Loki episode 6 featured a terrific performance by special guest star Jonathan Majors (Lovecraft Country) who entered the Marvel Cinematic Universe as a variant of Kang the Conqueror — a role he is set to play in Ant-Man and The Wasp: Quantumania, slated to release in February 2023 in cinemas. But here on Loki, that famous Marvel Comics name of his was never bandied about, save for a cursory throwaway mention of “conqueror”. Instead, Majors was called (and credited) only as, He Who Remains. But we did briefly see the Conqueror version, or rather a statue of him, at the very end of Loki episode 6. Who is he? Thankfully, Marvel has given us a bit more information elsewhere.
In an interview with Marvel.com, Loki creator and head writer Michael Waldron said: “We knew that we wanted this show to be huge, and we wanted it to really end with a bang and have a huge impact on the MCU moving forward. Knowing that Kang was probably going to be the next big cross-movie villain, and because he is a time-traveling, multiversal adversary, it just always made so much sense. I came up with that big multiversal war mythology and pitched it out in the room one day to our producers. And they said, yeah, let’s go for it. We knew we were going to end up meeting the man behind the curtain. And then it was just on us to make sure that that meeting really delivered.”
Waldron is more or less confirming that Kang the Conqueror will be Marvel’s next big villain, just like Thanos was until now. Though he’s next expected to show his face in Ant-Man and The Wasp: Quantumania, given what Majors talks about in the Loki season finale and the new multiverse nature of the MCU, we could easily run into other variants of Kang elsewhere. A prime candidate for this is Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, the upcoming March 2022 Marvel movie that Loki ties into. And of course, one version of him — Kang the Conqueror — is running the Time Variance Authority in the parallel timeline that Loki episode 6 ends.
Marvel.com confirms this, explaining that the single statue we see in place of the Time Keepers statue is the variant He Who Remains warned them about, Kang, in a futuristic suit. Loki production designer Kasra Farahani then adds that they kept the new TVA’s architectural design identical “to delay the audience and Loki’s understanding that they were in a different place, that they were in a different timeline.” If Mobius’ (Owen Wilson) reaction in Loki episode 6 hadn’t already told you that Loki had travelled across the multiverse, there you have it. It’s also a little curious that Kang the Conqueror would want to run his own version of TVA, but he probably has his reasons.
It will be a while before we learn about them — in either the now-confirmed Loki season 2 or Ant-Man and The Wasp: Quantumania, whichever comes first — and why Waldron wrote He Who Remains as a “very charismatic sociopath” on Loki episode 6: “You had to leave a lot of meat on the bone in terms of how evil he could be, because that’s He Who Remains’ whole thing, that it’s not me who you should be afraid of. ‘It’s the other versions of me that are going to come.’ It was trying to really hint at that terrifying evil within without going all the way there.”
Loki director Kate Herron called Kang the theme of their show: “I was quite excited that we got to show him because he is the one that brings it all [together. He’s] the theme of our show. No one is completely good or completely bad, and people do fall into that gray area. I thought his reasoning with [Loki and Sylvie] that you can take me out, but I’ll be back here anyway…you’re going to awaken all these versions of me. And they are much scarier than me. I really believe him when he says that.”
Majors’ He Who Remains shares part of his background with his Marvel Comics counterpart, who is also originally from the 31st century like the variant we see in Loki episode 6. But while he was a scientist in the Disney+ series, Nathaniel Richards — as he is known in print — was a scholar who travels back in time to Egypt. He ping-pongs through time before conquering Earth in 32nd century, where he rebrands himself as Kang the Conqueror. The supervillain has had a long history since Kang’s first appearance in The Avengers comic books in 1964, though he’s never shown to be the creator of the TVA.
Marvel Studios is known to tweak with characters when it introduces them, so this is nothing new. What remains to be seen is where the MCU takes Majors and Kang.
All episodes of Loki season 1 are now streaming on Disney+ and Disney+ Hotstar.