The Loki finale changed the Marvel Cinematic Universe forever when Sylvie unleashed the multiverse after defeating Kang Variant He Who Remains. The next Marvel series, What If...?, dealt directly with the fallout, depicting how each of these multiverses plays out in stylized animation.
What If...?’s multiversal stories differ wildly from both the MCU and each other, but there’s one thing that carries through in each of them: the untimely sacrifice of Tony Stark. A fan theory suggests the reason for this goes much deeper than Robert Downey Jr.’s availability. In fact, it could reveal critical information about Loki Season 2.
As Redditor Ed_Derick_17 theorizes, Tony Stark’s inevitable demise on What If...? is all connected to Kang the Conquerer.
For Kang to exist and take over the world, the TVA must first be established. In order for the TVA to be established, there needs to be time travel technology. And, for there to be time travel technology, there needs to be Tony Stark.
Therefore, Kang cannot rise to power in a timeline where Tony dies. So, with Tony dying in every episode of What If...?, there’s no way those particular timelines will see Kang appear and take over. That’s an important fact since Kang — the real Kang, not a variant — isn’t set to debut in the MCU until Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania. We’ve only met Kang variant He Who Remains in the Loki Season 1 finale so far.
Now, there is one big issue with this theory: Time travel technology existed in the universe before Tony Stark, and eventually, it would be invented even without him. But without the time heist in Avengers: Endgame, Loki doesn’t get caught by the TVA, so there is a strong tie between the events of Endgame and Kang’s appearance.
This theory explains some of the most aggravating parts of What If...?, such as why the show doesn’t revive Tony Stark and why Kang or one of his many variants don’t play a role in these multiversal stories. But also, it most importantly could establish how What If...? affects Loki Season 2. Tony Stark’s existence (or non-existence) might lead Loki toward a solution for its Kang problem.
What If...? could be the wastebasket of crumpled-up failures in Kang’s plans to take over the universe. Where Loki picks up may just be the first attempt that actually works.
What If...? is now streaming on Disney+.