The ‘Loki’ Season Finale Introduced Kang the Conqueror and Broke the Marvel Cinematic Universe

At the start of Loki, Tom Hiddleston’s God of Mischief was a man at war with himself, torn between a quest to fulfill his “glorious purpose” and a yearning for connection he rarely let himself indulge. But the events of the last six episodes have changed him.

His time with the Time Variance Authority, with Mobius, and with himself—both in his own head and with Sylvie and the other Loki variants in the void at the end of time—forced him to confront his own mistakes. He owned up to his cruelty, narcissism, and the inescapable pointlessness of his mission. No throne, power, or glory ever awaited him. Just death at a Mad Titan’s hand.

By Episode Six, “For All Time. Always,” the Loki we knew in 2012 at the Battle of New York has learned enough about himself to come close to something like self-acceptance. He (literally) learns to love himself—and shares a kiss with Sylvie, a Loki variant. For the first time, he surrenders to a force apart from his own self-interest. “I don’t want to hurt you. I don’t want a throne,” he tells Sylvie. “I just want you to be OK.”

Of course, his own self-enlightenment isn’t reason enough for her to abandon her pursuit of whoever’s behind the TVA. She wants to free the universe from the tyrannical imposed order that ruined her life and those of countless others. In this season finale, Loki comes to blows with himself one last time. He clashes with Sylvie in the citadel at the end of time, each swinging blades of opposing colors (gold and silver), one dressed in light colors, the other in dark.

Warning: Spoilers ahead for the Loki season finale!

Their enemy, it turns out, is a man who’s waged war with himself, too—and won. The revelation that He Who Remains is the man behind the curtain of the TVA is major, as is Sylvie’s decision to kill him. Without his hand guiding the course of the sacred timeline, chaos erupts. Nexus events accelerate and explode, creating branch after new branch of parallel, clashing, mutating timelines. It’s both spectacular (visualized like a mind’s worth of rapid-fire synapses in the sky) and pretty frightening. This is the birth of the multiverse. And as He Who Remains promises the Lokis, it means a version of him—one bent on chaos rather than order—will return soon.

The self-professed “pure of heart” He Who Remains is a fascist who manipulates the flow of time, ruthlessly “pruning” the living beings who disrupt his vision of peace. What would a more malicious version of him be like? What if infinite beings like him were created in every timeline and given the ability to move at will across universes to serve their own ambitions?

The exceptional Jonathan Majors (Lovecraft Country, Last Black Man in San Francisco) plays He Who Remains like a batty scientist: amiable, smug, and unpredictable in a tenor that makes his pages of exposition somehow riveting. He never reveals his character’s real name. But there are more than enough hints throughout the series and this episode to know he’s a variant of a villain best known as Kang the Conqueror.

Created by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby, Kang has often faced off against the Fantastic Four and the Avengers in the comics. His aim (in an oversimplified nutshell) is to seize control of every branch of the multiverse and impose his own sense of order. So not just your run-of-the-mill Marvel movie would-be world conqueror. Kang wants to control every world amid all the infinite universes that just sprang into being. And he is unique among Marvel villains in his ability to actually do it.

He Who Remains explains that the first Multiversal War, which Miss Minutes referenced and illustrated in a handy graphic in Loki’s first episode, was a bloodmatch for control among Kang variants from different universes. It broke out not long after one of them first discovered the multiverse and a way to move across it in the 31st century. At first, there was harmony and the peaceful exchange of information. But it lasted only a short time. To many of the Kang variants, “new worlds meant only one thing: new lands to be conquered.” The variant Loki and Sylvie meet is that war’s last Kang standing, the only being now able to prevent his fellow variants from springing back into existence and unleashing chaos. Or he was.

Before Sylvie sent Loki plummeting back through the TemPad’s portal, He Who Remains confessed he is aware of the immorality of his totalitarianism. In his eyes, it seemed to be a sacrifice for the greater good. “You came to kill the devil, right?” he asks them. “Well, guess what? I keep you safe. And if you think I’m evil, well, just wait ’til you meet my variants.”

In the comics, the most prominent of those variants included the Egyptian ruler Rama-Tut (remember the Sphinx we glimpsed out in the void at the end of time?), Immortus (who famously manipulated Wanda Maximoff into giving birth to her imaginary twin sons, part of a bid to control her power as a “Nexus Being”; Majors wears Immortus’ medallion in the Loki season finale), Iron Lad, Scarlet Centurion, and of course Kang the Conqueror (the rest of Majors’ costume is in Kang’s signature green and purple). Most can be traced back to variants of a person named Nathaniel Richards.

The rest of Kang’s comics history is as intricate as the multiverse itself but there are a few more key connections to what we’ve seen in Loki and elsewhere in the MCU. First, there’s Ravonna Renslayer, the TVA’s head judge (played by Gugu Mbatha-Raw), last seen skipping through a time portal in search of “free will.” We learn in this episode that she was once a high school vice principal named Rebecca Touminet, an alias of the character’s in the comics. She and Kang have a tangled romantic history there. But in Loki, Ravonna seemed to genuinely have zero inkling of who she was really working for. All we know is she left in a huff, likely in search of answers that at some point will bring her face to face with Kang.

As for the Conqueror himself, Majors’ next confirmed appearance as the character is in 2023’s Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania. Fans started guessing years ago that a Quantum Realm sequence in the second Ant-Man and the Wasp movie hinted at Kang’s existence in the MCU. It seemed to show us a glimpse of Chronopolis, the city from which Kang rules his subjugated realms in the comics.

But between now and then, Kang’s presence and the chaos of the multiverse will loom in a number of other stories, including Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness (where we’ll also see Wanda again) and the animated Disney+ Marvel series, What If…?, aka the Peggy Carter as Captain America show. (There are a number of Loki-related Peggy Carter theories going around too. They fixate on a variant glimpsed briefly in the background of episode one who looked a hell of a lot like Hayley Atwell in pincurls.) The season finale’s mid-credits sequence also tells us there will be a Loki season two, whose story will surely grapple with Sylvie’s decision and Kang’s variants, too.

L1130 (our main, newly reformed Loki), meanwhile, is already facing the horrors of a forever changed universe. Heartbroken by Sylvie’s betrayal back at the TVA, he rushes to find Mobius and Hunter B-15. In his rush to explain everything that’s happened, he fails to notice the strange looks on their faces. “Who are you?” Mobius finally asks. Clearly beginning to feel insane, Loki glances out the window where stone monuments to the Time Keepers once stood. In their place now are towering tributes to Kang. Did Sylvie send him back into the wrong universe?

In Kang the Conqueror, the MCU has unveiled a villain more than worthy of filling the void Thanos left behindstranger, scarier, and whose presence alone shatters the rules of how these movies and shows have worked until now. There’s no limit to the creative possibilities of the multiverse. But that power should be used wisely. Loki spent this season learning to live with defeat, owning the mistakes of his past, grieving, and making peace with the future. It was his journey toward finding purpose even amid that futility that made the show special. Whatever comes next for him (or for the variants like him) can’t be an easy way out of what we know is coming for him. But it should be messy—and full of mischief.

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