvel’s Loki: Making Sense of the MCU’s Time Travel Rules

This text comprises spoilers for Loki episode 1, Avengers: Endgame, and maybe the very material of actuality itself.

No one mentioned time journey was simple. When Marvel Studios formally launched temporal shenanigans into its cinematic canon in Avengers: Endgame, it did so with noble intentions. Our Avengers needed to save the universe and recapture the 50% of the inhabitants that Thanos dusted away. The best means to take action was with a touch of Pym particles and an entanglement inside the Quantum Realm. 

Sadly, nonetheless, participating with time journey means participating with its guidelines. Now that the studio’s third Disney+ collection Loki has introduced the God of Mischief into contact with the Time Variance Authority and the Time Keepers’ Sacred Timeline, the Marvel Cinematic Universe faces the unenviable job of constructing sense of the unimaginable.

By way of one episode, Loki has finished a strong job of explaining the foundations and stakes of time journey because it applies to Loki, itself. Nonetheless, some questions stay about how the foundations of time established in Loki apply to Avengers: Endgame’s time heist and the remainder of the MCU at giant. For a correct instance, check out these very astute questions raised by Brit within the remark part of our Loki Episode 1 Easter eggs article

“Please can we’ve a Q&A article on this. Aren’t there already two timelines? One with Steve Rogers within the Avengers and one the place he stayed in Peggy? (Editor’s Notice: Phrasing) And a 3rd the place Thanos left? Both means, aren’t there already a number of? And shouldn’t Steve Rogers be classed as a variant as he went rogue?”

The easy reply to all of those questions is that, regardless of its interconnected nature, the Marvel Cinematic Universe is made up of particular person movies (and now TV exhibits) written by particular person writers. So the occasions of Avengers: Endgame might not make excellent canonical sense in Loki. We all know for a incontrovertible fact that Loki’s TVA journey was not conceived of till Avengers: Endgame had already been written by Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely. In an interview with EW, Marvel head Kevin Feige revealed that Loki stealing the Tesseract was by no means designed to guide into one other time journey story.

“[That scene] was actually extra of a wrinkle in order that one of many missions that the Avengers went on in Endgame might get screwed up and never go properly, which is what required Cap and Tony to go additional again in time to the ’70s,” Feige mentioned.

If the time journey guidelines of Loki are to be per the time journey guidelines of Avengers: Endgame it will likely be solely as a result of the later present retrofitted itself to work inside them. For what it’s value, Loki head author Michael Waldron (who beforehand wrote for the timey wimey Rick and Morty) claims that the present’s strategy to time journey guidelines are bulletproof.

“I used to be at all times very aware of the truth that there’s every week between every of our episodes and these followers are going to do precisely what I’d do, which is decide this aside. We needed to create a time-travel logic that was so hermetic it might maintain over six hours. There’s some time-travel sci-fi ideas right here that I’m longing for my Rick and Morty colleagues to see,” Waldron told Vanity Fair.

In that very same interview, Waldron notes that Avengers: Endgame presents the foundations of time journey as The Avengers perceive them. Maybe which means that Loki will right the Avengers in some areas and make clear the foundations in future episodes. If that’s the case, Loki could have lots of work to do. As we perceive all the foundations now, the time journey of Endgame does seem like at odds with the time journey of Loki in a number of respects.

Hopefully, the present will clarify away these inconsistencies. In case it doesn’t, nonetheless, let’s attempt to do it ourselves. 

Why Have been the Occasions of Endgame Sanctioned?

Because of Loki episode 1 “Glorious Purpose” we’ve one little bit of helpful canonical info with regards to the time journey in Avengers: Endgame. When Loki stands trial for his timecrimes, he tries to cross blame onto the Avengers. However the choose presiding over his case, Ravonna Renslayer (Gugu Mbatha-Uncooked), tells Loki that everything the Avengers did was supposed to happen

How can that be the case although? Nearly every thing that The Avengers did seems to fly within the face of the Time Keepers’ mission of sustaining the Sacred Timeline. Tony and Steve’s crew despatched no fewer than 11 people again in time to 3 distinct time intervals. They then eliminated sacred objects from these time streams, introduced them again to the current, used them, then returned them to their acceptable places in time. How on Earth did that not create dozens if not tons of of recent timelines that threaten the singular supremacy of the Sacred Timeline?

I’ve received two potential explanations for that, each of that are imperfect and flawed. However absent additional info from Loki, they is likely to be the most effective we will do for now. 

The primary choice is that maybe the TVA is oversimplifying how neat and tidy the Sacred Timeline appears to be like. Throughout the TVA workplaces, the visible illustration of the Sacred Timeline is a single straight line on their pc screens, with probably harmful new timelines being represented by jagged recent strains branching off from the primary line. Whereas this can be a useful visible for the TVA workplace drones to regulate issues, it won’t symbolize the complete actuality of the Sacred Timeline.

The Sacred Timeline could also be a gnarled, ugly beast with one lengthy department spreading out into infinity and smaller twigs doubling again on themselves alongside the massive department. This may imply that it’s potential for time journey inside the Sacred Timeline so long as it’s occurring on the Sacred’s Timeline primary department and with the Time Keepers’ blessing. Why would the Time Keepers sanction a while travels and deem others as unacceptable Nexus events? That’s anybody’s guess. 

The opposite chance comes from a concept inside Endgame itself. The closest that Marvel’s Infinity Saga conclusion will get to addressing the “guidelines” of time journey is by way of a dialog amongst Scott Lang, James “Rhodey” Rhodes, and Bruce Banner. All three males have their opinions on time journey, however the movie provides Bruce the ultimate phrase, subtly suggesting that it’s his interpretation that’s right. Here’s what he has to say:

“Time doesn’t work that means. Altering the previous doesn’t change the long run. Give it some thought, when you journey to the previous, that previous turns into your future and your former current turns into the previous, which may’t now be modified by your new future.”

Let’s name this the Subjective Concept of MCU Time Journey. A sure sort of time journey is allowed and efficient so long as the time traveller understands that the character of time comes all the way down to their subjective expertise of it. Bruce Banner can’t create a brand new timeline when touring to the previous as a result of he’s conscious that the previous is now part of his personal subjective future. So long as his story finally ends up the place it’s imagined to be, which is to say activating the Infinity Gauntlet in 2023, then every thing will probably be okay.

And that brings us to a sure time touring lothario…

Why Didn’t Steve Rogers Create A New Timeline?

The concept that Steve Rogers didn’t create a brand new, unsanctioned timeline by residing out a completely new life along with his misplaced love Peggy Carter is really baffling. If Loki can create a Nexus occasion by choosing up the Tesseract, how can Steve Rogers abandoning Captaining America in favor of smooching Peggy for 50+ years not?

Properly, possibly we will make sense of this by combining our two theories above. For starters, the Sacred Timeline has to accommodate for different smaller, sanctioned timelines inside itself – it simply has to! Any determination you do or don’t make creates new prospects and new universes. While you select to put on a blue shirt within the morning versus a pink shirt, you’re creating a completely new unseen universe wherein you wore that pink shirt (and possibly gained the lottery or one thing, I don’t know).

Going again to that gnarled department analogy from earlier than: maybe the Sacred Timeline isn’t a lot of a single line however a collection of strains contained inside a bigger line – fiber optic cable-style. Steve Rogers going again in time and residing out a brand new life is simply a part of one of many smaller, sanctioned strains clinging onto the primary one.

There’s additionally the fact that Steve did what he was required to do on the finish of the day. Having delivered all the Stones again to their respective locations he returned to the current an aged man (and looking out like Joe Biden). He then presumably handed away peacefully of pure causes within the timeline that he was imagined to die in on the exactly right level. 

That new previous was Steve’s future like Bruce mentioned it will be. Due to this fact it affected solely him. What of all of the individuals Steve interacted with in his new life although? It’s potential that they simply dissipated away as soon as Steve returned to the current or their lives carried on usually inside a pocket universe contained inside the Sacred Timeline. There’s additionally a darker chance that the TVA needed to go in and liquidate that complete timeline as soon as Steve had exited it. Sharp-eyed viewers have noticed what appears to be like to be Peggy Carter in Variant jail garb within the background of Loki’s first episode.

That will be a fairly upsetting conclusion to Steve and Peggy’s character arcs, however it will resolve the temporal complications created by his time travels within the ruthlessly unsentimental means that solely the TVA can pull off.

Why Are Variants Allowed on the Sacred Timeline? 

On the conclusion of Avengers: Endgame, there’s not less than one Variant from a separate timeline current inside the Sacred Timeline. That’s, in fact, the Guardians of the Galaxy’s Gamora. Because of the Avengers’ meddling, she arrived within the Sacred Timeline alongside Variant variations of her “father” Thanos and her “sister” Nebula. Variant Thanos and Variant Nebula are finally dispatched by the Avengers however Gamora stays behind as a curious sideways world model of herself in a brand new actuality. How is that this allowed?

The reply to this can be a very well-reasoned “as a result of the Time Keepers mentioned so.” So far as we perceive it, the Time Keepers solely objective is to keep up the sanctity of the Sacred Timeline. If which means bringing in reinforcements from different timelines, then so be it.

However wait a minute, Alec, you simply mentioned “different timelines.” How might Variant variations of Thanos and Gamora even exist on a separate timeline to affix the Sacred Timeline if the TVA is so adamant on stamping out different timelines? I don’t know, man. My head hurts. It seemingly goes again as soon as once more to that “large department” or “fiber optic” cable analogy although. It’s fairly merely not potential for there to not be alternate timelines as soon as time journey comes into play. So these timelines need to exist as acceptable branches connected to the primary department. These Variant Gamoras, Nebulas, and Thanos have been due to this fact by no means Variants to start with. They have been merely totally different facets of the identical character from totally different elements of the identical timeline.

Is that this all difficult? Yep. Does it  make excellent sense to me? Completely not. That doesn’t change the very fact, nonetheless, that there’s one unshakable tenet of the Marvel Cinematic Universe canon with regards to time journey now because of Loki. And that’s that the occasions of Avengers: Endgame occurred precisely because the time stream wanted them to. Steve Rogers, Tony Stark, Bruce Banner, Natasha Romanov, and firm aren’t Variants. Nobody went “rogue.” That actuality makes it tougher to completely perceive and clarify away why dozens of Nexus occasions weren’t created by their actions. However clarify it away we should, as a result of the Time Keepers say so.

Loki airs new episodes Wednesdays on Disney+. 

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