He Who Remains: What you need to know about the new MCU villain

He Who Remains
(Image credit: Disney Plus / Marvel Studios)

SPOILER ALERT: this story discusses the character He Who Remains and the events of the Loki Finale, as well as other potential plot points going forward.

Where were we? Well, in the Loki finale, we met a new face in the MCU: He Who Remains. Or at least that's what he called himself. Portrayed by Jonathan Majors (Lovecraft Country), He Who Remains stole the show from a pair of scene stealers (Tom Hiddleston and Sophia Di Martino), and then played a pivotal role in a moment that may live in infamy in the MCU that follows.

But we didn't think that Majors would be playing He Who Remains. We all went into that episode thinking Majors was going to be Kang the Conqueror, or Immortus. Both names that a smart, smart man took on, as he looked to control the timeline in the ways that it seems He Who Remains did.

What did He Who Remains do in Loki?

First of all, his emissary made an offer on his behalf. Miss Minutes was the first to greet Loki and Sylvie, and said that He could give them their lives back — that they could kill Thanos. The trickster didn't trust this claim. He would then send Miss Minutes off to Ravonna's office, to give her some homework to read.

After that, Sylvie and Loki met He Who Remains, who revealed himself from inside a chamber, in an ornate, church-like building. Some statues were still erect, while one had crashed. There was dust everywhere, making Loki wonder if He was still alive. 

And then, He Who Remains popped out to marvel at two of the same person in the same room at the same time. He Who Remains also kind of revealed that he doesn't just go by that name, asking if Miss Minutes "still calls me that? Creepy ... I like it."

He Who Remains

(Image credit: Disney Plus / Marvel Studios)

He Who Remains then admitted that as Loki put it, he's "just a man," and "flesh and blood" (his words). Except he's also a man with an exceptional way of using the TemPad to dodge attacks. All the while, he ate a green apple, which felt symbolic, as if to harken to the garden of Eden, if Loki and Sylvie were Adam and Eve, faced with a choice. 

He Who Remains then revealed that he knows both of the Loki variants well. In fact, he knows "it all," including how to dodge them. He watched them get here. He saw that look by the lake. He even claimed he "paved the road" for them to get to the castle. This was all pre-amble to claiming that he played a part in each of Loki and Sylvie's steps on their way to his castle. This all seemed truthful and honest. 

He Who Remains then offered Loki and Sylvie full control over the TVA, to basically take over his position. This all felt very Wizard of Oz and Willy Wonka.

Is He Who Remains actually Kang the Conqueror?

He Who Remains told Loki and Sylvie about his backstory, and it's one that reeks of a certain Kang the Conqueror. He even intimated it, saying "I've been dubbed many names by many people. ... A ruler, a conqueror, He Who Remains," which Disney Plus' subtitles used capital letters for, and "a jerk." But, as he said, "it's not as simple as a name."

Kang, whose real name is Nathaniel Richards — yes, true believers, that Richards —has been a long time thorn in the sides of the Avengers, the Fantastic Four and Ant-Man (who once led the Fantastic Four). Oh, and Jonathan Majors? Deadline reported that he will be in Ant-Man, and that "he is likely to play the super-villain Kang the Conqueror." The sources for that report even said that "there could be a twist with how the character is featured in future films." Such, as you know, being a copy of Kang?

Want to see Kang's Ant-Man 3 look? We've got a potential glimpse at the character thanks to a leak from the movie's crew merch. It's a very traditional take on the purple-helmeted villain, seen in a reflection of Ant-Man's helmet.

He Who Remains

(Image credit: Disney Plus / Marvel Studios)

After He Who Remains ejected some of his special stop-motion animation matter onto his table, he told a story about a variant of himself who was a scientist and lived on the Earth in the 31st Century. And, again, that lines up with Kang. So, safe to say, He Who Remains is a Kang the Conqueror variant. One who is very dedicated to keeping the overall timeline in order, and in tip-top shape.

What doesn't make sense about He Who Remains is that he doesn't have Kang's sprit for domination of the timeline. He seemed ready to surrender control to Loki and Sylvie. Like he was retiring from super-villainy. This makes him seem like a variant who feels "too old for this sh*t," to borrow an old phrase from another cinematic universe.

That said, there's another reading for He Who Remains. He could be just pretending to be ready to settle down. That whole conversation with Sylvie and Loki, and his death (more on that below), could have been a test to measure the actions and behaviors of these variants. 

What does He Who Remains mean for the MCU?

He Who Remains

(Image credit: Disney Plus / Marvel Studios)

Well, as we saw at the end of the Loki finale, the Time Variance Authority is now officially under the control of a variant of Kang/He Who Remains. Or at least that's what the giant statue with He Who Remains' face on it — and not one of the Time-Keepers' — suggests.

But Sylvie stabbed He Who Remains, and he died — though not before saying "See you soon," as if to wink to Sylvie and the audience that his time is far from over. Kang's death, and the shattering of the sacred timeline, have obvious implications for two upcoming MCU films: Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness and Spider-Man: No Way Home. Both situations where variants of He Who Remains, and his other names, could appear.

And since we expect to see Majors in Ant-Man 3, and his history with Richards' family means he's a shoe-in for Marvel's Fantastic Four, expect to see the actor for a while: either as Kang the Conqueror, He Who Remains or ... Immortus.

Yes, when we look at the He Who Remains we saw in Loki, we wonder if he will not be referred to as Kang the Conqueror, but Kang's other identity: Immortus. During this phase of Richards' time, Immortus both posed as Kang and worked to control the timeline to prevent it from splintering off too much. 

He Who Remains

(Image credit: Disney Plus / Marvel Studios)

This all reeks as the first domino to fall in the introduction of the next Thanos in the MCU. He's even got a potential supporter, in Judge Ravonna Renslayer. Miss Minutes gave her information to find He Who Remains, and the two are connected in the comics. It's all enough to make his name make sense. Because if we expect to see Jonathan Majors here for a while? He will, in fact, remain.

Henry T. Casey
Managing Editor (Entertainment, Streaming)

Henry is a managing editor at Tom’s Guide covering streaming media, laptops and all things Apple, reviewing devices and services for the past seven years. Prior to joining Tom's Guide, he reviewed software and hardware for TechRadar Pro, and interviewed artists for Patek Philippe International Magazine. He's also covered the wild world of professional wrestling for Cageside Seats, interviewing athletes and other industry veterans.