Editor's Note: there are spoilers forDisney+'s Loki season 1 but not Ant-Man and the Wasp Quantumania.
Jonathan Majors’ Kang is new arch-nemesis of the entire MCU and will be central to the next few years of the pop culture monolith’s movie and TV releases. We already know that he’ll be the villain responsible for the next two Avengers movies, in 2025’s Avengers: The Kang Dynasty and 2026’s Avengers: Secret Wars, but… what does he (they?) actually want, and what is his plan to achieve that? The answer to these questions might lie in a Marvel show from two years ago.
While Quantumania is, in some respects, the first time Kang has appeared in the MCU, it’s also not; Majors’ MCU debut was in the 2021 season finale of Disney+’s Loki, where he played He Who Remains — the big bad of the show to date, and a version of Kang the Conqueror, if not the same version that is currently lighting up multiplexes the world over.
It seems safe to say that He Who Remains is an unreliable narrator, at the very least. He is, after all, a man who admits that he took control of an extra-dimensional being that ate time to kill off multiversal versions of himself, even if he argues that it was all for the greater good; that’s not the kind of thing that suggests that he’s particularly trustworthy, to be blunt.
Nonetheless, he is the only person to have offered any insight into Kang’s backstory and motivations — even though he is, himself, a version of Kang. Kind of. It’s complicated.
In the beginning...
In 'For All Time. Always,' the final episode of Loki’s first season, He Who Remains explained, “Eons ago, before the TVA, a variant of myself lived on Earth in the 31st century. He was a scientist and he discovered that there were universes stacked on top of his own. At the same time, other versions of us were learning the same thing. Naturally, they made contact. And for a while, there was peace. Narcissistic, self-congratulatory peace.”
That peace was short-lived, however. “Not every version of me was so... so pure of heart,” He Who Remains said. “To some of us, new worlds meant only one thing, new lands to be conquered. The peace between realities erupted into all-out war, each variant fighting to preserve their universe and annihilate the others.” The solution? Doing away with the multiverse, and keeping the peace by ensuring that there was no variants to reckon with.
“That first variant encountered a creature created from all the tears in reality, capable of consuming time and space itself,” He Who Remains revealed. “I harnessed the beast's power and began experimenting on it. I weaponized Alioth and I […] ended the multiversal war. Once I isolated our timeline, all I had to do was manage the flow of time and prevent any further branches.”
That last part was of particular importance, according to He Who Remains; if time was allowed to branch into alternate realities again, he suggested, “an infinite amount of me start another multiversal war.”
...In the end
He Who Remains didn’t quite live up to his name; by the end of the episode, he was dead, killed by Loki variant Sylvie. (There’s no small amount of irony in the fact that, after arguing about the destructive and dangerous nature of the multiverse and variants, He Who Remains was… killed by a variant.) His death had an immediate effect, as Loki — who had been dispatched back to TVA headquarters by Sylvie prior to He Who Remains’ murder — discovers that the TVA has been altered, and now appears to run under the auspices of Kang (or, at least, a Kang. This Kang certainly looks like the version from Quantumania, but they’re mostly essentially physically identical, which complicates matters) rather than the Time-Keepers, as had previously been the case.
This doesn’t necessarily mean that He Who Remains had been telling the truth, or even a portion of the truth. In his absence, the timeline had branched and the multiverse had been recreated, but that was beginning even before his death; he even admitted that there was an instant past which he had no record of what was going to occur. What was special about that moment, and why did his records end there, before his death? What if the records originally belonged to someone else altogether?
Nonetheless, the return of the multiverse means that there is now a multitude of Kangs to deal with, as can be seen in Ant-Man & The Wasp: Quantumania. He Who Remains was not shy in suggesting that they would be far worse tha, he was; “If you think I’m evil, well, just wait ’til you meet my variants,” he teased. “You may hate the dictator, but something far worse is gonna fill that void if you depose of him.”
Curiously, during Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania, that version of Kang offers a similar threat, telling Ant-Man that something bad will come if he doesn’t leave the Quantum Realm — a second instance of a Kang variant not only suggesting that the worst is yet to come if they don’t get their way, and then failing to get their way. Is this a common trait amongst all Kangs, and if so, are they telling the truth?
In the middle
Ant-Man & The Wasp: Quantumania is officially the beginning of Phase 5 of the MCU, but the story it’s telling is clearly a continuation of the tale started in Loki’s first year — something underscored by the very final scene of the movie. (The official title for said story, according to Kevin Feige, is "The Multiverse Saga.") Are we headed towards a multiversal war, for real? (Shades of Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness from last year, if so…) And if we are, could He Who Remains have been telling the truth when he claimed that pruning the multiverse so that only one timeline remains is the only path to survival?
Is it really possible that Loki — a series that was all about trickery and time travel — could have given MCU fans the end of The Multiverse Saga at the same time as it offered up the beginning? If nothing else, that feels like a twist that Loki and Kang alike would approve of…
Everything you want to know about Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania is available in this particular section of the Quantum Realm.
Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania gets lost in its own changing sense of scale