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Here’s What Counts as an ‘Apocalyptic Event’ for the Other Loki to Hide In

Loki may have misled you by using a bad example

(This article contains major spoilers for the second episode of “Loki” on Disney+. If you’re googling this in the middle of the episode, you might want to hold off on reading this until you finish it)

At the heart of the second episode of “Loki” is a compelling hypothesis: the villainous Other Loki we learned about in the premiere could essentially hide in time by going to some place where they won’t affect the timeline enough for the Time Variance Authority to notice.

The idea came to our Loki (Tom Hiddleston) when he was reading up on the destruction of Asgard that we saw in “Thor: Ragnarok.” He figured that if he went to Asgard right before Surtur blew it up, then he could do whatever he wanted in the city without spinning off the timeline.

While that’s where the seed of the idea came from, it’s actually not the best illustration. If Loki were to travel to Asgard during the battle with Hela, and knock the Hulk off the Rainbow Bridge like he suggested, that would create a divergent timeline. But if he went to a part of Asgard that had already been evacuated, then that would probably be OK. It just matters that nobody sees him, because ultimately the what’s at issue is whether you leave a metaphorical footprint. We’ll get deeper into that in a moment.

After Mr. Mobius decides Loki might be on to something, they make an unauthorized to Pompeii moments before it was buried in lava by Mt. Vesuvius. Loki climbs up on a cart, tells everybody he’s from the future and that they’re all about to be killed by the volcano. Vesuvius erupts, the lava rolls in, everybody dies — and the hypothesis proven since TVA folks didn’t roll in to investigate.

From there, Mobius very briefly lays out some rules for this tactic. “The disasters have to be naturally-occurring, sudden, no warning, no survivors.”

After browsing some files, they find an ideal candidate: a grocery store on the Gulf Coast where people were hiding during a hurricane in the year 2050. A store that would be so utterly smashed by the storm that everyone inside is killed.

The idea turns out to be correct, and the Other Loki turns out to actually be Lady Loki (Sophia Di Martino). And things go from bad to worse for the TVA.

While the explanations given for this way of hiding in time are enough to get viewers through the plot of the episode, The very perfunctory way Mobius lays out the rules after Loki spent several minutes incorrectly using Asgard as an example — plus the fact that nobody ever says outright that Asgard wouldn’t work for this idea — might spark a little confusion. So let’s read between the lines for a second.

The real idea here is that Lady Loki would go to a place where there would be no surviving witnesses and no physical evidence of her presence. So that’s two main requirements: anybody present who might see Lady Loki has to already been slated to die there, and the place has to be so wrecked that anything she left behind wouldn’t have any possible effect on the timeline.

In other words: she has to put herself in a situation in which she has no effect on what happens next.

This is definitely some hand-wavey territory, meaning it’s a place where the writing team are giving themselves some leeway by not laying out hard-and-fast rules. Both of the episodes we’ve seen so far have supported the idea that the TVA are not absolutists — they’ll allow some minor variances, or perhaps they allow some small amount of free will so long as folks hit all the major planned plot points.

There’s always going to be some leeway required with this kind of story because we don’t really have the brains to fully comprehend wacky time stuff. But having the TVA around helps deal with that issue because it exists outside of time — and thus plays by different rules. They maintain the timeline in all sorts of ways, most of which we haven’t seen on this show. So just as they give themselves leeway by not actually living inside linear time, the TVA gives the writers the leeway they need to keep “Loki” from spending too much time pondering whether any of this makes at least internal sense.

As with all time travel stories, it’s just internal coherence that matters. They gotta play by their own rules. In the case of the TVA, they’re the ones who set the rules. So if they’re OK with slight meaningless variations in the timeline — such as Lady Loki then we have to be too. So if they’re OK with the corpses in that store being in the wrong places after Lady Loki possessed a few of them, then we have to be too.

This may not quite work with the time travel rules of “Avengers: Endgame” though, but it’s hard to tell just yet since we still don’t know much about the big picture here. In “Endgame,” as in the comics, the rules of time travel are that the very act of traveling through time creates a new branching timeline. By that logic, Lady Loki would be doing the same just by being there — creating an almost identical timeline, but still a new one that’s distinct from the original.

But maybe random branches happen all the time and the TVA prunes them without thinking too hard about it. Whatever the case, I’m gonna stop this discussion here because we could go down this rabbit hole forever. And we don’t really need to keep going anyway, because the TVA is a big enough wild card that it can paper over most logical problems we can come up with.

And, as I always say, there’s still so much we don’t know. Four more episodes of “Loki” left.