As a mid-credits sequence during the Loki season finale revealed, Thor’s trickster brother, played by Tom Hiddleston, will be back for a sophomore year, making it the first Disney+ Marvel series to score a Season 2. But director Kate Herron won’t be back for more time-hopping adventures. “I only every planned to do Season 1,” the filmmaker tells Yahoo Entertainment, adding that there wasn’t even a Season 2 on the horizon when she landed the job. “I think it’s really fantastic that it’s continuing, and I’m so proud of what we’ve done, but I feel like I put everything I had into this season. So I’m not back, but I’m going to be watching the second season as a fan. I’m excited to see where it goes.”
Even if she’s not returning, Herron certainly left her mark on the Marvel Cinematic Universe as Phase 4 continues to unfold. According to Forbes magazine, Loki outpaced both of Marvel’s other streaming series — the Emmy-nominated WandaVision and The Falcon and the Winter Soldier — in terms of popularity. And the last episode has major implications for the rest of the movies and streaming series on the horizon, unlocking the concept of the Marvel multiverse, where each branching timeline leads to an alternate reality populated by variants of familiar heroes and villains.
One of those variants will be none other than Kang the Conquerer, played by Jonathan Majors, who made his debut of sorts in the Loki finale. Herron is quick to note that the person viewers met in the Citadel at the End of Time isn’t Kang, and he’s also not Immortus, aka the “Gardener of Time,” aka Nathaniel Richards — son of founding Fantastic Four members Reed Richard and Sue Storm, who have yet to be introduced into MCU continuity.
“He’s a variant,” Herron says of the character that Majors plays in “For All Time. Always.” “He isn’t necessarily either or both. He’s pulling from Immortus in terms of the comic influence, but He Who Remains is also from the comics, although our interpretation of him in the show is obviously different. Like all of our characters, he’s pulled from the comics into the MCU, but the writers brought something to it, Jonathan brought something to it. All you need to know is that he’s in the Citadel at the End of Time and he’s a variant.”
Herron reveals that she was part of the casting process that eventually led Marvel to Majors, whose breakthrough performance in the 2019 indie drama The Last Black Man in San Francisco also led to high-profile roles in HBO’s Lovecraft Country and Spike Lee’s Da 5 Bloods. The actor is currently filming Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania, where he’s expected to make his official debut as the malevolent King under the direction of Peyton Reed.
“It was Peyton, Kevin Feige, myself and the studio talking about who this actor should be,” Herron remembers. “I was so flattered to have a seat at the table in that conversation, because I knew what a massive thing it was for them. Jonathan is an amazing actor, and someone all of us were really excited by. He’s a perfect chameleon and can play so many different characters.”
Technically, Majors made his Loki debut in Episode 5, when we first hear the voices of the supposedly all-powerful Time Keepers that watch over the Time Variance Authority, and who are eventually revealed to be robots in a Wizard of Oz-esque twist. “I was like, ‘Man, that has to be Jonathan,’” Herron says of the actor's uncredited cameo in that episode. "We had that Wizard of Oz reference, and he's also able to do all these different voices."
Whether you want to call him Kang, Immortus or He Who Remains, there's no question that Majors made a huge impression on fans in his first on-camera appearance. "Normally, you expect this sort of thing to be the tease at the end of a movie," Herron notes, alluding to the way Thanos would pop up at the end of various Marvel movies before becoming the main antagonist of the Infinity Saga.
"It was a big secret to be sitting on, but it was so nice to surprise everyone," she continues. "We weren't giving you a little nod to the character — we were giving you a whole meal. And I also love how Loki begins with a conversation between Loki and Mobius and ends with a conversation between Loki, Sylvie and He Who Remains. I was honored to bring Jonathan into the MCU."
Herron also reveals that certain details of the second half of the season changed when Loki shut down production for four months following the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic. "We had filmed the majority of Episode 1 and a fair share of Episode 2, and I was just starting to do stuff for Episode 4," she remembers. "What I tried to do during those four months was cut together footage that we'd filmed. I noticed little details in things like Wunmi Mosaku's performance as Hunter B-15 and that informed what we did with her character going forward."
The fifth episode, "Journey Into Mystery," — set in a realm filled with Loki variants, including the instant fan favorite Alligator Loki — also underwent some major revisions during the four-month break. "We knew they were going to go to the Void, and somehow get to the Citadel, but we only came up with the idea of Sylvie enchanting Alioth [the monstrous being that guards the Citadel] later on. As we dug into the characters, we realized that it needed to be the power of Sylvie and Loki working as a team to get to their next step. We always knew they were going to meet He Who Remains and the multiverse would be born, but we didn’t know how they were going to get there straightaway."
Since she's stepping away from Loki, Herron has no intel on whether Marvel plans to add any additional Easter eggs to the six episodes she directed, in the same way they apparently tweaked the ending of WandaVision to tease the impending arrival of Doctor Strange now that Sam Raimi's sequel, Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, is nearing completion. "I have no idea to be honest," she says. "I don't know the plans of Mr. Feige and all the other films, but I'll be watching as a fan!"
One of the burning questions the yet-to-be-named director of Season 2 will have to answer is whether Loki and Sylvie (Sophia Di Martino) are actually a romantic couple... or just good friends. Herron says she answered that question for herself early on in Season 1. "For me, this was a story about self-love and my interpretation is that there's a love between them and a bond between them," she says. "I'm totally open to how the audiences wants to interpret it! But there's something beautiful about the idea that the one thing that can bring down this big organization is the power of loving yourself. I think that's a very sweet and nice message for the world right now."
"But that’s also Loki and Sylvie's tragedy," Herron notes. "I think she does care deeply about him, she just hasn’t had the same path he has. I always think of Sylvie as being more like how Loki was in the first Thor. She feels betrayed, and she has this pain and anger. She might care about Loki but her main thought is the mission. You see it in her face at the end: the regret and pain. Regret is something we haven’t spoken about much, but it’s an emotion and feeling that’s carried across all our characters in terms of the good versus bad across the show."
But Herron doesn't have any regrets about stepping away from the MCU for now. And as a fan, she has words of wisdom for whatever director is picked to replace her. "Just go for it — that’s my advice," she says, laughing. "For me, it was always 'Go bigger, go weirder and wear your heart on your sleeve.' That’s something we came back to among the writers and the actors. We’re putting them in these fantastical world, but it’s always character first and Loki's emotional journey first. As people know from the comics and the movies, there’s so much left to explore with him."
Loki is currently streaming on Disney+.
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