Each Disney+ Marvel series has launched a new facet of the Marvel Cinematic Universe that hasn’t come up in the films. WandaVision introduced S.W.O.R.D., the space-faring counterpart to S.H.I.E.L.D. The Falcon and the Winter Soldier had characters go to Madripoor, a wretched hive of scum and villainy. For Loki, the new bureaucracy is the Time Variance Authority, or the TVA. But what *is* the TVA on Loki, exactly, and how does the organization affect time?
Warning: Spoilers for Loki Season 1, Episode 1 follow. Like Madripoor and S.W.O.R.D., the TVA is a comics-based bureaucracy that was first introduced in the mid-1980s. Their concept is simple: The multiverse is vast and confusing, and the discovery/invention of time travel has made it so just about anyone with a genius brain and bad intentions can go mucking about with history, screwing everything up. To prevent that, three “Time Keepers” were appointed to monitor the flow of time. In the comics, this means watching over a vast multiverse of different outcomes. Here in the world of the show, it’s more focused on preserving what’s defined as the “Sacred Timeline,” catching anyone intent on wrecking the proper flow of time and removing them.
As the instantly iconic cartoon Miss Minutes explained in the TVA’s propaganda video, there was a vast multiversal war somewhere deep in the past in the world of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Different multiverses entered into a battle for domination, necessitating having an objective board dictate which multiverse and order of events are the “correct” one.
But that’s all the show explains. What fans are probably wondering is where the TVA came from and who made it. And, as Loki asked: Is it really the most powerful force in the universe?
On a superficial level, the answer is yes. The TVA has a power that far exceeds most otherworldly beings. Captain Marvel may be the most powerful Avenger, zipping around the universe like she’s commuting through the neighborhood. But she’s as locked into her properly dictated path as everyone else. Tony Stark may have been able to make a suit, Black Panther may have his heart-shaped herbs, and Starlord may be the son of a Celestial, but they’re all just as unaware that a power greater than them is carving their steps millennia before they were born.
Someone like Loki is used to having the powers of a god, but at the TVA? He’s just another prisoner who’s had his party tricks turned off. Thanos’ Infinity Stones, which literally destroyed half the universe (and then brought it back)? Paperweights. That’s because nothing can overpower time itself. Time is the ultimate judge of reality: The when dictates the where, the what, the how, and the who. As for the why? Perhaps that answer is buried in the mounds of paperwork filed away in the TVA’s massive headquarters. Unless, of course, it was on the cart Casey had that Hunter B-15 accidentally pruned.
So, can the TVA be conquered? Clearly not by normal means, since most powers are rendered useless by the Timekeepers. But it seems there’s at least one variant out there who keeps slipping through the TVA’s fingers — and it appears to be a version of Loki himself. If one variant of Loki can stay one step ahead of time, what can a second variant, who’s currently working on the inside, do?
Loki debuts new episodes on Wednesdays on Disney+.