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Loki Theory: The TVA Agents Are All Captured Variants

Caution: Spoilers ahead for Loki

The TVA's workforce have their own creation myth in Loki, but does the truth lay far closer to home? When Loki, Asgard's own God of Mischief, found the Tesseract at his feet in Avengers: Endgame, he was likely hoping to escape a prison sentence, conquer a planet of primitives who'd worship him as a God, and then regroup ready for another invasion of Earth. Instead, he came to learn how every single person in the MCU sits on a preordained path, and those who deviate from the script must face the wrath of the Time Variance Authority.

If we're to take the words of Owen Wilson's Mobius at face value (and with that facial hair, why wouldn't we?), the TVA was established by three mysterious Time-Keepers in response to a multiverse war that threatened all existence. The reptilian trio formed a Sacred Timeline and created the TVA to oversee it, capturing those who deviate from their destiny and setting reality back on its intended course. Naturally, Loki has some questions about the authenticity of this tale. Who are the Time-Keepers? Why do they get to dictate an entire universe's fate? And were the TVA's investigators and Minute Men seriously just conjured from thin air?

Related: Did Lady Loki Try To Get The Soul Stone? Vormir Connection Explained

It seems very, very likely that the Time-Keepers aren't all they claim. They might even be a complete fabrication designed to justify incessant meddling with history. But if the Time-Keepers aren't actually all-powerful guardians of history, they probably aren't responsible for the divine creation of Mobius, Casey, and the rest of the gang either. If the Time-Keepers didn't magic Mobius out of a pointy hat, the TVA's employees must hail from elsewhere - could they all be former variants found guilty by the TVA's ruthless halls of justice?

Loki hasn't properly explained what becomes of a variant once they've been officially sentenced by Judge Ravonna Renslayer. The premiere episode showed two prisoners in TVA custody - one kicked up a fuss, refused to take a ticket, and got himself zapped out of existence; the other was Loki, handed a timely reprieve by Major Mobius. Frustratingly, no one else was waiting in line for judgement, meaning the final stage of TVA variant processing remains a mystery for now.

Even the animated explanation from Miss Minutes (while extremely helpful in every other respect) stopped at the courtroom. The demonstration's yellow cartoon variant is captured and "left without a place in the timeline" after TVA Minute Men restore the Sacred Timeline. The little rebel is marched into court and handed a guilty verdict, but the video package then comes to a prompt end, leaving his fate ambiguous. When Loki found himself facing Renslayer's bench, he was sentenced to be "reset," and despite questioning the Judge about what, exactly, this involved, answers weren't forthcoming. Mobius stepped in before he could find out.

Loki is making a great effort to keep the TVA's punishment for variants obscured. If it were something as simple as death, this surely would've been communicated to Loki earlier, since the TVA aren't exactly shy in their threats. A variant also wouldn't need to be "reset" if their death was imminent. There's no chance for Loki to return to his timeline either, as Miss Minutes confirms captured variants are left without a reality to call home, and a sprawling jail packed with sentenced variant lifers seems highly impractical. So what does the TVA do with its guilty prisoners?

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Assuming the Time-Keepers aren't actually responsible for creating each and every one of the TVA's employees, they'd need a different method of sourcing workers. Since the recruitment sector presumably doesn't cater for time-traveling soldiers, recycling variants as staff members creates a steady stream of new meat that can be shoved behind a desk or thrown into the field, depending on the skills they possessed back in the Sacred Timeline.

This would also explain the term "reset." Take Loki, for instance - before the God of Mischief could became a worthy TVA analyst, he'd need to be stripped of his memories, knowledge and skills, then implanted with everything a protector of the timeline requires, such as multiple languages, temporal laws and, of course, a fabricated origin story about being birthed by the Time-Keepers. Mobius' distinct disinterest in questioning the Time-Keepers could also be a result of this initial cocktail of brainwashing. When the reset procedure is finished, a troublesome variant emerges from the other side compliant, competent, and molded into exactly what the TVA requires.

Were this theory true, it'd account for the traumatized agent Lady Loki leaves behind after the renaissance fair. The soldier is taken prisoner, then discovered in a future Roxxcart mall muttering not-at-all-scary nuggets such as "it was real" and "I want to go home." There could be something about Lady Loki's mind control that disrupts the TVA's own conditioning and brings back the variant's original memories from before they were forcibly recruited. Further evidence to suggest the process isn't perfect can perhaps be found in Mobius' preoccupation with the 1990s, and again when the character tells Loki that he can't recall how long he's been under TVA employ.

If the TVA is one big citadel filled with ex-variants, Loki potentially finds himself holding one big advantage against his captors. Already in Loki, the God of Mischief has been debating the nature of existence with Mobius, imploring Owen Wilson's character to reconsider his unyielding faith in the Time-Keepers and their mission. Thus far, his attempts have proved unsuccessful. But if each and every TVA member was once a variant, that means doppelgangers would exist somewhere out in the Sacred Timeline - the versions following the correct path. If Loki figures out the TVA's shady recruit processes and locates Mobius' other self in the 1990s, he could prove definitively that the Time-Keeper story was a lie.

Related: Every Time & Location Lady Loki Bombed

For an added meta touch, the Sacred Timeline's Mobius could be none other than Owen Wilson, actor extraordinaire. After all, it's only logical that the TVA would grant their agents new names following the reset process, since "Mobius" isn't exactly a common moniker in the mortal plane. The MCU's Disney+ output has already dipped a toe into self-referential territory with Evan Peters' Quicksilver in WandaVision, but having Owen Wilson play 1990s Owen Wilson in Loki would be next level stuff. Maybe the variant turned down Starsky & Hutch?

If Loki can shake Mobius' emotional investment in the TVA, it wouldn't be long before other agents started following suit. The God of Mischief could trigger a domino effect, where Minute Men one by one begin remembering their old lives as variants, long before finding themselves in temporal custody. Stripped of its workforce, the TVA's true leader would be compelled to reveal themselves, allowing Loki to get to the heart of these quantum shenanigans and finally make a break for freedom. What becomes of the millions stolen from their respective places in history afterwards is anyone's guess, but Loki has left enough breadcrumbs to suggest some multiverse madness might not be out of the question.

More: Loki: Every MCU Easter Egg In Episode 2

New episodes of Loki air Wednesdays on Disney+.

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