Loki‘s second season ended with the Asgardian prince getting everything he ever wanted. He really was born with a glorious purpose. It led him to sit upon a throne as he’d always coveted. And yet, the fulfillment of his lifelong dreams was not what he imagined. The God of Mischief, who had long played the role of a villain, proved to be anything but. His burden was not to earn others’ love but to show love. Loki saved everyone in every timeline by sacrificing himself to create a new kind of existence. It honors his Norse heritage and frees the universe from the Sacred Timeline’s oppression. The only thing it didn’t do was eliminate the danger posed by Kang the Conqueror and his dangerous Variants.

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Loki spent the first half of his show’s season two finale desperately trying to fix the Temporal Loom that had seemingly exploded at the end of episode four. That blast had sent everyone at the TVA back to their original branch and life. It was everything Sylvie wanted, but in episode five those realities and everyone in them all began to turn to spaghetti. Without the Temporal Loom around to organize branches into the Sacred Timeline the entire multiverse appeared doomed. Loki was the multiverse’s only hope thanks to his time slipping.

Once Loki learned to control his movement through time he was able to go back to before the Loom’s failure. In the finale he spent centuries studying and repeatedly attempting to expand the Temporal Loom. He finally achieved his goal when he made it possible for Victor Timely to successfully fire the Throughput Multiplier onto the Loom before it was too late.

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It didn’t work. It was never going to work. Scaling up the Temporal Loom’s size to fit more timelines was always doomed to fail. Without the TVA’s pruning of branches, new realities grow at an infinite rate. You can’t scale up for infinite. “It’s like trying to divide by zero. It can’t be done.”

Loki then decided he had to go back even further in time to fix everything. He needed to stop Sylvie from killing He Who Remains in the first place. The death of the TVA’s creator had put this existential disaster in motion.

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Inside the Citadel of Time, during a sequence from the show’s season one finale, Loki tried again and again to prevent Sylvie from killing He Who Remains. He never succeeded. No matter how many times he time slipped to that encounter, Sylvie always murdered her sworn enemy. Each time she also told Loki if he wanted to stop her he had to kill her. Loki wouldn’t.

Eventually He Who Remains paused time when he realized Loki had relived this moment many times. The TVA creator also knew all about the time slipping. He had “paved” the road that led to Loki’s time traveling ability, because Loki was He Who Remains’ backup plan for reincarnation, not Victor Timely.

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Loki then shared his own secret. He could also control time; he was much further along in his understanding of time manipulation. He Who Remains then explained exactly what was going on. There was no Temporal Loom scaling problem because the Temporal Loom is simply a failsafe. “When the Loom is overloaded with branches, it deletes the ones that aren’t supposed to be there. Everything except the Sacred Timeline.” Saving the TVA was never a concern. It was simply collateral damage that is “easy to rebuild.” The Loom’s protection of the Sacred Timeline and its finite number of chosen branches was all that ever mattered.

He Who Remains then told Loki something the Asgardian already knew: no matter what Loki did he would always lose. There was no way to save every branch. Not unless Loki changed the equation entirely and destroyed the Temporal Loom.

While He Who Remains said countless versions of his dangerous Variants already existed by now, destroying the Temporal Loom would mean multiversal war. That would result in the destruction of every branch of reality, including the Sacred Timeline. He Who Remains said that’s what this was all about. He offered mercy to some by making the hard choice to sacrifice timelines to prevent the end of them all. Loki was unconvinced. He still refused to kill Syivle and said he would “find another way.”

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That other way led him to time slip to his first sit down with Mobius. There/then Loki asked his friend for help. Loki asked about how you decide who lives and dies. Mobius talked about keeping the big picture in mind and how “most purpose is more burden than glory.” Ultimately there is no comfort in real, meaningful purpose. The only choice we have is to pick which burden we are willing to live with.

Loki thanked him and then went to speak with Sylvie before she turned to spaghetti. When he told her the truth about the Loom being a failsafe Sylvie realized he might have to kill her. It was the only way to guarantee He Who Remains would live. Loki said it was either the Sacred Timeline or nothing, but she didn’t accept that. What gave him the right to take away everyone’s free will? What was the point of protecting an existence without it? Who was Loki to say they couldn’t die fighting instead? Why replace one nightmare with another anyway, especially when “sometimes it’s okay to destroy something.”

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It’s what Loki needed to hear. Sylvie had never lost sight of the real big picture and what matters – a chance to live your life. Loki knew what he needed to do. He finally realized what kind of god he needed to be for his friends and everyone. Loki realized he could replace the branch-killing Loom, and therefore the Sacred Timeline, with something better: himself.

Loki went back to the moment before the Temporal Loom exploded to save the people he loved. He walked out on the platform without a suit and adorned his royal Asgardian clothes and horned crown. He then used his powers to destroy the Temporal Loom for good. Without it the infinite branches began to die, but Loki grabbed them and brought them back to life with his energy. He then gathered every timeline and carried them through a rift that led to the End of Time.

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There he weaved the branches both into his robe and into himself as he claimed the throne as the King of All Time, Always. Only, unlike He Who Remains, he did not oppress timelines into a branch-killing Loom. Instead Loki let them all blossom and co-exist in peace as part of something new. Loki created Yggdrasil, the sacred ash Norse Tree of Life that contains all life.

Loki sacrificed himself to save everyone on every timeline. He also saved the TVA, a place people can now choose to serve freely. Some like Mobius opted to leave the TVA behind and go home. Others decided to stay because the TVA still serves an important purpose. It now monitors Variants of He Who Remains, one of whom caused (an already dealt with) problem in an Earth-616 adjacent world. That was a reference to Kang’s activities in the Quantum Realm in Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania.

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Loki’s glorious purpose, which was never about earning the love of others but rather showing it to them, saved every branch in the infinite multiverse. He also stopped multiversal war and the potential destruction of everything. The Variants of He Who Remains will not destroy the entire universe. But when Loki broke the loop of time he did not destroy Kang and his Variants for good. Instead, in this new reality, they’re united as the Council of Kangs seen in Quantumania. He Who Remains Variants are no longer fighting each other to control the multiverse, they’re fighting together. That’s still a dangerous proposition for every branch of reality.

Loki’s sacrifice wasn’t a perfect solution because life isn’t perfect. We can never be truly safe. But it was beautiful and full of hope. He created a far better universe than the one He Who Remains maintained. Loki didn’t offer the multiverse false mercy defined by death. Loki has to give the multiverse life. Every life.

Mikey Walsh is a staff writer at Nerdist. You can follow him on   Twitter and  Bluesky at @burgermike. And also anywhere someone is ranking the Targaryen kings.