Time travel is always a messy concept—as are most things so intertwined with time in general. So, of course, when Marvel Studios decided to create a show about just that, things were bound to get a little complex. This is especially true when a huge villain is being introduced to the MCU who has control over the very timeline itself.
When the Loki finale finished, fans still had lots of questions despite having had many answered by He Who Remains himself. If the TVA was so bent on maintaining the integrity of the Sacred Timeline, how were there so many alternate timelines and/or Variants in general?
There are plenty of theories and breakdowns out there to try to help fans wrap their heads around everything that Loki has introduced to the MCU.
Thankfully though, the head writer for Loki has been able to shed some light on everything, and this new information may fill in those blank spots.
THE SACRED TIMELINE CONFUSION
In an interview with ScreenCrush, Loki head writer Michael Waldron sat down to discuss the show, in which the interviewer had some questions about how there could be so many alternate timelines and variants if there has only been one Sacred Timeline of the MCU.
Joking that he would "answer best [he could] without canonizing something [he'd] have to unwind," Waldron replied with a lengthy explanation, saying that there are "infinite instances of time always occurring at once:"
"Okay, The best I can explain it is our approach with time travel was the philosophy basically that time is always happening. So there are infinite instances of time always occurring at once. So you and I are having this conversation right now. There’s another instance of us having this conversation 10 seconds ago. There’s another instance of time of us having this conversation 10 seconds in the future. Generally, those three instances — you could literally say they’re all different universes in a way different timelines — are all the same. There are minute little fluctuations in each instance of time. So in you and I’s conversation, five times out of ten, I pick up and I say, 'Hello.' And four times out of ten, I say, 'Hey, nice to meet you.' And then maybe one time out of ten, I’d say, 'Hey man, f— you. I don’t want to do this interview.'”
After sharing a laugh, Waldron specified that "there's always like different permutations and instances happening," something in which "the TVA has their own barometer... of what constitutes a deviation:"
"And that’s just how time works. There’s always like different permutations and instances happening. The TVA has their own barometer, their own gauge of what constitutes a deviation from the baseline, the way it’s supposed to go. The way it went that produced He Who Remains. That is their baseline. And so they are constantly calculating, 'Okay, we see how time has always...' If you zoomed in on the timeline, it wouldn’t necessarily look like a straight line. It might look like almost the intertwined strands of a rope fluctuating and spiking here and there."
Waldron mentioned that practically speaking, they are guarding against new Variants of He Who Remains, so if anything were to have branched off that could create a new version of He Who Remains, then that is what would constitute a worthy branch to trim:
"When it becomes a problem for the TVA is when, according to their own rules, when could something branch off in a way that it could actually produce a new timeline that could produce a new version of He Who Remains? That is the practical thing that they’re guarding against. Does that answer your question?"
ARE ALL OF LOKI'S MYSTERIES REALLY SOLVED?
Even with Waldron's further clarification of how things work, fans are likely to still have questions. Explaining how time works is a concept that is nearly impossible to perfectly explain, especially when multiple branches and universes get involved. But as it is, Waldron does seem to have a pretty good grip on how his world works.
Thankfully, not only will fans have Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness to help flesh the inner workings of the MCU out but also Loki Season 2. The Doctor Strange sequel has Waldron behind the wheel, a clever move by Marvel to keep things consistent as best it can. While fans may still have plenty of questions, as one can see, the future looks to be primed with further explanation.
Next up on the slate for Disney+ is Marvel's What If...?, a show which will explore this vast new multiverse that both the TVA and Sylvie allowed to blossom. It's likely some further answers about how everything works may lie within the show's many alternate MCU tales.
What If...? will premiere exclusively on Disney+ on August 11, 2021.