“Loki” And The Time Variance Authority: Explained!

The recent Super Bowl teaser which highlighted three upcoming original Marvel series’, all of which will stream exclusively on the Disney+ platform, contained a whole bunch of hidden Easter eggs, from Wanda Maximoff’s first appearance as the Scarlet Witch, to the debut of U.S. Agent. But one which required even keener eyes to spot was a clue hidden in the brief glimpse of the Loki series, which is set to premiere sometime early next year. Let’s discuss.

"Loki" And The Time Variance Authority: Explained! 1
theguardian.com

The snippet of Loki footage was exceedingly brief (considering that the show only just started filming, it doesn’t seem likely that they’ve filmed much material yet), and showed star Tom Hiddleston seated in a dark room, wearing a prison uniform with the initials TVA on it (I wouldn’t have been able to figure that out: it looked like a TW to me). But while most viewers were simply thrilled to see the God of Mischief alive and well again, others took the opportunity to track down those three mysterious letters – and it didn’t take them long to discover that in the Marvel Comics, these initials refer to an organization called the Time Variance Authority.

Basically, the Time Variance Authority (or TVA) is a bureaucratic group of time-traveling judges, juries and executioners who monitor the Marvel timeline for fractures, faults and the usual sort of thing: you know, people popping up in the past and stealing important artifacts from alternate timelines, that sort of thing. They’re very much like The Commission from Netflix’s The Umbrella Academy, but whereas that series only gave us a vague idea of what The Commission was capable of (or why they even existed), it looks like Loki could make the TVA a driving focus of the series’ first season. In the Marvel Cinematic Universe, this organization would have good reason to want to imprison the Trickster God: namely, the fact that Loki escaped from a timeline created in Avengers: Endgame, armed with an Infinity Stone and intent on wreaking havoc across time and space. That’s usually the sort of thing that gets you into trouble with the time-traveling powers-that-be.

The Time Variance Authority might also want to have a word with the Avengers themselves, considering that it was their interference with the Marvel timeline that led to Loki escaping and a number of other strange encounters: most of which, to be fair, were supposedly reversed by Captain America’s diligent work. Regardless, they’re probably not too thrilled about the idea of regular people figuring out how to operate the mechanics of time-travel, and I’d imagine they’re preparing themselves for future (or present, or past) altercations.

Thankfully, the TVA is armed with one of the most dangerous (and hilariously meta) weapons in the universe: the Retroactive Cannon – or Ret-Can, for short – which allows them to completely erase any event or person, in any timeline. The Ret-Can is exactly the sort of thing that Loki would absolutely love to get his hands on, and it could also be used by the Marvel writers themselves to change previous events or rewrite pieces of MCU history. If it’s used at all, it should be used very sparingly, as ret-conning (or ret-canning, in this case) anything is a risky move that often draws ire from fans: for instance, you could use it to, oh I don’t know, bring Natasha Romanoff back to life, but you wouldn’t want to do that with every dead hero. In Loki’s hands, who knows what this weapon could do? We don’t yet know whether the Ret-Can will show up in Loki, but in my opinion it’s a perfect MacGuffin, a.k.a. the object that all the heroes and villains want to find, use, destroy, etc, etc. (and considering how many times the MCU has recycled the same old Space Stone, it’s fair to say they love MacGuffins). And since in the comics the Ret-Can is used to execute prisoners, and Loki is seen wearing TVA prison-garb, I think it’s plausible that we will at least see it and Loki in the same room together at some point – but since we know Loki probably won’t be executed in the show, it’s also plausible that Loki finds a way to avoid the Ret-Can’s aim: which, knowing Loki, probably means he steals it. Imagine the Trickster God escaping from the clutches of his captors, with the Space Stone in one hand, and the Ret-Can strapped on his back, striding dramatically from the burning wreckage of his jail-cell – that’s Scorsese-level cinema, right there.

We know that time-travel has a part to play in the Loki series (the first-look image unofficially released last year showed Hiddleston’s character attending a showing of Jaws, circa 1975), but the TVA makes that make sense: before this announcement, the prevailing theory was that Loki must steal the Time Stone from the Ancient One; but now we know he doesn’t have to make such a detour. He could easily escape from prison and make use of the TVA’s own technology to maneuver in the MCU timeline.

And what about after the Loki series ends? Could the TVA continue to roam the peripheries of the MCU? Another swiftly-approaching Disney+ series, She-Hulk, could very well feature a guest appearance from the TVA – in the comics, she has a run-in with their organization that nearly leads to her own execution. That being said, there’s no indication that She-Hulk will incorporate time-travel, and I’d actually prefer it stay more grounded (or, as grounded as you can get when your protagonist is a seven-foot tall, bright green lawyer for superheroes).

So what do you think? Do you want to see the TVA and the Retroactive Cannon become a central plotpoint in Loki, or would you rather they just show up for an episode or two? Share your own thoughts, theories and opinions in the comments below!

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