Mischief Managed

Loki Time Keepers could be hiding a classic sci-fi movie twist

There’s something fishy about those Time Keepers.

The Time Variance Authority is incredibly weird. The first episode of Marvel’s Loki makes that abundantly clear.

The TVA, as it’s referred to in the Disney+ series, is an organization that not only appears to exist completely free of the traditional laws of time and space but that also “employs” agents who don’t seem to wrestle at all with the moral complexities involved in “pruning” the various variants they capture.

Even more strangely, the TVA is said to have been created by literal space lizards known as Time Keepers, whose likenesses are recreated through giant statues and sculptures scattered around the TVA’s base of operations.

Loki (Tom Hiddleston) understandably doesn’t take long to express his frustrations with the TVA, even going so far as to mock its supposed origins — much to the delight of Mobius M. Mobius (Owen Wilson). But here’s a legitimate question: are the Time Keepers even real?

Millions of years before Tony Stark donned his Iron Man armor, a grand cosmic war spread across the multiverse and threatened to destroy reality itself. As a result, three beings known as the Time Keepers formed the TVA in the hopes that it would protect the “Sacred Timeline,” prevent too many “branch realities” from being formed, and ensure that no other multiversal war would ever happen again.

That’s the way the story goes, at least.

For better or worse, it looks like the TVA has managed to keep the multiverse in check, as is made evident in the Loki premiere. In fact, no other organization in the MCU seems to have quite as much knowledge or understanding of how the multiverse functions. But there’s one thing about the TVA that just feels off.

In other words: there’s just no way the Time Keepers are actually real. But even if they once were, they’re not around anymore.

Wunmi Mosaku and Owen Wilson in Loki.Marvel Studios

Behind the Curtain — Marvel loves few things more than introducing an all-powerful, seemingly benevolent organization into the MCU, only to reveal that nothing is as it seems. The studio pulled off huge reveals around the real nature of S.H.I.E.L.D. in Captain America: The Winter Soldier, S.W.O.R.D. in WandaVision, Asgard in Thor: Ragnarok, and even the Kree Empire in Captain Marvel.

The TVA has the potential to be another such organization, with its real motivations hidden in plain sight. The Loki premiere goes out of its way to set up both the TVA’s unique responsibilites and how disconnected it is from the rest of the multiverse. Images and statues of the Time Keepers are shown multiple times throughout the first episode, yet the character actually calling the shots at TVA is Gugu Mbatha-Raw’s Judge Renslayer.

This is a set-up that, frankly, feels reminiscent of the con pulled off by the titular character in The Wizard of Oz. In other words, the TVA might be a facade.

That’s not to say that the TVA’s power isn’t real — it clearly is. But it also seems like there’s more going on with the organization than is initially explained in Loki’s premiere. The episode goes out of its way to show statues and sculptures of the Time Keepers, which feels intentional. It’s almost as if the series is hinting that Renslayer (or someone else at the TVA) is using the myth of the Time Keepers to keep the TVA together, much like how the Wizard maintained command of Oz through his clever use of pyrotechnics and special effects.

This would be a fitting twist for a show like Loki, considering its lead character’s extensively well-documented affection for illusions and trickery.

The TVA’s impressive headquarters.Marvel Studios

The Inverse Analysis — Loki Episode 1 leaves plenty unexplained about the TVA. It’s stated that the TVA agents were created by the Time-Keepers, but what does that mean? Are TVA agents human, or are they not?

More than anything, the mystery surrounding the Time Keepers feels meaningful. Marvel has an established track record of creating organizations in the MCU with secret backgrounds and dishonest operating procedures. Right now, the TVA appears primed to join that list.

So when and if Loki finally lets us peek behind the curtain of this mysterious organization, one has to wonder what we’ll see: three all-knowing space lizards, or a couple of hucksters in suits holding microphones.

Loki is streaming now on Disney+.