Note: this article contains spoilers about the Loki series on Disney+.
Disney+ has released the Loki season finale and after a wild ride with Tom Hiddleston’s Loki variant in the Time Variant Authority (TVA), fans finally found out who the man behind the curtain is. Or, as he is referred to in the episode, "He Who Remains". In his first appearance in the role and long before his scheduled portrayal in the upcoming Ant-Man and The Wasp: Quantumania MCU film, Jonathan Majors is revealed as Kang.
Or is he Kang? Yes, and no. The long-time Avengers villain has a very complicated backstory. Read on to find out more and what the future holds for the Marvel Cinematic Universe after this revelation!
Kang the Conqueror
In the original comic book, Kang the Conqueror is actually Nathaniel Richards, a descendant of Reed Richards in an alternate future of the 30th Century. In some versions, he instead hails from the bloodline of Victor Von Doom (aka Doctor Doom). At some point in his life, Nathaniel would discover a time machine made by his ancestor, and use it to travel to the distant past. Due to his far future advanced technology, Nathaniel inserted himself as a ruler of ancient Egypt called Rama-Tut. However, he was usurped from the throne by a time-displaced Fantastic Four.
Attempting to return to his own time, he instead became stuck in the modern era. Choosing the identity of the Scarlet Centurion, he then battled and was defeated by the Avengers. He would also encounter Doctor Doom in this era, which largely inspired his own transformation into Kang the Conqueror when he traveled to a war-torn 40th Century and summarily began his cross-time empire, taking over galaxies and timelines.
But Kang felt incomplete. A part of him longed to return to the modern era to battle the superheroes of that age. He felt that he would not be a true conqueror if he could be bested by the likes of the Avengers and the Fantastic Four, despite his genius and power. So began his string of travels and conflicts with the likes of Iron Man, Thor, and the rest of the Avengers. Each time he was defeated, Kang simply became more obsessed with achieving complete victory against them.
However, this is also where divergent versions of himself began emerging. For each instance that Kang traveled back or forward in time, an alternate version of himself chose different paths. Each variant of Kang again unintentionally created other variants, thus there are an infinite number of Kangs in the multiverse, each the same person but distinct in their own ways. Eventually, these Kangs would form their own organization called the Council of Cross-time Kangs, overseeing their temporal empire from their kingdom of Chronopolis.
The name is Immortus
One variant of Kang would eventually become Immortus, the Master of Time. This version of Kang traveled to the dimension of Limbo, where time does not exist and a powerful group of cosmic entities called the Time Keepers recruited him to oversee and preserve the timeline. In this guise of Immortus, he rules and protects 7000 years of the timeline. His primary task is to ensure nothing prevents the Time Keepers from coming into being while also fixing the problems his Kang versions caused.
Unlike his persona as Kang, Immortus is singular. There are no variants of Immortus. Only one Immortus exists, though due to his powers and mandate, he can appear in any given point in time. From his place in Limbo where all time and alternate timelines can be observed, Immortus plotted and pruned anomalies that would cause havoc to his rule and to protect his masters, the Time Keepers.
Immortus would continue interacting with the Avengers, sometimes as a foe and other times as an ally. Among his most notable schemes include manipulating the Scarlet Witch (who as a nexus being, was a serious threat to the Time Keepers), the Celestial Madonna affair, the Crossing (manipulating Iron Man into his pawn), and the Destiny War where he clashed with his Kang counterpart.
The Loki finale
The Loki series from Disney+ explored the aftermath of Avengers: Endgame, where a version of Loki managed to escape with the Tesseract (which contained the Space stone) after the time-traveling Avengers failed to obtain it.
This variant of Loki is recruited by the TVA in order to protect the so-called Sacred Timeline. In the course of the series, Loki learns of what time variants are and meets with his variants from alternate timelines, primarily Sylvie (a female Loki variant whose origins appear to be mixed with another Marvel supervillain, the Enchantress).
At the end of the penultimate episode of the Loki series, the variant Loki and Sylvie manage to defeat Alioth the Usurper, the entity that devours entire timelines and guards the way to Limbo, where supposedly the Time Keepers reside. But by the following episode, Loki and Sylvie discover that the Time Keepers are just a fabrication and the only person who created and is running the TVA is "He Who Remains".
This is revealed to be the character portrayed by Jonathan Majors. However, it is incorrectly referred to by casual fans of the Marvel Cinematic Universe as Kang. More accurately, this is the MCU version of Immortus. Although technically he was Kang in the past, Immortus is far more benevolent and content in overseeing the Sacred Timeline. In this version, instead of being recruited by the Time Keepers, he creates the idea of the Time Keepers, reversing the original roles from the comic books.
But as the confrontation and conversation with the Lokis reveal, he is tired of the job. He gives a choice to the Lokis of running the TVA in his place or to kill him and thus, open up the Sacred Timeline to incursions of his infinite number of past selves that have far worse plans for the entirety of creation.
As the climax of the Loki season finale showed, Sylvie made the choice to kill He Who Remains, sending the variant Loki back to the TVA. But there, Loki discovers that no one recognizes him, including his new friend Mobius (played by Owen Wilson). The episode culminated with the revelation that this version of the TVA no longer has the idea of the Time Keepers and instead, has the statue of Kang the Conqueror, leading to the confirmation of Loki season 2.
The MCU played the long game of setting up Thanos as the biggest threat, tying together the plot threads from 10 years’ worth of movies. It appears with the Loki finale, the next stage of the Marvel Cinematic Universe will have Kang as the main villain. Marvel Studio has confirmed that the animated What If? series, Spider-Man: No Way Home, and Doctor Strange and the Multiverse of Madness will all connect with the events of the Loki. Could Kang the Conqueror or his divergent versions make appearances in these projects as well? Appropriately, time will tell.
In Marvel Studios’ "Loki," the mercurial villain Loki (Tom Hiddleston) resumes his role as the God of Mischief in a new series that takes place after the events of "Avengers: Endgame."
Written by Michael Waldron and directed by Kate Herron, you can catch the entire season of the Loki series on the Disney+ streaming service, available now.