Two things are constant in the Marvel Cinematic Universe — quips and Loki (Tom Hiddleston) returning from the dead. First introduced in the 2011 film Thor, the villain was subsequently killed off thrice onscreen. He returns, as smug and devious as ever in the six-episode DisneyPlus Hotstar Premium series Loki. His reappearance is the result of a clever loophole — since his last death at the hands of Thanos was pretty irreversible, the series follows the Loki from the end of the first Avengers (2012) movie. When the Avengers travel back in time in Avengers: Endgame (2019), they unwittingly hand this past Loki a means of escape. Instead of being taken back to Asgard, he’s able to grab the tesseract and flee…straight into the grasp of the all-powerful Time Variance Authority, which is where the series picks up from.
Loki’s travels through time take him to the site of at least two major historical events — the destruction of Pompeii and the disappearance of DB Cooper, a criminal who hijacked a Seattle-bound plane in 1971 and then parachuted off into obscurity. Meanwhile, he must deal with uncomfortable revelations about himself, a mysterious foe he’s tasked with tracking and a contentious relationship with TVA agent Mobius (Owen Wilson), who he isn’t sure he can trust.
“It’s a sci-fi crime thriller with a rascal at the centre of it,” says head writer Michael Waldron, whose credits include Rick And Morty and the upcoming Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness. He talks about why it’s fun to revisit an older version of Loki and how to create tension when you know the character isn’t at any real risk of dying:
Loki’s ‘died’ and come back to life thrice. When you’re dealing with a character who’s had so many fakeouts, how do you maintain dramatic tension? How do you get audiences to worry about him when he’s in a dangerous situation?
That was certainly a challenge. We still embraced the mortal jeopardy of Loki. We’ve seen how he could die for real in Avengers: Infinity War (2019). He’s not immortal. This is a different version of Loki and the show opens him up to emotional danger and vulnerability in a way that hasn’t happened before. Given the way fans love this character, that might make for even graver danger for him to be in.
Watched the first episode of the highly anticipated #Loki series yet? @projectseestra talks to the show's creator @MichaelWaldron about continuing Loki's journey, collaborating with @twhiddleston and what to expect from the #MCU show.@LokiOfficial@disneyplusHSP@marvel_india pic.twitter.com/XPrzj8Uhnx
— Film Companion (@FilmCompanion) June 9, 2021
Loki’s at the destruction of Pompeii, he’s involved in the disappearance of DB Cooper, and going by the trailer, he does get to sit on the throne of Asgard. How did you figure which real and fictional events you wanted to drop him in?
That was just us having fun in the writers’ room and saying, ‘What are some crazy, fun historical events we could go to?’ We wanted to go from well-known events, like Pompeii, to something like DB Cooper, which is a deep cut and a bit of American folklore that I’ve always been fascinated by. We wanted to finally answer the question of his disappearance and say, ‘Yeah, Loki is DB Cooper.’
Loki’s had a whole redemptive arc, but the Loki in this show is from the end of the first Avengers film. What are the fun parts of revisiting an old version of the character and what are the challenges?
The fun is that he hasn’t had an arc yet and so he’s still got a way to go emotionally. He’s angry, he’s pissed off because he’s just lost the Battle of New York. So that’s always a fun version of the character to get to write. At the same time, everybody’s seen Thor: The Dark World (2013), Thor: Ragnarok (2017) and Avengers: Infinity War (2018). We couldn’t just tell the same story, we couldn’t have the same arc. We had to do something new with the character and that was the challenge.
There’s this incredibly moving speech at the end of episode 1 when Loki finally acknowledges what he is. What went into writing that?
That was a speech that I wrote, then Tom read the script and he and I really worked on it together. Tom is Loki and he understands that character better than anybody. He really understood the ways that Mobius could lay him bare and so that speech became one of my favourite collaborations with him.