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Look Back at 'Loki': Kang's Origins Explained Before 'Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania'

As Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania hits theaters, let's refresh your memory about Sylvie and Loki's encounter with He Who Remains.

Sean Keane Former Senior Writer
Sean knows far too much about Marvel, DC and Star Wars, and poured this knowledge into recaps and explainers on CNET. He also worked on breaking news, with a passion for tech, video game and culture.
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Sean Keane
8 min read
Sylvie and Loki in finale

Sylvie and Loki prepare to step into the Citadel at the End of Time.

Marvel Studios

The first season of Loki's time-hopping adventure arrived in 2021, teasing a new chapter for the Marvel Cinematic Universe on Disney Plus. It was the first appearance for Kang, the big bad supervillain who will overshadow Phase 5 of the MCU -- starting with Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania.

Quantumania is in theaters now, and you can catch Loki on Disney Plus. You don't have to watch the TV series to understand Quantumania, but it's a great show so you might as well learn what you can. Or you can just let us explain (with spoilers).

The Loki season 1 finale was entitled For All Time, Always. The big ending saw Loki, who is the God of Mischief (Tom Hiddleston),  join an alternate version of himself, named Sylvie (Sophia Di Martino), as they uncover the path to the castle hideout of the mysterious mastermind controlling the cosmic cops of the Time Variance Authority.

That's where Kang comes in.

Marvel Studios

The villain revealed

Stepping into the Citadel at the End of Time, Loki and Sylvie meet He Who Remains (Jonathan Majors), a version of time-hopping comic villain Kang the Conqueror. In the comics, Kang is a baddy from the 31st century who has faced off against the Avengers many times (and in many incarnations) since his 1960s debut.

Majors' character is never actually named as Kang in this episode, but Marvel has been very open that Majors is playing a villain of that name. Or should we say villains (plural), because Kang is the product of Marvel's multiverse, which are parallel realities in which different versions of the same people exist and can potentially cross over into one another's worlds.

He Who Remains claims to be the last survivor of a multiversal war that involved multiple versions of him after the multiverse was discovered in the 31st century.

He Who Remains/Kang in Loki

He Who Remains explains the 31st century multiverse war.

Marvel Studios

He tamed and weaponized trans-temporal being Alioth to end the war (presumably by gobbling up the other timelines). To stop it happening again, he then created the TVA to manage one singular "Sacred Timeline."

"Once I isolated our timeline, all I had to do was manage the flow of time and prevent any further branches He says. "Hence, the TVA. Hence, the Time-Keepers and a highly efficient bureaucracy. Hence, ages and ages of cosmic harmony. Hence, you're welcome."

He Who Remains presents himself as benevolent, but Sylvie rightly points out that his approach results in countless innocent Variants and timelines getting pruned. However, he implies that his own Variants are "far worse." Quantumania reveals this to be accurate.

The timeline dictator presents Loki and Sylvie with a choice: kill him and let multiversal war break out again, or take his place. He's lived a million lifetimes and has become tired (despite looking very fresh-faced indeed).

Sylvie and Loki kiss

It's unclear what kissing your alternate timeline self is called.

Marvel Studios

Multiverse restored

Loki and Sylvie have a pretty epic fight over He Who Remains' fate, with the latter coming out on top (after a little Variant kissy time). She flings Loki back to the TVA and slays He Who Remains, which lets the timeline branch like crazy -- apparently letting many versions of Kang run amok across the multiverse.

"See you soon," He says creepily before his death. 

Timelines branch in Loki

I wonder which one includes Willem Dafoe's Green Goblin?

Marvel Studios

Their influence is soon made apparent in the TVA, when Loki tries to warn best bud agent Mobius (Owen Wilson) and Hunter B-15 (Wunmi Mosaku) about the threat. 

"Someone is coming. Countless different versions of a very dangerous person," he tells them. "And they're all set on war. We need to prepare."

However, they can't remember Loki, and he turns to see a statue of Kang wearing his comic costume towering over the TVA. It seems the God of Mischief has been sent to a different timeline's version of the agency, one that a Kang Variant is openly controlling. And he's told his agents to let the timeline branch.

"We wanted to end Loki's story well, but also there's this cliffhanger of, 'Where's he going to go?'" director Kate Herron told Marvel.com about this moment. "It was an ending that we all knew we wanted...that the multiverse would be born and open again, and here he goes."

Kang statue in TVA

Oh hey, the TVA got a new statue.

Marvel Studios

This leads directly into Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, and ties into the WandaVision finale, where Wanda heard her lost sons calling out from some plain of reality. Her search continued in the Doctor Strange sequel. Meanwhile, Quantumania showed another version of Kang, who also claimed to be reining in his alternate selves.

It also kicked open the doors for What If…? to slot into canon. The animated series explores alternate realities based on events playing out differently in the MCU. And tore down the walls between realities for Spider-Man: No Way Home.

And it may have made the Deadpool-Korg Free Guy reaction video possible. It's all canon now.

Loki season 2 teaser

"Um, Mr. Laufeyson, your case file says you've gotta do another season. Good luck."

Marvel Studios

Post-credits announcement

A stamp hits Loki's TVA case file, revealing that "Loki will return in season 2" -- the timeline tomfoolery will continue

It's the first Disney Plus live-action MCU show to be confirmed for another season, since WandaVision was designed as a miniseries and The Falcon and The Winter Soldier's story will reportedly pick up in the next Captain America movie. So congratulations, Laufeyson.

Beyond the live-action shows, the animated What If…? will also get a second season

The Menace of Miss Minutes

When Loki and Sylvie arrive in the Citadel, Miss Minutes (Tara Strong) appears with the most sinister "Hey y'all" in history. Turns out she was a puppet for He Who Remains all along.

She brings them an offer: They can be reinserted back into the Sacred Timeline "in a way that won't disrupt things." Instead of suffering so many humiliating defeats, Loki can beat the Avengers at the Battle of New York, kill Thanos, take the Infinity Gauntlet and seize the Throne of Asgard. Sylvie can forget all her time on the run from the TVA and "wake up tomorrow with just a lifetime of happy memories."

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The Variant pair could be together on the timeline, the TVA mascot claims, but they reject it. Probably a wise move -- they'd probably have been dropped in front of murder cloud Alioth and gotten eaten up together (RIP Classic Loki).

Miss Minutes also gives Ravonna some files to read, likely setting up He Who Remains' backup plan in case Loki and Sylvie kill him. Another good idea.

In search of free will

OG Mobius confronts Ravonna in her office, but she easily avoids getting pruned and overpowers him. She rejects his offer to rebuild the TVA into something better, and vanishes into a time portal to an unknown destination.

We also discover that Ravonna's pre-TVA life was as the principal of Franklin D. Roosevelt High School -- previously hinted at by the presence of a pen from the school in her TVA office. The Ohio State University diploma hanging above her desk reveals her name to be Rebecca Tourminet. The original Hunter B-15 leads a group of Minutemen to Rebecca's office in 2018, proving that all the TVA workers are Variants.

B-15 and Mobius

The renegade TVA agents prepare for their new reality (realities?).

Marvel Studios

In the comics, Rebecca Tourminet was an alias used by Ravonna. That version of the character is also romantically involved with Kang.

It seems like we get one last glimpse at these versions of Mobius and B-15 at the TVA, as they watch the timelines split and go beyond the red line on a monitor. The pair agree that there's "no turning back."

"For all time," says Mobius, leaving B-15 to finish the agency motto. "Always."

MCU chatter

As the Marvel Studios logo appears at the start of the episode, we start hearing lines from various points in the MCU timeline and real life. Here are the clear ones:

  • "Way to go, Tic-Tac." -- Sam Wilson in Captain America: Civil War.
  • "That's how you punch." -- Hope Van Dyne in Ant-Man.
  • "Wakanda forever!" -- T'Challa in Black Panther.
  • "You wouldn't have heard of me." -- Scott Lang in Ant-Man.
  • "Let me put you on hold" -- Natasha Romanoff in The Avengers.
  • "Dance-off, bro." -- Peter Quill in Guardians of the Galaxy.
  • "He's a friend from work." -- Thor in Thor: Ragnarok.
  • "I can do this all day" and "Yeah I know." -- 2012 Steve Rogers to 2023 Steve Rogers in Avengers: Endgame.
  • "I'll show you ferocity." -- Hank Pym in Ant-Man.
  • "Higher, further, faster, baby." -- Carol Danvers in Captain Marvel.
  • "We have a Hulk." -- Loki in Avengers: Infinity War.
  • "We're gonna jump on that spaceship and get out of here. Wanna come?" -- Korg in Thor: Ragnarok.
  • "We think of time as a one-way motion." -- philosopher Alan Watts in real life.
  • "One small step for man…" -- Neil Armstrong in real life.
  • "How dare they!" -- Greta Thunberg in real life.
  • "My dream…" -- Malala Yousafzai in real life.
  • "We have fought for the right to experience peace." -- Nelson Mandela in real life.
  • "Glorious purpose!" -- Classic Loki in Loki episode 5.
  • "Motivated by women throughout the world." -- Former Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf in real life.
  • "What is grief, if not love persevering?" -- Vision in WandaVision episode 8.
  • "I will rise." -- Maya Angelou in real life.
  • "Open your eyes." -- Sylvie in Loki episode 5.

We also hear the 1945 song It's Been a Long, Long Time (specifically the Harry James Orchestra version, with vocals by Kitty Kallen), which you might remember Steve Rogers and Peggy Carter dancing to in their alternate timeline marital bliss at the end of Avengers: Endgame, and Kylie Minogue's 1987 debut single I Should Be So Lucky. Oh look, it's the glorious '80s.

Observations, WTF questions and Easter eggs

  • Years visited: The End of Time, 2018. 
  • The name Kang doesn't appear in the international credits either -- Sylvie's real name was previously revealed early in those.
  • The Citadel was "carved in situ from the asteroid," production designer Kasra Farahani told Marvel.com, which explains the black stone. He noted that the stone can be seen in the TVA -- the statues in Ravonna's office, the front of the judge's dais in the Time Court and the elevator to the Time Keepers' chamber are carved from the stone. I guess He Who Remains couldn't resist including some of his style.
  • The four statues in the Citadel resemble the Time-Keepers, but there were only three of them and there are four statues. In the comics, He Who Remains banished a fourth Time-Keeper, so it's likely a nod to that story.
  • The MCU's version of He Who Remains is similar to Immortus, one of the many Kang Variants in the comics. 
  • He Who Remains' stylish purple cloak mirrors the purple on Kang's comic costume. In the Assembled behind the scenes documentary, Majors notes that each article of the character's clothing comes from a different time period.
  • His TempPad looks different from the ones used by the TVA -- its aesthetic reflects the design of his Citadel. I applaud his attention to detail.
  • Jonathan Majors also voiced the Time-Keepers, who were previously revealed to be He Who Remains' Wizard of Oz-style deception.
  • When Ravonna knocks Mobius to the floor, he says "Back here again." Whatever happened on the floor of Ravonna's office?! My pearls, I am clutching them.
  • We still don't fully understand the significance of Loki and Sylvie's timeline-muddling bond.  
  • What would have happened to He Who Remains if Loki and Sylvie had taken his place?
  • It seems likely that Loki and Ravonna will team up in an effort to restore order to the timeline. Maybe?
  • What's Sylvie going to do next? Hang out in He Who Remains' creepy office?
  • Will Miss Minutes endure as an extension of He Who Remains' will? She Who Remains?
  • We never got to see Mobius ride a jet-ski, but it might still happen in season 2.

Loki's Disney Plus adventure is done for now, but will return for season 2 in summer 2023.