Marvel movie fans know that Loki died in Infinity War, but what Loki presupposes is...maybe he didn’t. Maybe there are a lot of alternate versions of characters running around. And maybe this can explain one of the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s earliest snafus.
By the ending of Loki Episode 1 — “Glorious Purpose” — it’s made clear this whole Variant thing could have much bigger implications. So, here’s the theory: Could the concept of Variants retroactively explain why some MCU characters look totally different from one movie to the next? In other words, is Edward Norton’s Incredible Hulk...a Variant?
How many Loki Variants are there?
As of Loki Episode 1, the answer to this question is at least two — the Loki who stole the Tesseract (the main character) and the hooded Loki Variant who Mobius says he wants our Loki Variant to track down. So, if there are two Loki Variants already, and the TVA is designed to fix all these variations in the “sacred timeline,” then it stands to reason that there are a lot of Variants of a lot of different people. There are probably tons of Loki Variants we don’t know about, and that the show may — or may not — reveal.
But what about other MCU characters?
Could Bruce Banner and Rhodey be Variants?
In Iron Man (2008) Rhodey was played by Terrence Howard. In The Incredible Hulk (2008) Bruce Banner was played by Edward Norton. These characters were later replaced by Don Cheadle and Mark Ruffalo, respectively. In fact, after Iron Man 2 (2010) and The Avengers (2012), nobody batted an eye about this change.
Of course, the real-world explanation is obvious: The characters were recast for a variety of run-of-the-mill Hollywood reasons. It happens all the time with big movie franchises (see: James Bond) meaning the Doylist explanation (IRL) here general boils down to, contract negotiations, money, and movie studios.
But, what if the MCU is setting up a Watsonian (in-universe) explanation for these recastings? What if Ed Norton’s Hulk was simply a Variant from a different timeline that has now been erased by the TVA?
Was WandaVision’s Quicksilver a Variant?
If we take this theory a few steps further, you could convince yourself that Ralph Bohner (Evan Peters) in WandaVision was perhaps a Variant of Quicksilver/Pietro after all. We don’t really know how far this Variant thing goes, but because there’s a Doylist connection between Bohner and Pietro Maximoff — specifically Evan Peters starring in X-Men movies — it’s possible there’s a Watsonian connection, too.
By the end of WandaVision, we were meant to think that the Ralph Bohner thing was a fake-out; albeit one that relies on the audience knowing about a corporate merger between Fox and Disney. In other words, as it stands, the Ralph Bohner thing is only a weird Doylist joke on the audience.
But what if it’s not? What if Ralph Bohner is a Variant of Pietro Maximoff who was kidnapped by Agatha and hidden away from the eyes of the TVA thanks to some deep magic from before the dawn of Mobius?
Loki showrunner Michael Waldren has teased “unexpected cameos,” in the series. What could be more unexpected than existing MCU characters, played by other actors? In a sense, WandaVision has already kind of cleared the path for this kind of thing. And now that the notion of Variants is the focus of Loki, it’s possible that a whole multiverse of alternate versions of popular characters could appear. And maybe, some of them will have very familiar faces.
Loki airs new episodes on Wednesdays on Disney+.