“Loki” Season 1 Ends With A (Big) Bang

SPOILERS FOR LOKI AHEAD!

The cost of free will in the Marvel Cinematic Universe(s) was high: so high we can’t even begin to comprehend the vast number of ramifications that will spin out of Loki‘s climactic finale…so high that I’m still not entirely sure what actually happened in this episode, except that notably no one died, leaving all our major players on the board heading into what will surely be an even stronger and stranger second season (and oh yes, season two is very much a go: Clark Gregg spoiled that over a year ago, in fact, but a mid-credits stinger at the end of today’s episode outright confirms it).

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Sylvie and Loki | indianexpress.com

I do want to touch on that latter fact before we dive into the embarrassment of riches this finale has to offer in and of itself. Unlike WandaVision and (at least for now) The Falcon And The Winter Soldier, Loki is not and was not planned to be a miniseries, which means its stories, thematic through-lines, and character arcs don’t all wrap up conclusively at the end of this first season. They each have satisfying payoffs for the time being, but…they’re a work in progress, which makes it more difficult to pass any kind of final judgment on them.

Take, for example, the romantic arc between our dual protagonists, Loki (Tom Hiddleston) and Sylvie (Sophia Di Martino). Adored by some as a positive message of self-love, loathed by others as being just shy of incest, either way it’s been building towards something: and that something is a pretty powerful kiss in the final minutes of the episode, albeit one which Sylvie uses to her advantage so she can send Loki hurtling through a portal into another timeline while she deals with the series’ antagonist alone. That arc is by no means finished. Loki loves Sylvie deeply, and he makes that clear when he tells her he can’t bring himself to fight her. Sylvie loves Loki too, and it seems to physically hurt her because of how hard it is for her to trust anyone. That kiss is a great payoff to the journey these two have been on, and it can be a great building-block for future tension and conflict in their relationship.

Similarly, throughout the series we’ve seen Loki become capable of unprovoked acts of empathy, courage, and rational thinking for pretty much the first time in his life. That’s not to say he still doesn’t struggle: when Miss Minutes (voiced by Tara Strong) pops up in the Citadel at the End of Time like a horror-movie jumpscare to offer Loki and Sylvie the future of their dreams as a last-ditch effort to save the Sacred Timeline, the pained expression on Loki’s face and Natalie Holt’s gently wailing Asgardian theme (subtly reminding us of the pain and trauma Loki suffered on Asgard, the motivation for so many of his cruelest deeds) suggest that he’s strongly tempted to take what the animated clock is willing to give him – a timeline in which he prevails at the Battle of New York, survives his encounter with Thanos, and obtains the Infinity Gauntlet.

But the thing is, Loki wants to be a better person than what the Sacred Timeline has planned for him. He’s seen the best of what people – including his own Variants – are capable of, and he wants that, both for himself, and for the people whom he’s grown to love. He wants Sylvie to live the life of her choice, without the Time Variance Authority hounding her for whatever reason. He wants Mobius (Owen Wilson) to be able to live the life that was taken from him by the TVA, maybe even get a jet-ski along the way. He wants to be good, and the only way to do that is to free the timeline…which he does. And if Loki was a miniseries, this would have allowed for a triumphant conclusion to his arc. But it’s not, so this is merely the beginning of what can potentially be a fascinating internal struggle for him as he grapples with doubt, guilt, and perhaps an acknowledgment of the fact that he no longer has an excuse to not be good.

Oh yeah, no biggie, but Loki and Sylvie opened the Multiverse…for real, this time. We all kind of jumped the shark after episode two, thinking Sylvie bombing the Sacred Timeline was equivalent to creating a Multiverse (it wasn’t, and that was something the show nearly adequately clarified), and before that during the WandaVision era we all assumed Wanda would open the Multiverse even though, ironically, she ultimately progressed enough as a character to stop herself from doing that (different strokes for different folks), but this time there can be no doubt. The MCU has officially crossed what Kang the Conqueror (Jonathan Majors) refers to as “the threshold”, a Nexus Event from which there can be no turning back: the Sacred Timeline he’s worked so hard to design and cultivate is finally unraveling piece-by-piece, shedding billions of new branch timelines every moment, and making Multiversal war a matter of “when”, not “if”.

Speaking of which, this event clearly provides the launchpad for Marvel’s fourth Disney+ show and their first animated project, What If…?, which we can now surmise will kick off with this chronological equivalent to the Big Bang, exploring timelines diverging from the events of the MCU films. Spider-Man: No Way Home will also continue the Multiverse saga (suddenly, it doesn’t seem so unlikely that Tobey Maguire and Andrew Garfield are in the movie), and Doctor Strange In The Multiverse Of Madness will either end it or further exacerbate the situation. Given that Kang is still officially set to make an appearance in Ant-Man And The Wasp: Quantumania, and the version of Kang we met in this episode is already dead, I’m inclined to guess the latter. Loki is also now reported to appear in Multiverse Of Madness, so let’s just say the MCU is getting weird.

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Kang The Conqueror | leisurebyte.com

I mean, I already suspected that when the Loki finale opened with the disembodied voices of our beloved Marvel heroes playing over the title cards, mixing with audio of real-life figures including Nelson Mandela, Maya Angelou, Greta Thunberg, and Malala Yousafzai – all meant to convey the disorienting effect of crossing over from the Sacred Timeline, which takes shape as a ring encircling Kang’s Citadel, into an alien region outside of time and space. The Timeline’s circular shape is interesting to me: for one thing, it once again brings to mind images of the Midgard Serpent from Norse mythology, Loki’s monstrous offspring which wraps around the world and bites its own tail. But it also explains the strange nature of time in the TVA, how everything past, present, and future, seems to be happening simultaneously even though the TVA’s own diagrams misleadingly represented the Timeline as a straight line. Circles are potent symbols, as they can have both positive and negative connotations, representing everything from perfection, wholeness, and eternity (i.e. Sacred Timeline) to a sense of meandering and endless repetition. From Crystal Clear Intuition, “A circle protects against chaos and unpredictability, and invites an element of “trusting the universe””, which perhaps helps to explain why Kang chose it: it’s foolproof against Loki’s.

Before I start rambling about the symbolism of circles (and oh boy, am I tempted), let’s move on to my next point: which is that Kang actually wants the Loki’s to succeed, as long as they do it on his terms. It’s never explained exactly why (and that is something I wish we’d learned in this season), but he’s been guiding Loki and Sylvie to his Citadel specifically so they can take over as new heads of the TVA, continuing his life’s work (did I mention that circles also represent transition?) with the same set of authoritarian instructions for how to pick and choose which timelines get inducted into the Sacred Timeline, and which get pruned; sacrificing free will for the promise of stability across all of time. The other option, which Kang wearily admits will end up with him back in the Citadel in a couple of eons starting over again, is to kill Kang and free the timeline, thereby starting a Multiversal war and unleashing the infinitely more dangerous and evil Variants of Kang who also started the first Multiversal war.

Essentially, it’s like a dark and epic twist on Charlie And The Chocolate Factory, if Wonka was a maniacal Time Lord hellbent on controlling all of existence, and the Chocolate Factory and its workforce of Oompa-Loompas were the TVA and its army of cheerfully brainwashed Variants.

Now, it’s not quite perfect. The finale, despite being a lean forty-five minutes long with credits (and no post-credits scene), drags at points, and the bulk of the episode being Kang sitting behind a desk expositing in slow loop-dee-loops about the Multiverse while Loki and Sylvie sit stone-faced across from him and do little to engage with the information or react to it is neither compelling in theory nor heightened in execution by any outstanding narrative trick from the writers (even punctuating the conversation with more frequent action beats or slight changes in location would have helped to keep the episode running more smoothly), unique cinematography, or mesmerizing acting choices.

Jonathan Majors’ Kang is an interesting conundrum: simultaneously eccentric in a bold purple and green outfit with flamboyant, theatrical mannerisms, and muted, with slow and disjointed line deliveries just grating enough to provoke a sigh of relief when Kang finally drops the act, so to speak; revealing an exhausted, weather-beaten noble figure behind all the self-gratifying affectations of a character whom I was beginning to worry was looking mighty two-dimensional for a villain Marvel intends to keep around. But of course, he’s only the first of many Kang Variants to come, and this version of the character has long since dropped the Kang from his name and scoffs at the title of “Conqueror”: he prefers the honorific He Who Remains, an acknowledgment of his permanence, and an opportunity for an interesting conversation about how his name and even his identity matter less than his place and purpose in the timeline, which helps to make this Mystery Box reveal a success. With He Who Remains dead by the end of the episode, one can reasonably hope that when our next Kang Variant appears, he’ll embody more of that dignity which we only get to glimpse in this threadbare version.

And while it’s hard to imagine Judge Ravonna Renslayer (Gugu Mbatha-Raw), Kang’s love-interest in the comics, ever falling for He Who Remains, it’ll be interesting to see if the series pursues a romance between her and one of Kang’s Variants. Renslayer is one of those characters who’s really grown on me over the last few episodes, as Mbatha-Raw has gotten a chance to dig into what makes the villainous bureaucrat tick. She genuinely wants to know who’s behind the TVA, and she’s angry at being lied to, but not for quite the same reasons as Mobius or Hunter B-15 (Wunmi Mosaku): rather than being upset about having her past life stolen and erased by the TVA, she’s simply annoyed that something is preventing her from doing her job to the fullest and hurting the maximum amount of people that she could be hurting if she knew the will of the TVA’s founder. Near the episode’s end, she departs on a search for Kang that will inevitably lead her to one of his Variants – a far cry from her past life as an elementary school teacher in Ohio, but a way to keep the character deeply intertwined with Loki‘s story.

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Ravonna Renslayer | radiotimes.com

As for Loki and Sylvie themselves, the finale separates them in time for the cliffhanger ending that leaves Loki in an alternate timeline where the TVA is ruled over by a Kang Variant who makes his presence known with giant statues replacing those of the Time-Keepers, and Sylvie in the Citadel, watching with horror as the Sacred Timeline disintegrates before her eyes. A lifeless Kang with Sylvie’s sword plunged into his chest offers no guidance or words of advice for how to deal with the catastrophe. I guess it’s time to get Doctor Strange on the phone! And maybe Wanda Maximoff too, while we’re at it. We are totally going to see Marvel’s holy trinity of magic-users onscreen together in Multiverse Of Madness before we even get around to Loki season two, and I am HYPED.

Episode Rating: 8/10

“What If…?” 2nd Trailer Review!

In a franchise that has historically been very strict about what is and what is not canon (nobody knows that better than Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. fans), the medium of animation provides Marvel an incredible opportunity to expand upon the potential of Loki‘s Multiverse shenanigans and explore alternate universes branching off from the so-called Sacred Timeline – in an anthology series named What If…? that will remain (at least as far as we know) entirely separate from the live-action MCU. But although you might think that would narrow its appeal with hardcore fans who tend to get obsessive over the canon debate too, the broad variety of stories being explored in What If…? will likely make this a must-see event.

What If...?
What If…? | etonline.com

The format of the series is simple yet unique. One episode for each Marvel movie released thus far, but putting a twist on the version of events we know from our canon, and following the consequences of that twist down a winding rabbit-hole of endless possibilities. Until today, the marketing for What If…? had largely focused on just two or three storylines: one in which Peggy Carter took the Super-Soldier Serum during World War II instead of Steve Rogers and became Captain Carter (not Captain Britain, although the Union Jack is emblazoned on her vibranium shield); one in which a young Prince T’Challa was abducted from Earth by aliens and became a Ravager in place of Peter Quill; and one in which Bucky Barnes fights a zombie version of Captain America, in what I think might be the series’ Captain America: Civil War episode.

Everything beyond that had been just quick glimpses and unconfirmed rumors until today’s new trailer, which starts out in the back of an armored vehicle moving through the Middle East – yep, the same one where Tony Stark was ambushed in the opening of Iron Man and nearly got blown to bits by one of his own Stark Industries missiles, commencing his journey to becoming Iron Man. But this time around, something unexpected happens. Killmonger – as in Black Panther‘s Killmonger – leaps in to save Tony Stark’s life, effortlessly lifting the missile and tossing it into the sky. And from there, the trailer only gets weirder.

We see an armored Natasha Romanoff zipping through the battle-damaged streets of a city on her motorcycle, having been the only member of the Avengers to survive Ultron’s extinction-level apocalypse in Age Of Ultron. Pepper Potts, wielding some kind of high-tech gun, fights alongside Shuri and the Dora Milaje. Loki invades Earth, not with hordes of Chitauri aliens, but with Asgardian troops; while a tattooed frat boy Variant of Thor parties it up on the planet’s surface. Okoye hurls a spear at a levitating Wanda Maximoff. T’Challa and Yondu fight a muscular, cybernetically-enhanced Variant of The Collector from Guardians Of The Galaxy. Doctor Strange duels Tilda Swinton’s Ancient One. Howard the Duck is just…there, for whatever reason.

What If...?
Captain Carter | buzzfeed.com

Before Loki, I was intrigued but bewildered by the concept of What If…?, but now we know so much more about the mechanics of the Multiverse in the MCU that we can kind of get a sense of what’s going on, and perhaps even why. These are all timelines that branched but never got pruned, Nexus Events allowed to spiral further and further out of control, leading to chaotic crossovers with other alternate timelines, and what Miss Minutes described as “multiversal war”. We can see some of that going on in this trailer: Variants like Captain Carter and T’Challa as Star Lord won’t be confined to single episodes, but will also join forces across time and space – leading to a clever recreation of the iconic Avengers group shot in the first Avengers movie that also includes frat boy Thor, a Gamora Variant who’s dressed in golden armor like her adoptive father Thanos and is even wielding the Mad Titan’s sword, and a character who is possibly Killmonger, wearing the Black Panther suit.

Of course, if the Time Variance Authority isn’t around to prune these timelines and prevent a Multiverse, it raises the question of why. My guess is that at the end of Loki, the God of Mischief’s efforts to burn the TVA to the ground are successful, finally freeing the universe from authoritarian control and allowing time to do whatever the hell it wants. Whether the characters in What If…? will discover that and try to hop over into the MCU’s reality remains to be seen, but that could precipitate the Multiverse Of Madness which we know Doctor Strange will be dealing in with his hotly-anticipated sequel.

The only person who seems to have any answers is an ethereal cosmic being known as Uatu the Watcher, who will narrate the series and preside over events, hopefully cluing in audiences as to what’s really going on. Will he always remain on the sidelines, watching but never interfering with time? Will he be mentioned in the MCU at any point? Where does he even come from? As Darcy would say, “don’t know, don’t know, and…don’t know.”

What If...?
T’Challa and Yondu | nerdist.com

What I do know is that the animation on this series looks brilliant: crisp, clean, and richly detailed, allowing for the kind of spectacle sometimes unattainable in live-action except through extensive use of CGI. With the exception of Robert Downey Jr., the voice-acting is provided by the same actors who originated these roles in live-action, including Chadwick Boseman as T’Challa, in what will be his final posthumous performance. And my expectations for the next wave of Marvel Disney+ shows are at an all-time high after the resounding success of Loki. I was always excited for What If…? because I’m a big fan of animation, but I’m sold on the concepts at play here too after this amazing trailer.

Trailer Rating: 8.9/10

It’s Only Been 2 Episodes, “Loki” – How Did You Already Destroy The Timeline?

SPOILERS FOR LOKI AHEAD!

Dear everyone who complained (sometimes with legitimate reason, to be fair) that it took forever for things to happen in the Marvel Disney+ shows, and that what did happen had no immediate effect on the movies – are you happy now? Because we’re only two episodes into Loki, and the entire duration of the Sacred Timeline, from its highly classified beginnings in the ancient past to its conclusion in the far-distant future, just got carpet-bombed into oblivion, causing gods only know how many new timelines to emerge at once, probably irrevocably altering the landscape of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. You all kept asking for a Multiverse of Madness; well, I think you just got one.

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Loki and Hunter B-15 | rollingstone.com

But I think the biggest testament to the strength of the writing and direction behind Loki (shoutout to Michael Waldron and Kate Herron, respectively) is that, in just two episodes, we already care enough about many of the characters in the Time Variance Authority that we can empathize with them as their entire life’s work, the preservation of the Sacred Timeline, comes crashing down around them. That empathy will never translate into sympathy for the institution itself, which is a mechanism designed with the sole intent and purpose of eradicating free will from the universe, but I feel for the people there: perhaps because I genuinely believe they are people, not beings called into existence by the Time-Keepers.

That said, I don’t doubt that there’s a good and probably sympathetic reason behind why the series’ current villain, a rogue Loki variant who for the purposes of simplification I will be referring to as Lady Loki (Sophia Di Martino), chose to obliterate the Sacred Timeline, rendering it no longer sacred nor singular. I can definitely appreciate the poetic irony in her using the TVA’s own technology to undo all of their work in an instant, dropping hundreds of volatile “reset charges” into an equivalent number of random points on the Timeline. And that’s what leads me to believe she’s doing what she does for a reason, something beyond an innate desire to see the world burn: because she seems to have purposefully singled out the TVA for her vengeance.

Is she really Lady Loki, though? She only reveals herself in the episode’s final minutes, and is never named. When Loki (Tom Hiddleston) addresses her as a Loki, she flinches and says she doesn’t want to be called that – but at the same time, goes along with his assertion that she is him, and even remarks that it’s the other way around; he is her. But given the fact that Di Martino bears almost no discernible resemblance to Hiddleston, and that the hairstyling team chose to accentuate that by giving her short blond hair in contrast to his long black locks, the only visual clue she offers for why we should be calling her Lady Loki is her golden tiara, which sports a single, rather unimpressive, devil’s horn – the other having been rudely hewn off.

I know it sounds bizarre to nitpick what seems so obvious, and it’s very likely that Sophia Di Martino is playing Lady Loki, but this series keeps reminding us not to take anything at face value, so I feel I’d be doing it a disservice if I didn’t…well, question everything. A prime example of this is the matter of the Time-Keepers, the trio of mysterious alien deities who supposedly rule over the TVA. Mobius M. Mobius (Owen Wilson) admits in this episode that he’s never actually met them, and Judge Ravonna Renslayer (Gugu Mbatha-Raw) once again coyly avoids a question about where they actually are and what they’re doing. Renslayer is conveniently the only person allowed to speak with the Time-Keepers, although she’d be a lot more convincing if she ever had anything to report from them except that they’re busy.

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Lady Loki | hollywoodlife.com

Even Mobius is starting to ask questions – although he’s more interested in why Renslayer apparently has another analyst secretly working for her on the side, than in the identities of the space lizards whom he still believes created him. Remember what I said last week? Loki’s mere presence in the TVA, his unpredictable nature, his critical thinking skills, his knowledge of the outside world, all pose a threat to the organization’s ability to demand blind subservience from its workers by telling them they have no purpose outside protecting the Timeline. He’s rubbing off on his co-workers, instilling the flame of rebellion in the very heart of this violent system, and they don’t even realize it yet.

Whoever actually runs the TVA definitely realizes it, however, and that’s why Renslayer is so intent on shutting down Mobius and Loki’s operation. I think that’s even why Miss Minutes (voiced by Tara Strong) herself comes down to Loki’s office cubicle to keep an eye on the God of Mischief, prompting a hilarious scene in which Loki tries to swat the talking timepiece with one of Mobius’ magazines about jet-skiing in the early 1990’s. Someone at the top knows how dangerous Loki is, and wants him gone before he corrodes the foundations and brings the whole structure tumbling down. I know it’s you, Kang.

But in an awkward turn of events, it’s Loki who ultimately figures out that the Variant has been hiding in apocalyptic events and natural disasters throughout history as a way of masking their trace on the timeline (an absurdly clever reveal that gave me shades of Connie Willis’ Passage: brilliant novel, highly recommend), and it’s Loki who warns the TVA agents about duplication-casting, a power which Lady Loki later uses against the agents (not to be too much of an Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. nerd, but Lady Loki’s ability to transfer her consciousness from one person to another, using human bodies like stepping-stones, reminded me of the S.H.I.E.L.D.┬ávillain, Izel). My point is that Loki is actually a huge asset to the TVA.

And Loki knows it. So at the end of the episode, when he’s given the opportunity to stick around with the TVA or follow his own Variant into a time-portal, he chooses the latter – essentially removing himself from the board, rejecting the TVA’s attempts to turn him into a pawn. What he’ll do next depends on where and when he emerges from the portal, but that’s the beauty of it: even he doesn’t know that information! He’s just causing chaos because it’s what he does, because he’s a trickster god.

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Loki and Mobius in Pompeii | flickeringmyth.com

There’s a scene in this week’s episode where Loki is reading through a case file on Ragnarok, which he helped bring about. As Natalie Holt’s excellent score shifts to a somber tone and brings in the sounds of Scandinavian instruments, the camera closes in on Loki’s intense blue eyes. What’s he thinking, as he reads about the thousands of Asgardian lives lost that day? Is there grief there? Vindication? A little bit of both? What makes it so chilling is that we don’t – and may never – really know.

Episode Rating: 9.5/10

“WandaVision” Post-Credits Scenes Review!

SPOILERS FOR WANDAVISION AHEAD!

The finale of Marvel’s WandaVision – the studio’s first official foray into streaming television – left many fans conflicted over how to view the entire series in retrospect. Thanks to weeks of intense speculation and theorizing (and, to be fair, some unnecessary trolling from WandaVision‘s own cast and crew), the slim fifty-minute finale was hyped up in audiences’ imaginations to the point where a cameo from Patrick Stewart or Dick Van Dyke didn’t seem out of the question, and Wanda ripping open the Marvel Multiverse felt like a done deal. So there were a lot of fans left unsatisfied by what was, instead, the inevitable conclusion to a much smaller and more intimate saga of love and grief.

WandaVision
WandaVision | tvline.com

Personally, I found it quite satisfying for that very reason: but let’s play devil’s advocate (too soon? Sorry, Mephisto fans). Did the WandaVision finale really contribute nothing to the overall jigsaw-puzzle that is the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and is that even necessarily a bad thing? It’s true that WandaVision was far more introspective than expected, and didn’t deliver some of the paradigm-altering surprises certain fans decided they were owed. But I don’t think I’m being biased when I say that WandaVision‘s mid-credits and post-credits scenes actually did plenty to set up future MCU storylines, allowing the episode itself to wrap up Wanda and Vision’s tragic romance without distraction.

Minutes after Wanda took flight and vanished over the rooftops of Westview (escaping any and all consequences for her actions, because the status of the Sokovia Accords in the MCU post-Endgame is unclear at best), a mid-credits scene allowed us to catch up with Captain Monica Rambeau and Jimmy Woo, both of whom were slightly underutilized in the episode proper. Woo, tasked with leading the clean-up of Westview and the arrests of villainous S.W.O.R.D. agents like Tyler Hayward, strikes up a conversation with Rambeau – which probably would have been the perfect moment for Monica to acknowledge her superpowers, since she missed her chance to ask Wanda about what to do now that she can turn into light and even phase through things like Wanda’s husband, Vision. The two chat, but are swiftly interrupted by a detective who directs Wanda to the movie theater in the town square. There, in the dimly-lit interior, the detective reveals herself to be an unnamed shapeshifting Skrull alien with her own mission that has nothing to do with Westview.

Now, we don’t know if or when Monica has interacted with Skrulls since her eventful childhood in Captain Marvel, but her cool demeanor in this scene (combined with her veiled reference to “allies” in space, back in episode four) implies a degree of familiarity with the aliens – which is interesting, given that her relationship with Captain Marvel herself seems to have had hit a rough patch, based on other clues throughout WandaVision. This particular Skrull doesn’t work for Carol Danvers, but for a male friend of Monica’s late mother, Maria Rambeau; someone who’s heard about Monica’s recent exploits and wants to meet with her, probably about a job opportunity. This friend’s identity isn’t explicitly confirmed, but the Skrull reveals that he’s somewhere in space – which means “he” is almost definitely Maria and Carol’s friend, S.H.I.E.L.D. director Nick Fury, and the job opportunity probably involves working on Fury’s top-secret space-station, where he was last seen enjoying a beach-holiday simulation in Spider-Man: Far From Home alongside a small army of Skrull and human agents.

The thing I find most interesting about the entire exchange, which beautifully sets up Monica’s important role going forward, is the backstory still being hidden from us about Nick Fury and Maria Rambeau’s partnership, how and why S.W.O.R.D. got started, and whether the space-station is linked to S.W.O.R.D. or not. After Far From Home, the prevailing theory was that Fury had founded S.W.O.R.D. (which in the comics stands for Sentient Worlds Observation and Response Department) to protect Earth against future alien threats: but WandaVision revealed that Maria Rambeau founded the organization, and that its core purpose is to observe and respond to “Sentient Weapons”, implying a more grounded role in the MCU and bringing into question their affiliation with Fury’s space-station. S.W.O.R.D. did have a pioneering space-division, but it was dialed back in the years following Thanos’ Snap, attention being redirected towards AI and nanotech under the leadership of Tyler Hayward. So did Hayward know about Fury’s role in S.W.O.R.D. and the space-station? Or was Fury pulling a reverse-HYDRA?

Those questions will likely be answered in the upcoming Secret Invasion series, which seems like the most logical place for Monica Rambeau to appear next, alongside Nick Fury and the Skrull leader Talos in an adaptation of one of Marvel’s most ambitious comics crossover events. My belief is that, throughout Phase 4, the MCU will expand outward in three major directions – with earth-based stories, cosmic stories, and mystical stories. WandaVision, fittingly, weaves all three together and lays the groundwork for Monica to continue along a cosmic path, culminating in a major role in Captain Marvel 2.

WandaVision
Monica Rambeau | comicbook.com

And the mystical stories will continue to follow Wanda Maximoff, who is now established to be more goddess than human, with the ability to redesign or simply destroy the universe as she sees fit. The post-credits scene gives us a quick look at what the Scarlet Witch has been up to since leaving Westview: isolated in a charming yet lonely cabin by a lake in the wilderness (and within the shadow of a breathtaking mountain some fans think is Wundagore, Wanda’s fictional birthplace, where she was cursed by the primordial deity Chthon), the sorceress appears to be taking that quarantine-style staycation she promised herself back in episode seven. She’s dressed in casual clothes, and seems almost content. But the camera’s long tacking-shot moves past her, proceeding into a darkly lit room where we discover – another Wanda.

The MCU’s sorcerers have long practiced the art of “astral projection”, a technique by which a person’s soul can leave their unconscious or sleeping body and do pretty much anything that their body can do, except with the added benefit of flying and moving through walls. Thus far, Wanda is the only person we’ve seen achieve this while her body is still conscious, which effectively means she’s mastered “bilocation” – being in two places at once. But while her conscious body is just going about her daily routine, her soul is dressed up in the full Scarlet Witch costume and is levitating in the lotus-position, reading Agatha Harkness’ ancient book of magic, the terrifying Darkhold.

Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. fans would warn her this is a phenomenally bad idea, since the Darkhold has previously displayed a tendency to drive its readers mad with power-lust. Being in possession of it at all is a risk – particularly if Wanda is currently residing in the vicinity of Wundagore, where Chthon actually wrote the Darkhold and imbued it with all manner of horrors, nightmares, and demonic powers waiting to be unleashed. And yet here comes Wanda, not merely tempting fate by reading the book of the damned, but seeming to use it as a textbook. When she told Monica she would learn how to use her Chaos Magic, I thought we might see her seek out a magical mentor like Doctor Strange or even Karl Mordo – but Wanda’s instead opted for a masterclass in dark magic and demonology.

A dark take on Doctor Strange’s theme music plays as the camera zooms in on Wanda’s concentrated face, before the voice of Billy Maximoff suddenly cuts through the sound – screaming for help, and begging his mother to find him. The screen flashes red, then slams to black: and until Doctor Strange In The Multiverse Of Madness rolls around, we probably won’t know for certain what Wanda’s next move will be – or even how Billy (and presumably Tommy) is back from the dead. Remember, both of Wanda’s twins disappeared when she pulled the Hex back into herself: the episode made it explicitly clear that the twins were her creation and thus subject to the same rules as everything else she’d created in Westview, from her dream home to her perfect husband to her fleeting illusion of happiness. All of it had to go.

But there’s always been something strange about the children. They may have been part of The Hex, but they never obeyed Wanda’s ground-rules – and not in the usual way that children disobey their parents; I mean Wanda literally couldn’t control them, even when she exhausted the full extent of her magic on trying to do so. They appeared seemingly out of nowhere, proved impervious to her spells, and were able to age themselves up whenever they wanted – and, of course, they soon revealed their own superpowers, including Billy’s telepathy and Tommy’s enhanced speed. By the end of the series, Wanda seemed to have come to terms with this unexpected development, telling the children before she left that she was thankful to them for choosing her to be their mother. I think by then she must have realized what I now suspect, that Billy and Tommy are beings from another dimension or alternate universe who ended up in her reality but were never really hers.

And that means that the real Billy and Tommy are somewhere out in the Multiverse – of that I’m sure, because both need to return to the MCU so they can join the Young Avengers team, which is currently being assembled. But that doesn’t necessarily mean they’re really the ones calling out to Wanda for help. It could be an elaborate trap meant to lure the Scarlet Witch into the vast expanse of the Multiverse, where she’ll be at her most vulnerable. Some fans are already jumping back on the Mephisto bandwagon, though to be honest I’m more inclined to suspect Chthon is behind this latest shenanigan – and the more I learn about the Elder God, the more I think he’d be a truly terrifying villain: perfect for Multiverse Of Madness. But even if the twins actually are in danger, that still means someone must be threatening them – and that could also be Chthon, or any number of other dark forces from the pages of Marvel Comics.

WandaVision
The Darkhold | thrillist.com

And depending on the nature of the threat, Wanda might need to call on multiple allies – including Doctor Strange, and Agatha Harkness, who’s being kept alive and imprisoned in Westview for a reason. Agatha’s knowledge of Chaos Magic and long ownership of the Darkhold would make her a valuable (and delightfully untrustworthy) guide through the Multiverse. Any excuse for more Kathryn Hahn in the MCU is a good enough excuse for me.

But what did you think of WandaVision‘s mid-credits and post-credits scenes, and how would you like to see Wanda and Monica’s journeys continue? Share your own thoughts, theories, and opinions, in the comments below!