There’s nothing like a good MCU joke. Whether Thor is calling Rocket Raccoon a rabbit or the Avengers are all noshing on shawarma after the Battle of New York, Marvel wouldn’t be Marvel without a lighthearted moment to balance out all the superhero violence.
Sometimes, these jokes pull double duty, and what appear to be sight gags on the surface can actually carry huge significance for the MCU. That’s what happened in Loki’s premiere, which changed how we look at Infinity Stones forever, debunking countless fan theories along the way.
While on the run from Mobius M. Mobius (Owen Wilson) in Loki’s first episode, Loki (Tom Hiddleston) attempts to track down the Tesseract. In the process of hunting for the all-powerful cube, he runs into Casey (Eugene Cordero), a TVA pencil pusher. When Loki rifles through the area where the TVA keeps its time travel evidence, he discovers a drawer full of Infinity Stones.
Apparently, these items Thanos had been pursuing for a decade’s worth of MCU films are little more than paperweights to the TVA. A hilarious gag, this revelation wraps up many plot holes.
The Avengers were able to assemble the Infinity Stones by going back in time to retrieve them from different points in the franchise’s chronology, which begged one important question: why doesn’t everyone do that?
With this reveal, Loki makes it apparent there have been many attempts to do just that, but the TVA has apprehended all who’ve tried to assemble the Infinity Stones for their own nefarious purposes, leaving incomplete sets of stones plucked out of time and rolling around in file cabinets.
What Loki additionally reveals is that the Avengers were able to retrieve and return the Infinity Stones through the use of time travel purely because the TVA — and more importantly the Time Keepers — allowed them to do so.
This explains all the fan theories that popped up about Steve Rogers returning the Stones to their original points and places in time. Just as no man can step into the same river twice, you can’t return a Stone to exactly where and when it came from, especially if that place is Vormir.
As Loki implies, Steve returning the Stones was intended to happen within the Sacred Timeline, so his doing so didn’t create any variants or cause a branching timeline like The Ancient One showed Bruce Banner in Endgame.
Apparently, the Avengers’ “Time Heist” only worked with the blessing of the mysterious Time Keepers, though that reveal opens up as many questions as it answers. While there are no longer any loose threads remaining related to Steve’s time travel, what about this timeline makes it so sacred? Who (or perhaps what) gave the Time Keepers authority to untangle the multiverse? Buckle up: we’ll hopefully find out in the five episodes of Loki still ahead.
Loki is now streaming on Disney+.