This article contains spoilers
“Is not this simpler? Is this not your natural state?” asks Loki Laufeyson of Asgard, standing amidst a group of humans in The Avengers. “You were made to be ruled. In the end, you will always kneel.” As demonstrated by his position over the prostrate throngs before him, Loki believed that he was made to rule as much as humans were made to kneel. His glorious purpose, as he loved to remind anyone who listened, was power over others.
The Disney+ series Loki followed a variant of the trickster god shortly after the Avengers thwarted his plans to rule. Over two seasons this Loki has suffered the worst humiliations, learning in the grand view of the universe, he amounted to nothing more than a mistake to be pruned. He has found a new belonging, fighting to save the TVA alongside new friends Mobius and Sylvie.
And yet, the last episode of Loki‘s second and final(?) season takes the God of Lies into a totally unexpected and tragic direction, drawing as many questions as it did tears.
Is the Marvel Multiverse Safe Now?
Although much of Loki season two has involved attempts to keep the TVA together and protect the new multiverse from decay by fixing the Temporal Loom, Loki ultimately does not succeed. He learns that the Loom is just a failsafe, a stopgap that will eventually lead to the death of all other branches and allow the Sacred Timeline to live.
And that’s exactly what we see at the end of the episode. After the Loom explodes, the branches turn brown and fragile, crumbling in Loki’s hands. But Loki does not let go of the branches. Rather, he gathers them up and infuses them with magic, effectively bringing them back to life. As he pulls them together, he marches toward a throne and drags the branches behind him, forming them into a cape.
As he sits on a throne in the center, the camera pulls out to see Loki in the middle of a time stream — thick and focused in the middle, wide and diverse at the ends. The camera then turns on its side to reveal the new shape of the branches. It has become Yggdrasil, the World Tree.
Even if you only know Norse Mythology via Marvel comics and movies, you will recognize Yggdrasil as the center of all reality, the home of the nine realms — including Midgard (Earth) and Asgard — and everything that ever existed.
So Is Loki God Now?
Well, even as recently as episode four of season two, Loki loved to remind people that he was always a god. So, yes. But more specifically, he’s no longer the God of Lies. By taking his place at the center of Yggdrasil, Loki has become the God of Stories.
This appellation comes from the comic book series Loki: Agent of Asgard, written by Al Ewing and drawn by Lee Garbett. The series follows Loki’s attempts to break from his fate, which always saw him reduced to the God of Lies, even when he becomes a victorious hero.
In Loki: Agent of Asgard #13 (2015), Loki realizes the truth about his position. “A lie is a story told,” Loki tells his friend Verity Willis (revealed in episode five of Loki to be the real name of Hunter B-15). “And we can rewrite our stories. All of us.”
In other words, Loki understands his lies to be stories. And from stories comes all reality, the point of all multiverses. Within Marvel Comics, Loki’s revelation came right before the massive Secret Wars event, which essentially rebooted the Marvel Universe, leaving no time for Ewing or any other writer to fully explore Loki’s abilities as the God of Stories. But the series did leave on a note of hope, with Loki reminding Verity that stories will always be told, no matter what happens to the universe, multiverse, or omnivores. And for that reason, Loki always remains.
At this point, we don’t know what this means for the Loki of the MCU. The timelines’ shift from white to green, from branching timelines to Yggdrasil suggests that Loki now stands at the center of the MCU, and thus has control over it all. But to keep it safe, he must now be the One Who Remains.
Doesn’t That Mean the TVA Is Unnecessary?
After Loki’s ascension, we find B-15 operating what appears to be a kinder, gentler — but no less bureaucratic — TVA. Although Mobius leaves the organization to spend some time in the world, watching his original self Don play with his kids in Cleveland, the rest of the team continues to work, gathering in the War Room.
We don’t see much of the TVA’s plans. Episode directors Justin Benson and Aaron Moorhead choose to emphasize the emotion of the scene instead of the plot, shooting the War Room in warm slow motion and layering hopeful synth music over it. However, the discussion between Mobius and B-15 shortly before the latter enters the War Room concerns He Who Remains, which suggests that the TVA now exists to battle HWR and his Variants.
The most notable missing person in the War Room is Judge Ravonna Renslayer, who turned against He Who Remains after learning about her role in the Multiversal War. While Miss Minutes gets rebooted and brought back to the TVA (When B-15 asks if she will once again try to destroy them all, O.B. only shrugs), Ravonna awakens in the Void, with Alioth moving towards her. We don’t see anything further here, which means that Ravonna may still survive and find a way out, just as Loki did at the end of season one. If so, she may continue her villain journey, eventually taking the title of her comic book counterpart, the Termanatrix.
Is He Who Remains Gone?
Midway through the finale, Loki timeslips to the finale of the first season, hoping to stop Sylvie from killing He Who Remains. Instead, he discovers that He Who Remains has engineered it all, that everything that happened throughout the second season still ended with him in control. “The outcome remains the same,” He Who Remains tells Loki. “You lose.”
The episode structure suggests that Loki’s sacrifice at the end of the episode (and it is a sacrifice, we’ll get to that) disrupts He Who Remains’s plan. That would be fitting with the God of Stories arc in the comics, in which Loki outsmarts his older, more devious self — who had seemingly paved every road that younger, better Loki could possibly take — by embracing the God of Stories title. Indeed, after Loki leaves He Who Remains at the end of time, we don’t see from the Multiversal figure again.
In fact, the closing montage includes a shot of young Victor Timely in 19th century Chicago, the same place we saw him in episode three. Unlike in that episode, Ravonna and Miss Minutes do not arrive to give him the TVA Handbook. The book still exists, as seen in a shot of O.B. proudly opening a fresh box of copies. But it does not make its way to Victor.
While that might indicate some interruption, He Who Remains does still seem to be right when he tells Loki that his Variants are already out there. In the newly-reconstructed TVA, Mobius tells B-15 that he has been tracking some of them. He mentions a “little” ruckus with a Variant in a realm adjacent to Earth 616. Knowing that the MCU, like the comics, use 616 to designate the main reality, that dust-up occurred in Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania, in which Kang the Conqueror lost to a bunch of ants.
The more compelling part of the conversation involves B-15’s question to Mobius. “Do any of them know we exist yet?” she asks. “Nope,” replies Mobius. This tracks with the Council of Kangs seen at the end of Quantumania. Immortus, Rama-Tut, and the Centurion gather all of the Variants because they’re concerned with Earth-616, where even low-level Avenger Ant-Man can defeat a Variant. They say nothing of the TVA.
How Does Loki’s Finale Affect the Rest of the MCU?
At this point, we do not know. Although Disney and other studios have accepted the conditions of the Writers and Actors unions, thus putting an end to the strike, Marvel still needs to make sense of the disruption. Just this week, they announced changes in the schedule, pushing Deadpool 3 to July 2024 and Captain America: Brave New World to 2025. It comes on the tails of widely reported problems within Marvel, from disagreements about the Blade script to, of course, Jonathan Majors’ legal issues.
Will Loki’s new position as the God of Stories offer a way to deal with those problems? We don’t know for sure. But we do know that, whatever happens, Loki has found his natural state – and it’s a very lonely one.