Glorious purpose. Glorious purpose! We’ve heard Loki’s line delivered many times and in many ways. We’ve heard it said with arrogance, we’ve heard it said derisively and we’ve heard it said as a character acknowledges his fate. Today, Loki’s line took on new meaning as the finale of Marvel Studios third Disney Plus streaming series stuck the landing in a way neither of the series before it managed to do. This finale succeeded by undoing the tenuous existence of the bond between Sylvie and Loki that began on Lamentis-1 and ending/pausing their time together in a way that felt satisfying if not painful. It handled the small, personal part of the series incredibly well. However, this finale also succeeded by undoing the tenuous existence of the Sacred Timeline and undoing all the progress the TVA agents had made in coming to know who they really were (those last moments with Mobius and Loki were heart wrenching). It handled the huge, MCU altering part of the series incredibly well. The finale of Loki handled it so well that we don’t even have an MCU anymore, we have an MCM. Just like that, a streaming series changed everything fans know about their favorite shared universe.
Make no mistake, this was a bold, bold move. Using a streaming series to completely alter the very fabric upon which this narrative is woven is unheard of. It was also planned and executed masterfully but not without risk. The big shift on screen represents a big shift behind the scenes. A few years ago, it seemed the MCU was headed in a little bit of a different direction than where this new, multiversal trajectory is headed. The Doctor Strange sequel seems to me the poster child for the big changes behind the scenes. Scott Derrickson was back, he had a script and was ready to create the MCU’s first big horror film. Suddenly, the brakes were pumped, Derrickson moved on due to creative differences and Sam Raimi and Michael Waldron were brought on board to set recreate the film in a way that it fell in line with the big creatives at Marvel Studios’ decision to open up the multiverse. Deciding to go the route of the multiverse meant risks were going to be taken. Presumably the calculations were done and the losses were deemed acceptable because the expected rewards were going to be great. But the biggest risk of all was including moments that shift the very foundation of the stories being told in streaming series that would only be watched by the hardcore fan base. It meant that at some point down the road, a whole lot of fans would be walking into a theater not prepared for what they were about to see. In a 2019 interview with Bloomberg, Marvel Studios One-Above-All, Kevin Feige, told us all exactly what was coming.
If you want to understand everything in future Marvel movies, you’ll probably need a Disney+ subscription, because events from the new shows will factor into forthcoming films such as Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness. The Scarlet Witch will be a key character in that movie, and Feige points out that the Loki series will tie in, too.
And to nobody’s surprise, a lot of fans, even the hardcore ones, didn’t take Feige at his word. “Nothing major will ever happen in these shows! Didn’t you learn anything from WandaVision?” But then the finale of Loki happened, the multiverse was born, Jonathan Majors, who is set to play a huge role over the next several years, made his debut as a kooky Variant Kang known as He Who Remains, and all of those “crazy” Spider-Man “rumors” suddenly seemed a lot more plausible. This series, particularly this episode, is landmark event for the Marvel Cinematic Multiverse. It’s a cliche thing in the comics to say that the big summer events will “alter the landscape” and “things will be changed forever.” Loki is Marvel Studios version of that summer event and through it, Disney Plus fulfilled the glorious purpose that Feige set for it: “to expand the MCU to even bigger and better heights.” It’s just the beginning.