Loki‘s Time Keepers are nothing more than high-end animatronics. For a long time, the cosmic equivalent of the Great and Powerful Oz served their purpose well. They hid the existence of the TVA’s true ruler (or rulers) safely behind a curtain. That was until Loki and Sylvie teamed up. Together they pose a clear existential threat to the TVA’s puppet master. So why, then, did this unseen leader bring the pair before the Time Keepers at all? Why not delete them the moment agents found them on Lamentis? The possible answers point to one very familiar figure.
The Time Keepers may not be real, but the TVA’s power is. Agents and Hunters can skip through time arresting and “resetting” Variants who cause nexus events. Mobius showed Loki just how many Variants of himself that has included over the years. Any God of Mischief poses a major risk to the order and sanctity of Sacred Timeline. Yet, despite a Loki’s prowess for chaos, the TVA seemingly had everything under control until Sylvie came along. If any Variant needed immediate deletion, it was her.
What reasons could the Authority’s true leader have for not doing so? Assuming they aren’t one of Ozymandias’ comic book villains who brags about their plan before actually executing it, there is one obvious answer for why they didn’t kill them: they don’t want Loki and Sylvie dead. Why they don’t want them dead is less clear. But the show’s mid-credits scene provide some possible answers.
Episode four ended with a recently deleted Loki waking up in the ruins of an alternate New York City. Four other Lokis—Kid Loki; Richard E. Grant as Classic Loki from the comics; Deobia Oparei credited as “Boastful Loki,” who is in possession of Mjölnir; and Alligator Loki—greeted him in front of the collapsed vestiges of Stark Tower. In this variant existence, Loki seems to have won the Battle of New York against the Avengers.
Before Hiddleston Loki realized any of that though, he asked if he was dead.
“Not yet,” answered a Variant.
“But you will be unless you come with us,” said another.
Deleted Loki Variants don’t die when they’re deleted. They’re transported to an alternate reality where they can join forces with other Lokis.
If you’re the secret ruler of the TVA, the last thing you would want to do is give an army of your victims two powerful new allies. And Sylvie and Hiddleston Loki have proven to be the most dangerous Variants of all.
Rather than kill them, you might very well prefer to keep them nearby at the TVA. Their magic doesn’t work there, and you can keep them safely locked up in Bad Memory Cells. Or you can even wipe their minds and turn them into your very own agents. It’s far preferable to keep a potential enemy kept under your personal control.
That leads to another question. Why did the TVA ruler bring Sylvie and Loki before the Time Keepers? Why even give them the chance to pull back the curtain on the whole charade? It could be simple arrogance. Or it could be exactly what this mysterious figure hoped would happen. You don’t bring two Gods of Mischief together, when they already know the TVA is a lie, without at least thinking some mayhem will ensue.
What’s to be gained from potentially letting them reveal the truth of the Time Keepers is, again, two powerful new allies. The TVA’s Oz might have hoped to recruit the pair. But only after they saw firsthand what makes Sylvie and Loki worthy of serving alongside the TVA ruler.
Whether this meeting with the Time Keepers was an act of arrogance, a failed attempt at keeping your enemies close, a secret interview/test of strength, or all three, the possibilities all point to one person as the true head of the Time Variance Authority. Only one being has ever run circles around the TVA. The same being who discovered the place is a sham. It’s the same being who is now uniting with their other Variants to defy their own deletions: Loki.
Any Loki sitting atop the TVA would fear his own Variants. They pose the greatest threat to the TVA, and not just because of what Sylvie has done. A Loki either built the place or usurped its leaders, then tried to hide their identity. But as Mobius knew, the best way to find a Loki is with another Loki. The only way to ensure that doesn’t happen is to either eliminate all of them, or neutralize the ones too dangerous to delete.
Puppet Master Loki wouldn’t want to send the most powerful Variants to lead a force rising up against the TVA. But they certainly might turn Sylvie and Hiddleston Loki into their allies upon seeing firsthand just how dangerous the two are.
A master of tricks and misdirection controls the TVA. This someone wants every God of Mischief Variant deleted… except for the two who realized Oz was neither great nor all powerful. And who that someone is might have been staring us in the face from the moment we first tuned into a show called Loki.
Mikey Walsh is a staff writer at Nerdist. You can follow him on Twitter at @burgermike, and also anywhere someone is ranking the Targaryen kings.