Loki season 2 introduces new concepts to the MCU’s time travel, including time-slipping, rewriting the past, and erasing oneself from history.
Loki’s time-slipping rewrites the TVA’s history in “real time,” bringing a heightened sense of causality to the organization.
The Avengers’ time travel rules only apply to everything that exists within the Sacred Timeline, whereas the TVA has its own time travel rules given that they operate outside of time.
Warning! This article contains spoilers for Loki season 2, episode 1.Loki season 2 adds a new layer of complexity to the MCU’s time travel. After finding out the truth behind the Time Variance Authority and witnessing Sylvie kill He Who Remains, Loki faces new challenges in Loki season 2. Time-slipping, rewriting the past, and removing himself from time are all concepts that even Loki finds difficult to wrap his head around. After all, time is a highly flexible thing at the TVA, as it exists independently of the MCU’s main time-space continuum.
Time travel was first introduced in the MCU during Avengers: Endgame, where the Avengers’ time-travel technology established that interacting with the past doesn’t alter the present. Instead, any trip to the past causes the timeline to branch out and create slightly different realities — unless the changes are undone. This is why the Avengers are able to pluck the Infinity Stones from the past and return them once they’re done with them in the present. However, Loki season 2’s lore reveals that Avengers: Endgame’s time travel rules only apply to everything that’s inside the Sacred Timeline. Since the TVA headquarters are located outside of time, time travel works differently there.
After being sent back to the TVA after visiting the Citadel at the End of Time, Loki goes through what Ouroboros calls “time-slipping”, a phenomenon that brings Loki back and forth between the past, present, and future. Apparently, Loki season 2’s time-slipping is a rare anomaly that afflicts individuals who have had atypical interactions with time. Loki’s presence at the TVA’s headquarters is displaced from their flow of time, causing him to blink in and out of existence, like a flickering light or a glitching computer file. To make things more mind-boggling, Ouroboros suggests that Loki’s time-slipping has precedents, but none of them have taken place at the TVA.
Unlike the Avengers’ time travel, Loki’s time-slipping affects other points in time. For instance, the information Loki gives to Ouroboros during Loki season 2, episode 1 begins to be recorded in O.B.’s memory in the present despite the fact that Loki is talking to him in the past. So, instead of creating a diverging timeline or causing a hard reset, Loki’s time-slipping rewrites the TVA’s history in what an outside viewer would call “real time”. Time didn’t matter too much at the TVA prior to Loki season 2. Now, Loki’s time-slipping brings a heightened sense of causality to the organization.
Loki season 1 suggests that, at some point in the TVA’s past, He Who Remains abducted dozens of variants and turned them into TVA agents, providing them with highly advanced technology. The TVA harnessed the power of time travel with TemPads — the handheld devices that allow TVA agents to access any point in the Sacred Timeline. The TemPads seem to work similarly to the Avengers’ Time-Space GPS, as both devices pinpoint a specific moment in time as a landing spot. However, the TemPads open their own portals (called “Timedoors”), whereas the Avengers need a Quantum Tunnel to transport themselves to their destination.
The TVA has access to other places outside time and space. Their pruning sticks send variants to the Void, where they’re abandoned for eternity. However, bypassing Alioth also allows Loki and Sylvie to enter the Citadel at the End of Time, which overlooks the Sacred Timeline itself. The TVA, the Void, and the Citadel at the End of Time exist outside time and space, which means that they don’t exist anywhere within the MCU’s chronological timeline. But despite their disconnection from a specific timeline, these places seem to have their own past, present, and future, which is why Loki can time-slip within the TVA’s headquarters.
Outside of time, the TVA can shape the Sacred Timeline to their liking with the help of the Temporal Loom — a machine that streamlines the flow of time to create a single continuity. TVA agents can spend hundreds or even thousands of years protecting the Sacred Timeline and pruning any rogue branch that puts it at risk. But now that the MCU’s Sacred Timeline has gone out of control and multiple branches have turned it into a spiraling multiverse, there’s little the TVA can do to fix it. Loki’s time-slipping in the MCU’s Loki season 2 only proves that not even the TVA’s headquarters are exempt from changes in the flow of time.
Loki season 2 is finally out, with the first episode now streaming on Disney Plus. The Loki 2 premiere includes a credits scene, as I already knew. What I didn’t think was possible was for Marvel to introduce a new time travel rule that contradicts what we saw in the MCU so far, specifically in Avengers: Endgame.
Normally, that would be a huge problem for the entire MCU and potentially a big plot hole. However, the new time travel rules in Loki season 2 make sense for a specific reason.
I can’t explain it before warning you that big spoilers will follow below. Make sure you watch Loki season 2 episode 1 before going any further.
Between the Avengers: Infinity War and Endgame premieres, the prevalent theory was the Avengers would travel back in time to beat Thanos (Josh Brolin) and undo the snap. Those rumors were almost accurate. Little did we know at the time that Endgame would present time travel differently than what we expected.
Going back in time would not change the future, as Hulk (Mark Ruffalo) and Nebula (Karen Gillan) explained to Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner) and War Machine (Don Cheadle) in a hilarious scene.
By the way, that scene has been completely changed now by the big Secret Invasion reveal. The War Machine in Endgame might have been a Skrull all along, which makes his passion for time-traveling movies all the more interesting.
We then learned that going back to the past will only create an alternate timeline like the one where Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) retired at the end of Endgame. Any small change made to the past will create a new branch of reality where events flow differently.
It wasn’t until Loki season 1 that we learned what changing the timeline means. Under the direction of Kang, but not knowing whose orders they’re following, the TVA has been systematically pruning alternate timelines, essentially wiping out billions of living beings from existence. They did it to prevent other Kang variants from emerging, which would inevitably lead to multiversal wars.
Thanks to Sylvie (Sophia Di Martino), those wars are here, and only Loki (Tom Hiddleston) seems to have realized it.
The Loki season 1 finale also showed us where the He Who Remains Kang variant lived. He resided outside of time, which allows him complete control over the flow of time. He doesn’t age so he can live for eons, policing the timeline’s past, present, and future. Well, everything can be considered the present from his vantage point.
Similarly, the TVA doesn’t perceive the flow of time. It’s still unclear where the location of the TVA is. But Loki season 2 just told us the TVA has a similar vantage point as Kang. Therefore, they don’t really experience time.
Hilariously, we learned that Mobius (Owen Wilson) first met OB (Ke Huy Quan) some 400 years ago. But the former has no memory of that meeting since Kang systematically erased everyone’s memory over the years.
However, time does pass at the TVA, even at a different rate than in a regular timeline. Think about it: the people serving Kang have to have some construct of time. There must be a yesterday and a tomorrow. That OB tells Mobius exactly how long it has been since they last met proves that point.
On the other hand, Kang continuously erasing the memories of TVA agents means they won’t remember everything in their TVA career.
This is where the MCU time travel anomaly happens. Loki is being pulled through time, visiting the TVA’s past, present, and future. When going back to the past, he can change the future by having a conversation with OB about his condition.
Past-OB comes up with a fix that’s then available in the present time instantaneously. And Present-OB conjures memories of a past meeting with Loki even though he technically just met him for the first time. It all happens in real-time, as the two OB variants separately talk to Loki and Mobius.
It can all be mind-boggling, especially given the Endgame rules. Again, changing the past of a timeline will not change the future of that timeline.
But it works at the TVA, given the organization operates outside of the regular flow of time. This is the only place where you can change the past to modify the future.
Also, this explanation prevents Marvel from having to come up with alternate TVA organizations, each governing a timeline from the universe. Instead, there’s just one entity policing the multiverse. And having a crisis of conscience now that Loki and Sylvie exposed the truth.
That’s why time travel in Loki season 2 is not a plot hole, not yet, at least. And not as long as it happens at the TVA.