Mischief Managed

Loki finale set ups Marvel’s multiverse, Spider-Man, Avengers 5, and more

With sequels to Spider-Man and Doctor Strange about to make the MCU even weirder, here’s how Loki just kick-started the journey.

It was not so long ago that Marvel fans were running rampant with theories about Wanda and her potential to create a multiverse. It happened in the comics, after all. But now, with the season finale of Loki, it’s not a Scarlet Witch but a God of Mischief who’s responsible for unleashing the Multiversal War.

Here’s a breakdown of the season finale of Loki and exactly how the episode sets up future Marvel movies, including (but not limited to) this year’s Spider-Man: No Way Home and next year’s Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness.

Warning: Spoilers for Loki Episode 6 ahead.

Sophia di Martino and Tom Hiddleston, in the Season 1 finale of Loki.Marvel Studios

A Low-Key Recap

First, let me admit to one thing: I was so wrong. As it turns out, hiding inside Loki was the major-league Marvel villain Kang the Conqueror.

In case you don’t crawl geek-news websites on a daily basis, you might have missed that actor Jonathan Majors (star of the HBO series Lovecraft Country) was officially cast this past September as Kang the Conqueror in the third Ant-Man film, Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania, which is scheduled for release in 2023. Yes, you read that right. 2023, two years from now.

But Majors’ first appearance as Kang isn’t in Quantumania, given that he just materialized in the season finale of Loki. It’s from Kang that Loki (Tom Hiddleston) and Sylvie (Sophia di Martino) learn that the Conqueror controls the TVA and continuity of the “Sacred Timeline.”

Over a lengthy exposition, Kang tells Loki and Sylvie he is an Earth scientist from the 31st century who unlocked the doors to the multiverse. This enabled this variant of Kang to contact other versions of himself from throughout the multiverse. “He was a scientist,” Kang says in the third person, “and he discovered that there were universes stacked on top of his own.”

For a time, there was peace between the variants, who traded knowledge and technology among themselves. But it wasn’t long before one variant started seeking to conquer the others. Thus began the Multiversal War.

Kang the Conqueror, on the cover of Avengers #267, published 1986.Marvel Comics

The one variant who started it all — the Kang met by Loki and Sylvie in the finale — harnessed the power of Alioth, the same monster we saw last week, “created from all the tears in reality.” Using Alioth’s power, this Kang “ended the Multiversal War” and isolated the Sacred Timeline. After that, protecting it was just a matter of maintenance! Hence, the TVA, the Time-Keepers, and “a highly efficient bureaucracy” designed to fix all divergent branches. Easy peasy.

But Kang isn’t all-powerful. In a twist, Kang reveals that “the end of all time” was simply the end of time as Kang foresaw it. Past a certain threshold, as we see in the episode, Kang ceased to be all-knowing. It was then and there that Loki and Sylvie had two choices:

  1. Kill Kang and allow the timeline to go haywire, consequently creating multiple timelines and encouraging other variant Kangs to restart the Multiversal War, or...
  2. Take control of the TVA away from Kang

Either way, all Kang wants is to be freed from his post. And a vengeful Sylvie gives him his wish with a sword through the chest. With this variant Kang killed, a chaotic branching of the timeline begins. And on top of that, Kangs from the multiverse have now received an official invitation to restart the Multiversal War. In short, the Marvel Cinematic Universe is about to go nuts. And here’s how the finale of Loki just set up a bunch of future Marvel movies.

Tom Holland, Jacob Batalon, and Zendaya will return in Spider-Man: No Way Home, due in theaters December 17, 2021.Sony Pictures

Spider-Man: No Way Home

So far, Marvel Studios has kept quiet about all things related to Spider-Man: No Way Home, due in theaters later this December. Fans have only had their fill of tidbits from unofficial leaks, paparazzi set photos, and verified reports of guest actors on set like Jamie Foxx and Alfred Molina, both apparently reprising their respective villain roles from past Spider-Man film franchises.

You may have heard rumors of actors Tobey Maguire and Andrew Garfield returning as their versions of Spider-Man to team up with Tom Holland’s web-slinger, but that’s all speculation at this point.

Still: We know that Spider-Man: No Way Home will involve the multiverse. Benedict Cumberbatch is expected to play a significant role in the film as his Doctor Strange, who is confirmed to be at the center of the multiverse in his own sequel movie in 2022. So, expect traces of Loki to linger all the way to Spider-Man’s friendly New York neighborhoods.

Speaking of Doctor Strange...

Official logo for Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness.Marvel Studios

Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness

Due in theaters in 2022 is Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, a sequel to 2016’s Doctor Strange that will once again star Benedict Cumberbatch as the Sorcerer Supreme.

Beyond the obvious reference in the title, there is little known about the premise of Multiverse of Madness. But what is interesting is that Loki head writer Michael Waldron is also the screenwriter of Multiverse of Madness. Normally, the Marvel process allows writers and creators to be semi-independent, allowing them to make a mess with a character and leaving it for the next writer and director to fix. But as Waldron told Vanity Fair in June 2020: “You do that on Loki and you find yourself writing Doctor Strange, and you have to clean up your own mess.”

Official logo for Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania.Marvel Studios

Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania

Obviously, Jonathan Majors just made his debut in the role of Kang a full two years before the third Ant-Man movie, Quantumania, opens in theaters.

But as we saw in Loki, there are infinite “variants” of Kang. And the one we met in Loki, “He Who Remains,” isn’t technically named Kang. (Turn on the subtitles for Loki and you’ll find Majors speaking as “He Who Remains,” not “Kang.”) With Majors confirmed to play Kang in Quantumania, the next Ant-Man movie is an absolute must-watch for the future of the MCU.

Official logo for Fantastic Four.Marvel Studios

Fantastic Four

In December 2020, Marvel Studios announced a reboot of Fantastic Four to be set in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. The film will be directed by Jon Watts, who has also directed the new Spider-Man trilogy starring Tom Holland.

Kang, who has menaced both the Avengers and the Fantastic Four in the comics, has deep roots when it comes to Marvel’s First Family. Not only did Kang make his comic-book debut in Fantastic Four #19 in 1963; it has been speculated practically since that Kang is a distant descendant of Reed Richards, aka Mr. Fantastic. Marvel’s comic book writers have frequently toyed with this connection, even calling Kang by the name Nathaniel Richards in some issues, but stopped short of actually confirming their genetic relationship.

In Loki, Kang/He Who Remains confirms he is a scientist from the 31st century, which is the same backstory Kang/Nathaniel Richards had in the comics. While it’s hard to separate speculation from concrete evidence, this means Kang might connect to the next Fantastic Four movie, also due for release in 2023.

Cover of Secret Wars #1.Marvel Comics

Avengers 5/Secret Wars?

To theorize wildly for a moment, the start of the Multiversal War in Loki may have just set the stage for the fifth Avengers movie: a full-blown adaptation of Secret Wars, adapting another comic-book saga in the style of Civil War (into Captain America: Civil War) and Infinity Gauntlet (into Avengers: Infinity War).

The namesake of not one, not two, not even three, but four different crossovers, Secret Wars is not only an important title in Marvel history but a story large-scale enough to follow up the Infinity Saga.

The basic premise of Secret Wars, at least the first and fourth versions (published in 1984 and 2015 respectively), is the creation of “Battleworld.” In the first Secret Wars, Battleworld is an amalgamation of fragments from different planets that created an ideal landscape for all the kidnapped heroes and villains to use their powers at full capacity.

In the 2015 Secret Wars, it’s the same basic idea except, instead of planets, Battleworld is made up of remaining fragments of any given reality that survives after its destruction. These remnants have domains that interact with each other but remain shielded by a giant wall, appropriately called “the Shield” as each domain contains colossal threats — from zombies to hordes of Ultron drones to another variant of Thanos reconstructing the Infinity Gauntlet — that would be devastating to the others if let loose.

The 2015 Secret Wars arc was engineered by Marvel to combine the mainstream Marvel Universe (Earth-616) with the parallel Ultimate Universe (Earth-1610). It was a massive story meant to cap off the popular Ultimate Marvel imprint that had published modernized, alternate versions of Marvel’s heroes for 15 years. An MCU version of Secret Wars could achieve the same thing: Introduce the multiverse for spectacle’s sake (and to make fans go haywire with their nuttiest “variant” dreams come true) only to wrap it all up in an unimaginably oversized finale in order to once again start fresh.

With the multiverse now a part of the MCU, it’s possible Marvel intends to have Secret Wars take place, possibly as a fifth (or sixth? seventh?) Avengers movie. Exactly how it will be pulled off, what it will entail, and what it will all mean is unknown at this stage — likely even to Marvel itself. So much of the MCU’s Phase 4 is still shrouded in mystery, and how fans respond to the studio’s next step for its heroes will only be revealed in due time. Until then, quite literally, anything could happen.

All six episodes of Loki Season 1 are streaming on Disney+.