When the Marvel Cinematic Universe began producing TV series for Disney+, it was a big deal. Up until that point, Marvel Studios and Marvel TV were separate divisions that told different stories. Since Marvel’s deal was a single universe of characters, fans hoped the new Disney+ series, overseen by Marvel Studios, would change that. WandaVision and The Falcon and the Winter Soldier hinted at continuity to come, but it wasn’t until Loki that the MCU fulfilled that hope, introducing an upcoming big-screen star for the first time in a small screen story. But who is “He Who Remains” in Loki? The character isn’t quite the same one as the one to come.
Warning: Spoilers for the Loki Season 1, Episode 6 finale follow. Up until this point, fans have theorized that eventually, one of the Disney+ shows would introduce a major villain into Phase 4. WandaVision, for instance, spawned dozens of theories about Mephisto, Marvel’s famous Dr. Strange villain, arriving in Westview. His appearance, the idea went, would tie into Wanda being part of Dr. Strange’s sequel and make the show a direct prequel to the film.
But that didn’t happen. Falcon came closer, with the revelation that the same team who wrote the series would produce the next Captain America movie. But Marvel already introduced series star Anthony Mackie in the big-screen films. Although Falcon’s transformation to Captain America is part of the small-screen story, one does not ultimately need to watch the series to enjoy the upcoming movie.
Loki, on the other hand, did what fans wanted. It took one of the biggest promised villains of Phase 4, Kang the Conqueror, played by Jonathan Majors, and introduced him on the small screen.
Well, sort of.
Loki, after all, is a story about variants. Loki himself is an offshoot of the “main” Loki in the Sacred Timeline, as is Sylvie and every other Loki the show introduced (about a half dozen all told). Every other character is also a variant, removed from the Sacred Timeline to keep it on track.
So naturally, this version of Kang the Conqueror is not the main one. He’s a variant who has renamed himself He Who Remains, a nod to the TVA’s actual origins on in the comics. (In the comics, the character is a sort of Eternal-like figure who creates the Time Keepers and the TVA.) His story even matches the one given to the He Who Remains character, that he’s a survivor of a great Multiverse collapse.
Although both Loki and Sylvie were appalled by what this version of Kang the Conqueror has done, his logic was pretty solid. There are millions of versions of him, many of which are far less altruistic than he is. (As a Kang variant, he knows just how evil he can be.) By taking over, destroying all the other versions, and forcing the Sacred Timeline to stick to a single track, he’s saving the universe from the other versions of himself.
Unsurprisingly, Sylvie didn’t buy his story. She was there for revenge, and she was going to take this guy out. Free will trumps all in her mind; she’d rather live in chaos than under a dictator — or worse, become that dictator herself.
But the chaos she unleashed may be worse than anyone realized. As He Who Remains died, he told her he’ll see her soon. And when Loki re-entered the TVA, he realized this Kang variant was correct: A new Kang runs the TVA now, and the statue of him that oversees the bureaucracy looks to be a long way from the relatively benevolent puppet master dictator version Loki just left behind. A conqueror, if you will.
All episodes of Loki Season 1 are streaming on Disney+ now.