Television

The Casual Marvel Fan’s Guide to Loki

Didn’t Loki die in Infinity War? Has Agent Mobius always had that amazing mustache? And more.

Loki and Agent Mobius, covered with a question mark.
Loki, Agent Mobius, mustache. Photo illustration by Slate. Photo by Marvel Studios.

This article contains spoilers for the first episode of Loki.

When exactly is this all taking place? More specifically, has the stuff that happened in the Thor and Avengers movies happened yet?

Good question! The Loki from the main, “sacred” timeline—which includes all the Marvel movies and TV shows thus far—was killed by Thanos at the beginning of Infinity War, and because Thanos actually broke his neck and didn’t just turn him into space dust, Loki’s death wasn’t one of the ones that undoing Thanos’ “snap” reversed. But during the “time heist” sequence in Avengers: Endgame—you know, the part where the Avengers hopscotch through the past in order to collect the Infinity Stones before Thanos does—Iron Man and Captain America travel back to 2012 to steal the Tesseract from Loki, and Loki escapes with it instead. (If this all seems familiar, it’s because it’s also the first scene of Loki.) At that point, Loki diverges from the timeline, making Loki’s Loki a “variant”—one who has escaped his own future, including not only getting killed by Thanos but all the stuff that would have happened to him in the second and third Thor movies.

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Look, I barely remember last week. I certainly don’t remember Marvel movies from 2013. I’m gonna need someone to run down what Loki was watching on Owen Wilson’s Life-O-Movie machine. That was all stuff from, like, some Thor movie? Who is Rene Russo again?

Rene Russo played Loki’s mom, Frigga, and she did indeed die in Thor: The Dark World, due in part to Loki accidentally pointing the Dark Elf Kurse in her direction. Thor’s father, Odin (Anthony Hopkins), died in Thor: Ragnarok, which was also when Asgard was destroyed. When Owen Wilson’s Agent Mobius shows him those moments, this Loki is seeing them for the first time.

Remind me: What are Loki’s powers—and what did he expect to happen when he kept throwing his arms out to the side?

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Loki is an Asgardian trickster, a master sorcerer with all kinds of magical abilities. He’s telekinetic and can hypnotize others; he can astral project and teleport; and he obviously is a shape-shifter, too. He also, per Marvel’s own Marvel Cinematic Universe encyclopedia, can “connect to others telepathically and see into their memories, mystically imbue objects, and create rifts between dimensions.” These are key powers in the show, especially that dimensional rift-creation bit.

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He also can pull a pair of daggers out of thin air. So if you were confused as to why he kept doing that when he was held in captivity, he was trying to bust out some weapons and go ham, to no avail.

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Where is the Time Variance Authority? What’s the deal with that fancy future city?

The question is not where the TVA is, it’s when. Confusingly enough, the answer is “never”: the TVA is based in the “null-time zone,” which exists outside of time. If you’d like to visit Marvel’s TVA, you’re out of luck, but you can find the headquarters of a TVA at 400 West Summit Hill Dr., Knoxville, Tennessee. Don’t worry though: The architecture is just as dated and uninviting.

Who are the Time-Keepers? Is that from the comics?

The Time-Keepers are indeed from the comics, as is the TVA. They perform a pretty similar role there, too, as they meddle with the Avengers’ affairs—and specifically with Scarlet Witch, because she’s a Nexus Being—in order to keep the flow of time relatively under control.

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Are the Time-Keepers … real? Because I am already getting the sense that there are no lizard people behind the curtain.

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I mean, is any of this real?

What was the TVA doohickey that the murderer stole in 19th-century Nebraska?

That is a “reset charge,” which resets the timeline after a Nexus Event—basically a departure from the sacred path dictated by the Time Keepers—in order to eliminate temporal branches. Those branches give rise to alternate realities, which in the past went to war with one another and nearly destroyed reality entirely. Reset charges keep the timeline tidy and the universe at peace.

Was that devil guy in the stained glass painting Mephisto or whatever? I remember you mentioned him in the Casual Marvel Fan’s Guide to WandaVision.

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As per the end of the episode, there is another Marvel character known for sporting horns … Loki himself.

What about the other characters? Is Owen Wilson’s character someone from the comics? What about Gugu Mbatha-Raw?

Mobius M. Mobius does exist in the comics, though I daresay that being portrayed by Owen Wilson is quite a glow-up for the character. Gugu Mbatha-Raw’s character is a little more complicated—she’s referred to as “Judge Renslayer,” and comics fans will recall a certain character named Ravonna Renslayer who might be one and the same. Ravonna, who has also gone by the titles “Terminatrix” and “Temptress,” is the love interest of the villain Kang the Conqueror—already announced as the villain for the third Ant-Man movie. If that is indeed who Mbatha-Raw is playing, she may turn out to be the series’ big bad.

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More importantly, does Owen Wilson’s character in the comics have that amazing moustache?

Well, a moustache at least, because the character was initially modeled on Marvel comics writer Mark Gruenwald, who sports a similar bushy growth. As to whether it measures up to Owen Wilson’s magnificent ’stache, that’s a matter for the courts.

Wasn’t D.B. Cooper a real person?

He sure was! During the spate of skyjackings that punctuated the 1960s and ’70s, someone calling himself “Dan Cooper”—later mistakenly called “D.B. Cooper” in a news report —hijacked a 727 flying from Portland to Seattle, released all the passengers, collected $200,000 in ransom, made the pilot take off again, and leapt from the plane wearing two parachutes. The 1971 hijacking went down just as portrayed on Loki, right down to the cute stewardess pocketing Cooper’s note, thinking it was a pick-up attempt.

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Though a child found a small cache of the ransom money along a river in Washington state in 1980, no other evidence of Cooper has ever been found, and no one has ever positively determined who he was. Experts suggest it was unlikely Cooper survived the high-risk parachute jump, but that’s because experts didn’t know Cooper was sucked up through the Bifrost to Asgard as soon as he exited the plane. (Nice work, Heimdall.)

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If Mobius already had heard of D.B. Cooper, why didn’t he just look him up in the TVA’s vast catalogue of Life-O-Movies?

He’s a busy guy.

I’m also getting a Doctor Strange vibe from all of this, with people opening doorways and talking about timelines and stuff. Is he going to be involved?

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Who knows? But Marvel head Kevin Feige reportedly liked show creator Michael Waldron’s work on Loki so much he hired him to write the script for the next Doctor Strange movie, as well as Feige’s forthcoming Star Wars movie.

How did the TVA get all of those Infinity Stones? And did Loki pocket one, and if so, which one?

The TVA apparently confiscates items from people who get caught messing with the timeline, and the Avengers did a whole lot of timeline-messing in Avengers: Endgame, so it seems like they picked up a veritable rock garden’s worth along the way. That stone we see Loki handling is the green Time Stone, formerly part of Doctor Strange’s Eye of Agamotto, and given that time is pretty important to the miniseries, and Doctor Strange has a movie coming up next year, it would be more surprising if their paths didn’t intersect in the future.

Has someone already started making T-shirts with that mod TVA logo with the hourglass hidden in it?

Yes.

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