Time travel in the MCU is a mess, and that’s okay


This article contains spoilers for ‘Loki’ episodes one and two.

Humans can only travel in one direction through time, making the idea of ​​defying this rule fertile ground for sci-fi stories. But everyone has a different idea of ​​how it should work, from Back to the future at Timecop to the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU). But in this most recent episode of Loki, we’ve seen everything we’ve been told about the Marvel timeline in reverse before, and it’s probably for the best as it never made much sense in the first place.

Although the Time Stone made its first appearance in 2016 Doctor strange, the concept of time travel itself didn’t really hit the MCU until 2019 Avengers: Endgame. The whole plot hinged on the team’s return at key points in MCU history to catch the Infinity Gems and use them to restore the missing half of the universe’s population. Ant-Man (Scott Lang) and War Machine (James Rhodes) had understandable concerns about this – won’t they change the timeline just by being there? The Hulk (Bruce Banner) told them no, because their pasts have already happened and cannot be changed, so everything would be fine.

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It’s a selfish way of looking at time travel, one that assumes you would be able to get back to your exact time flow even after delving into the past. The Elder even points out that taking the Time Stone would screw up its timeline, prompting Bruce to promise to bring it back to that exact point. But the result of the “time hold” left so many questions about the few things that went wrong, namely what happened to 2012’s Loki, who grabbed the Tesseract (aka the Space Stone) and disappeared. with. This is the starting point of the news Disney + Series: The moments immediately after the Trickster God leaves Stark Tower.

Bruce’s claim that their schedule would not be affected was confirmed, but not specifically for the reasons he gave. It turns out that there is an entire department called the Time Variance Authority (TVA) that “prunes” any divergent timeline that begins to arise, making sure there is only one, and only one, “Sacred chronology”. Immediately upon detecting a discrepancy, the TVA infantrymen show up and remove the offender and use a device that essentially atomizes anything in the physical vicinity of the discrepancy in order to get the timeline back on track. How would that somehow solve other issues like the 2012 Steve Rogers lying face down on a catwalk in the Stark Tower, or how 2023 Cap put the stones back in their place in the timeline, n is never really explained. Even Loki doesn’t seem terribly impressed with all of this. (And that’s after seeing a desk drawer full of Infinity Stones.)

Owen Wilson and Tom Hiddleston

Marvel Studios / Chuck Zlotnick

We assume that TVA must have had a way of reinserting Loki into Avengers captivity without raising too many questions. Maybe the intention was to take this variant, erase his memory, and drop him where he had disappeared. It is certainly possible, because years of time travel fiction have taught us that you can disappear and then reappear immediately, without those around you knowing more about the months or years you spent in ancient Rome. or in the Old West.

But there was a strong indication that they were just going to leave him on the spot – just like that kid from the trust fund in the first episode. Which raised even more questions: what did this obnoxious guy do to end up in VAT? The cartoon “Miss Minutes” suggested that you could create an alternate timeline just by being late for work, but how would that violate the timeline without outside intervention, and why is it the person concerned who is? to blame ? While Loki later says he knew there were time travel shenanigans, it’s not clear he knew when he caught the Tesseract. TVA even seemed surprised that he figured it out, meaning they didn’t detain him on the basis of him. knowingly break the schedule.

Cartoon of the Time Variation Authority

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The MCU’s stance has always been that, well… it really doesn’t matter. By referencing movies like Hot tub time machine, the writers and directors seem to tell the public not to worry and just enjoy the ride. The Russo brothers even said as much in interviews. But now, it’s a focal point of the plot in Loki, creating loose new plot threads even as it ties the ones left over to. End of Game.

The rest of this story contains big spoilers for episode two of “Loki”.

But that’s where Phase Four of the Marvel Universe comes in. In Episode Two, the murderous Loki variant opens wide the entire Holy Timeline, far beyond TVA’s ability to weave all the strands. in a singular thread. And our 2012 variant might only be happy to help: Loki is the god of evil, after all, and doing damage is just one way to cause trouble. But for our purposes, the VAT sterilization at that point actually works because it doesn’t matter anymore if the MCU’s time travel is like Curler or Time cop.

Danger: Multiverse

Marvel studios

Instead of worrying about time as a single dimension, the MCU can now exist as a multiverse – something that has already been touched on in the next one. Doctor Strange and the Multiverse of Madness. Nerdier fans know that the Marvel Cinematic Universe is technically Earth-199999, with the main comic book continuity living on Earth-616. (You can blame writer Alan Moore for the crazy number.) In one case, that means even films like Fox’s Fantastic Four and X-Men films exist somewhere along the lines of the story, even though this story is technically over. This means all the cartoons are equally hot, especially Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse.

But the biggest impact this opening up of continuity will have is that it gives the show’s writers the freedom to openly explore strange ideas, those that don’t work get transferred to an alternate land and those that shine have. allowed to exist in the main MCU. It might be a mess, but it’s a mess with a lot of potential.

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