Marvel just debuted its latest MCU series on Disney+, Loki, and the god of mischief has already made a powerful new enemy called the Time Variance Authority. But what exactly is this kooky organization of time cops, and why do they have a beef with Loki Laufeyson?
Read on for more about this important Marvel organization, a.k.a. the TVA, and why Loki is getting on their bad side in his first solo adventure in the MCU. Beware of some spoilers for Loki: Episode 1!
Watch the Loki trailer here:
Loki Imprisoned by the TVA
We previously got a first look at the Loki series in a Big Game Spot shown during the Super Bowl. The spot shows an imprisoned Loki tangling with the Time Variance Authority, with Loki telling his captors at one point, “I’m gonna burn this place to the ground.”
The series premiere of Loki quickly sets the stage for the tense relationship between Loki and the TVA. This circa-2012 version of Loki, who escaped the aftermath of the Battle of New York using the Tesseract in Avengers: Endgame, is a “rogue variant” who shouldn’t exist. The TVA has tasked itself with arresting and eliminating all variants in order to preserve the “sacred timeline” as dictated by their leaders, the Time Keepers.
But though Loki is marked for deletion by Judge Ravonna Renslayer (Gugu Mbatha-Raw), Mr. Mobius (Owen Wilson) instead chooses to recruit Loki to hunt down another, very dangerous Loki variant. What could go wrong?
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What Is the Time Variance Authority?
As the name suggests, the Time Variance Authority is an organization charged with protecting the timeline of the Marvel Universe. Anyone who attempts to use time travel to alter either the past or future has to answer to the TVA. The group’s authority isn’t necessarily absolute, as they’ve never had much luck keeping powerful villains like Kang the Conqueror in check. Nor have they stopped the X-Men from screwing up reality over and over. But despite this, the TVA has done its part to keep the Marvel timeline from going too far astray.
In the comics, the TVA is literally a faceless bureaucracy, as most of its agents are artificial clones called chronomonitors. A new chronomonitor springs to life every time an alteration to the timeline creates a divergent reality. The TVA has a staff of cloned managers, all of whom resemble real-life Marvel Comics employees. Among these managers is Mobius M. Mobius, whose mustachioed likeness is inspired by the late Mark Gruenwald, a man famous for his encyclopedic knowledge of Marvel lore.
The agency does have a handful of higher-ranking judges who enforce the TVA’s regulations, including Justice Peace, Justice Love and Justice Goodwill. Unfortunately, many of these judges have a tendency to go rogue and commit the same crimes they’re meant to prevent. The TVA is supervised by a mysterious being known as Mr. Alternity.
The TVA is ultimately ruled by the Time Keepers, three powerful beings created at the end of time to oversee the entire Marvel timeline. However, the Time Keepers are also opposed by the three Time Twisters.
The Time Variance Authority in the MCU
The MCU incarnation of the TVA shares many basic similarities with the comic book source material, but a lot has changed in the jump from page to screen. Rather than rely on faceless chronomonitors, this version of the TVA has a vast network of low-level bureaucrats who seem to have little or no exposure to the outside world. Mr. Mobius plays a key role in the Loki series, though it’s currently unknown whether he’s the only Mobius or one of numerous clones.
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The first episode of the series establishes that the Time Keepers are intent on maintaining a single timeline called the scared timeline. Apparently the MCU used to exist as a vast multiverse of many branching timelines, but the Time Keepers took it upon themselves to eliminate all divergent timelines and save existence from “madness.” Do we sense a Doctor Strange 2 connection there?
Judge Renslayer adds another intriguing wrinkle to the series. In the comics, Ravonna Renslayer is the lover of Kang the Conqueror, a villain rumored to make his debut in 2023’s Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania. Maybe Ravonna has yet to encounter this infamous time traveller, or perhaps she has a deeper agenda at play. One thing is clear – we shouldn’t take any of these TVA employees at face value. Especially without having actually seen the Time Keepers face-to-face.
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Marvel has been teasing plenty of connections between its Disney+ shows and the MCU movies (with Loki perhaps having a direct connection to Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness), but the debut of the TVA could also play into the upcoming Disney Plus She-Hulk series. The TVA has also appeared in She-Hulk’s comics, with the organization helping out She-Hulk’s law firm during an important time-related trial. We could easily see this new organization popping up in all sorts of places across the ever-growing MCU.
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Jesse is a mild-mannered staff writer for IGN. Allow him to lend a machete to your intellectual thicket by following @jschedeen on Twitter.