The multiverse theory has long accounted for plot holes in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. If something didn’t make sense in one of Marvel’s superhero titles, it could easily be explained away with the mere mention of another timeline.
But the multiverse had never clearly been confirmed to exist, meaning all explanations that relied upon it existed in the vast realm of fan theories. Until Loki.
In its first episode, Loki introduced the concept of the Sacred Timeline, the set track along which events are meant to unfold. Supposedly, that means every event so far in the MCU has happened as intended; from Thanos’ snap to the Time Heist, everything had approval from the Time Keepers, without a single variant in play. After all, these would’ve been pruned and reset.
Redditor A_Change_of_Seasons notes that this means the Sacred Timeline includes Steve returning to the past and living out his life with Peggy (despite the fact we had previously seen evidence Peggy died without Steve at her side). Apparently, that means Steve’s time travel was sanctioned by the Time Keepers.
This seems like a tidy explanation to one of the most confusing moments of Endgame, despite its strange implications. If everything we’ve seen so far exists in the same Sacred Timeline, after all, then Steve really did kiss his own great-niece.
It’s not exactly a Back to the Future-caliber moment of time travel-induced incestuous smooching, as Sharon Carter is not blood-related to Steve at all. Still, it’s an uncomfortable moment to begin with, and only gets worse when you consider Steve’s ultimate destiny.
It seems like the Sacred Timeline works somehow to avoid paradoxes. When Steve sees archival footage of Peggy in 1953 and later reunites with an elderly Peggy in Captain America: The Winter Soldier, this occurs at a point in the Sacred Timeline where Steve hasn’t yet traveled back in time. Though such a moment was part of Steve’s story, Peggy apparently didn’t have the same experience, given that she grew old with Steve.
That said, the Time Keepers may not be who they say they are. Perhaps they shied away from declaring Steve a variant after he time traveled, knowing he’s got quite the team on his side and that a multiverse is already in the making. Or maybe they merely reset the wrong person, as a woman who looked incredibly like Peggy was glimpsed in TVA custody in the background of a shot in Loki.
The multiverse hasn’t even been technically introduced to the Marvel Cinematic Universe yet, and it’s already getting confusing. Still, there’s plenty of time to figure things out, with Spider-Man: Far From Home and Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness set to explore the multiverse further. Hopefully, amid all the quantum physics, these films will explain Steve’s paradox.
Loki is now streaming on Disney+.