This post discusses the events of Loki’s fourth episode, “The Nexus Event.”
Ahead of the premiere of Disney+’s Loki, I wrote an essay laying out how this show could be Marvel Studios’ chance to have some fun with the fluidity of Loki’s identity, which the Marvel comics embraced decades ago. It wasn’t even until relatively recently that the Loki in the comics became a young, handsome charmer who would smile to your face while brandishing a dagger behind his back, like he is in the movies. Before that, he was a kid and a woman and a twisted old man.
I argued that, as a TV show about the alternate realities created by variations in the timeline, Loki the show was a perfect opportunity to introduce different versions of the character who could serve different purposes in the MCU now that the original Loki—the one who failed to take over New York, helped Thor fight off the Dark Elves, and then mostly redeemed himself in the fight against Hela—was dead. Specifically, I pointed out that Marvel and Disney were being curiously quiet about who Richard E. Grant and Sophia Di Martino were going to be playing in the show, since you don’t cast Grant in something if he’s just a throwaway character (unless you’re J.J. Abrams and you’re dedicated to making a bad Star Wars movie), which seemed like good enough evidence to theorize that they would be playing different versions of Loki from different timelines.
And now, four episodes into Loki, it looks like I was right! Di Martino’s Loki variant—if that’s really what she is—was introduced in the show’s second episode and identified as “Sylvie” in the show’s third episode, and this week she joined Tom Hiddleston’s Loki in being captured by the TVA and brought before the Time-Keepers (supposed masters of all time, though we now know they’re just robots). Unfortunately, just as Loki was about to profess his uniquely narcissistic fondness for Sylvie, TVA boss Ravonna (Gugu Mbatha-Raw) bopped him in the back with a weapon that “pruned” him from the timeline, immediately erasing him from existence. But if you stayed through the credits of Loki, you would’ve seen that the God Of Mischief wasn’t disintegrated at all. He was transported to the ruins of New York City in some other world and confronted by four other Gods Of Mischief: A Kid Loki (Jack Veal), a Thor-like Loki with a golden hammer (DeObia Oparei), an Alligator Loki, and an Old Loki played by none other than Richard E. Grant.
Grant was even wearing the classic horned helmet and green jumpsuit, so he’s not just an older Loki, he’s specifically the Old Loki from the comics that I predicted he’d be playing. I’ve covered Kid Loki and his connection to the Young Avengers in another column, so consider this even more proof that Marvel is preparing to supplement its mainline super-team with a YA spin-off, but the other two seem like inventions for the show. Thor was famously turned into a frog once in the comics, so Alligator Loki is probably a nod to that, but it could also be a nod to the original Norse mythology and Loki’s love of turning into animals (like the time he became a female horse and... got impregnated by a male horse because its owner was trying to scam Asgard).
But what does this mean for Loki? Well, I’ve been mostly right in my predictions so far, so let’s see if I can keep it going. It seems like when the TVA “prunes” something, it really just gets dumped into some other place, unless someone behind the scenes is specifically trying to help Lokis (which no one other than a Loki would do, hmmm), and this trashed version of New York could easily be a dumping ground for things that the TVA wants removed from the Sacred Timeline. Maybe, unlike the pre-apocalypse hideouts that Sylvie was using, it’s a post-apocalypse that is devoid of life (it could be a world where Loki won, or Ultron won, or Thanos won) and therefore won’t impact the timeline anyway.
Clearly someone is running the show, though, and now that we know the Time-Keepers are robots, the possibilities are either much bigger or much smaller (I’m covering my bases here). It could be some even bigger and more powerful entity, as the Marvel comics universe is absolutely stuffed with inconceivable personifications of cosmic concepts, like how the universe itself is actually a guy called Eternity. But it seems to run counter to the story Loki is telling for someone more powerful than the Time-Keepers to be pulling the strings (which means the big villain almost certainly is not Mephisto or Kang The Conquerer, but I am usually wrong about these things). My guess would be that some other version of Loki in the future, maybe one of the Lokis we’ve already met, actually created the fake Time-Keepers. After all, Hiddleston’s Loki wanted to overthrow the Time-Keepers in the first episode because he doesn’t like the idea of anyone having power over him, and it would be just like him to actually pull it off and then create a whole fake reality that allows him to manipulate all of existence. (And before you say “but then why would he allow the TVA to enforce a timeline where he always loses?”, I’ll hold up my one finger like Doctor Strange in Avengers: Endgame and say that it’s because this is the one timeline that leads to him eventually ruling everything.)
I would also guess that Ravonna knows some version of the truth, if I’m already throwing out predictions, because she obviously knows more than she’s letting on and seemed awfully insistent on Sylvie killing her when they fought. Again, though, I’m usually wrong, except for this one time when I was right about everything.