Though his death unleashed all that he feared, the MCU’s He Who Remains seemed confident that it would all end with him back in charge again.
WARNING: The following contains spoilers for the Season 1 finale of Loki, “For All Time. Always.,” streaming now on Disney+.
He Who Remains — the ultimate force behind the Time Variance Authority as revealed in Loki Season 1, Episode 6, “For All Time. Always.” — was quite literally afraid of himself. Having experienced the impact of a multiverse out of control and more sinister variations of himself attempting to conquer all of reality, he seems to have a contingency for every eventuality. In fact, he offers Loki and Sylvie his job — letting them manage the Sacred Timeline while he steps aside — and yet, seems to understand that, even if they kill him, they can’t change what’s coming for the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
As Loki fans know, Sylvie declines to take the deal and stabs He Who Remains, unleashing the Multiverse and apparently placing the variant Kang the Conqueror in charge of the TVA in the process. It appears to be the fulfillment of He Who Remains’ worst nightmare, with the undoing of all his countless eons of hard work and one of the versions of himself he warned them against at the helm. Indeed, he promises them that if they decline the job, the Multiverse War or some version of it will happen again and leave him in charge.
There’s a lot to unpack, and by his own admission, he’s not completely honest with them. But he did prove demonstrably that he could anticipate and prevent everything anyone could attempt to do to him. That’s strong pragmatic evidence backing up his claims of living a million lives, but he even takes it one step further. At one point late in the conversation, he suddenly notes that he’s in uncharted territory and marvels at the mundane movements and actions that fascinate him simply because this is the first time he’s experienced them.
All of that seems to back up his claims of immortality by repetition — to paraphrase Groundhog Day, he’s been around so long that he knows everything. And he seemed confident that — should Sylvie or Loki kill him — that the Multiversal War will simply repeat itself and end with He Who Remains in charge again. In essence, he’s implying that the pair are “auditioning” for a job he has tried (and failed) to get rid of countless times before. And he’s clear that he means the two Lokis, which strongly implies there have been many “auditions” with other variants of other beings before he arrived at this decision.
Thematically, it makes sense that he would fixate on Loki variants as his choice. They’re the MCU’s resident agents of chaos, and as such are the natural choice to break what to him seems to be an unending cycle of destruction and rebirth. Only a Loki could bring enough chaos into the equation to break the cycle, and whether that has happened or will happen is up in the air. But He Who Remains seems certain that it will all come back to that room until and unless a Loki decides to take his place.
The fascinating thing about He Who Remains’ confidence is that — despite his fear of evil variants of himself — he states that he will end up back in that chair again. Not Kang, or any other variant for that matter, but himself, presumably to await another version of Loki or possibly a different character to “audition” for his job again. Loki’s propensity for chaos and the general arc of the MCU suggests that this time will be different, though how and why remains to be seen. For now, He Who Remains appears to be trapped in a hell of his own making — an endless loop of trying and failing to escape the fate he built for himself.
Kang’s impact on the TVA and the God of Mischief himself will become known when Loki Season 2 hits Disney+.
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