Who Are The MCU Time-Keepers? Loki’s Time Variance Authority Explained
Loki’s new Disney+ show introduces the Time Variance Authority to the MCU, what is this powerful organization tasked with protecting history?
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Caution: spoilers ahead for Loki
Disney+’s Loki brings the Time Variance Authority to the MCU – here’s what the organization stands for and who’s really behind the Time-Keepers. The MCU’s steady flow of movies was a reliable pop-culture milestone fans could depend on before COVID reared its ugly head, but despite two years without a Marvel superhero hitting theaters, the action continued (almost) undeterred on Disney+. First there was WandaVision, then Falcon & The Winter Soldier, Black Widow finally arrived in July, and now Loki has wrapped its first season.
Starring Tom Hiddleston as the God of Mischief himself, Loki is a time-warping affair incorporating multiple realities, multiple Lokis, and multiple examples of Hiddleston falling on his face. And at the center of proceedings is the TVA – a temporal organization that monitors all of time and space to ensure the proper flow of history is adhered to. Though MCU fans are accustomed to seeing the Asgardian in flamboyant and egotistical form, Loki’s Disney+ solo series humbles him in the face of a mighty, seemingly omnipotent force.
While the TVA sits at the heart of Loki, much about the agency remains unknown throughout season 1. What do the TVA want? What are they building towards? Who’s leading them? Loki season 1 answers these questions and many more.
Why The TVA Is Interested In Loki
As the trailer for Loki already made clear, the Time Variance Authority is an organization that works to protect and maintain the integrity of the multiverse’s timeline. They seem to be quite skilled at their job, and possess plenty of resources with which to do it. Still, that didn’t stop this version of Loki messing up everything they work so hard to keep tidy. When Loki stole the Tesseract and vanished during the Avengers’ botched 2012 time heist in Avengers: Endgame, this became a Nexus event and created a branching timeline that threatened to destroy reality, at least according to the TVA.
The trailer also set up the appearance of multiple other Loki variants and, sure enough, disrupting the timestream is something Lokis all over the multiverse tend to end up doing. The Time Variance Authority keeps tabs on any version of Loki that exists, just so they’re aware of any time or universe-hopping mischief the trickster might get up to, and Mobius confirms the God of Mischief is one of their most regular customers.
As Loki learns after getting picked up, the TVA and its members were supposedly created by three Time-Keepers following a multiverse war. With alternate realities raging against each other, the trio established one Sacred Timeline. When deviance from said timeline occurs, the TVA picks up the culprit and “prunes” the branch, restoring order. Failure to do so will apparently result in the collapse of the universe as we know it.
Who Are The TVA In Marvel Comics?
Created by Walt Simonson and Sal Buscema, the Time Variance Authority first appeared in the pages of Marvel Comics via a 1986 issue of Thor. They’re responsible for watching over the multiverse, monitoring all the various realities, and keeping track of when new universes pop into existence. If a timeline is deemed to have become too dangerous to the multiverse, they may also take the harsh step of eliminating it completely. The character played by Owen Wilson in Loki’s trailer is one Mobius M. Mobius, a high-ranking executive at the TVA.
While the TVA claims to command complete authority over the multiverse, that’s not quite true, as there are limits to even their power, as well as challengers to their place in the multiversal pecking order. The Time-Keepers of the comics are a trio of beings created by the very last TVA director (known as He Who Remains) at the end of time. They serve as watchers over the timestream’s welfare across all universes and timelines, however, the Time-Keepers haven’t always been on the side of good. In at least one reality, the creation of the Time-Keepers also led to the creation of evil counterparts called the Time-Twisters – a further splitting of the MCU timeline. The whole situation, as one might imagine, is very complex. Such is the way of messing with time, even in an attempt to protect it.
How The TVA Ties To Kang
Kang the Conqueror, one of the most powerful villains in the Marvel Comics stable, was expected to be introduced into the MCU through 2023’s Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania. Kang is most often portrayed as a villain, and is actually a descendant of Reed Richards named Nathaniel, although one doubts that will be kept intact for the MCU due to the Fantastic Four still not being a thing in the MCU yet. Richards has actually taken many identities over the years, but Kang is the most famous – a warlord from the far future who uses advanced technology to go back and conquer the past.
As Kang possesses the tech necessary to travel time, he frequently encounters the TVA, and often has disputes with them over territory. Kang is a dangerous enough foe that the Time Variance Authority can’t just wipe him out or ignore him, so they often end up opposing each other. Interestingly, Kang’s past and future selves sometimes opposed each other too. With Kang (played by Lovecraft Country’s Jonathan Majors) confirmed to join the MCU, and the TVA introduced via Loki, it was natural to assume one would set up the other.
The REAL Force Behind The TVA (& Why It Exists)
From the very start, Loki Laufeyson suspected the TVA wasn’t what it seemed, despite Mobius’ insistence that everything was legit. The first confirmation of deception came when Sylvie, a female Loki variant, revealed the TVA wasn’t created by the Time-Keepers, but that each and every agent and Minuteman was once a variant themselves. When a time criminal is captured and tried by the TVA, they’re also brainwashed and deprived of their memories, turned into a perfectly obedient employee who accepts the company rhetoric without question. Buoyed by this discovery, Loki and Sylvie are finally granted an audience with the Time-Keepers themselves, where a well-aimed sword to the neck reveals the shocking truth – the sacred space lizards are actually sacred space androids.
Before the Lokis could properly process this almighty revelation, they also discovered that pruned timelines weren’t deleted or destroyed, but relocated to a post-apocalyptic Void realm at the end of time, but only in Loki’s season 1 finale is the full truth revealed. The true creator of the TVA is He Who Remains. Rather than the old yellow prune from Marvel’s comics, however, this version is actually a Kang variant played by Jonathan Majors. As the man himself tells it, the MCU was originally a multiverse. In the 31st century, a Kang variant discovered how to traverse realities, and though some of his alternate selves were content to talk science and complement each other’s noses, others became ruthless conquerors.
To stop his own reign of terror, He Who Remains founded the Sacred Timeline and the TVA to protect it, pruning alternate realities so that parallel (i.e. evil) versions of Kang couldn’t spawn. He Who Remains had hoped to recruit Loki and Sylvie as successors, but the latter’s lust for revenge took over, and the TVA fell. Through Sylvie’s actions in Loki, the multiverse MCU was restored, and Kang rose once more, ready to play a larger part throughout Phase 4.