This article contains spoilers for Loki episode 3.
Back in the first episode of Marvel’s Loki, viewers get a helpful expositional rundown about the Time Variance Authority from Miss Minutes (Tara Strong), a friendly cartoon clock.
In a ‘50s style orientation video, Miss Minutes described how the Time Keepers created the TVA and all the employees within it to maintain the Sacred Timeline and avert temporal chaos. Makes sense! But in this week’s episode, “Lamentis”, we are provided some information that appears to be at odds with the “official” founding myth of the TVA.
As rogue Loki Variant Sylvie describes what it’s like to enchant people’s minds (huh, almost like she’s some kind of…enchantress?) to our lead character, she reveals that sometimes a mind is so strong that she must create a fantasy of a memory to lull them. Such is the case with Hunter C-20 (Sasha Lane).
“I had to pull a memory from hundreds of years prior before she even fought for them,” Sylvie tells Loki.
Huh…before she fought for the TVA? How could C-20 have had a life before the TVA if the TVA created her for time-policing purposes? It turns out that, according to Sylvie, everyone who works at the TVA are just like her and Loki: Variants lost on the Sacred Timeline.
In classic Marvel Cinematic Universe fashion, this answer to a question leads to only more questions. Let’s endeavor to answer them.
What is the TVA’s Real Mission?
Marvel’s first Disney+ series WandaVision made it clear from the get-go that all wasn’t what it seemed to be. Conversely Loki appeared to end its first episode with all cards on the table. Sure, the science fiction premise was ambitious and at times hard to understand, but the TVA’s mission was outlined quite clearly in that aforementioned orientation video. Now one can’t help but wonder whether Loki isn’t more like WandaVision than we anticipated.
The TVA says its only mission is to protect the Sacred Timeline. As the series goes on, however, the very notion of a Sacred Timeline seems increasingly impossible. As discussed in this feature, which irreparably broke my brain, the lack of alternate universes in the TVA’s worldview is just not feasible. Where do all of these Loki Variants come from if not alternate universes or alternate timelines?
Sylvie has a fundamentally different appearance from our Loki and, if she is to be believed, an entirely different family history. How could two such contradictory beings exist on one Sacred Timeline? The answer is that they can’t. The TVA claims that the emergence of just one alternate timeline branched off from the Sacred Timeline would have disastrous consequences. Clearly it doesn’t though as all the Variant Lokis already exist.
Perhaps when Miss Minutes and the Time Keepers say that the TVA maintains the Sacred Timeline, what they mean is that they guard it from external threats. Pruning Nexus events here and there is also part of the job, but the main goal is to make sure that the Sacred Timeline doesn’t come under attack from other timelines. If we buy into that logic, then of course the Time Keepers would bring brainwashed Variants aboard to assist in this mission.
Speaking of the Time Keepers…
Are the Time-Keepers Even Real?
Episode three brings us closer to meeting the Time-Keepers than ever before. C-20 tells Sylvie that the Time Keepers reside on the top floor of the TVA offices, accessible only through a golden elevator. Sylvie makes it quite close to invading their sanctum before Loki intervenes.
Now that a basic tenet of the TVA’s history is in question though, so too is the existence of the Time-Keepers themselves. Loki’s understanding of the deities is that they are three “space lizards” who oversee the timestream. While that would certainly be cool to see depicted onscreen, it now seems more likely that they’re a fairy tale.
The TVA’s own internal depiction of the Time-Keepers is too holy and sagacious to possibly be real. As evidenced by the bureaucratic nightmare around them, time keeping is not a sexy business. It requires hard work and determination, not ethereal space iguanas. Recall that the only character who claims to have met with the head honchos is Ravonna Renslayer (Gugu Mbatha-Raw).
Is Miss Minutes the Big Bad Here?
If the Time-Keepers aren’t Loki’s main foe to be vanquished then who is? It’s possible that the answer was in front of us the whole time. Simply put: there’s something off about Miss Minutes. At first glance, she was just a funny satire of the friendly cartoonish faces that corporations use to hide their dirty work. Then episode 2 revealed that Miss Minutes is actually able to achieve something resembling a corporeal form as she quizzes Loki on TVA history from a desk.
This past week, The Hollywood Reporter had a chance to interview Tara Strong, the voice of Miss Minutes, and there were some intriguing tidbits uncovered. When asked about director Kate Herron’s assertion that Miss Minutes was about to go on an “interesting” journey, Strong responded:
“I can cryptically tease that you’ll see her again. There’s much more to be revealed, and it’s fun to watch that unfold. The beautiful thing about this character is you don’t really know who she is, where she’s from, what her origin story is, how sentient she is, if she has a horse in this race at all, and what her intentions are, if any.”
Strong made good on her promise to remain cryptic there, but it’s still surprising to hear just how much Miss Minutes content is yet to come. I suppose that’s to be expected from a character with her own poster and that played by a voice acting titan. It’s not out of the question that Miss Minutes will be revealed to be an antagonist of sorts, perhaps even the main one.
For better or worse, Miss Minutes represents the TVA. What if the agency started with noble intentions before gradually becoming corrupted over centuries? And now Miss Minutes is the anthropomorphic embodiment of the flawed institution, stamping out timelines that don’t need to be stamped out. Perhaps she’s like HAL 9000 from 2001: A Space Odyssey.
After all, does this look like the face of mercy to you?
Does Agent Mobius Know He Had A Life Before the TVA?
The biggest loser in the revelations of episode 3 might be poor Agent Mobius (Owen Wilson). Back in episode 2, Mobius had a conversation with Loki about how much he appreciates order in the universe rather than the chaos that Loki prefers. That same episode reveals, however, that Mobius might not be as straight-laced as he appears.
The man loves jet skis, calling them the perfect combination of form and function. Unlike his co-worker Casey (Eugene Cordero) who doesn’t even know what a fish is, Mobius likes to spend much of his infinite time reading jet ski magazines. We should have known right then and there that the TVA did not create its employees because why would they program in a love for something from the outside world?
Mobius is probably a Variant conscripted into the TVA’s mission just like everyone else. The question is: does he know that? I’m inclined to think he does not. Though Mobius is a respected Agent in the TVA, he is continually shown to be shockingly far down on the totem pole. Judge Renslayer won’t let him meet the Time Keepers (probably because they don’t exist) and even Hunter B-15 bosses him around in the field.
Although, there’s another possibility. In the comics, many higher/executive positions in the TVA were held by Mobius. Multiple Mobiuses. The Marvel Comics TVA had a policy of cloning its managers, rather than hiring/training new people, and since Mobius was great at his job, they made more of him. Perhaps the MCU Mobius is based on a Variant, one who did his job so well that they chose to duplicate him for more work. It would mean that he isn’t necessarily lying when he tells Loki the “creation myth” of the TVA agents, it might just be the only truth he knows.
Wilson also brings a sensitivity and world-weariness to the role that suggest deep down, Mobius knows something is missing in his life. On a subconscious level, maybe that’s why he’s so taken with Loki. The only being that can take down the Time Keepers and TVA’s strict order is the God of Mischief.