Gugu Mbatha-Raw as Ravonna Renslayer sitting in front of the Time Keeper statues

We Need To Talk About The Time-Keepers In Loki

There's a lot to unpack here.

by Ani Bundel
Marvel Studios

The Marvel Cinematic Universe has put out 22 films and multiple TV series, but it's only scratched the surface of what Marvel comics have to offer. From alien races like the Kree to superhumans like Thanos to straight-up god-tier creatures like the Eternals, the Marvel comics world is vast. Moreover, with multiple variations of characters across different shared universes, it can all get pretty complicated. Multiverses have been on the MCU menu for Phase 4 since the announcement of Dr. Strange's sequel. Now, Loki has taken the first step in introducing those who oversee such matters. But who are the Time-Keepers in Loki, really?

Warning: Spoilers for Loki Season 1, Episode 2 follow. With Loki now officially ensconced in the TVA basically as an (unpaid) employee, his first act is to start going on missions and tracking down the version of him that's giving everyone so much trouble. But everyone knows Loki is anything but altruistic. If he's doing something, there's always an angle from which he can profit. And that comes out pretty quickly on the first mission as he continually pushes Agent Mobius to get him in front of the rulers of the TVA, the Time-Keepers.

Loki's not-so-secret plan is to get in a room with these three powerful beings and take them out. He's staging a coup from the inside. He wants to be Loki, Head Bureaucrat of the TVA, controlling all of the Sacred Timeline, so that he can install himself as god-king over literally the entire fourth dimension.

Marvel Studios

But who are these "space lizards"? The characters were introduced in the world of the comics in 1978, in Thor #282. They were creatures created by an Eternal known as "He Who Remains," the last survivor of the previous universe destroyed because no one protected time. Known as Ast, Vort, and Zanth, these three have controlled the TVA ever since. They have primarily functioned as the head of a faceless bureaucracy. (That's literal — in the comics, agents like Mobius don't have faces.) In some cases, they're pitted against the Avengers; in some, they're neutral.

But according to the Miss Minutes orientation video in Episode 1, the Time-Keepers in Loki are a bit different. Perhaps it was deemed too complicated to introduce "He Who Remains" in the Disney+ show. Miss Minutes’ declaration the Time-Keepers materialized out of the multiversal war suggests perhaps that character's been cut. Also, their focus on the Sacred Timeline is a little narrow. In the comics, the Time Keepers don't keep everything to one timeline as much as they keep separate the multiverses from interfering with each other.

Marvel Studios

But what fans have noticed is how much everyone keeps deflecting when Loki asks to see the heads of the place where he now works. Sure, the new guy in the mailroom demanding a meeting with the CEO is probably going to find that there are layers and layers of middle managers preventing them from direct access. But the absence of these mysterious space lizards hasn't gone unnoticed, and if they stay that way after this Sacred Timeline fracture, suspicions will mount.

Already, fans are wondering if the Time-Keepers are still alive at all. That wouldn't be an aberration. In Avengers Forever #11, the Time Keepers are subcontracted to Immortus, who turns out to be the future self of Kang the Conqueror. Kang fooled the Time Keepers into separating his present self from his future self to hide his intent to conquer. At the end of that run, Kang slaughtered all three of them.

As fans are aware, Kang will make his MCU debut as the main villain of 2023's Ant-Man & The Wasp: Quatumania. Perhaps Loki will uncover his handiwork, already in progress.

Loki continues Wednesdays on Disney+.