When Does Loki: Season One Take Place?

A transcription of this video can be found below.

While not the first Marvel Studios project to bounce around on the Timeline, Season One of Loki is the first title to truly explore what the Timeline actually is, and what occurs when you diverge from it. And as someone who’s made it my personal goal to study fictional timelines, this has been a whirlwind of insight and confusion, much of which I’ll discuss in this video. This is Chapter 26 in an ongoing series called ‘When Does the MCU Take Place?’ This entry will be a lot more in-depth, however, exploring a number of questions the series’ first six episodes raise. What is the Sacred Timeline? What can we learn from all the Timeline jumps we experience? Where or when is the TVA? Why do some Variants appear so different if they’re from the Sacred Timeline? How does Time even work in Loki? How does time work in the Void? And much, much more. This series is an attempt to discuss all the important dates and references to time within a given MCU title, and because this show is so timeline intensive, there’s a lot, so you better strap in, and don’t forget to hit that like button. So, when exactly does Loki: Season One Take Place?

“Do you have any idea how impossible it is to keep the Timeline stable?”

Our story begins in 2012, in the branched timeline that spawned out of Avengers: Endgame. The Hulk foils the 2023 Avengers’ plan to steal the Tesseract before its sent to Asgard, allowing the Loki of this branched 2012 to steal the Tesseract and get free, only to find himself incarcerated by the TVA. This event occurs on May 4th, 2012 according to this TemPad, a day earlier than we originally suggested in Chapter 6 of this series. This sets off a chain of events that would eventually lead to another Multiversal War.

But first, we learn a lot about the Timeline as Loki is not only brought in for questioning, but also brought on as a consultant on their quest to find another Loki Variant. The Sacred Timeline, as the TVA calls it, is one of many that once existed, or perhaps still exist. “Once I isolated our timeline, all I had to do was manage the flow of time and prevent any further branches.” Note that He Who Remains claims he’s isolated the Sacred Timeline and hasn’t destroyed the others, as is clear at the start of episode 6. The designation the TVA uses for the Sacred Timeline, the timeline that all events that Marvel Studios projects have occurred in thus far, is 616, or 616.432 as is seen throughout the first couple episodes of season one. Variants, like Loki, Sylvie, or even Alligator Loki are created from branches off of the Sacred Timeline, which the TVA is tasked to prune before the timelines become too stable, which would effectively manifest other parallel universes. It’s important to note that for the sake of this video, and my sanity, the show uses the terms universe, timeline, and reality interchangeably, so don’t be alarmed if I do the same.

Outside of the TVA, who don’t truly reside on the Sacred Timeline, we visit some 11 points in time and space on the Sacred Timeline. We’ve already discussed the branched 2012 timeline that the TVA pruned at the start of episode one, but we also visit a few places in search of Sylvie. The first is when Mobius and other agents go to a cathedral in Aix-En-Provence, France, which takes place on December 4th, 1549. We find Sylvie burning down an oil field at the end of episode one, in Salina Oklahoma, 1858. Again we find her causing chaos and stealing reset charges from the timeline in Oshkosh, Wisconsin at a Renaissance Fair on April 12th, 1985. The show also takes us to some real historical dates, namely volcano day in Pompeii on August 24th, 79 A.D., and the day D.B. Cooper stole $200,000 on a Boeing 727 on November 24th, 1971.

Some of the more interesting time periods are the natural disasters the show takes us to in the future. The first is probably the more interesting one, being the destruction of Haven Hills, Alabama on March 15th, 2050. Sylvie has been hiding out in this time for a while, avoiding creating new branches on the Sacred Timeline thanks to the inevitable destruction of everything and everyone in vicinity of this apocalypse. It’s the first instance where Marvel Studios has ever given us a glimpse into the future of the Sacred Timeline past 2024, and perhaps it’s a clue as to the horrific events we’ll see in our reality if climate change continues down its current path. The Roxxcart disaster sees two mega storms, a category 8 and a category 9 hurricane converge over Alabama, the so called ‘Storm of the Millennium.’ The date of March 15th is surely no coincidence either, 3/15 being linked to the classic line in Shakespeare’s play Julius Caesar, “beware the ides of March.” March 15th is the day Julius Caesar was betrayed by his peers and friends. This takes two meanings in the show. One, it’s the day Loki betrayed Mobius. “Looks like your favorite Loki betrayed you, Mobius.” And two, it’s the last place C-20 was on the timeline before the TVA betrayed and killed her.

We also can’t forget the time spent on Lamentis-1, in 2077, after Loki follows Sylvie through the portal, and they spend about half a day there. “How long do we have?” “Twelve hours or so.” It’s the worst apocalypse of all that the TVA has on file, and the visuals are stunningly catastrophic. While we don’t know the exact date of the disaster, it was a fantastic exploration of the timeline. We also travel to an unknown time in Asgard on Sylvie’s alternate timeline, as well as Fremont, Ohio in 2018, which proves the TVA agents are all Variants themselves, and of course the Void at the End of Time, which we’ll discuss in a moment.

The show wants us to feel disoriented by the overwhelming orderliness of the TVA, and the exacting chaos that is the Sacred Timeline. It gives us scrolling years for us to view whenever it wants us to know where we are roughly on the timeline, but little to no hints as to where the TVA takes place relative to that timeline. If we slow it down and take a glimpse of all the scrolling years, we can start to see a pattern emerge. Of the 8 times we see these numbers ticking by, 5 of them begin in the 2020 to 2025 range. Not a conclusive answer as to where Loki occurs, but it’s a start.

Let’s head back to the TVA for now and see if we can’t determine where and when that occurs. When asked by Loki how long Mobius has been there, he claims “I don’t know, it’s hard to say, y’know time passes differently here in the TVA.” While I don’t doubt that time works differently for the Time Variance Authority, as it’s clearly detached from the physical laws of the Sacred Timeline, there is proof that within the TVA time is in fact linear, and not all over the place as one would presume it to be. While resetting a timeline in Aix-En-Provence, Hunter U-92 claims “that’s the sixth attack in the last week.” This means they’re following Sylvie chronologically as she makes her way up and down the timeline, and that the TVA have a means of calculating the passing of time. And to corroborate that time appears to elapse linearly throughout the TVA, please note that whenever TVA agents come back from a mission, it’s always relative to other agents in the TVA. This means that they experience time moving in one direction at the TVA, and age relative to one another, presumably. But this seems to contradict what Mobius says about time working differently in the TVA. What does that mean, exactly? Does time spent in the TVA get confused because of all the jumping around on the timeline? Is a day in the TVA 16 hours, as the 16-hour clock face of Miss Minutes might attest? Or do they not age in the TVA, as is suggested by Judge Renslayer. “Eons of friendship. And you threw it away on a couple of Lokis.” I understand this to mean that they’ve travelled throughout the eons in working for the TVA together, and not that they’ve actually lived for eons, especially considering they’re only Variants, and not mere creations of the Time Keepers as they once believed.

So when does the TVA take place then? “We are from the future, right? What is the TVA, I mean it’s from the future, it sounds from the future? It’s pretty future-y?” Well, it’s kind of impossible to say at this stage, but we know for a certainty it doesn’t take place in the Sacred Timeline reality, thanks to a line from Sylvie. “There’s power somewhere on this moon. We just need enough of it to travel through inter-dimensional time and space.” Considering Sylvie seems to know much more about the TVA and how it works than many of its own agents do, we can take her word at face value. To get to the TVA requires much more than traveling through time and space. You need to travel through dimensions. Dimensions aren’t interchangeable with universes or realities, as they operate separately from your average timeline. We’ve seen several so far in the MCU; Soulworld, the Astral Plane, the Mirror Dimension, and the Quantum Realm to name a few. In the comics the Time Variance Authority resides in the Null-Time Zone, meaning it’s not bound by time. Let’s presume that this is where our MCU TVA takes place; in the Null-Time Zone, or Dimension.

Speaking of Sylvie and the other variants in the show, one concept kept nagging at me. Why do some variants come out looking completely different from the original? Our Loki, Variant L1130, happens to be an exact copy of the Loki we knew from the Sacred Timeline. But Sylvie, Loki Variant L1190, came out of the Timeline looking much, much different. Are these variants from different universes? The confusion was only heightened by the fact that the finale of Season One introduced the concept of two different types of Variants. The first is obviously a Variant from the Sacred Timeline who is then summarily pruned and sent to the Void at the End of Time. The second are those variants from wholly different timelines, or universes, as He Who Remains details. Well, as far as why certain Variants look different, Sylvie details it pretty well on Lamentis. “The universe wants to break free, so it manifests chaos. Like me being born the Goddess of Mischief.” It’s pretty incredible actually, that the TVA didn’t immediately prune this branch off the timeline the moment a female Loki was born, but the fact that the universe appears to yearn for chaos may have hidden the branch before it could eventually became it’s own un-prunable timeline. This branched timeline existed for several years before it redlined, as we see it wasn’t noticed until she was a child. “And as soon as that created a big enough detour from the Sacred Timeline, the TVA showed up, erased my reality, and took me prisoner.” We know the TVA can’t visit a branched timeline at any old point, so presumably Sylvie’s Timeline branched from the Sacred Timeline at her birth and they showed up in real time several years later as said branch began to redline. “Nexus events destabilize the time flow. This branch is still changing and growing, so you gotta show up in real time.” All the Loki Variants appear to be branched off of the Sacred Timeline and not other universes Timelines. “In my timeline, everything proceeded correctly my entire life until Thanos attacked my ship.”

One of the most important things to consider with Loki is that it explains how time works in the MCU, albeit somewhat misleadingly. A timeline, by its very nature, is a linear construct. But if that were the case, the TVA wouldn’t continually be traveling back and forth from the past to the future of the timeline to prune or reset realities back to the preordained narrative of the Sacred Timeline. If it were linear, they wouldn’t have to worry about pruning events in the past or the future, because the past has already happened, and is set in stone, and the future won’t have happened yet, so naturally the TVA would only need to worry themselves with making sure the present isn’t altered. And yet, there are constantly new branches forming throughout the past, present, and future of the Sacred Timeline, at random, that the TVA have to deal with. Does this mean that time is a loop, as Mobius hints at? “That’s the proper flow of time, and it happens again and again and again because it’s supposed to, because it has to.” While time being a loop or the bootstrap paradox is a possible theory, it’s unlikely, because that type of time travel was discounted in Avengers: Endgame as impossible, as we’ll discuss in Chapter 22 of this series. But notice how the branches form on the timeline in both past and future in episode 6. Time is flowing, yes, and while you can’t change the past of a timeline, as per the rules in Endgame, you can create new branches of reality out of the past. This, coupled with the quote from Mobius earlier, suggest that all of time is happening at once. This is the block universe theory, that the past, present, and future all exist and are equally real – and in Loki’s case, equally ready to branch into a multiverse of madness.

The most fascinating time period we visit, undoubtedly, is the Void. “A void at the End of Time.” This is the true location of where all pruned matter and timelines are sent. Literally, it’s the unwritten end of existence in the universe. The way Miss Minutes visualizes this in her diagram is an ever moving end-point to the timeline. As time progresses, the end point moves back some. And because time within this pocket of the timeline is constantly being pushed back, the physical properties of time don’t function the same way as they would on the rest of the Timeline. Actor Jack Veal, who portrayed Kid Loki, claims that his character “was pruned thousands of years before and just didn’t age because of the Void being the end of time.” While the actor claims he is the oldest one in the Void, I’d suggest he would actually be the second oldest, after He Who Remains. Remember that the Citadel also exists at the end of time, and is only hidden by the beast Alioth. “Welcome to the Citadel at the End of Time.” While its possible He Who Remains may have some other means of everlasting life, if the same physical laws of time and aging that keep Kid Loki looking young apply similarly between the Void and the Citadel, he would have no need to find another means of longevity. And we know he’s lived a long time. “Buddy, I’m tired. And I’m older. I’m older than I look.” How much older? Well, while he may be exaggerating a bit, he does claim “I’ve lived a million lifetimes.” This could either be some reference to his age, or the lives he’s dictated on the Sacred Timeline. Either way, he elaborates on when the End of Time actually is. “Eons ago, before the TVA, a Variant of myself lived on Earth in the 31st century.” This tells us that the TVA was founded after the 31st Century, and that eons have passed since that. An eon is generally believed to be a billion years, and he claims it’s been billions since the early 3000s. So this point in the future is quite a ways away from where the MCU currently resides in the 2020s.

After meeting Loki and Sylvie, and delivering the gambit he’s been waiting to give them about the fate of the multiverse, we discover that there is a point in the End of Time that he can no longer see past. “We just crossed the threshold.” Time works in the Void, it seems, but not in the ways it works in the rest of the Timeline. With the death of He Who Remains, there is nobody overseeing the Timeline from the chaos that ensues.

All that being said, we still haven’t answered the question of when exactly Loki Season One takes place! We can’t truly say it’s the End of Time, because the events in this series trickle into other films and shows in the 21st century. We can’t say it’s the TVA, because again, there’s no way of knowing when they take place relative to the Sacred Timeline. And we can’t count any one date on the timeline as it’s not indicative of the whole. This is a rare video in this playlist where we’ll have to simply follow the character’s perspective, and seeing as how Loki’s journey immediately jumps out of Avengers: Endgame’s narrative, we have to stick it immediately after. In fact, as far as Loki is concerned, he probably assumes the Avengers are still jumping through Time trying to find Infinity Stones while he’s in search of Sylvie. Because of the various time jumps and time spent in the TVA, even he loses track of the days that elapse. “Look, it’s been a very, very trying past few days. Months? I don’t even know how long it’s been since New York!” Placing this show directly after Endgame is also where the Disney+ timeline currently has the show placed as well, so I think it’s a good fit.

.3% of the show’s runtime takes place in an unknown time on Sylvie’s Timeline, .3% in 2018, .5% in 1971, .6% in 1858, 1.1% in 1549, 1.7% in 2012, 2.5% in 1985, 6.1% in 2050, 13% in 2077, 24.3% at the End of Time, and a whopping 48.7% takes place within the TVA. “For all time.” “Always”

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s