'Loki' season finale explained: How the Disney+ hit sets up the future of the MCU

And just like that, Marvel's major Multiversal War has begun. The season finale of Loki discarded the sacred timeline with one twist of the knife, and opened up the Marvel Cinematic Universe to the terrifying concept of... free will? That's the endgame espoused by He Who Remains (Jonathan Majors) — the timeline-guarding despot that Loki (Tom Hiddleston) and Sylvie (Sophia Di Martino) confront in the Citadel at the End of Time, which we like to imagine is just down the street from the Restaurant at the End of the Universe. Maybe we'll visit that hot spot soon: Disney+ capped off "For All Time. Always" with the big reveal that Loki is the first Marvel series to score a Season 2.

For most of its runtime, the Season 1 finale played as a one-man monologue, as Majors explains to his usurpers exactly who he is, how he came to be and the consequences their action — or inaction — will have on the MCU going forward. It's already been revealed that the actor will be playing Kang the Conquerer in Phase 4, but the version we meet here may be Immortus, the so-called "Gardener of Time." Certainly, that would square with his obsession with "pruning" errant branches of the timestream.

Sylvie (Sophia Di Martino) and Loki (Tom Hiddleston) in the season finale of
Sylvie (Sophia Di Martino) and Loki (Tom Hiddleston) in the season finale of Loki. (Photo: Disney+)

Here's the short version of his backstory: In his own part of the timeline, Kang/Immortus was a 31st century scientist who discovers that other universes, with other variants, are stacked on top of his own. Those variants initially got along great, but inevitably started a squabble that blew up into a full-fledged Multiversal War.

Our Kang/Immortus eventually gained the upper hand by siphoning the powers of Alioth — a being that can't be bound by such simple concepts as time and space. To keep the forces of multiversal chaos at bay, he then set about building the Time Variance Authority and recruited unwitting variants — including our friends Ravonna, Mobius and Hunter B-15 — to function as his police force. Kang then presents Loki and Sylvie with a choice: show him the exit and take his place in the Citadel or kill him and unleash the dogs of war.

Naturally, the vengeful Sylvie chooses the latter option. Besting Loki in one-on-one combat and sending him through a door back to the TVA, the trickster and enchantress then sinks her blade into He Who Remains's chest. Moments later, she watches through through the windows of the Citadel as the sacred timeline sprouts one branch after another. As for Loki, he's treated to a Planet of the Apes-cliffhanger ending — the Tim Burton version, not the Chuck Heston one — as he discovers that he's in an alternate version of TVA HQ: one that exists in the shadow of Kang's looming statue.

Needless to say, Twitter had trouble catching its breath after the universe-altering implications of the season finale.

So where do we go from here? Certainly, all those branching timelines point in one direction: the upcoming Marvel animated series, What If...?, which premieres on Aug. 11 and features such variants as T'Challa Star Lord, Captain Carter and Iron Killmonger — all of whom are voiced by their traditional live action counterparts, including Chadwick Boseman's final performance as Wakanda's king.

The multiversal fallout will also be felt in December's Spider-Man: No Way Home, as Alfred Molina has already confirmed his return as the Doc Ock from Sam Raimi's original trilogy, while rumors of Tobey Maguire and Andrew Garfield's participation continue to circulate as well. And speaking of Raimi, the director's upcoming Doctor Strange sequel — which opens in March — puts the Multiverse in its freakin' title!

Meanwhile, there's little mystery about the cryptic "I'll see you soon," farewell that He Who Remains gave Sylvie moments after she stabbed him. Majors is currently in the middle of filming Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania where he'll officially take on the mantle of the conquerer variant of Kang. Due in theaters on Feb. 17, 2023, the film closes out Peyton Reed's trilogy of pint-sized adventures, although Kang is guaranteed to play a giant-sized role going forward.

As for where on the Phase 4 timeline Season 2 of Loki might fall, that remains to be seen. Neither the Emmy-nominated WandaVision nor The Falcon and the Winter Soldier are getting a sophomore year, as Marvel's upcoming Disney+ slate emphasizes first-year shows like Hawkeye which has a strong Black Widow connectionMs. Marvel, She Hulk and Moon Knight, all of which are in various stages of production or post-production.

But the Loki creative team, including director Kate Herron and writer Michael Waldron, has yet to announce their own return to work date or if they're even returning at all. (Waldron has a second job working on a top-secret Star Wars project overseen by Marvel head honcho, Kevin Feige.) Whenever it streams, Hiddleston's loyal army of tricksters is standing by for more alligator-heavy journeys into mystery.

Loki is currently streaming on Disney+

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