The following story contains spoilers for the ending of Loki Season 1, obviously.
Well, that's that—for now. After six episodes of pruning, time-eating monsters, and introductions to a female Loki, an alligator Loki, and a Frog Thor (among countless other points and surprises), we finally reached the end of Loki, which gave a definitive answer as to who was behind the TVA.
The answer, as many predicted, was Kang the Conqueror—or, well, some variant version of him, known here as "He Who Remains," and introduced by an increasingly-sinister Miss Minutes (who saw that one coming after Episode 1?). Either way, the person behind all the time-traveling, timeline-erasing madness we saw all season was played by Jonathan Majors, in his first of what will likely be many appearances throughout future MCU titles. As of now, he's on the books to play Kang as the main villain in Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania, though it would surprise exactly no one if he shows up in cameos and credits scenes before and after that movie's planned 2022 release.
But instead of looking too far into the future of this timeline we're on right now, let's instead talk about what we just saw happen. Because, uh, that was wild, right? At 47 minutes long, the episode was actually the second shortest of the entire Loki season. But so much happened that it almost feels like it was double or triple stuffed. Anyway, let's talk about it, shall we?
So, what actually happened in the Loki Season 1 finale?
All right folks. The Loki finale was nice to fans, and gave a major reveal only about 10 minutes into the episode: the man behind the curtain at the Citadel—referred to by Miss Minutes as "He Who Remains"—was an unnamed character, but Marvel fans should know (particularly due to the fact that he's played by Jonathan Majors, who's already been officially cast) that this is some version of Kang the Conqueror. Now, know that in the Marvel Comics canon there are many different versions of Kang the Conqueror, including Immortus (who this very well could have been). But that part was specifically left out.
What the crux of this situation was, though, is that this Kang (as we'll call him for now, since it's a lot easier to type than "He Who Remains") told Loki and Sylvie that they weren't actually breaking the timeline as much as they thought they were; he paved the way for them to get here, proving their worthiness. He wants them to take his spot as the person maintaining one single timeline.
You see, as this Kang explains, he's very old. And an old version of him once uncovered...the multiverse. A multiversal war, as he repeats. He fought versions of himself, and eventually won out (with the help of Alioth), creating the TVA in hopes of keeping things under control, pruning any alternate diverging timeline that dared to emerge. And when Loki and Sylvie finally reached him, he figured that these could be the people who finally take his place and take over all the work of maintaining a darn multiverse.
But eventually, after lots of hammy explanation (Majors is so damn entertaining in this episode) he has a realization; we've crossed the threshold. While earlier in the episode he's able to easily dodge Sylvie's attempts to kill him (because he knows what would happen and when), after spilling the beans to them, he's all out of luck. He explains the alternatives: Sylvie and Loki can kill him, opening up the option of yet another multiversal war, or they can take his place and maintain everything, ruling the TVA.
Loki warns Sylvie that while Kang could be lying, the risk that he's not is enormous. They spar, they kiss (?!), but in the end, Sylvie's hunt for vengeance, coming face to face with the person responsible for her life being spent in the corners of apocalypses, is too great. She pushes Loki back through a portal to the TVA, and stabs this Kang in the chest. Final words from Kang? "See you soon," with a smile and a wink. We all know what just happened here, and folks, none of it is good.
Through the window, we see the timelines branching off like crazy. Finally, the Marvel Cinematic Universe Multiverse has arrived.
Some other stuff happened in the finale, too, like B-15 showing the members of Ravonna's force that everyone at the TVA is a variant by showing them the best possible example: a version of Ravonna herself. Speaking of Ravonna, she rather easily gets the upper hand in a confrontation with Mobius, but herself walks through a portal, looking for answers; Mobius is left on the ground.
In the comics, Ravonna is an on-again, off-again love interest of Kang's; chances are, we'll see these two link up at some point in the near MCU future. But let's dive a little more into the fallout from all of this.
What does that Loki ending moment mean?
Oh boy. It's exciting. First of all, well, it just means that the Multiverse—the Marvel Cinematic Universe Multiverse—is really, finally, 100% among us. No Ralph Bohner fake-out here (though...Ralph Bohner could 100% be a Pietro Maximoff variant that slipped into the WandaVision world. But that's a conversation for another story).
He Who Remains is...well, he's not a good guy. And we don't know if his name is Kang (Majors does deliciously deliver a line that some have called him a "conqueror," which is a pretty big hint.) But the entire speech in his office to Loki and Sylvie is basically to say "at least I'm the evil you know." This means that the real Kang—the one likely to terrorize the universe and many of our MCU heroes—is coming.
"You came to kill the devil, right? Well, guess what? I keep you safe, and if you think I'm evil, well, just wait until you meet my variants," he says. "And that's the gambit! Stifling order, or cataclysmic chaos. You may hate the dictator, but something far worse is going to fill that void if you depose of him."
Sylvie doesn't care. She wants vengeance. So she makes the choice to push Loki through a portal, and effectively remove that angel from her shoulder. She stabs He Who Remains in the chest, but he knows what happens next. Again, Majors delivers a home run of a moment. "See you soon," he says, fitting one last smile and wink in before the life leaves his body.
This is all, of course, setting up the Kang the Conqueror. And we don't know how much of He Who Remains' story was 100% true. But we do know that when Loki was pushed back through to the TVA and runs to warn Mobius and B15 of Kang's impending arrival, that timeline has clearly already been warped, pruned, or affected in one way or another; neither of them have any idea who he was. And when the camera pulls out to reveal where the statues of the three Timekeepers previously stood, instead we see one figure memorialized: it looks like Jonathan Majors, and it ain't He Who Remains.
Folks, it's Kang the Conqueror. And with numerous upcoming films dealing with the Multiverse—including Spider-Man: No Way Home, Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, and the aforementioned Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania—on top of the confrimation at the end of the episode for Loki Season 2, we think this is our next Thanos-level MCU Big Bad Villain. And what an introduction it was.