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Warning! The following contains spoilers from the Loki episode "Glorious Purpose." Read at your own risk!
Loki did a lot of things in its premiere episode. It seemingly put the final nail in the coffin for Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. being part of official MCU canon, explained that Loki wasn't actually as evil as we thought during The Avengers and confirmed that Infinity Stones make great paperweights. There are even some who claim it definitively solved any time travel issues presented in Avengers: Endgame, but let's pump the brakes there.
Since the beginning of time, time travel as a plot device has complicated numerous fictional works and will continue to do so until time is no longer. To say Loki fixed Avengers: Endgame's time-travel issues is an incredibly bold statement I've decided to dissect, no matter how many headaches it may cause. Once again, there will be spoilers ahead for Loki, so exercise caution!
The Problem With Avengers: Endgame's Time Travel
In Avengers: Endgame, various heroes traveled back in time to retrieve the Infinity Stones, all in an effort to restore the lives Thanos took. Hulk was specifically warned by The Ancient One that he'd be creating divergent timelines by removing the Infinity Stones from their rightful place, and those divergent timelines would suffer as a result. Hulk said that wasn't a problem because the plan was to ultimately return immediately after they took them via time travel to ensure that didn't happen.
Avengers: Endgame's time travel sounds like a solid idea on paper, but it starts to fall apart quickly when you think about it too long. Is there any way the heroes could've traveled to the past and not caused any problems with their visit? Even if they arrived at the point right after they took the Infinity Stones, it would still be a divergent timeline, right?
If you're looking for answers from the Russos or the writers, they can't agree on whether Steve Rogers traveled to an alternate timeline or lived a second full life as Peggy Carter's secret husband in the main timeline. The main problem is that no one seems to have definitive answers on what the Avengers did and didn't do to the MCU with their time travel. This may be why it was so exciting to hear Loki give some real answers on that, however flawed they may be.
How Loki "Fixed" Avengers: Endgame's Time Travel
At Loki's sentencing in the Time Variance Authority, the God of Mischief tried to throw the Avengers under the bus as the true time criminals in his situation. It was surprising enough that Loki sniffed out two Tony Starks in the same building, but not quite as surprising as what the TVA judge said in response. According to this judge, the time travel that The Avengers did during Avengers: Endgame simply didn't matter.
It's certainly nice to state and believe that, but the simple fact of the matter is I don't think that's true. We can't write off the Avengers' actions in Avengers: Endgame as things they were "supposed to do," especially considering the big glaring mistake they made during their ventures back in time.
Why Loki's Explanation Didn't Fix Avengers: Endgame's Time Travel Issues
In what world does it make sense that the Avengers were supposed to travel back through time, but their actions gave Loki an opportunity to escape? It's not like Tony or any of the heroes intended that to happen, but their actions resulted in something that the TVA has explicitly said wasn't supposed to happen.
And Loki was only one of the clear mistakes we witnessed. It's impossible to know what other mistakes the Avengers created that the TVA deemed unacceptable. Of course, it's assumed the TVA is aware of these mistakes because, as Mobius said, they know everything. Mobius also explained it's important not to think of what the TVA finds acceptable as "right" or "wrong," which feels about as convenient as Hulk's explanation of how time travel works in the MCU.
Fans are running with Loki's explanation justifying the Avengers' time-travel in Avengers: Endgame, but they didn't really give us more answers than "don't worry about it." Let's be honest, we still know very little about the TVA in this series, and given that Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness is coming down the line after this series, we could assume they're not quite as good at their job as we've been led to believe. After all, if they know everything about the Sacred Timeline Loki, why haven't they been able to catch the variant Loki they're in pursuit of?
Why I Feel This Is An Issue
Loki's first attempt to untangle the time travel issues presented in Avengers: Endgame is, in my opinion, sloppy at best. We're told not to worry about the consequences of the Avengers' time travel because they don't matter, and yet it's looking like Loki could be the precursor to Doctor Strange In The Multiverse Of Madness.
Marvel Studios is committed to building on plot threads it introduced in Avengers: Endgame, which can be problematic if it hasn't 100% worked out or reached a consensus on the effects of all the time travel that occurred. It's easy for the TVA to dismiss all of it as inconsequential, but it doesn't have to deal with the knowledge that Steve Rogers may have frenched his relative unless somehow he went and lived a life with Peggy in a divergent timeline.
It's entirely possible that the TVA doesn't know time as well as it thinks, and that Loki will eventually explain that. For now, though, the premiere left us with a flawed explanation justifying Avengers: Endgame, and a missed opportunity for Marvel Studios to put a lot of the speculation about the MCU and the effects of divergent timelines and multiverses to rest. There's a chance that it all will be cleared up down the road, but should Marvel continue to build on premises that it hasn't fully explained to its audience, I fear there's a good chance things get more sloppy going forward. Of course, Marvel has done a great job with its storytelling over the past decade, so maybe my fears about where things are headed are misguided.
Loki premieres new episodes Wednesday on Disney+. Despite this long rant, there's plenty to love about the new series, outside of the fact that it could all result in a really sad ending when all is said and done.
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I like good television but also reality television. His day largely consists of balancing his workload between reporting on the latest and greatest news in Star Trek and other sci-fi, as well as 90 Day Fiancé, WWE, Big Brother, and more.
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