Warning: This article alludes to Loki season 2, episode 4 spoilers.

Loki is getting more and more ambitious with its time-traveling shenanigans as it goes on, with the tail-end of season 2, in particular, employing time-slipping, temporal paradoxes, and you know, the timelines exploding in order to ramp up the stakes higher than they’ve ever been before. And while it’s certainly making for one of the most significant seasons of a Marvel Disney Plus show we’ve had to date, old-school Marvel TV fans might argue that another MCU show did time travel better.

And the show in question just happens to be hanging on to its own canon status by a thread. Yes, I’m talking about Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., which might not have started out as a time travel series but it certainly ended up that way. Whatever you say about the Clark Gregg-starring ABC production, AoS never got lazy as each season introduced a new shake-up to the status quo to keep things fresh. In its seventh and final season, for example, Phil Coulson (well, technically, his Life Model Decoy, but whatever) and his team traveled through the 20th century as they battled the alien Chronicoms.

There’s no use arguing that AoS‘s time travel mythology is more intricate than Loki‘s, as the latter’s writers have mapped out a rigorous set of rules that the TVA operates under. However, as we’ve discussed before, the constant insertion of new MacGuffins like the Temporal Loom, the Throughput Multiplier, or Temporal Auras only serves to give the audience a headache rather than keep them more invested in the plot. We are invested in the plot of Loki, of course, but not because of the confusing exposition. There’s a reason Avengers: Endgame skipped over the actual mechanics of how Tony Stark figured out time travel.

Chloe Bennet as Daisy Johnson and Clark Gregg as Phil Coulson dress in 1940s period garb in 'Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.' season 7 episode 1.
Image via Marvel Television

Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., on the other hand, understands — much like Endgame — that time travel on TV is best used as a means through which to dig deeper into the characters’ pasts and how far they’ve come. Season 7 is something of a victory lap for the series, as it allows the team to re-encounter old friends and foes, resulting in some fun cameos. Given the MCU’s rich history, Loki could certainly be doing a lot more of this itself. We’re not asking for, say, Scarlett Johansson or anything, but some crossover characters on a par with WandaVision‘s Kat Dennings and Randall Park would be nice.

It also helps that AoS actually subscribes to the laws of time travel that Endgame establishes. Leo Fitz is able to make the gang’s spaceship, the Zephyr, travel through time as it journeys through Quantum Tunnels. Meanwhile, Loki not only makes no reference to the Quantum Realm it also outright contradicts the concept that Hulk drilled into us, that going back into the past creates a new timeline. Just look at Loki going back to tell O.B. to invent something so it’s ready to go when he’s returned to the present. Even EP Eric Martin has admitted he wasn’t thinking about the universe’s rules when he wrote that scene.

What’s more, S.H.I.E.L.D.‘s seventh season used time travel to celebrate the evolving MCU timeline across the second half of the 20th century, with the team’s attempts to stop HYDRA from creating its own Super-Soldier Serum in the ’40s being one important plotline. Having Loki and Mobius actively engage with nexus events in the timeline, which would totally change the shape of the universe, would certainly be a lot of fun for viewers and offer more tangible stakes than the conceptual threat of branched timelines being blown up.

It’s ironic, then, that the show that actually uses time travel to both uphold and celebrate the MCU’s history isn’t considered canon (Kevin Feige says so, so it must be true) and the one that doesn’t is. Still, it wouldn’t hurt for Loki to borrow a little from Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.‘s playbook if it does end up getting a season 3. And also finally bring Chloe Bennet back as Quake while it’s at it. I’m just saying.

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