This article contains Loki spoilers.
With its second episode, Loki’s meta-narrative became a bit clearer, as did its title character’s goal. Tom Hiddleston’s Loki wants to change his story, and to do that, he needs to either trick or force the Time-Keepers into allowing that to happen. So we see him start to wheedle Owen Wilson’s Agent Mobius about getting face time with the bosses, and we see Mobius blow him off.
But we also see Mobius trying to score a meeting with the Time-Keepers, and Ravonna gives him a similar brush off. And that, more than Loki getting negged to death by Mobius, was what set the internet speculation machine a’runnin.
Why be sketchy with Mobius? What do the Time-Keepers have to hide? What’s really going on with the TVA?
And the biggest one of all: do the Time-Keepers even exist?
There are several plausible theories about what’s going on that are worth assessing.
Theory #1: Do the Time Keepers Do Exist? (Yes)
The first and most obvious guess is that the Time-Keepers do, in fact, exist and most of what Miss Minutes showed us in Loki’s TVA orientation video in episode 1 is true. This isn’t an especially fun theory, but we can’t really discount it after the secret big bad behind WandaVision turned out to be nobody, and the big twist in The Falcon and The Winter Soldier was that we were supposed to kinda like US Agent.
This theory sucks! Let’s move on.
Theory #2: The Time-Keepers are Dead, Long Live the Multiverse!
This theory centers around Sasha Lane’s Agent C20, last seen broken and captured by Lady Loki (?) in the future
Amazon Roxxon warehouse. She was found muttering “It’s real. It’s real. It’s real,” by her TVA colleagues.
So…what exactly is real? (nothing, according to John Lennon, but that’s another story entirely)
According to this theoretical framework, the multiverse is real and already exists, despite all of the TVA’s efforts to the contrary.
We don’t know all the rules about how time travel and the Sacred Timeline work, but we’ve already been brushing up against its limits in the first two episodes. Why were the Avengers allowed to go back in time in Avengers: Endgame but Loki can’t do so himself? Ravonna’s answer, which amounts to “because I said so” is pretty thin. The same goes for the existence of the Time Stone and its apparent insignificance: what was Doctor Strange looking at in Avengers: Infinity War if none of those thousands of potential futures could exist?
This theory postulates that the Time-Keepers are dead or otherwise incapacitated, that the multiverse exists, and that the TVA’s job is to protect the Sacred Timeline by keeping people from bopping around the various alternate Earths, which could raise all kinds of problems if allowed to happen.
This theory would fill in a lot of possible plot holes people are starting to poke in the show.
Theory #3: Kang the Conqueror
The third theory is that the Time-Keepers have been forcibly displaced by the Master of Time himself, upcoming MCU baddie Kang the Conqueror.
We’ve gone into extensive detail about Kang’s history and almost certain deep involvement with the various MCU time travel shenanigans. To briefly reiterate: the Time-Keepers hired a future, older version of Kang (Immortus) to manage the Nexus Beings in the comics version of the Sacred Timeline. Immortus decided to try and usurp their power and got Wanda and Vision together to make super powerful kids, lost anyway, kept working for them, and eventually came into conflict with his younger self as the Time-Keepers were trying to prevent humanity from growing too powerful and controlling the universe. Kang and Immortus were eventually…split into two different beings (Kurt Busiek and George Perez’s Avengers Forever is like a diamond tipped retcon drill), and a very pissed off Kang killed the Time-Keepers.
So…yeah. Killing the omniscient beings who prune unwanted timelines from the time stream sure feels a lot like Conquering to me, right? Add to this Judge (Ravonna) Renslayer’s past as comics Kang’s one true love, and the fact that one of the Time-Keepers statues looks suspiciously like Jonathan Majors, and we’ve got ourselves a pretty live theory here.
That said, the Time-Keeper in Ravonna’s office also looked a lot like it had some kind of facial armor on it…
Theory #4: Doctor Doom
The least plausible and most outrageous theory is that the multiverse war Miss Minutes recounts to Loki in the first episode was actually the collapse of the multiverse seen in the pages of Marvel Comics’ Secret Wars. To refresh your memory, the Marvel Comics multiverse collapsed in 2015, a result of the all powerful Beyonders attempting to hit a cosmic reset button by detonating all of the Molecule Men on every world.
But someone discovered their plan, detonated a bunch of Molecule Men early, and captured the rest, taped them together, and flung them into the Beyonders, both middle fingers high in the air:
That someone, of course, was Doctor Doom.
Doctor Doom then used the powers of Molecule Man to salvage bits and pieces of various alternate realities and smush them together into Battleworld, where he ruled justly and fairly, so long as nobody looked too deep at how their universe functioned. He also built bureaucracy wherever he went – first with the Black Swans, the religious order he seeded throughout the multiverse to hunt Molecule Men, and later with the various kingdoms on Battleworld.
Like I said, this theory is EXTREMELY unlikely. If we’re grading these in order of plausibility, I’d say that 1 is the most likely, with 2 a bit more likely than 3, and 4 being a long shot. The fourth theory would almost certainly couch the creation and non-existence of both the Fantastic Four and the X-Men in the Marvel Cinematic Universe as a result of Doctor Doom’s pettiness and anti-mutant bigotry, respectively.
But damn wouldn’t it be fun?