Features and Columns · TV

The Ending of ‘Loki’ Explained: Marvel’s New Villain Tells All

And you thought Thanos was scary? The MCU’s new villain makes the Mad Titan appear infantile.
Loki Ending and Episode 6 Explained
Marvel Studios
By  · Published on July 14th, 2021

Marvel Explained is our ongoing series where we delve into the latest Marvel shows, movies, trailers, and news stories to divine the franchise’s future. This entry explores the Loki finale and its ending and considers how Episode 6 (“For All Time. Always.”) establishes a new terrifying MCU villain. Yes, prepare for SPOILERS.

They did it. Loki (Tom Hiddleston) and Sylvie (Sophia Di Martino) reached where the yellow brick road ends. They snuck under Alioth’s nose, kicked down the door at the end of time, and confronted the wizard writing the scripture. And the villain behind everything is who we worried it was all along: Kang the Conqueror (Jonathan Majors).

Although, no one actually calls him that during the episode. Instead, they refer to him only as “He Who Remains.” Loki Episode 6 (“For All Time, Always”), and the series overall, concludes with an ending very much like The Matrix Reloaded, with a “what-huh” conversation involving a talkative architect explaining the insanity fueling the plot.

Who is “He Who Remains”?

A long time ago, Kang was a 31st-century scientist from Earth. He discovered the existence of multiple realities. At the same time, the other Kangs from those realities learned the same thing. What began as a celebration amongst colleagues inevitably devolved into a war, as some Kangs were not as friendly as others.

The Prime Kang we meet in the Citadel at the End of Time is the victor. He won by controlling Alioth and pruning the enemy realities. Once completed, Kang created the Time Variance Authority to control the one-true timeline so that the other Kangs would never come into existence.

We’ve briefly discussed “He Who Remains” before. In the comics, he has no association with Kang the Conqueror. He is the final director of the TVA, the being who created the Time-Keepers to safeguard reality. But they were not his first creation.

Before the Time-Keepers, he birthed the Time-Twisters. These oddities went rogue, gleefully altering history to their needs. When they came for Asgard, Thor led his armies against them to no avail. With Jane Foster’s aid, the God of Thunder jumped to the future where he convinced “He Who Remains” to reverse their creation, establishing the Time-Keepers as their replacements.

“He Who Remains” is not a villainous entity but a tired old man. And the Kang rambling throughout the Loki finale appears to be the same. He’s exhausted, and he desperately awaits the moment when he doesn’t know everything.

Who is the true villain revealed at the end of Loki?

Loki and Sylvie take the revelations quite differently. Loki wishes for a minute to think. If “He Who Remains” is correct, a greater evil awaits them. Kang offers them the opportunity to sit where he sits and rule the one-true timeline as they see fit. The ancient figure before them has gone a little kooky over the centuries, and he’s looking for retirement.

After a lifetime of dodging TVA goons and seeking answers, Sylvie sees no reason to trust this pretend god. She wants to put her dagger in Kang’s chest.

Kang laughs at her righteousness. As he sees it, they’re all villains. Each person sitting in the Citidel has committed heinous acts. What Kang asks of Sylvie and Loki is that they continue to do them for the greater good.

Sylvie won’t hear it, and she squares off against Loki during the climax of the finale. Eventually, Loki blocks Sylvie’s Kang kill-strike with his own neck. He tells her that he doesn’t want a throne. He just wants Sylvie to be okay. The two variants of each other kiss, and it’s all very bizarre and appropriately mythological. But, as Loki variants are want to do, Sylvie betrays Loki by tossing him through a TemPad portal.

Loki lands back at the TVA, and Sylvie plunges her dagger into Kang. His last words to her are “see you soon.”

The Multiverse erupts, realities branching in every direction. Loki races to find Mobius (Owen Wilson) and Hunter B-15 (Wunmi Mosaku), but they have no idea who he is. The ending of Loki Episode 6 concludes with Loki staring at the statue looming over the TVA library. Where the Time-Keepers once stood in granite now stands Kang the Conqueror.

What is the Council of Kangs?

Before Kang was Kang, he was Nathaniel Richards, a researcher and a potential descendent of the Fantastic Four’s Reed Richards. He was a time-travel obsessive, cracking the science behind it by building off Doctor Doom’s temporal discoveries. On his first trip backward, Nathaniel establishes himself as the Pharoah Rama-Tut. So, you know, he’s a totally logical maniac.

His time as an Egyptian ruler is brief as the Fantastic Four drop in for a battle. Fleeing capture, Nathaniel hops into the far future. The Earth he discovers there is in shambles and easily vulnerable to his intellect. At this point, Nathaniel rebrands himself Kang the Conquerer and begins his mission to reign through space and time.

Kang becomes his own worst enemy. When you’re popping in and out of realities, you’re going to stumble into yourself. These Kangs sometimes attempt a team-up as the Council of Kangs or the Crosstime Kang Corps. They are a loathsome lot, frequently played for comedy as they make Loki backstabbing seem bush league. Together they’re more nuisance than anything else, but if the Avengers encounter a Kang alone, they’re in dire straits, as each jerk is always attempting to out-crazy the others.

In slaying the Prime Kang in the Citadel at the End of Time, Sylvie has unleashed not one terror but an infinite megalomaniacal horde. She’s returned free will to the universe, but with it comes a plague. What’s a Loki to do? Call for backup.

Where does the MCU go after the end of Loki?

Marvel’s Phase Four is officially kicked off. The Kangs will have the Avengers longing for the simple days of fighting Thanos. From here, we’ll explore the multiverse with What If…? landing on Disney+ in August. After that, Spider-Man will meet the Spider-Men in No Way Home. Wanda will go hunting for her children in Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, and Kang is fated to return in AntMan and the Wasp: Quantumania.

And standing amidst this chaos will be our Loki. The Loki Season 1 finale has one more surprise. Instead of the usual mid-credits stinger, Loki Episode 6 stamps a promise on Laufeyson’s file: “Loki will return in Season 2.”

WandaVision and The Falcon and the Winter Soldier were billed as one-and-done stories. Loki, however, is denied an ending. He will go on, trapped as an analyst within the TVA. Will we see him next in one of the MCU sequels mentioned above? Or is his mission on pause until his show returns?

Whatever the answer, what’s clear is that Loki is no longer a supporting thorn in the Avengers’ side. He’s a critical player, the hero who knows what’s coming. He must free himself from the TVA and get word to his brother. The troops need rallying.

Loki is now streaming in its entirety, including its finale, on Disney+.

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Brad Gullickson is a Weekly Columnist for Film School Rejects and Senior Curator for One Perfect Shot. When not rambling about movies here, he's rambling about comics as the co-host of Comic Book Couples Counseling. Hunt him down on Twitter: @MouthDork. (He/Him)