WARNING: This Article Contains SPOILERS For Loki Season 2, Episode 1
The Marvel Cinematic Universe introduced time travel in Avengers: Endgame, but four years later, Loki season 2 has broken one of the major rules established by Marvel Studios’ 2019 movie. After Thanos snapped away half the universe in Avengers: Infinity War, Earth’s Mightiest Heroes set out to figure out how to travel through time in order to undo the devastation wreaked by the Mad Titan. With the help of Tony Stark’s genius and Scott Lang’s knowledge of the Quantum Realm, they managed it, and used time travel to gather the Infinity Stones and defeat Thanos.
Endgame also established a certain number of time travel rules, the biggest of which was that if someone traveled back in time and changed the past, it wouldn’t affect the present. As Smart Hulk explains, “If you travel to the past, that past becomes your future, and your former present becomes the past, which can’t now be changed by your new future.” The scene further established that time travel in movies like Back to the Future and The Terminator are incorrect because their premises are based on the theory that changing the past does, in fact, change the future. However, the Loki season 2 premiere completely breaks this rule in a big way.
In Loki season 2, episode 1, Loki is having trouble time-slipping, which essentially means he’s being pulled between the past, present and future at random. This actually comes in handy when he and Mobius visit the TVA’s chief engineer Ouroboros, aka OB, for help putting an end to the time-slipping. Loki meets OB in the present, then time-slips to the past, where he has a conversation with the engineer about how to fix his time-slipping problem, leading the past OB to create a Temporal Aura Extractor that will help solve the problem in the present. Since OB is shown remembering the conversation with Loki as it’s happening in the past, the audience can deduce that Loki’s actions in the past are changing the future.
This goes against everything Smart Hulk, and by extension Avengers: Endgame, established in terms of how time travel works in the MCU. If changing the past affected the future, then everything from the Avengers’ time heist would’ve had ripple effects and when they returned to their present, it would’ve been completely different. Thanos may never have been able to achieve the snap in the first place, and it would’ve been an anticlimactic ending to the Infinity Saga. However, establishing one set of rules in Endgame and then proceeding to retcon them over and over and over again in Marvel movies and shows since has only led to more confusion. Still, there’s an easy way for Marvel to explain Loki breaking Endgame’s time travel rules.
There’s one repeating line in Loki that helps to explain why the God of Mischief was able to change the future by changing the past: Time works differently in the TVA. It’s a constant refrain in Loki season 1, and that theme has continued into season 2. If time as a whole works differently, it stands to reason that time travel works differently as well. This would be an easy explanation for Loki being able to break Endgame’s rules, because Loki time-slipping breaks even the rules known by the TVA. However, the episode also establishes that the way time works in the TVA is changing, which may be explained by the creation of the multiverse.
Endgame took place before Sylvie killed He Who Remains, so the MCU was existing within the Sacred Timeline, and any changes to it would’ve been pruned by the TVA. Hulk’s time travel rules may have been true for the Sacred Timeline, due to factors outside his and the audience’s knowledge, but now that the multiverse exists, time travel doesn’t work in the same way. This explanation would set up the MCU to not have to adhere to the rules established in Endgame, while not actively retconning the movie.
Of course, it still means that Marvel needs to re-establish what the MCU’s time travel rules are and ensure all movies and shows stick to them. Considering the massive multiversal war teased by Loki, and the Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania post-credits scene, it’s important audiences are clear on how time travel and travel between multiverses works–not just in a single movie or show, but across the entire franchise. Endgame’s time travel rules were already confusing and have been made worse because they’ve been retconned so many times that it’s become a running joke, and even Loki season 2 joined in on poking fun.
When Loki, OB and Mobius are having their conversation across time, Mobius realizes that Loki is changing the present by changing the past, and OB says “there’s no flaw in that logic.” Although the dialogue doesn’t call out the Avengers or Endgame by name, it feels like a major diss to the 2019 MCU movie due to how many times Endgame’s logic has been called into question. The pithy comment is played as a joke, and considering Endgame established rules directly contrary to the scene, it makes the Avengers movie the butt of the joke.
That said, the Loki season 2 premiere likely isn’t trying to be maliciously mean to Endgame, especially since the movie is beloved by many and was by far the MCU’s most successful film to date. But Endgame’s time travel rules have been widely discussed and dissected ever since it released, and even within the movie itself, they don’t make much sense. Having Loki rewrite the time travel rules of the MCU, while poking a bit of fun at Endgame, is a good way to show audiences that Marvel knows what they’re doing and are trying to fix their mistakes.
It also shows that Endgame’s time travel issues are incredibly far-reaching and, even four years later, Loki is still working to fix them so the MCU can move forward into its Multiverse Saga. With Loki potentially changing Marvel’s time travel rules (again), hopefully future MCU movies and shows will make more sense, especially Avengers: The Kang Dynasty and Avengers: Secret Wars. While that remains to be seen, we do know Loki was able to break a major time travel rule established in Avengers: Endgame–while poking fun of the Marvel movie in the process.
Loki season 2 continues next Thursday, Oct. 12 at 9pm ET on Disney+.
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Key Release Dates
Captain America: Brave New World
Marvel’s Fantastic Four
Avengers: The Kang Dynasty
Avengers: Secret Wars
The MCU retconned its time travel rules. Again. Read More