Warning - This article contains spoilers for Episode 1 of Loki.
With the debut episode of the God of Mischief’s first solo project finally out in the open, fans are now left to ponder the many mysteries that Loki’s premiere has brought to the table.
From revealing why the Avengers were exempt from the Time Variance Authority’s influence in Avengers: Endgame to teasing a potential multiversal event, Loki dropped a lot of information to explain some shenanigans from previous MCU outings and set up the franchise’s future.
One peculiarity left unresolved was a moment in which Loki stumbles upon a drawer full of inert Infinity Stones. The office drone revealed that the TVA had enough of the colorful gems to spare a few as paperweights, a sight that would have certainly left a certain Mad Titan in distress.
But where did they all come from?
It’s time to look at the MCU’s past to figure out how, or when, exactly the TVA came into possession of these Infinity Stones.
THE SPACE STONE
Loki’s own carry-on luggage may be the key to figuring the other stones’ origins. When rummaging around to get back the Tesseract, the God of Mischief finds the Infinity Stones in their purest forms. No other versions of the Tesseract are among the jewels, as shown by the presence of another Space Stone that is without its cubic casing.
This heavily indicates that the Space Stone, and by extension all the other of the Time Variance Authority's Infinity Stones, were taken into custody whilst they were in their base-rock form. That means no Aether for the Reality Stone, no Orb for the Power Stone, no Loki’s scepter for the Mind Stone, no Eye of Agamotto for the Time Stone, and no Tesseract for the Space Stone.
This is further supported by the fact that the TVA office drone had no clue what a Tesseract even was, suggesting that the other Space Stone was retrieved before or after being put in its glowing box.
So when have audiences seen the Space Stone without its radioactive prison? The most notable time was during Avengers: Infinity War, when Thanos crushed the Cosmic Cube before Thor’s very eyes. The God of Thunder might have found a way out of his shackles in a branching timeline, managing to grab the Stone back from the Mad Titan before he has a chance to put it in the gauntlet.
Alternatively, one of the members of the Black Order may have, mistakenly or not, scooped up the Space Stone for themselves. Ebony Maw was the last holder of the Cosmic Cube prior to it going into Thanos' possession, so perhaps he took the Stone as a means of protecting it or in betrayal of his employer and surrogate father.
Given how prevalent the Space Stone is in the MCU, there is also the possibility that someone in Thor, Captain America: The First Avenger, The Avengers, Thor: Ragnarok, Avengers: Infinity War, Captain Marvel or Avengers: Endgame could have dropped the Tesseract, cracked it open, picked it up and earned themselves a one-way trip to the TVA. Just something to consider.
THE REALITY STONE
The crimson goo from Thor: The Dark World is a bit more of a sticky situation compared to the rest, considering it is rarely ever seen in rock form.
The Mad Titan brandishes the Reality Stone when he encounters the Guardians on Knowhere in Infinity War, but it isn’t shown how he got all of that liquid to stay in his gauntlet. Perhaps the Collector was able to fend off against Thanos for long enough to get away with it, causing the Time Variance Authority to step in to ensure that destiny still arrived.
Alternatively, one could look to the post-credits scene of the Thor sequel, where Lady Sif and Volstagg bring the Aether before Taneleer Tivan in the first place. Maybe an alternate timeline saw the two decide to keep the Reality Stone in Asgard’s vault, converting it into a more solid form to better control the slippery substance.
THE POWER STONE
Guardians of the Galaxy is where the Power Stone is most prominently seen, getting a lot of time out in the open compared to its fellow rocks.
Ronan the Accuser wields the Stone for a brief moment, before embedding the gem deep into his war hammer. Though it seemed as though the Kree warrior would have almost certainly perished if he held the gem for much longer, there might’ve been a timeline where Ronan kept hold of the Stone and survived. This would have tipped the scales significantly against the Guardians, warranting a visit from the TVA to put a stop to Ronan becoming too overpowered.
The ragtag bunch of A-holes are the other party to have wielded the might of the Power Stone, with the power of friendship sparing them from a cruel fate. An alternate timeline might have seen several of the Guardians succumb to the Power Stone's power. This may have left one or two of the group's members on their lonesome with the gem, resulting in the TVA confiscating their Stone and resetting their timeline.
One could also look all the way back to the opening of the film, where Peter Quill obtains the Orb in the first place. Maybe another space-faring traveler happened upon the Power Stone before Star-Lord did, preventing Peter from ever reaching the Power Stone and forming the Guardians. T'Challa seems to have gone after the Orb in the brief amount of footage shown for What If...?, so perhaps his version of Star-Lord broke the Stone free before his branching path was reset by the TVA.
THE MIND STONE
Vision carries the Mind Stone around with him for several MCU films, but it is only ever taken out of his cranium in Infinity War. Wanda may have been able to use her magic to snag her husband’s heirloom back from Thanos in an alternate reality, stopping the Mad Titan from seeing destiny fulfilled but ending up with an appointment at the TVA.
Conversely, maybe the person that left at least one of those Mind Stones behind was Vision himself. The TVA seems to have at least some level of android aversion, seemingly preventing robots from going through to speak to Ravonna Renslayer with the use of a soul-detecting gateway.
While it could be argued that the Vision does possess some sort of soul, despite his mechanical origins. However, the detector might not see it that way. Perhaps Vision wound up at the TVA for leaving the kettle on too long, walked through the robot detector, and left the only organic part of his body behind.
Going by this robotic angle further, it is known that another MCU machine managed to retrieve all the Infinity Stones for himself: Ultron. Leaked concept art for What If…? revealed that the android would obtain the gems and embed them in his chest.
Perhaps one of the branching timelines went a bit too far, allowing Tony Stark’s creation to get the Stones, bedazzle his Vibranium armor, and then find himself melted down by TVA robot detectors.
THE TIME STONE
The Time Stone is often encased within the Eye of Agamotto, but there is one key moment where the emerald gem is left out in the open.
Upon the Hulk's return to 2012's New York in Avengers: Endgame, he encounters the Ancient One and manages to retrieve the Time Stone. The Avengers' initial plan to retrieve the Tesseract ended in a blunder, so there was a good chance that their one shot at the Time Stone could have ended in the same way. Perhaps the Ancient One could have been taken away for refusing to hand over the gem, or another Avenger may have gone in Bruce Banner's place and resulted in a disastrous outcome.
Though Strange's amulet is often kept shut tight, he does open it up on occasion to show off his prized possession. He does have a simple, yet quite unbreakable, spell cast onto the necklace, but an experienced sorcerer like Kaecilius or Ebony Maw may have found a way to swipe the Stone from the Doctor in another reality.
Alternatively, perhaps Doctor Strange himself forced to pay a visit to the TVA. Stephen Strange saw 14,000,612 alternate futures in Avengers: Infinity War and while the mainline version of Strange opted to continue along the Sacred Timeline, at least five others may have thought that they could beat those odds. Those five would have certainly made the wrong choice though, leading to the one item that they were trying to protect ending up in the bottom of a TVA employee's desk drawer.
THE SOUL STONE
The Soul Stone is the only mineral not locked up in a protective case but instead is trapped on Vormir. The Red Skull revealed that he attempted to get his hands on the orange crystal, but would never be able to possess the treasure he sought. But what if he could?
Perhaps one timeline saw Johann Schmidt find a way to get to the Soul Stone, only for his dream to be nixed by the TVA's interference.
The other possibility is that the Soul Stone exchanges from Infinity War and Endgame went down slightly differently than fans saw in the films. Clint Barton and Natasha Romanoff went through an extensive tug-of-war in their individual attempts to sacrifice themselves. While Black Widow ended up taking the fall in the final film, one alternate reality could have easily seen Hawkeye give his soul for a Soul (Stone). This would have saved Natasha in the short term, but would ultimately lead to the TVA arriving shortly after.
On the flip side, could Gamora have sacrificed her own father? More concept art from What If...? revealed that the daughter of Thanos had taken a fashion cue from the Mad Titan's wardrobe, sporting armor heavily inspired by Thanos' look from Avengers: Endgame. While it is unknown whether Gamora would simply be fully committed to aiding her father or actually taking his place on the quest for the Stones, this darker version of the character may have seen herself as capable enough to sacrifice her pops for a shot at gathering all the stones, the Soul Stone included.
Since the Infinity Stones have cropped up in all corners of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, it's almost not a surprise that the Time Variance Authority has been able to accrue such a collection. Loki will likely leave this mystery up to the imagination of its viewers, but that in itself holds value in that it means fans can craft their own headcanons regarding the mishaps that led to the TVA coming upon more than a handful of colorful, all-powerful rocks.
Episode 1 of Loki is available now on Disney+.