The Disney+ series’ fourth episode ends with Tom Hiddleston’s Loki getting “pruned” by Gugu Mbatha-Raw’s Ravonna Renslayer, only to awaken moments later in a post-apocalyptic version of New York City. Once there, he’s greeted by a number of new and strange Loki variants, just before the episode cuts to black for the last time.
It’s an exciting but confusing turn of events, given everything we’ve been led to believe about what it means for a variant to be “pruned” by the Time Variance Authority. However, one possible explanation for the post-credits scene may also reveal the way Marvel plans on using multiple Spider-Men in No Way Home later this year.
Variant Realities — Where exactly does the Loki Episode 4 post-credits scene take place? It’s clearly set in some alternate, destroyed version of New York, but is this what the city will look like in the far future? Or is the New York setting just the backdrop of whatever weird dimension Loki’s been sent to by the TVA?
But what if it’s neither of those things? What if, instead, the New York City we see at the end of Loki Episode 4 exists in a branch timeline that, like Hiddleston’s Loki, has already been pruned by the TVA? That would mean the TVA doesn’t actually erase any of the variants it prunes, but simply banishes them all to a reality that’s effectively disconnected from the prime reality, also known as the Sacred Timeline.
If that’s the case, it may explain how multiple versions of the same hero are going to show up in Spider-Man: No Way Home. That is to say, there’s a chance the film will reveal that Tobey Maguire and Andrew Garfield’s Spider-Men are actually pruned variants of Tom Holland’s Peter Parker.
Friendly Neighborhood Variants — Marvel has yet to even confirm, despite multiple leaks and some not-so-convincing denials from the actors themselves, that Tobey Maguire and Andrew Garfield will appear in Spider-Man: No Way Home. Therefore, the studio also hasn’t revealed how their versions of Spider-Man will cross over with Tom Holland’s reality in the film.
Fans have generally assumed these characters intersecting will be a matter of multiversal fracturing, possibly as a result of events in Loki or Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness. Based on everything we’ve seen in Loki, it’s also worth considering the possibility that Marvel will introduce Maguire and Garfield as variants in No Way Home.
The film’s title implies that Holland’s Peter Parker will be stranded in a different reality or dimension for most of its runtime, and it’s presumed that wherever he ends up will be where he runs into Maguire and Garfield. What if the place he ends up trapped in is a branch reality already clipped by the TVA, much like what appears to happen to Loki at the end of this week’s episode?
That seems like a legitimate possibility, especially if the next two episodes of Loki see the God of Mischief successfully bringing down the TVA and breaking out of whatever dimension he’s been sent to. If both those things end up coming to pass, it could very well also explain how Holland’s Peter Parker gets accidentally transported to another reality.
This would also, notably, allow Spider-Man: No Way Home to reintroduce many of the same concepts explored in Loki for all the MCU viewers out there who aren’t keeping up with Marvel’s Disney+ shows.
The Inverse Analysis — Obviously, the accuracy of this theory all depends on what is revealed in Loki’s final two episodes. But if the series does confirm that the God of Mischief has been sent to a reality full of other Loki variants, then it is very possible that the plot of Spider-Man: No Way Home will see Tom Holland’s Peter Parker stranded in a very similar way.
It’s a solution that lets Marvel bring back Tobey Maguire, Andrew Garfield, and other actors from Sony’s past Spider-Man films without having to incorporate the stories of those series into the greater MCU. It also gives the studio the chance to reiterate to movie viewers the same information Loki is already providing to die-hard Marvel fans. Talk about killing two birds with one stone.
Loki is streaming now on Disney+.