The Marvel Cinematic Universe is getting more and more confusing, thanks to the introduction of the “multiverse.” The multiverse is a concept where parallel universes co-exist with variant versions of the same characters. The concept was first introduced in the MCU in Avengers: Endgame, when the Ancient One (Tilda Swinton) explains to a time-traveling Bruce (the Hulk) Banner (Mark Ruffalo) that giving him the Time Stone could create an alternate universe, replacing her universe. Banner was on a mission to the past, with Tony (Iron Man) Stark (Robert Downey Jr.), Steve (Captain America) Rodgers (Chris Evans), and Scott (Ant-Man) Lang (Paul Rudd). Their mission would have other significant consequences for the multiverse, which led directly to the Loki series. We’ll get to that shortly.

But the effects of the multiverse have – on occasion – delighted MCU fans. In 2021’s Spider-Man: No Way Home, Tom Holland’s Peter (Spider-Man) Parker came face to face with, and teamed up, with alternate Peters played by Tobey Maguire (who played the role in three films from 2002-2007) and Andrew Garfield (who spun the webs in two films from 2012-2014). It also brought back villains from those films, including Jamie Foxx’s Electro, Willem Dafoe’s Green Goblin, and Alfred Molina’s Doctor Octopus.

2022’s Doctor Strange In The Multiverse Of Madness, was not quite as popular as No Way Home. But in that film, we saw the return of Patrick Stewart’s Professor Charles Xavier from the X-Men movie franchise, Lashana Lynch’s Maria Rambeau from the 2019 Captain Marvel as a variant Captain Marvel and Hayley Atwell who played Peggy Carter as a variant Captain America. (“Captain Carter” was inspired by an episode of the animated Disney+ show, What If…? which also explores alternate timelines.) 2023’s Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania also dealt with the multiverse and included Kang (Jonathan Majors), who was introduced in Loki’s first season as a character called He Who Remains.

The “Multiverse Saga” will likely wrap up with 2027’s Avengers: Secret Wars, but until then, you’ll be seeing and hearing a lot about it in the upcoming MCU shows and movies. Some of them that are more earth-based (like the upcoming Daredevil and Echo series) will probably not have multiversal tie-ins. Loki season 2, however, will surely give you a headache if you’re not up to speed. You don’t need to see every MCU story to know what’s up. But here are some movies and shows you definitely should be familiar with. Minor spoiler alerts ahead.

Loki season two, starring Tom Hiddleston in the lead role, will have six weekly episodes and kicks off on October 5 on Disney+.

  • Thor (2011)

    Chris Hemsworth starred as the titular Norse god, and he’s since become a huge star. But let’s be real, Tom Hiddleston’s Loki kind of outshone Thor here. A charismatic and relatable rogue, we learned that not only did he grow up in Thor’s shadow, but he wasn’t actually Thor’s brother at all! He discovers that he’s really a Frost Giant who was adopted by Odin (Anthony Hopkins) as a baby! This sets the family dynamic that we’d see between the two in the next few films.

  • The Avengers (2012)

    This film blew minds because it brought together characters and plotlines from the Thor, Captain America, Iron Man and Hulk franchises, including support characters like Samuel L. Jackson’s Nick Fury, Scarlett Johansson’s Natasha (Black Widow) Romanoff, Jeremy Renner’s Clint (Hawkeye) Barton and Clark Gregg’s Agent Phil Coulson. And Hiddleston’s Loki was the film’s villain, teaming up with an alien race known as the Chitauri to take over the Earth. Spoiler alert: the good guys win! Thor takes Loki back to Asgard, where he will face justice.

  • Thor: Dark World (2013)

    Loki has been imprisoned and now spends his days in a cell in Asgard, but wouldn’t you know it: there’s a threat that Thor and his Asgardian buddies can’t handle alone. So Thor sets his brother free to get his assistance. Loki appears to die a hero in battle (it’s complicated; this isn’t the best MCU film so we’ll spare you the details). Alas, we learn that Loki did, in fact, survive his battle. And also, he is currently impersonating Odin on the throne in Asgard. But where’s the real Odin?

  • Thor: Ragnarok (2017)

    It turns out that Loki kind of lost Odin, and Dr. Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) helps Thor to find him. Thor and Loki reunite with their dad… just in time to see him die. His death leads to chaos: it frees Thor and Loki’s sister Hela (Cate Blanchett) from her prison. Neither Thor nor Loki knew of her existence, because Odin wrote her out of history — she was too bloodthirsty. And we soon learn why. She serves the brothers a brutal beating, tosses them across the universe, and takes over Asgard. The brothers end up on Sakaar, a garbage planet run by the Grandmaster (played hilariously by Jeff Goldblum). Loki becomes friends with the Grandmaster; Thor isn’t so lucky and is made to fight in the Contest of Champions. It turns out that Hulk is one of the warriors in the contest too. We learn that he has been in Hulk form for years. (Time passes differently on Sakaar.) When Thor figures out how to turn him back to Bruce Banner, Banner doesn’t know where he is or what happened.

    Anyway, Thor, Loki, Hulk and Valkyrie (Tessa Thompson) team up, escape from Sakaar, return to Asgard where they save the Asgardians from Hela. But not before Asgard is destroyed. The film ends with them and the surviving Asgardians flying through space in the Grandmaster’s ship, deciding to go to Earth. In the end-credit scene, we see that they are intercepted by a larger and ominous-looking ship. Uh-oh.

  • Avengers: Infinity War (2018)

    Infinity War picks up moments after Ragnarok ended; it turns out that the ominous-looking ship belonged to Thanos (Josh Brolin), the villain that the last few Marvel films had been leading up to. Loki is only in the film for the first few minutes before (spoiler) Thanos kills him, as well as Heimdall (Idris Elba) along with a lot of other Asgardians. Thanos goes on a quest to acquire all of the Infinity Stones, which allows him to achieve his goal of ending the existence of half the beings in the galaxy, but in a fair and random way.

  • Avengers: Endgame (2019)

    The surviving Avengers go back through time to retrieve Infinity Stones to reverse Thanos’s work. But time travel is tricky! Tony Stark, Steve Rodgers, Bruce Banner and Scott Lang return to “The Battle Of New York” from the first Avengers movie, in 2012. But this time, Loki escapes! It’s one of the open plotlines from the film and fans were eager to see how it would develop. Where did Loki go?

  • Loki season 1 (2021)

    Some things are supposed to happen, and some things aren’t. Take our word for it. Loki wasn’t supposed to escape during the time travel adventure in Endgame; it was supposed to go down the same way it did in The Avengers, with Loki going to Asgard to face justice there. But now that he’s escaped, he’s immediately arrested by the Time Variance Authority, an organization created by He Who Remains to preserve the “sacred timeline.” Their headquarters, located outside space and time, looks stuck in the late ‘70s or early ‘80s, judging by the decor. During the season, Loki works with Mobius M. Mobius, a TVA agent played hilariously by Owen Wilson. The cast also included Gugu Mbatha-Raw as TVA judge Ravonna Renslayer, Wunmi Mosaku as a TVA hunter named B-15 and an animated character “Miss Minutes”(voiced by Tara Strong). He also meets a lot of “variant” Lokis, including Kid Loki (Jack Veal), “Boastful Loki” (DeObia Oparei), “Classic Loki” (Richard E. Grant) and a female Loki. That’s where it gets weird; she calls herself Sylvie (she’s played by Sophia Di Martino), and they kind of fall in love.

    It’s complicated! But Loki and Sylvie meet He Who Remains, played by Jonathan Majors! Their battle with him results in the unleashing of a multiverse that the TVA won’t be able to fix. We saw some of the effects of this in Spider-Man: No Way Home and Doctor Strange In The Multiverse Of Madness. And we learned a bit more about He Who Remains — also known as Kang — in Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania. But Loki season 2 will see Loki, Sylvie, Ravona, B-15, Miss Minutes, Mobius M. Mobius and new cast member Ke Huy Quan (as TVA agent and repairman Ouroboros) dealing with the fallout of season one.

  • Bonus: Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania (2022)

    Scott Lang, his girlfriend Hope van Hyne (Evangeline Lilly), aka the Wasp, her parents Hank Pym (Michael Douglas) and Janet Pym (Michelle Pfeiffer) and Scott’s daughter Cassie (Kathryn Newton) go to the Quantum Realm. (To understand this, you kind of need to see the first two Ant-Man films; the Quantum Realm also plays a major part in Avengers: Endgame). Janet was trapped in the Quantum Realm for years, which is where she met Kang. Without going into too much detail, they have a huge battle with Kang, they win (sort of) and return home. Or did they? Something seems “off” about the world… and then the film ends. But in a mid-credits scene, we see a meeting of a council of numerous variants of Kang. And in the post-credits scene, Loki and Mobius M. Mobius encounter another Kang variant, named Victor Timely, on Earth in 1901. We imagine that both of these post credit scenes will play into Loki season 2.

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