Warning: This post contains spoilers for the season premiere of Loki.
On the thematic timeline of the Marvel Cinematic Universe TV shows, WandaVision was all about grief, while The Falcon and the Winter Soldier tackled prejudice. So what's the big idea behind Marvel's latest Disney+ series, Loki? Yahoo Entertainment decided to ask the (puny) God of Mischief himself. "Identity," says Tom Hiddleston, who has played the role of Thor's troublesome half-brother for the past decade. "Loki has such a complex identity: there's a lot of exterior charm and wit and charisma and a lot of interior pain and fragmentation. If someone's constantly wearing masks or changing their shape, who are they really? Who are any of us, really?" (Watch our video interview above.)
For much of his decade-long character arc, Loki's identity has been wrapped up in his pursuit of power. But in its opening moment, the new series, which was created by Michael Waldron and directed by Kate Herron, puts Loki in a place of complete powerlessness. Picking up in the immediate aftermath of Avengers: Endgame — when an earlier incarnation of the Asgardian trickster escaped from the wreckage of the Battle of New York with the Tesseract courtesy of the Avengers' time-traveling shenanigans — Loki immediately finds the title character being captured by agents of the Time Variance Authority. This organization is tasked with protecting and serving the Marvel timeline from agents of chaos like Loki.
And there's a specific reason why his presence spells trouble (with a capital T) for the MCU. After all, his own personal timeline ended in the opening moments of Avengers: Infinity War, when he was killed by the despotic Thanos. Of course, this version doesn't remember any of that, nor does he have any memories of the events of Thor: The Dark World or Thor: Ragnarok. "All the things that have been familiar reflections for who he is are gone," Hiddleston notes. "There's no sign of Thor, there's no sign of Asgard. He's stripped of his clothes, and his abilities. What remains is the question: what makes Loki... Loki?"
Loki does spy one familiar sight in the season premiere: it turns out that TVA office is overflowing with Infinity Stones. But just as his own powers are dampened by being pulled outside of the timestream, the only function those glowing rocks serve is as paperweights. On Twitter, Marvel fans lost their minds at the idea that the gems that powered the entire Infinity Saga are now, essentially, useless.
Hiddleston calls the Infinity Stones moment one of his favorite scenes in the series. "I loved it. It's so brave of Marvel to pull the rug out from underneath that very established thing. This universe is getting bigger and bigger and bigger with more surprises in store, that's for sure." Herron similarly delighted in upending everything viewers thought they know about the MCU. "It's kind of great, right? It completely sets the table for who the TVA are. And as the rug is pulled under from us, it's also being pulled under from Loki. He's like, 'Wait a second, paperweights? What the hell!' It twists the old brain slightly."
And that's just the start of how the Loki premiere will twist your brain. Here's our guide to some of the episode's big moments and Easter eggs, with commentary from the cast and crew.
Into the Multiverse
While WandaVision and FAWS both moved the MCU timeline forward, the Loki premiere made it clear that this series is going to be able to imitate Endgame's timey-wimeyness over the course of its six episodes. And Herron was thrilled with the chance to play in the same temporal sandbox as the Russo brothers. "It was kind of building on what had been established, and the rules there," she says. "But it was also making sure that we were creating this new version of time because it's the TVA and it's whole different rules."
The rules of the Time Variance Authority — who have been a mainstay in Marvel Comics since the 1980s — were clearly laid out via a hilarious animated explainer that Herron compares to the "Mr. DNA" video from Jurassic Park. In this case, the role of Mr. DNA is played by Ms. Minutes, voiced by Tara Strong. In essence, the TVA patrols the timestream and ensures that any stray branches, or "Nexus" points, are clipped before they can metastasize into a multiverse... of madness. Now where have we heard those words before?
You'd better believe that the reference to the next Doctor Strange movie, which Waldron wrote and Sam Raimi is direction, wasn't accidental. "It's definitely cheeky," laughs Herron. "That video was so helpful to us: it kind of us tells us the fun world-building and the story. The fun thing was brainstorming ideas for that video, and we were like, 'Well, putting a little cheeky nod [to Doctor Strange] is fun, isn't it?' Poor Tara had to record multiple versions of that video, because it was very complicated."
Meet the New Boss
As we learn from Ms. Minutes, the TVA was conjured into existence by the Time-Keepers, an alien race who appear to be as old as the Eternals. But they're too busy monitoring the "sacred timeline" to be in the office on a day-to-day basis. That's where judges like Ravonna Renslayer (Gugu Mbatha-Raw) come in. Renslayer's job is to pass judgment on variants like Loki, while also staying in constant contact with the Time-Keepers.
Renslayer is making her MCU debut with Loki, but she's got a long history in the comic book universe. That history includes a complicated relationship with Kang the Conqueror, who has been confirmed as appearing in the upcoming Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania opposite Paul Rudd and Evangeline Lily's pint-sized heroes. Twitter is already anticipating a Kang cameo in Loki based on Renslayer's presence.
For her part, Mbatha-Raw says that the series serves as the beginning of Renslayer's story, not the middle or the end. "Loki is almost an origin story for Renslayer, so it's pre all of the stuff that you see in the comics," she explains. "I'm really excited for the potential of what could be next for her. It's definitely left at an interesting place for where things could go for her."
Loki, This Is Your Life
Although Loki begins the episode as his Avengers-era self, by the time the credits roll, the Variant appears to have emotionally matured into the version who bravely met his end in Infinity War. That rapid aging process is courtesy of a very special This is Your Life-style highlight reel put together by Owen Wilson's TVA agent Mobius, which shows him events he has yet to experience, like the death of his beloved adopted mother Frigga (Rene Russo) in The Dark World, and his tentative peace with Thor in Ragnarok.
In real life, of course, Hiddleston recalls all of those moments from making those movies. But he still found it it invigorating to watch his alter ego's life play out onscreen. "Literature is full of protagonists who have to make peace with their past and maybe their past is replayed for them in real time," he says. "It's quite unusual to watch your future. If we were able to watch our future and see how it played out, how would that change the way we moved towards it? I found that really interesting, this idea of how becoming more self-aware might affect the choices you make going forward."
Attack of the Variants
Even though the show is called Loki, it's Mobius who gets to walk the audience up to the premiere's cliffhanger ending. After showing the Variant his future, the agent reveals why he pushed so hard to ensure that Loki wouldn't just be erased from the timestream. It turns out there's a murderous Variant attacking TVA soldiers, one who shares an intimate connection with Loki. "The Variant we're hunting is... you," Mobius tells a gobsmacked Loki, whose reaction mirrors what happened on Twitter when that twist was sprung.
If you enjoyed hearing those words, Wilson enjoyed saying them even more. "That was one of my favorite things in the script," the actor says. "It's such a great idea that the series tapped into, exploring that and meeting some of these other guys. If you think one Loki is challenging, imagine a whole team of them!"
Loki is currently streaming on Disney+.
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