WARNING: Spoilers ahead for Avengers: Endgame.
Loki died in the opening minutes of Avengers: Infinity War, but he survives Avengers: Endgame - though only in an alternate timeline. Endgame sees the Avengers time travel through their own pasts in search of the Infinity Stones, and along the way, they accidentally create a few new realities which are similar but distinct to the prime Marvel Cinematic Universe timeline.
Many expected Avengers: Endgame would revive all the heroes who died in Avengers: Infinity War, but only those killed by Thanos' snap were brought back to life. That leaves Gamora, Heimdall, Vision, and Loki all still dead. And yet, though they're still six feet under, this won't be the last time some of these characters will appear in the MCU. Endgame introduces a new version of Gamora (Zoe Saldana) from 2014, bringing her into the present day and planting the seed that she'll return for Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3. As for Vision (Paul Bettany), he's set to appear in the upcoming Disney+ series, WandaVision alongside the Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olson).
Loki (Tom Hiddleston) is also getting his own Disney+ series from Rick and Morty writer Michael Waldron. Little is known about the series, but with Avengers: Endgame creating a scenario in which Loki is still alive, it's possible that this could be what sets up that series. So how does Loki survive Avengers: Endgame and what might it mean for his future in the MCU?
Loki From The Avengers Appears In Endgame - And Steals The Tesseract
Of all the moments from the past that the Avengers revisit during Avengers: Endgame, their trip to New York circa 2012 is the most fun. The whole scenario plays like an extended scene from The Avengers' climactic Battle of New York, revealing what happens right after Loki is defeated. The future-Avengers' plan sees Steve set off to retrieve Loki's scepter (Mind Stone), while Tony and Scott pursue the Tesseract (Space Stone) - which risks being confiscated by S.H.I.E.L.D. agents (actually Hydra) shortly after Loki's capture. Tony disguises himself as a security guard and follows them downstairs, hoping to grab the briefcase containing the Tesseract at the first opportunity.
While in the lobby of Avengers Tower, however, their plan goes awry. Tony does manage to lay hands on the briefcase, but just as he's trying to leave without being noticed, Hulk - the one of 2012, angry at being forced to take the stairs instead of the elevator - bursts in, knocking Tony over and the case out of his hands. The case then slides across the lobby floor, landing directly at Loki's feet and falling open. And even though Loki is handcuffed and gagged, it's not enough to stop him picking up the Tesseract and using the Space Stone's power to quickly teleport away.
This mishap forces Tony and Steve to travel even further into the past to retrieve the Tesseract from an earlier point in the timeline (leading to the film's Stan Lee cameo), but what happens to the Loki who escapes with the Space Stone in 2012?
Loki Lives... But In A New Timeline
Although the specifics are loose, the rules of time travel as explained in Avengers: Endgame suggests that interference with the past creates a new timeline, with particularly damaging changes made by the Infinity Stones. This is what the Ancient One explains to Bruce when he comes to the Sanctum Sanctorum seeking the Time Stone. The only way to avoid creating these divergent timelines, she explains, is to return the stones to the exact moment they were first taken. Marvel manages to (mostly) keep to that logic by having Steve travel to the past and return the stones at the end of Avengers: Endgame, but that doesn't mean they avoid creating a few new timelines.
Following Endgame's time travel rules, Loki escaping with the Space Stone in 2012 creates a divergent, parallel timeline that now differs from the prime timeline - the one in which the events of the MCU have transpired as seen in the films. Loki escaping in 2012 creates a timeline where he may never be imprisoned as he is in Thor: The Dark World, never travel to Sakaar as he does in Thor: Ragnarok, and presumably, won't die as he does at the very beginning of Avengers: Infinity War. So while the Loki of the MCU's prime timeline is still very much dead, there's now another MCU timeline with a Loki who is very much alive.
What Does Loki's New Timeline Mean For His TV Show?
An alternate version of Loki who is still alive and has the Space Stone is just ripe with storytelling opportunities. Could this then be the Loki audiences will follow in the upcoming Loki Disney+ series? Quite possibly. If this is going to continue Loki's time in the MCU in any forward-thinking way, an alternate timeline is an obvious workaround his death, and means that all manner of nefarious actions can be done without worry of impacting the movies.
The Loki show's basic premise is reported to feature Loki appearing "throughout human history as [an] unlikely influencer on historical events," which hints at the series being a prequel (possibly with a recast, younger Loki) to rather than a continuation of the MCU. How this would fit with the possibility of an alternate MCU timeline created in Avengers: Endgame is unclear; if it does take in humanity's past, at least some would have to be set before Loki escapes with the Space Stone and creates the divergence.
Even if it's not for the Disney+ show, that doesn't mean nothing will ever come of an alternate dimension Loki. After all, it's just too irresistible of a setup that, in time, some writer and/or director is sure to find a way to re-introduce this version of Loki back into the MCU proper. Perhaps it will be another film down the line (possibly Thor 4), or maybe even in another Disney+ series where creators will have more freedom with characters and stories. Regardless, with as popular a character as he is, there's little doubt Loki will continue to have a presence in the MCU. Whether it's the original, prime timeline Loki or the one from the divergent reality remains to be seen.
Were Other Timelines Created In Avengers: Endgame?
Loki escaping with the Space Stone isn't the only instance in where Avengers: Endgame creates a new timeline. While the Ancient One states it's the Infinity Stones that will create new timelines, directors the Russo brothers have stated that same logic holds true when altering anything in the timeline. In that case, in addition to the new timeline created from the Battle of New York with Loki, there are actually many more possible points of divergence: Thor and Rocket in 2013; Nebula, War Machine, Hawkeye and Black Widow in 2014; Iron Man and Captain America in 1970; and Steve when he returns to live with Peggy.
The two most impactful ones are the 2014 timeline, which has Thanos disappear completely, meaning no Guardians of the Galaxy or Infinity War, and Steve Rogers' new timeline; the Peggy whom Steve marries is not the Peggy of the prime timeline, but instead the Peggy of the timeline Steve creates when he chooses not to return to the exact moment he left the present. Just how it is Steve is then able to return to the prime timeline and hand the Captain America shield off to Sam Wilson at the end of the film remains a mystery, but the Russos do suggest "there’s a story there", hinting this may get explored one day.
Only time will tell if and how any of these parallel timelines and the characters within them will play roles in future MCU movies or television series, but by introducing time travel and alternate dimensions, Avengers: Endgame has created countless new possibilities for telling future stories.
- Spider-Man: Far From Home (2019) release date: Jul 02, 2019