Loki’s first episode brings us on a mind-bending trip through the messy temporal mechanics of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. The titular character is the version we last saw in Avengers: Endgame, but that’s not the Loki we knew and loved and saw pay the ultimate price in Avengers: Infinity War. So how does Loki himself, Tom Hiddleston, reconcile the two in the Disney+ series?
“It was so enjoyable, to see such a new aspect of him,” Hiddleston told Gizmodo during a recent video interview about him returning to the first Avengers Loki rather than the one who’s grown since. “To see it, to try and think about how the character might behave with humility, and it being out of his comfort zone and control, being out on the run… [he has] a desire to understand. The curiosity to collect the information everyone else seems to have. And to see if you strip Loki of all the things that are familiar to him — Thor, Asgard, his magical power — to see what remains of Loki after that, was a really interesting place to start.”
It’s a start that, perhaps, gets immediately thrown a bit of a temporal wrench in the show’s first episode. After Loki is processed through the arcane administrative bureaucracy of the Time Variance Authority and introduced to his new “handler,” Agent Mobius (Owen Wilson), Loki is presented with the dangerous information that the TVA doesn’t just know his past, but his future. It all takes place in something the Time Keepers call the “sacred timeline,” and twists his sense of free will.
Being who he is at this point in his arc, Loki doesn’t take too kindly to the news, and after one chunk of chaos-causing, Loki finds himself back in Mobius’ office — with access to the Agent’s temporal viewscreen showing the life and times, past and future, of one Loki Laufeyson. Flicking through what to him is his recent humbling defeat at the hands of Earth’s Mightiest Heroes, all the way through Hiddleston’s long arc through the Marvel movies, our Loki goes on an emotional rollercoaster through his future… all the way up to and including his sacrifice at Thanos’ hands.
Suddenly, “our” Loki has seen what becomes of himself, not a cackling usurper of Asgard’s throne, but arguably a hero in his own right, in his brother’s eye. It’s a big moment for Loki and for this version of the character — one that was a big process for everyone to work through on set.
“I think one key thing is that, like, Tom, Michael [Waldron, writer] and I — and Marvel — we all spoke a lot about some of the things he sees in the first episode and what those right moments would be, for our Loki to see,” Kate Herron, Loki’s director, told Gizmodo. “Tom had a lot of ideas, obviously, with that, because it’s very close to his heart. And then on terms of being on set, it was just me and him checking in on each other. We’d sometimes talk about moments where I’d be like, ‘think about this moment in Avengers’ and we’d talk about that — [and he’d say] ‘OK, I’m going to channel that now.’ I think that was really the biggest challenge — He isn’t the same Loki that we’ve seen in Infinity War, he’s a very different Loki. I think that was the real challenge, making sure that fans coming in would be like, ‘Oh, man, it is the Loki from Avengers.’”
Filming the moment of that reveal in Mobius’ office got Hiddleston to put himself in a very distinct headspace as an actor. “The first thing I had to do was unstitch the illusion of The Dark World, and Ragnarok, and try to remember where Loki was at the end of the first Avengers movie,” Hiddleston said of his process.
“So, Loki doesn’t know or have any connection to that experience — and yet I remember doing those scenes. I have those memories very alive in the mind, and retained in my own body. I started to think about it as a strange…perhaps, we all have a memory of the past. The past lives on in our minds, we frame those moments in our memories — but maybe for Loki, his future has an echo of familiarity that’s similar to a memory.”
“None of us are really here, unless we are living in the TVA. It was such a curious thing to think — what would it be like if somebody played you a reel of footage from your future? Would you believe it, would it feel real? Or would you be able to dismiss it and say, ‘No, that’s not how it goes,’” Hiddleston ruminated. “And I like to believe, for Loki, it feels as honest of his memories of the past, in a way.”
How honest Loki holds himself to those future memories, then, remains to be seen — but no doubt it’ll be a very intriguing development to watch unfold over the course of the series.
The first episode of Loki is streaming now on Disney+.