I really, really love what Marvel is doing with their shows and movies.
Actually daring to hit the “multiverse” idea head on – and be consistent across properties – is a bold and breathtaking move. It allows Marvel to incorporate all the storylines, but also to give them the emphasis (or lack of – *cough* Thanos Copter – *cough*) that they deserve.
If you’re into Marvel, I highly recommend The Canadian Lad on YouTube. He finds wonderful little Easter eggs and attention to detail in his videos, and is relentlessly uplifting and positive, and I love it.
But there’s a basic philosophical flaw that’s being overlooked in Marvel’s multiverse: There still is no free will for each individual point of view – only in terms of the point of view of the outside observer.
Absolute spoilers below.
I originally wrote this after watching Loki, but the same holds true after watching What If…?, except you can replace “Kang” with “The Watcher”.
Consider what we know from the Marvel films and television shows to date.
There are multiverses in what appears to be a pretty straightforward multiverse arrangement.
These multiverses do not split with every *possible* change, only when there is a conscious observer present. Otherwise you’d have splits every time a quantum event (a la those described by Schrodinger’s Cat, or light being a particle OR a wave), and that simply doesn’t happen.
So you’ve got lots of branches, and therefore lots of free will, right?
Nope. Because each point of view from each branch can only make the decision they made.
It’s the same flaw that the “I have backup clones” idea of immortality – or Kang’s claim of resurrection – have. Sure, there might be *another* running around, perhaps with the whole memory set of the original, but that original point of view is still dead.
From the point of view of the outside observer – us – free will is happening, or a character is effectively immortal. But as Loki demonstrated, the point of view of Loki – that individual – that we knew in the prior phases of the MCU is not the individual in the TV show. That first Loki is dead, dead, dead. Even if the TVA went back and “saved” Loki, that would cause a nexus event (a new timeline branch). That alternate Loki would be alive, but again, the point of view of Loki that we knew during prior Marvel movies is dead.
This is something that the characters in the MCU – including the TVA – apparently haven’t figured out yet. Because they’re thinking that timelines “grow”. But that, again, simply cannot be.
The “Sacred Timeline” has an end of time. That’s where the big critter (and behind it, one iteration of Kang the Conquerer) are, and where the TVA dumps everything. Therefore, the events of the “Sacred Timeline” have all already happened and are set.
So how can a branch “grow” out of it? Not as depicted in the TVA. Because if anything, it’s like having two rods side by side and then tilting one of them from an angle point.
But that also means THERE IS AN END TO THAT NEW TIMELINE AS WELL to an outside observer like Kang.
This problem is only emphasized with What If…?, where Strange Supreme actually says out loud that the Watcher already knew what would happen. (Begs the question of how the Watcher was taken by surprise by Ultron, or why we don’t see Kang interacting with the Watcher, but hey…)
So Sylvie gets it right, but says it wrongly. The only position with free will is that of Kang or the Watcher – because they are also outside observers like we are.
Featured Photo by Israel Piña on Unsplash