How the Ending of 'Loki' Season 1 Sets Up Marvel's Next Big Bad

Kang the Conquerer has arrived. But who is he?

loki
Marvel Studios
Marvel Studios

Forget Thanos. Loki Season 1—and now we know for sure there will be a Season 2—ends with the introduction of the Marvel Cinematic Universe's next Big Bad. If you missed the name, that's because the finale withheld it, but the same actor, Jonathan Majors, has also been cast in the upcoming threequel movie Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania as the time-hopping Marvel villian Kang the Conqueror. But who is he?

Loki Episode 6 doesn't answer that question, exactly—the sassy clock Miss Minutes refers to the character as He Who Remains—but it does serve as a showcase for Majors, who just earned an Emmy nomination for his work in the canceled-too-soon HBO series Lovecraft Country. He's introduced when Loki and Sylvie arrive at his citadel at the end of time and he takes over the plot with a whole bunch of exposition about who he is and why he's been controling the timeline. He then gives the unreliable gods of mischief two options: They can kill him and create the multiverse, which would also cause all of his own variants to converge and foment chaos. Or the duo can run the TVA themselves as a way to maintain the timeline and keep the status quo.

Loki is hesitant to decide and wants to think for a minute, while Sylvie, fueled by anger and distrust, chooses the former. After kissing Loki, she pushes him through a portal back to TVA headquarters and drives a knife through the heart of He Who Remains. But it's a Pyrrhic victory. After Loki arrives back in the orange halls of the Time Variance Authority and discovers that his pal Mobius does not know who he is anymore, he sees a statue resembling He Who Remains, which indicates that HWR's warning came true.

In this new, chaotic scenario, it appears that a variant of He Who Remains is now the face of the organization, rather than the anonymous Time Keepers, who were revealed to be robots operating the TVA in a Wizard of Oz situation. So is this Kang the Conqueror? Most likely!

Marvel Studios

There were clues earlier in the season that Kang's hands were somehow involved in the plot of Loki, specifically given the presence of Gugu Mbatha-Raw’s Ravonna Renslayer. In this episode, we learn that Ravonna was a schoolteacher before she got pruned from the time, but in comics lore she hails from the 40th century and is both an ally and a love interest for Kang. Even having been disavowed of the notion that the Time Keepers exist and that she is a variant herself, she remains loyal to the idea of the sacred timeline. When she leaves Mobius, she tells him that she's in search of "free will" after having previously stated that the only person who has free will is the person in charge. That indicates that she's either planning to overthrow Kang or join up with him. Based on her comics history, we would guess the latter.

So who is Kang? Well, He Who Remains basically tells you all you need to know in his major exposition dump. He Who Remains was a scientist who discovered proof of the multiverse and found multiple versions of himself who were intent on taking over everywhere. War ensued, and He Who Remains created the TVA to keep the timeline in check and prevent a multiverse scenario. Now that Sylvie has killed He Who Remains, other, more murderous versions of himself have been unleashed. One of these is Kang. Whether the statue Loki sees is Kang, or another militaristic variant remains to be confirmed, but it's likely Kang.

Now the question becomes when we can expect to see him next. As mentioned, Majors had been tapped to star in Quantumania, but now it seems like he's going to be making many more appearances, in the way that Thanos popped up across multiple MCU movies in Phases One, Two and Three. Loki is getting a season 2, though it's unclear when that will air, but some have speculated that the cast and crew shot the first two installments back to back.

Mostly the Loki Season 1 finale seems like be directly setting up Doctor Strange and the Multiverse of Madness. Marvel's first Disney+ TV show, WandaVision, also situated itself as a lead-in to that Sam Raimi-directed movie, scheduled for March 25, 2022. Could Kang appear earlier, though? Three MCU movies—Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings (September 3), Eternals (November 5), and Spider-Man: No Way Home (December 17)—are scheduled for release ahead of the upcoming Doctor Strange movie, and it's conceivable that Kang could be referenced or pop up in a mid-credits scene in one of them. Could Spider-Man: No Way Home introduce the multiverse to the MCU movies by way of baddies like Alfred Molina's Doc Ock reappearing from Raimi's 2004 film, but facing off against Holland's Spidey instead of Tobey Maguire's? Well, anything's possible now. The sacred timeline is over.

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Esther Zuckerman is a senior entertainment writer at Thrillist. Follow her on Twitter @ezwrites.