When it comes to “Avengers: Endgame,” Tony Stark is the obvious main hero of the film. It’s difficult to argue otherwise given the sacrifice he makes to restore the lives that Thanos snapped away — not to mention he also figures out how to make time travel a reality after Bruce Banner’s failed attempts.
But the unsung hero of “Endgame” has to be the rat that accidentally hit the switch that allowed Scott Lang out of the Quantum Realm.
Time travel was the key to saving the lives lost during the Snap, and Lang was the one to present the idea to Natasha Romanoff and Steve Rogers due to his experience with the Quantum Realm and his knowledge that time works differently there. With a massive Quantum Tunnel, Pym Particles and Stark’s Time-Space GPSes, the Avengers travel through time — and, for some, space — in pursuit of the Infinity Stones. These adventures make up a significant amount of the narrative in “Endgame.”
The idea of time travel will be explored further in Marvel’s upcoming Disney Plus series “Loki,” which premieres June 9. After taking the Tesseract in “Endgame,” he has put the timeline “in chaos” and will be helping the Time Variance Authority fix it.
“Endgame” might be a title that many Marvel fans immediately think of when it comes to time travel, and “Loki” might be Marvel Studios’ first use of time travel in their television ventures. But there are also other numerous Marvel television titles that have used time travel in their storylines.
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’Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.’: Season 5 (2018)
At the end of season 4, the S.H.I.E.L.D. team — with the exception of Leo Fitz — is captured and transported into space. The season 5 premiere reveals that the agents have been sent ahead in time to the year 2091. This was the doing of a Chronicom by the name of Enoch.
Chronicoms are a sentient robotic alien race, and some of them have been on Earth for centuries as anthropologists, tasked with monitoring humanity. There is only one instance where a Chronicom is allowed to interfere with human life: extinction. This is what prompts Enoch to send the S.H.I.E.L.D. agents to the future. He uses a monolith called the Time Di’Alla, which can control time travel, to send the agents to 2091.
While in 2091, the team learns that the world will get blown apart and the remainder of humanity will live in a place called the Lighthouse.
Previously a S.H.I.E.L.D. facility, the Lighthouse was the only place that was able to survive the end of the Earth, because it was designed to survive an extinction-level event. But with the planet existing as broken pieces of rock, the Lighthouse exists as a vessel that floats in space. It might be inhabited mostly by humans, but it is ruled by the Kree — a blue-skinned alien race that went on to be featured in “Captain Marvel.”
The agents can prevent this dystopian future, though. Upon returning to their own time, they just need to take the necessary but difficult actions that stop the Earth’s destruction. They use a reconstructed version of the monolith to return to their time and save the Earth.
’Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.’: Season 7 (2020)
The final season of the ABC show saw Phil Coulson and company traveling through time to save the world — yet again.
The Chronicom race’s home planet of Chronyca-2 becomes destroyed during season 6. With the exception of Enoch, the remaining Chronicoms want to take Earth for themselves and establish the planet as their new home. To do this, the Chronicoms travel back in time to stop S.H.I.E.L.D. from being created, which will allow the alien race to take the planet for themselves.
The S.H.I.E.L.D. team retaliates by traveling back in time to stop the Chronicoms. This is possible through the use of a time drive that is powered by a piece of the time monolith, which was introduced in season 5. The time drive then allows the Zephyr, the team’s plane, to act as a time machine.
First, the agents jump back in time to the year 1931 and stop the Chronicoms from fulfilling their mission. While unfortunate for the Chronicoms, they just travel to 1955 and try a different approach. Each time the agents succeed in stopping the Chronicoms, the Chronicoms just jump ahead in time again to try something different. But all this action interferes with the timeline. The S.H.I.E.L.D. team tries to limit their own interference, but the Chronicoms have no regard for such.
So the agents go through the season “drafting through time in the Chronicom’s wake,” as S.H.I.E.L.D. agent Jemma Simmons explained it. They also stop in 1973, 1796, 1982 and 1983 with a time loop dilemma along the way before heading back to 2019 to finish off the Chronicoms.
In the series finale, it’s revealed that the S.H.I.E.L.D. team had been operating in a branch of their main timeline. But they could return to it by using the Quantum Realm. The team generates the power needed to travel back to their time by using 1983 New York City’s power.
M.O.D.O.K.: Season 1, Episode 2 (2021)
During the newly released Hulu animated series, the use of time travel sets up a key event for the direction of the show.
Super villain M.O.D.O.K.’s selfishness leads to his wife, Jodie, asking for a divorce. He becomes upset by the choice and wants to fix their marriage. He believes he can win her back by traveling to the past so that they can attend a Third Eye Blind concert they missed years ago.
In season 1, episode 2, M.O.D.O.K. infiltrates a S.H.I.E.L.D. Helicarrier and retrieves a time machine they stole from him. The machine is a wristwatch-like device powered by a “cosmic artifact” called the Celestial Chrono-Crystal.
When M.O.D.O.K. and Jodie first time travel, they go a few years too far back. So they need to travel ahead a couple years to reach the concert. But, during this, past M.O.D.O.K. spots himself, becomes curious about how their life turns out and approaches him to ask some questions.
M.O.D.O.K., however, has already gone through the portal to reach the proper time for the concert. So when past M.O.D.O.K. is in a close enough vicinity to ask his future self questions, he gets caught up in the portal and goes through as well.
Past M.O.D.O.K. becomes upset when he learns his future self has become more focused on being a husband than with trying to take over the world. This anger prompts a fight between the two M.O.D.O.K.s. and results in the time machine being destroyed. Shards of the Celestial Chrono-Crystal become lodged in past M.O.D.O.K.’s head during the fight and transports him through a portal. This allows the past M.O.D.O.K. to interfere with his future self again at the end of the season.
Without the crystal and a damaged time machine, M.O.D.O.K. and Jodie have no choice but to live out their lives up to the moment they originally time-traveled and stop themselves from travelling through time again.
’Runaways’: Season 3, Episode 10 (2019)
Victor Stein’s time machine made appearances during season 1 of “Runaways,” but it wasn’t till the series finale that the live-action Hulu series actually tackled the concept of time travel.
In the penultimate episode, the Runaways fight the witch Morgan le Fay in the Battle at the Hostel. While the group of teenagers win, one of their members, Gert Yorkes, dies in the fight. She had a romantic history with another member of the Runaways, Chase Stein. He becomes devastated by her death, and, during the final episode, is revealed to have been spending his years trying to figure out time travel so he can save her.
By 2028, Stein has figured it out and enlists the other Runaways — whom have all gone their separate ways — to fix the battle’s result.
He invents a wristwatch-like device that acts as a time machine and creates a “closed timelike curve.” Through this method, Stein says you go “in reverse around a doughnut-shaped vacuum where space-time can get bent upon itself using focused gravitational fields.” This allows the Runaways to redo the fight against le Fay without casualties, erasing the past years they’d just lived.