Why Loki is such a huge deal for the future of the MCU

(Image credit: Marvel Studios)

Watching Loki on Disney Plus this past week, I was immediately hit by a lot of thoughts about the future of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. The show teases some of the biggest upcoming changes ever-so-casually, but treats them seriously enough to suggest it's not playing around. 

SPOILER WARNING! Beyond this point lie spoilers for Loki episode 1, and the rest of the released MCU shows and movies. 

WandaVision's big Pietro re-casting moment sent fans everywhere into red alert — the mutants are coming, the mutants are coming! It feels like Loki is the series that will actually lay the groundwork for the next big MCU change. 

Or is that what Loki wants us to think? Let's look at the evidence.

Variants open the door for all sorts of things

First off, context is king (a title that Loki is still groping for). The Loki Laufeyson in this show, as you know after watching episode 1, isn't the real Loki. 

This isn't the Loki who died in Avengers: Infinity War, at Thanos' hands. It's the Loki who pulled himself out of the main timeline while being taken into custody in Avengers (and also Avengers: Endgame), using the Tesseract.

This, by itself, doesn't say much. But when Loki gets to the Time Variance Authority,  he's labeled as a "variant." We learn this from Miss Minutes, an animated clock who dishes out a whole lot of exposition. 

"Sometimes," she tells Loki, "people like you veer off the path the time keepers created. We call those ... variants."

Loki show on Disney Plus with Tom Hiddleston and Owen Wilson

(Image credit: Marvel/Disney Plus)

Spider-Man fans should have their Spidey-sense tingling in full effect at this point if they've paid attention to the rumors about Spider-Man: No Way Home. The worst-kept secret in the MCU is that we're probably going to get different versions of Spider-Man and his arch-enemies from the past two decades of Spider-Man movies. That means all eyes are on Tobey Maguire and Andrew Garfield. 

Trade publications have been reporting that past villains such as Jamie Foxx's Electro (from Garfield's The Amazing Spider-Man 2) were coming back. Later, Alfred Molina (last seen in Maguire's Spider-Man 2 as Dr. Otto Octavius) blew the whole thing wide open in an interview, saying he was indeed playing Doctor Octopus (aka Doc Ock) in the new movie.

Opening the Multiverse, without Dr. Strange

Next up, let's listen to the other big part of that speech from Miss Minutes in the first episode of Loki. 

While introducing the mission of the Time Variance Authority, the sassy animated clock says, "Long ago there was a vast multiversal war! Countless unique timelines battled each other for supremacy, nearly resulting in the total destruction of.. well... everything! But then the all-knowing time keepers emerged, bringing peace by reorganizing the Multiverse into a single timeline, the sacred timeline."

Loki Miss Minutes

(Image credit: Disney/Marvel)

So we have some background on the MCU's upcoming multiverse chaos. Up until now, we have had only two pieces to that puzzle. 

First, Quentin Beck (aka Mysterio, played by Jake Gyllenhaal) claimed to have come from another multi-verse in Spider-Man: Far From Home. Later we learned that Beck was as sincere and truthful as he was trustworthy (as in "not at all"), which made us basically throw out the idea before the movie even finished. 

But then the full title of Doctor Strange's second movie — Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness — was announced. And hope was restored. 

Of course, now we just have to trust that Miss Minutes and the TVA are not pulling our legs. Since Wanda Maximoff (the Scarlet Witch) is going to appear in the Multiverse of Madness, we can now feel even more sure that she could be looking for her family in alternate timelines and throughout the multiverse, something hinted at in the final post-credits scene of WandaVision.

Marvel is playing with a new tool for big cameos

It turns out Loki isn’t the only one tripping the timeline fantastic. Check out this clip, embedded below. from eagle-eyed Loki-watcher @BrandonDavisBD. If you didn't notice this yourself, you may yelp, so get ready.

You see that? Did you have to play it back a couple of times? 

That's right. Peggy Carter herself is messing around with the timelines. Who knows if she's fighting Hydra across time or just looking for Steve Rogers (the "retired" Captain America), but either way, this is huge. 

Carter is practically the furthest thing from a friend of the supernatural that the Marvel Cinematic Universe has. But she does have reason to jump around space and time. Will she travel through time to tell her daughter Sharon Carter to stop being the Power Broker? Or is something else afoot?

This entire scenario means Marvel has a new way to get all the cameos it wants, though the showrunners should know that "with great power comes great responsibility." If they abuse a Steve Rogers or Tony Stark cameo, it won't go well.

All we know is that Loki's first episode throws a lot of rules of the Marvel Cinematic Universe out the window. Any feelings of MCU fatigue may soon be things of the past.

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.