Marvel’s most recent TV series avoided cliche and did away with the one element that is tradition to all of its movies and shows.
SPOILER WARNING FOR LOKI S1 FINALE, “FOR ALL TIME. ALWAYS”
Anyone watching the Loki finale last week might have been surprised by how it all played out.
No, not the Kang/He Who Remains (Jonathan Majors) reveal.
It’s more what didn’t happen that stands out – the enormous CGI fight sequence that traditionally climaxes Marvel movies and TV shows. That huge, bloated sky battle between Wanda and Agatha was, for many, the blip on an otherwise imaginative and poignant WandaVision.
So, it was a really refreshing surprise that the Loki finale avoided that particular cliche, instead choosing to stage an episode that was predominantly people talking, using the tension of the wordplay and character chemistry to build to an emotional climax during an intimate sword fight between Loki (Tom Hiddleston) and Sylvie (Sophia Di Martino).
That wasn’t always going to be the case, Loki director Kate Herron revealed to news.com.au.
The original plan was to feature an action scene during the finale, but when Loki production was interrupted due to covid, it was cut after a new idea took shape.
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“I loved that it was a conversation at the end,” Herron said. “We used to have an action scene [at the beginning of the episode] but when we shut down, I started cutting the footage that we’d already filmed – and we’d filmed a lot of episode one – and I was putting together the Time Variance Authority scene between Loki and Mobius.
“And I think everyone was just like, ‘Wow, this is so dynamic and fun’. It gave us the confidence as filmmakers to take the action out at the top of episode six and just make it a tension builder.
“It’s all tension, tension, tension and then you meet He Who Remains and he’s actually quite relaxed. I think it sets him up as a very different villain to Thanos because you don’t know what to expect.
“It was always intended – and it’s the thing that drew me in – that the writers wanted it to start with that conversation and end with one.”
Instead, the big action scene of the series took place in episode five as Loki, Sylvie and Classic Loki (Richard E. Grant) took on the “spectacle monster”.
That choice to privilege dialogue and character building in the finale is what sets Loki apart from many comic book adaptations, including its compatriots within the Marvel Cinematic Universe. This is a series that, over its six episodes, spent more time with characters talking to each other than fighting.
There was Loki and Sylvie chatting along for most of Lamentis, as well as the back-and-forths between Mobius (Owen Wilson) and Ravonna (Gugu Mbatha-Raw) in her office. And, of course, the endless repartee between Loki and Mobius, the MCU’s new favourite dynamic duo.
But making those wordy scenes feel vibrant and entertaining isn’t easy, especially when you’re catering to an audience primed for spectacle.
“I’ve done so many dialogue-heavy shows and for me, you have to have the right actors and then the right editors,” Herron, who has directed episodes of Sex Education and Daybreak, said. “No one ever talks that much about the editors.
“In anything dialogue-heavy, editors are so integral because they shape the rhythm and pace of those things. It’s not as simple as setting up your camera and hoping it shapes out. There’s a lot of work that goes into post[-production] as well, to give it the right energy and pace.”
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With Loki’s first season done and dusted, Herron is relieved she no longer has to carry the secret of Kang, or a variant of the classic Marvel comics villain, and his MCU debut in the finale.
Super fans may have correctly speculated that Majors, who had already been cast to appear as the character in the upcoming Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania movie, would be part of the finale.
But introducing a significant character so late in the game, especially one that casual, non-comic readers wouldn’t recognise, carried with it inherent risks. It was only the Emmy-nominated Majors’ wily, low-key chaotic performance that paid it off.
“There’s an element of risk in some senses but I think the way you go around that is the casting, because Jonathan is so charismatic,” Herron explained. “He draws you in, he’s a born storyteller.
“Me and him, it was a lot about the blocking and the rhythm of it – when would be bigger, when he be smaller and really make people want to lean in and hear the story?
“If you’re coming in as a fresh viewing and you just want to know who’s behind it and why, his story has to be compelling enough that you don’t know anything about this character’s previous history, that you’re still drawn in and want to know his reasons.”
The Loki finale ended with several plot threads dangling which is expected to be addressed in a second season Marvel announced during the closing credits, as well as upcoming movies including Doctor Strange and the Multiverse of Madness.
But for fans who were expecting more of a definitive ending, the real closure came not in the story beats but in Loki’s character journey.
“It was about giving closure to this chapter of Loki’s life, that’s the emotional journey,” Herron said. “In episode one, he wants the throne, and he wants to rule. By episode six, he’s saying to Sylvie, ‘I don’t want the throne, I just want you to be OK’.
“It goes from a very selfish want to a very selfless want, which shows what a journey he’s been on.
“Even though he’s back in the TVA and he’s shattered and he looks heartbroken – that’s why it was important to me to do that shot of him that pushed in – you see that transformation in him.
“Lokis always survive, and it was important to show that our Loki had hope. He was changed by the journey. All was not lost, because he’s a different character now.”
And Loki survives to fight another day, with reports the second season, which Herron won’t be working on, will go into production early next year.
Loki is streaming now on Disney+
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