Spoiler alert! If you haven’t watched Loki episode 1, turn away now!
In 2018, after a decade of set-up, the Avengers finally battled Thanos in Avengers: Infinity War. Throughout the now-legendary “Phase 1” and “Phase 2” of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, the seeding of the Infinity Stones was a big freaking deal. From the “Space Stone” (the Tesseract) getting set up in Captain America (2011) to the power stone in Guardians of the Galaxy (2014), we were told over and over again, that these stones were the only things that mattered. In 2019’s Avengers: Endgame, getting all six stones was literally two-thirds of that three-hour-long epic.
But now? Pffft! The first episode of Loki just made the Infinity Stones and Thanos into a joke.
In the first episode, when Loki is desperate to get the Tesseract back, he hassles one of the TVA clerical workers (Eugene Cordero) and discovers an unguarded drawer full of random Infinity Stones. Cordero’s character tells him that “some of the guys use them for paperweights.” Loki is floored. In the offices of the Temporal Variance Authority, the most powerful objects in Loki’s world are bullshit.
Essentially, in its first episode, Loki has leveled up the MCU. We’re now operating in a part of this world in which everything we knew, was simply one version of reality, but now, behind the scenes, it’s clear there’s a lot of junk that gets swept under the multiverse rug. In the show, we learn that Loki is a “Variant,” meaning he’s deviated from “the sacred timeline,” and thus not part of what is normally considered “reality.”
The funny thing is, the Infinity Stone twist reveals that this idea of a “Variant” applies to objects, too. At the end of Endgame, we’re told that Steve Rogers must put all the stones back in their proper places in the timeline, otherwise, as Hulk says, it would create “a lot of nasty alternate realities.” But, now we know that thinking only applies to reality as the Avengers experienced it. In Loki everyone is literally above and beyond all that shit, which is why Loki himself is correctly slack-jawed that folks in the TVA just have Infinity Stones lying around. The power of these Variant stones is useless because the show doesn’t play by the same rules.
This is powerful stuff metaphorically, of course, and connects really well to the larger themes of the show. Does Loki have free will? Can you cancel your Disney+ subscription if you wanted to? Are there other timelines where I didn’t use the word “shit” twice in this article? (Three times now!) These questions don’t have answers, but in Loki, they kind of do!
More immediately, relative to Marvel itself, this scene is a huge moment. If Thanos and the stones are a footnote from the perspective of the TVA, then the places Loki can go as a series could be limitless. After a ton of movies that were more or less about the same thing, this specific twist in Loki is great for one reason. It’s new.
Loki streams on Disney+. New episodes drop on Wednesdays.