A Void full of Marvel movie and comics Easter eggs. A dozen alternate versions of Tom Hiddleston’s character, one of them an alligator. A fight against a smoke monster where the realm of Asgard is conjured as a direction. As he inches towards discovering the man behind the curtain, it’s fair to say Loki‘s not in Kansas any more. In just five episodes, the Disney+ series has taken the God of Mischief well beyond the set-up in Avengers: Endgame and the world of the TVA into something all the weirder.
To get the specifics behind some of those details and learn how the big picture came together, Screen Rant caught up with Loki head writer Michael Waldron following episode 5 to discuss secrets of constructing the many worlds of the series.
We talked at the start of the series about how the Endgame escape was the starting point of the creative process. We’re so far away from that now. How did you work out that map, and what was the earliest idea you had? Was it Sylvie? Was it the TVA? Was it the void? I’m so curious how you ended up here.
That was just a lot of hard work; a lot of smart people. Our writers’ room and so many good ideas from everybody built this whole thing. The TVA was obviously the first idea that we built the show on, and the nice thing about the TVA is you can go anywhere and any time off of that. So, we knew we were going to be able to cover a lot of ground in this series if we wanted to. I think that it was the TVA and then it was Sylvie, Those were the two big lighthouses for us.
Sylvie is obviously the breakout character of the show, aside from Alligator Loki. When it came to deciding who to play that role, what were the key tenets you looked for in an actor?
Sylvie’s a Loki, so you want somebody who’s going to match that energy, that charm, that mischievousness and just everything that makes you love Tom’s version of Loki. But at the same time, the performance had to stand on its own, because Sylvie is entirely her own character. It was certainly a discussion, and that was ultimately something driven by Kate and our casting folks. They did work with Sophia back in the day, and we’re just we’re so lucky we have her.
Sylvie is not the only Loki variant in the show, and the creativity there is so much fun. How did you decide who to include? Can you talk a bit about defining which Loki variants are going to play which role in the story?
Alligator Loki, that was an idea that was there from one of my very first meetings with Marvel. I think I cited that as an example of the kind of thing we should be trying to do in this show, which is just the craziest shit we possibly could but play it straight. And to everybody’s credit, they just kept “yes, and”-ing it – and the next thing you know, there he is. It was just identifying versions of Loki who could ultimately reveal something to our primary hero about himself; to our Loki about himself. Whether showing him good sides of himself or bad sides of himself, every Loki in the show is a mirror to the other Lokis. In so much as how deliberate we were, I guess that’s what we were going after.
One thing I found very interesting, especially in episode 5, is that there’s a lot of success in these Lokis. Kid Loki killed Thor, Classic Loki survived Infinity War, and obviously Sylvie’s taking down the TVA. It almost makes the many failures of Hiddleston’s Loki stand out more. Was that intentional, to make him almost an unsuccessful Loki but in doing so become – to steal a phrase from another show – the Loki-est Loki?
I think it’s that he’s the Loki that was supposed to stay on the timeline. All those Lokis who had all those successes were Lokis got pruned by the TVA. As Mobius says, “It’s your job to lose so others can become the best versions of themselves.” That’s the part Loki is meant to play on the Sacred Timeline. The question is: can you change?
President Loki turns up, and he has a whole raft of other Lokis with him. How detailed did you go in coming up with the backstories for those Lokis? Because they’ve all got very distinct designs. How much time did you spend with the costume team to define them?
There was a lot of different Lokis originally written in Tom Kauffman’s, the episode writer’s, first draft. He really went wild and just took some of that Rick and Morty energy, and that was a great foundation of Loki ideas. And then it was in production, so it was Kate and the production team and casting and everything just figuring out, “Alright, who’s going to be interesting to see in this conflict?”
You mentioned Rick and Morty, a show you have a history with. There was a recent episode all about Rick’s decoys, which is somewhat similar to Loki. Were you aware that there was going to be another multiverse Rick situation, And what was your reaction to seeing these two things come so close together?
I guess there’s always different versions of Rick out there. The decoys, in fact, those were clone robots. I knew when I took the job that I was going to be playing in the same kind of multiversal sandbox and stuff. But I’ve traded texts and stuff with Harmon. So far, I don’t think I’ve ripped him off too bad. We’ll see.
That takes me back to Sylvie. One thing a lot of fans have really enjoyed is just how unique she is. She is bits of Lady Loki and bits of Enchantress, but it’s very much Sylvie. I want to know less about her as a character, and more of the process. Why did you choose to do a Lady Loki character using elements of other characters?
I think that we just wanted to have a version of Loki opposite Tom that was the same but different. There’s a history of Lady Loki in the comics, of Enchantress and all these cool characters. As often happens in the MCU, you see an opportunity to pull those different elements and just put them together. She just felt like a badass hero, sort of, or a vigilante in a way. It just felt like a really cool version of Loki to position opposite our guy, who has been doing things throughout his life somewhat selfishly, driven by his own trauma. She’s on a crusade that, at this point, certainly seems like it’s a crusade for good and for liberation. We just thought that’d be a cool way to do it.
One thing that’s introduced in episode 5 is Alioth, the giant smoke monster protecting the Void – which is a very, very deep cut into the comics. Why did you go with that as the guardian of the enchanted castle?
As I’ve said before, if you can find something from the comics and use it – whether it’s just convenient, whether it’s a good idea or not – then it just becomes awesome. That’s the great thing about the comics. I think it was our writers’ assistant, Ryan Kohler, who originally had the idea of “What if the Void is like a trash compactor?” They get thrown down there and something devours them. And then we went on a hunt for a comics version of that, and Alioth was there. I love that deep cut stuff. He certainly has had his own run-ins with the TVA and everything. And I love Twister. I think it’s the second episode that has storms in it, and I like the moodiness of thunderstorms.
Talking about deep cuts, episode 5 is full of hidden things. I do have to ask about some of the amazing aster eggs and how they came to be. Was there anything that Marvel wanted to be in there, or was there anything you wanted to put in there that you couldn’t?
No. I mean, there was very little “no” in this whole process. I think you can tell. It was just the exchange of ideas: “What about this?” “This might be cool.” Anything that I [couldn’t get in], I might get in elsewhere down the line. So, I’m hesitant to to go into too much detail.
One that really excited me was the little frog Thor in the jar, and that’s already caused quite a bit of debate about whether it’s Throg or it’s Thor as a frog. I wonder if you could clear that up, if you’re able to.
I think the debate should rage. Let the debate rage.
And then the big one, the one that’s got everyone excited, is the Thanos Copter – it’s paying off classic Silver Age stuff that’s become a meme in itself. How did you go about deciding how to do it, and making something so ridiculous into live-action? It’s brilliant.
For the Thanos Copter, I’ve got to give all the credit to that to Kate and Kevin Wright, our producer. The Thanos Copter, unfortunately, was not in the script. I think even I wouldn’t have thought to do something that crazy. That was something that they got in there; they shot it, and it looks awesome. Hats off to them for that one.
The Living Tribunal appears to be there as a sort of stone head. Is that meant to be the Living Tribunal, or was it meant to be vague and open for speculation?
Speculation. Everything’s there for a reason, I guess.
It’s been so exciting over the past five weeks, seeing people get attached to things. Alligator Loki is one of the biggest things, but also Mobius and his love of jet skis has become a thing. Have you been following that? Have you seen the memes, like the Luca meme?
I have. I love that. My wife just sent me that Luca one. Look, I love jet skis. I’ll reveal myself as a jski lover, so I’m with Mobius on that. I’m glad to see jet skis getting some love in the zeitgeist.et
With a Marvel show, it goes to such a big audience. Has something turned into a meme or really connected people that you’re surprised?
Let me think of what surprised me with it… I don’t know, every step of the way, maybe everything surprises you when it hits and people are delighted by it. Because it’s like, you write in Alligator Loki and spend so much time with it. Then you’re like, “Is this the stupidest thing in the world? Did we ruin the show?” It’s just a delight when people feel the same sense of irreverent joy watching it as we did.
I’m not gonna ask you any questions about where we’re heading, but I wonder if there’s any way that you can tease what’s to come to hype people up. Do you have anything that you want to say going into final stretch?
I don’t know. Tune in. I got nothing; I’ve teased all I can tease. If you’re not on board now, I don’t know. Make sure you watch the first five.
Loki‘s season finale releases on Disney+ on Wednesday, July 14.
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