Creator Michael Waldron has surpassed expectations with Loki, the 3rd original Marvel Studios series on Disney +.
The series picks up after Loki (Tom Hiddleston) mysteriously disappears with the Tesseract in 2012 during his engagement with the Avengers. He crashes in the Gobi Desert, Mongolia where he is tracked by the Minutemen (AKA variant hunters) and taken into custody to the Time Variance Authority (TVA). In the TVA, Loki meets Mobius (Owen Wilson), who is tasked to capture a disruptive variant of Loki known as “The Variant” or Sylvie (Sophia Di Martino) as she bounces between multiple time points. The series explores a deeper understanding of the Sacred Timeline, variants, and Nexus events. The Sacred Timeline is the harmony and normal flow of time and events according to the Time-Keepers. A variant is another version of you from a different reality. A Nexus event is the exact moment when a variant deviates from their straight path on the Sacred Timeline, thus creating a new branched timeline. The entire series is directed by Kate Herron. (Note: As specified in the title, this interview has MAJOR SPOILERS for the entire 6-episode Loki series.)
The relationship between Mobius and Loki changes and grows throughout the show. Herron explained, “We knew that we wanted Mobius to have a friendship with Loki and that would be really key. The chemistry came so much out of the fact that Tom and Owen just have this amazing Yin and Yang aspect to each other, I think because Tom’s a Shakespearean classically trained actor and Owen is from the world of indie film. The first one he made was Bottle Rocket, which he [co]wrote and starred in. That to me was so fun seeing these two completely different acting styles come together, and they really complemented each other in that way.”
The dynamics and connection between Sylvie and Loki are fascinating. “There’s something very beautiful in it. I love that scene in Episode 5, where they’re outside the barber shop, and she’s like, ‘I don’t have friends and I don’t know how to do this.’ There’s something teenage and very sweet in that because it’s new for them. We haven’t seen Loki have a friend or more than a friend, that in a sense was quite nice to explore. The idea of how is he when he starts to fall in love with someone, and how would he react? It’s so funny, there are moments where he almost seems tongue-tied, and he’s a character that always has a clever, quick answer. For once, he’s a little bit out of his own comfort zone. It was really about Loki. In Episode 1, he talks about wanting the throne and power. But because of his feelings for Sylvie by Episode 6, he just wants her to be okay. That is love in itself, it’s such a selfless thing to say that it has nothing to do with him, he just wants her to be okay,” the director revealed.
The series features four major expansive locations including the TVA, Lamentis, The Void, and the mysterious castle. Herron described, “The way we handled it was I always thought about Episode 1 and 2 like a prologue, the first chapter of the story. Those were very focused on setting up the TVA, building that world out, who are the TVA, and what are their motives? In terms of Lamentis, it was more about building that world up, how does this apocalypse work, and the class system on Lamentis, which was ambitious writing in the script. In the comics, Lamentis is purple. For Lamentis-1, the moon we’re on, in the script is this idea that they’re digging down into the earth for this power source. We thought it was cool if there was black sand and then the purple is underneath that. Then in Episode 5 with The Void, I love the idea of it being this overgrown garden and feeling like this forgotten place. I realized that I had essentially pitched the British countryside as I started to see it come to life. Obviously, used the Teletubbies as a reference for The Void with the rolling green hills. Me and my cinematographer Autumn Durald, we had a very specific style how we were filming it, so it was keeping that thread going across the show to tie everything together. It was the team really thinking about making each palette and place visually striking and feel like separate worlds from each other.”
Other time jumps and locations include the Renaissance Faire in Oshkosh, Wisconsin in 1985; Haven Hills, Alabama in 2050; Pompeii in 79 AD; Aix-En-Provence, France in 1549; Salina, Oklahoma in 1858; and the Gobi Desert in Mongolia. “With the Renaissance Faire, it was genuinely about it not being this bubblegum, glossy 80s. I liked the idea that it felt real, all the places we were going to felt a bit more grounded. My costume designer Christine Wada found all these amazing images from a Ren Faire in the 80s, and we used that as inspiration. There was a photo in the one she found of guys dressed as monks, but with the red cups. We used a lot of that as a springboard and jumping off point for the faire. Then with Roxxcart, what’s this corporate capitalist store look like? That was really fun as well, the prices of things and also the fact that in the shelter they’re charging people for blankets and water. It’s dystopic, but it’s not out of line for a store like Roxxcart. For me, it was always about grounding it. Pompeii is an interesting one because obviously we’re seeing that through Loki’s eyes and it’s a really horrific apocalypse. But through Loki’s eyes, it’s about cracking the case, he’s really happy, and that was an interesting juxtaposition to manage. Whereas, Roxxcart is where we start to feel these apocalypses are quite horrible. Obviously, Ren Faire is not an apocalypse, that’s somewhere Sylvie went and created a Nexus event. But with Roxxcart, what was important for me, for example the rescue shelter, that’s the moment where we realize this isn’t that fun and these apocalypses are horrible. It also tells us as the story unfolds, what Sylvie’s character was probably like since she was a little girl, she’s been hiding out in these situations. It tells us a bit more about the harsh world that she’s had to grow up in,” the filmmaker added.
The tail end of Episode 4 and most of Episode 5 introduces four unique variations of Loki from Boastful Loki (Deobia Oparei), Classic Loki (Richard E. Grant), Kid Loki (Jack Veal), and Alligator Loki. Herron differentiated, “To start with Boastful, he’s a completely unique Loki not from the comics, which I thought was really exciting. There’s a debate of is he worthy or is he not worthy, or is that really the hammer or is it not? Kid Loki, for example, is a beloved character from the comics, so we have to have Kid Loki in there. With Classic Loki, it just felt to us [like] he was an original Loki. I loved the idea of having this original look like a Loki that might have been in the movie 40 years ago, and obviously, like the early Lokis from the comics. I love the juxtaposition of having Kid and Classic, because it’s almost like Ghost of Christmas Past and Ghost of Christmas Future in terms of our Loki and see who he could become and who he was. The Alligator Loki is a genius idea from the writers, and it’s fun to debate if he is a Loki or if he isn’t a Loki? I think he is a Loki, but there’s definitely room for discussion. They all have different lessons to teach our Loki, and they all show different aspects of his personality, but in some ways are completely different to him. Sylvie says at the end of Episode 6, “I’m not you, and I’m not all these variants that are just going to be photocopies of our Loki, they’re their own people.”
Loki and Sylvie encounter the destructive cloud-like entity Alioth within The Void in Episode 5. “We talk about in his story how he came across Alioth. It’s how Sylvie described it in Episode 5, he found it to be a very effective guard dog. He’d send all his enemies towards Alioth. As we showed in the show, people can get pruned, but can’t completely get rid of someone that way, Alioth was the only way to properly remove someone from existence,” the director stated.
In the final episode, Miss Minutes declares the mysterious figure played by Jonathan Majors as He Who Remains. “The idea with He Who Remains is that he’s a variant of Kang the Conqueror. Basically, he tells them in his story that he managed to close himself off and isolate the timeline that we all know from the other timelines. It’s almost like they’re an island that’s completely hidden from everyone. He’s been doing that to protect himself because he’s afraid of the other variants of himself, which is Kang the Conqueror and many other variants of him as well, there’s so many different versions of that character. In our story, it’s He Who Remains, and he’s a variant of Kang, but drawing inspiration from a mortal,” the director enlightened.
The filmmaker continued, “If Loki’s variants all live different realities, which then started to branch and go off the path that Loki was supposed to live. That became a problem for He Who Remains and so the TVA would come in and remove those Lokis. In terms of the multiverse, as He Who Remains explains, he isolated their timeline, but now because of what Sylvie’s done, it’s almost like it’s going to branch, and then those branches are like bridges to other timelines where these other versions of He Who Remains will be.”
In the very last scene, Loki is sent back to the TVA, but Mobius does not recognize him. Herron shared, “In my head, the way I see it is that when Sylvie pushes him through the door with all the chaos outside the window, there are all these branches crossing over in different realities. He’s definitely not in the reality that he was in before.”
Loki has been renewed for Season 2, but all of Season 1 is available to stream on Disney+. All photos courtesy of Marvel Studios and Disney.