If you haven’t just binged the entire Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) saga on Disney+ like we have, here’s a quick recap so we can get acquainted with the starting point of Marvel’s latest original live-action series, Loki. During Avengers: Endgame, we encounter 2012 Loki in the middle of the Avengers’ infinity stones “time heist”, where our favourite God of Mischief escapes with the Tesseract in tow. This new series then follows Loki’s journey, sans his brother Thor, where he ends up in the hands of the Time Variance Authority (TVA), guardians of time and the multi-verse. Intrigue, hilarity, and grandiose ambitions ensue.
Tom Hiddleston reprises his MCU role here, and is joined by veteran actor Owen Wilson as new character Mobius, as well as actresses Gugu Mbatha-Raw and Wunmi Mosaku, who play key characters of the TVA. The six-episode series is touted as a “crime thriller meets epic adventure”, and premieres 9 June (Wednesday) on streaming service Disney+.
So, first impressions. From early screenings of the series, the tone of the show already differs from The Falcon and The Winter Soldier, which was grander in cinematic spectacle, with more action sequences from the get-go; here, we’re just as clueless as Loki is as he bumbles through the deep bureaucracy of the TVA, a sequence that’s kept surprisingly light, with slick humour and The Jetsons-style introductory videos along the way. I’d even compare this sense of discovery to Men In Black (MIB), where we saw the world through the eyes of Will Smith’s Agent J. The world-building is elaborate but swift, and yes, the irony of Loki being stuck in another prison is also not lost on us.
There’s just something about Hiddleston’s onscreen charm, and near-the-surface vulnerability, that’s easy to love, because really, that’s where the show seems the most promising — when we get to explore Loki’s emotional growth and vulnerability. What’s worth noting here is that we’re looking at a different Loki, one who hasn’t yet gone through the redemptive arc that we see post-Avengers — that is, he’s still a power-hungry villain who hasn’t quite earned our, or anyone’s, respect.
Pretty early on, we find that Loki is clearly outwitted, or as Hiddleston puts it, “stripped” of everything familiar to him. “Thor is not close by, Asgard seems some distance away, the Avengers are not in sight; he’s stripped of his status and power,” he says. The TVA, as an all-seeing, all-knowing authority, is truly that formidable. How powerful you ask? Our precious infinity stones are now mere paperweights for their desk-bound workers. Loki is clearly out of depth here, but that’s where we, as audience members, get to be privy to his deepest experiences and motivations, the man underneath his usual bag of tricks.
“If you take all those things that Loki has used to identify himself over the last six movies, what remains of Loki, who is he?” says Hiddleston, on what he hopes audiences will take away, “Is he capable of growth and change?” Indeed, the series looks to be one of self-discovery, where we tackle these fundamental questions: what “glorious purpose”, as he so often quips, is Loki of Asgard really burdened with — can he be more? This one’s a villain’s journey, if you will, that we’d be happy to tag along on.
Ahead of its release, we also hear from the show’s cast, president of Marvel Studios, Kevin Feige, as well as director Kate Herron (“Sex Education”) and head writer Michael Waldron (“Rick and Morty”) on the series and what makes it tick — including how they were inspired by David Fincher’s greatest hits, and unique dynamic between Loki and Mobius. Here are their thoughts.
The series is touted as a “crime thriller”. What were some of your inspirations for this particular genre?
Kate Herron (KH): Stylistically, I would say my DP and I were inspired by a lot of film noir, which you can see from the lighting and how we approached it. Se7en is a very heavy influence, you can see a reference to Se7en in Episode 2, with a little needle drop, which I’m sure fans would recognise instantly.
Michael Waldron (MW): David Fincher for sure, or Zodiac and Silence of the Lambs were two specific ones.
Kevin Feige (KF): Well, the real answer is, the inspiration was Kate. We knew we wanted to do a Tom Hiddleston Loki series, we knew we wanted to have time travel elements. Our producers were always fans of the Time Variance Authority from the comics for years and years, but didn’t know exactly what to do with it before this show. It was Kate’s meetings with us and her pitch that brought in all those references, and allowed us to look at this in a slightly different genre than we were anticipating.
Beyond the new genre, what made this show so exciting to work on — and worth a watch?
MW: “The big idea from Marvel was the Time Variance Authority. I was like, this is the craziest thing in the world, but it was really exciting. My pitch was to do something nobody expects, and with every episode, let’s blow up what people think the show is and do something totally different. It was always about doing something awesome and totally unexpected with this character.”
KH: “I love genre cinema, and I love sci-fi and I love fantasy, but, what was really important to me was stripping away all the fantastical elements to find the heart of this story. In Loki, if we took away all the bells and whistles of this story, what is the relatable message at the center? For me, it was a journey of self-discovery and someone trying to find their place in the universe because, obviously, we literally delete his universe. We delete his reality. It’s a story of reinvention and also morality. Can Loki find goodness in himself? Loki’s journey, to me, is really about acceptance of himself.”
How would you describe the tone of the show?
Tom Hiddleston (TH): “We all really wanted the tone of the show to represent the best of Loki’s character. He has this extraordinary range. Loki can be fun, lighthearted and witty. He’s always got a good line: he’s the God of Mischief, after all. So, we wanted the show to be imbued with mischief, a sense of fun and a sense of momentum. But we also know that Loki has this very sensitive, damaged, broken heart with an enormous capacity to feel emotion on the biggest scale. And to go to some quite profound places that explore some of the deepest experiences of being alive, that are about loneliness and sadness and anger and grief and loss. We wanted the tone of the whole show to have all of it, to have that sense of fun, to have that sense of mischief. And to have that sense of emotional depth and emotional breadth that hopefully could be contained in this epic story, which starts from the things that people are familiar with.”
The show also features lighthearted humour and wit, alongside its dramatic story threads. How did you find the humour here?
KH: “Michael and I both have comedy backgrounds, so we would bring that to our work, and also Tom is so witty; he always describes it as keys to a piano, when it comes to playing up different parts of Loki, and you can’t have Loki without the wit. We were always going to bring that to the show.”
MW: “Absolutely, the joy of working with Tom is that he can sell the comedy so effortlessly. I was coming off of Rick & Morty, and maybe out the gate I was trying to gas the comedy perhaps too much, and I had to shift this thing to a more dramatic place. And that’s the great thing about this character — you don’t have to write jokes, Loki is gonna make just regular exchanges funny and fun and engaging, just with the way he interacts. That’s how we approached it, with trust in Tom to do all the work.”
Loki’s well-loved but also a misunderstood villain, what do you hope people will take away from this series?
TH: “What I love about this series is Loki is stripped of everything that’s familiar to him. Thor is not close by, Asgard seems some distance away, the Avengers are not in sight; he’s stripped of his status and power. If you take all those things that Loki has used to identify himself over the last six movies, what remains of Loki? Who is he? I think those questions became what’s really fascinating to us, what makes Loki him? And if there’s something in the centre of him, is he capable of growth and change? Do his experiences within the TVA give any insight on who he might be, this mercurial shapeshifter who never presents the same exterior twice.”
Mobius and Loki form this special bond in the show — did you do anything behind the scenes to build that?
Owen Wilson (OW): “Before we started, Tom very generously and patiently took me through the whole MCU mythology and Loki in these “Loki lectures”, allowed me to ask questions, and I think that was really important and helpful to our dynamic once we started building the scenes. Our conversations when we were going over that stuff worked its way in.”
TH: “It was an interesting time trying to compress my time in the MCU, six movies worth, and Mobius, he’s an expect on Loki, he knows more about Loki than Loki does. Owen asked such insightful, intelligent questions that made me rethink various aspects of the character, and I think our conversations found their way into the scenes themselves. In the interactions, because these are quite intense conversations, they often felt a bit like a play.”
OW: “It really was like a kind of chess match with Mobius and Loki. To try to stay on equal footing with the God of Mischief, I have to rely on the awesome weight of the TVA, and that’s pretty formidable; Loki is, clearly, playing catch-up. I thought the scenes were fun to do, because they have such tension and humour.”
How do we see Loki evolving throughout the six episodes?
TH: “For Loki, it’s been this endless cycle of trust and betrayal and resistance, and the character is essentially singing the same song over and over and over again. He’s trapped on a wheel of repetition, a compulsion to repeat the same damage, the same story. But we are breaking that record. We’re releasing him from that trap. In this story, we’re showing that he can change, that he can grow. And what if the experience of that, and the journey he goes on, actually changes something internally, where he can potentially become someone else, or begin from a place of understanding that, if you know who you are, then who you choose to be is a different thing.”
What has surprised you the most about Loki’s incredible fanbase?
TH: “There’s no question that the reason I’m allowed to continue to play him is because he means so much to so many different people, for so many different reasons. I see that as a big honour. Over time, I’ve been made aware of the different things that he represents for people. Some people enjoy his playfulness and spontaneity, and that sense of mischief that he has; some people enjoy his quality as an antagonist. Some people are drawn to his vulnerability, underneath all those layers of charm and charisma. It’s a relatable human thing. I owe that to the writers actually, anyone who has ever written this character, even in the comic books, starting with Stan Lee and Jack Kirby, going all the way through Don Payne, who wrote the first Thor movie, who made Loki a character with such pathos, and all the way to Michael and his amazing team.
loki LAUNCHES ON 9 june 2021 (wednesday) ON DISNEY+.
IMAGES, COURTESY OF MARVEL STUDIOS.