How Loki became one of the funniest characters in the Marvel Universe
Loki has a habit of stealing everyone's thunder. He's at it again in "Loki," a six-part TV series that has the God of Mischief hurtling through time, trying to clean up a mess that could alter history.
It's not as mind-blowing as "WandaVision" or as action-packed as "The Falcon and the Winter Soldier." But it sure is a lot of fun.
The first episode, now available for streaming on Disney+, picks up right after Loki (Tom Hiddleston) scooped up a mysterious cube in 2019's "Avengers: Endgame" and disappeared in a puff of smoke.
"One of my favorite things coming out of that movie is fans thinking we had forgotten to mention what happens to him, but we did know," said Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige during a virtual news conference recently. "It's been exciting making people wait."
Turns out Loki has been dumped in the Gobi Desert, where he's arrested by the militant Time Variance Authority for violating travel protocol. But instead of being terminated, he's assigned to assist in a perilous manhunt, one that forces him to wonder if he's more than just a menace to society.
"He's been stripped of status and power," said Hiddleston, who also played Loki in six previous Marvel movies. "If you take all those things Loki has used to identify himself, what remains? Who is he? Is he capable of growth and change?"
Thor, his brother and main nemesis played by Chris Hemsworth in the films, is not around in these early episodes, but Loki has a new frenemy: Mobius Mobius, a TVA agent who's convinced the Asgardian is the key to cracking his case.
The give and take between the unlikely partners are at the heart of the series.
"Their relationship is like a chess match," said Owen Wilson, who plays Mobius with his usual aw-shucks approach. "They're long scenes, so much so that they started to feel a bit like a play, but hopefully there's a lot of tension and humor."
Thor and Loki aren't exactly known for their comedy chops in the original comic books. But they've been among the funniest Marvel characters on screen, especially in 2017's "Thor: Ragnarok."
"That's because of the enormous talents of Mr. Hemsworth and Mr. Hiddleston," Feige said. "It wasn't necessarily a conscious plan to make the characters even funnier than they are in the comic books. We just took what was going on behind the scenes and put it on camera."
The call for levity helps explain why the writers' room was run by Michael Waldron, a veteran of "Rick and Morty." In addition to providing quips, he wanted to make sure Loki wasn't making predictable pit stops.
"When people hear it's a show about affecting historical events, they think, 'OK that's going to be Loki riding with Paul Revere,' " Waldron said. "But that's the lowest hanging fruit. We wanted to subvert those expectations and go to places maybe people knew but didn't know well."
That means viewers will find Loki popping up in places like Pompeii, minutes before the volcano blows.
"I'm so fortunate that I'm still here," Hiddleston said. "He's a character of such huge range so it never fees like the same experience, particularly this time around. With a new dynamic, new stuff emerges."