(Below you’ll find some pretty significant spoilers for the premiere of Marvel series “Loki” on Disney+. So, if you haven’t watched the episode yet, you might want to steer. Unless you like spoilers, in which case have fun!)
There are plenty of things on “Loki” that will make your head hurt if you think about them too hard. We’ve got time travel and multiverses and time cops and just generally a whole bunch of outlandish sci-fi things.
And we’ve also got Infinity Stones. A lot of Infinity Stones.
The Stones pop up while Loki makes a brief attempt to escape the clutches of the Time Variance Authority, an ultra-powerful organization that exists outside of time and space and which was created to keep order in the multiverse. They snatched him up after he zipped himself out of New York in “Avengers: Endgame,” and Loki hopes to use the Tesseract to teleport himself once more. But it doesn’t work.
And neither do any of the other many, many Infinity Stones these folks just keep lying around the office.
The Stones don’t work because of the TVA’s location — it’s not in the multiverse, which is where the Stones were formed and have power. And each of the Stones works in any reality within the multiverse, as we say in “Endgame.”
But the more interesting thing to me is why the TVA even has them. We’re told they have so many that people use them as paperweights. Where did they come from? I’ve got an answer for this, and it’s the sort of thing that could have a major impact not just on the future of the MCU, but also its past.
There’s really only one possible explanation I can think of for why the TVA would have so many Infinity Stones: They take them from timelines they delete.
Let’s use the Tesseract as an example. In “Endgame” we had three of them. There was the one in the present, which Thanos destroyed. There was the one that Loki stole from 2012 and carried with him into his Disney+ show. And then there was the one from the ’70s that Steve and Tony stole from a SHIELD base.
The most important detail about time travel in the MCU for the purposes of this discussion is that when people travel through time, they are not actually traveling to their own past. The very act of time travel instead creates a copy of the universe that the traveler is from, and this new timeline diverges from the original at the point in time that the traveler went to.
And the Infinity Stones also get copied into the new universe. We saw that in “Endgame” as well, as the Avengers were able bring Stones back to their original reality from the new universes they had created by time traveling.
So when they go back to 2012, bam, they spawned a branch universe, and it came with its own brand-new Tesseract. Likewise when they go further back after the 2012 attempt fails. Another new universe, another new Tesseract. They could do this forever, in theory.
So, back to all those Stones the TVA has. These must come from alternate timelines that the TVA shut down. It could be that the Stones remain somehow after a universe is deleted, and the TVA has to collect them every time they shut one down. Or maybe it’s just how it is with Loki and the Tesseract — people get their hands on an Infinity Stone and try some stuff they shouldn’t and end in Time Prison with the TVA confiscating the stone.
More pressing is the effect that this whole thing could have on “Avengers: Endgame.” That movie has the most enormous gaping plot hole at the very end, and “Loki” is actually providing the means to fill it in.
The plot hole is Steve Rogers returning the stones to whatever places the Avengers stole them from. In “Endgame” this scenario is ludicrous. It would not have been possible for him to actually do the thing he was supposed to do.
First, he travels to the past with all the Stones in their gem form, which is a problem for two of them. He needed the Reality Stone to turn back into liquid so he could sneak into Asgard — a place Steve has never even seen pictures of — and inject it back into Jane Foster. He needed the Tesseract back in its cube form — we’ve got no info about how one would go about going that, because it’s not a thing that has ever happened or been discussed in the MCU.
Then you’ve got the Soul Stone. There was a whole death ritual required to get this one, so putting it back seems like it would be complicated.
“Loki” and the TVA, fortunately for the Russo Bros, have a much easier answer to this problem. They could simply delete those extraneous timelines that the Avengers had created. No need to return the Stones to universes that no longer exist. Some of those Stones Loki saw in that desk could very well have been ones from the time heist.
There’s a line from Gugu Mbatha-Raw’s character, Ravonna, that supports this idea. When Loki asks her why he’s being punished for what the Avengers did, she tells him that what the Avengers did in “Endgame” was “supposed to happen.” That, in turn, would mean that it was part of the Time-Keepers plans. And if they planned all that, then they would have planned a way to safely wrap things up as well.
You didn’t think this was all the coverage we have for the “Loki” premiere, did you? We’ve also got a discussion of that big last scene with that Other Other Loki, and you might wanna check out this post about an intriguing Easter egg we noticed in the end credits.