One of the main plot details of Marvel Studios’ Loki is that the use of magic does not work in the TVA. But why is that?
Something that Disney+ subscribers learned earlier this year in WandaVision was that “in a given space, only the Witch who cast the runes can use her magic.” Seems pretty specific to the Scarlet Witch-focused plot, right?
Well, this became especially interesting after fans met the Time-Keepers in Episode 4 of Loki when many noticed a red, luminescent symbol on the wall behind the android time tyrants.
What was later shown in the opening sequence of Episode 5 was the elevator door in the TVA was covered in what looked like another rune in the shape of an hourglass, while also being reminiscent of an infinity symbol.
It was also shown that the red-glowing symbol on the wall of the Time-Keepers’ chambers was still present after one of the androids had been slain.
These symbols have been given no semblance in Loki and have not been pointed out or discussed in any form throughout the series thus far, but maybe that’s because they were already introduced earlier this year in a separate Disney+ show.
But, if there were runes cast in the Time Variance Authority — specifically within the chambers that are accessible only to Ravonna Renslayer — then that would be a great explanation as to why neither Loki nor Sylvie are able to use their magic whist at the TVA.
What if WandaVision introduced runes not only for Wanda Maximoff, but also for the God of Mischief?
If these are runes, then two questions have to be asked: what do these runes mean? And who cast them?
WHAT THE RUNES MEAN IN LOKI
The symbol shown behind the Time-Keepers is a combination of one “Ingwaz” and two “Kaunaz” runes.
Kaunaz is known commonly as the Loki rune. Oddly enough, there are two Loki’s as the main characters in this show to correspond with the two Kaunaz runes on the wall, one facing either way. This may be some deep symbolism, or it could be quite literal. Perhaps whoever cast these runes cast them specifically against Loki and Sylvie.
Ingwaz is the rune for internal growth and gestation. The Loki series has been all about Marvel's Trickster outgrowing his “glorious purpose” and learning to love someone other than himself. Although, the person he’s learning to love is also, in a way, himself.
So, the use of the Ingwaz rune could actually be to taunt Loki, since Mobius pointed out early in the series just how weird it is for the God of Mischief to have such a strong connection to Sylvie since they are essentially the same person.
Additionally, the hourglass symbol that is seen throughout the TVA is also a rune called “Dagaz.” It is commonly described to represent awakening and hyper-consciousness, or the process of a concept becoming realized.
This is fitting, as the concept and very nature of the TVA being realized is a heavy focal point of the Disney+ show.
The Dagaz rune has two halves, which can serve as a reminder that enlightenment only comes after ignorance, at the end of despair. This sounds emphatically deep and aligns well with Loki’s arc throughout his solo MCU outing.
Ironically, when spoken aloud, “Dagaz” sounds a lot like “daggers,” which has obviously been Loki’s weapon of choice for years and is another element featured at length throughout the God of Mischief’s streaming series.
WHO CAST THE RUNES IN LOKI?
When seeing MCU runes, the only frame of reference fans have thus far is from WandaVision. Because of this, Wanda Maximoff and Agatha Harkness naturally come to mind.
But while they are the only two witches in the MCU to utilize magical runes, their story was much more small-scale in nature and doesn’t really relate to the events of Loki, so it’s probably neither of them behind the mysterious Time Variance Authority.
One could ask if a sorcerer is capable of casting runes, which would then bring Doctor Strange and even the villainous Mordo into the conversation. Even the Ancient One needs to be considered as she dabbled in dark magic for quite some time before meeting her match in 2016’s Doctor Strange. After all, a past version of herself was the one to initially explain the MCU's concept of a multiverse in 2019's Avengers: Endgame.
Although the motivations of someone like Mordo also don’t exactly align with the story that’s being told in Loki, he’s still worth mentioning as he has been on a quest for years to rid the world of sorcerers, yet he hasn’t been seen since his MCU debut. This would make for a great man-behind-the-curtain reveal for fans that are wondering what the aggrieved sorcerer is up to these days.
Another fun fan theory that’s even more far-fetched is the idea of Darren Cross being Loki's big bad since his MCU return has been teased in several ways recently, including within the Loki series itself. But Yellowjacket being behind the TVA would provide far more questions than answers for fans, and wouldn’t make much narrative sense considering last time he was seen, he was shrunken into nothing for essentially trying to destabilize world governments.
But, speaking of the Ant-Man franchise, many have been waiting for Kang the Conqueror to pop up in Loki. This is largely due to his MCU debut already confirmed to be on the horizon as Jonathan Majors is set to bring the character to life in Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania.
The time-centric series would be a fitting MCU entrance for Kang, despite there being little hard evidence that he’s involved in the TVA at all — minus his comic book love interest Ravonna Renslayer playing a key role in its existence, of course.
There was another Easter egg planted in Loki’s penultimate episode pointing to an additional big Marvel name being involved. A broken statue of The Living Tribunal can be seen in The Void. Marvel has been looking for ways to introduce The Living Tribunal into the MCU, and even almost did in Avengers: Infinity War before the idea was scrapped.
The three android Time-Keepers could have been symbolic to The Living Tribunal’s three faces, and it would certainly make sense that it would take something as powerful as the legendary Marvel character to be able to pull this off. Nevertheless, positioning The Living Tribunal as the mastermind behind the TVA would be quite the grandeur for fans, but would certainly make it harder for the Disney+ series to keep the focus on Loki and his development as a character.
This brings about the most likely theory: Loki is the one behind the Time Variance Authority.
WHAT IF THE TVA IS A LOKI?
The Disney+ series has been all about Loki learning that he’s capable of more than what he’s been living for, and introducing him to Sylvie has shown him that he is capable of so much growth both internally and in a sense of his physical and magical abilities.
For instance, fans just saw the God of Mischief learn how to enchant the most powerful being that Sylvie had ever had to take on, and he did it on the fly with no prior practice or experience.
An iconic line from the show’s fifth episode was that Loki believes he — as well as all Loki Variants — can be “more powerful than (they) realize.” Additionally, Loki has been obsessed with proving that he is the superior Loki Variant. What if that was setting up what they would encounter next — a truly powerful, superior Loki?
What if these runes in the TVA were cast specifically against Loki and Sylvie because the person behind the TVA believes that there is only one person that can overthrow the organization? And what if that person only believes that because he, too, is Loki?
This would be a classic nod to the Asgardian's undying narcissism. This would also be a unique way to set up Loki’s true growth in the series as his final task would be to defeat a version of himself who’s seemingly thought of almost everything.
If the runes cast throughout the TVA are targeted specifically at Loki, then the Loki that learned to cast them knows that he has to prevent any Variant of himself from getting past his defenses. If the main Loki does encounter another Variant of himself that has put all of this into place, he’ll surely be met with the choice of either overthrowing the Loki Variant and freeing the multiverse from the TVA’s tyrannical reign, or joining the superior Loki Variant in his rule over the Sacred Timeline.
This would be the perfect setup for Loki’s final test, as the one being he battles with constantly throughout the MCU is already himself. These runes set up in Loki may be alluding to that, and they may hint to fans that Loki truly is the only one capable of putting an end to the Time Variance Authority.