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The existential crisis of "Loki"

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13.06.2021

"What if I was a robot and didn't know it?" Loki asks in the first episode of his eponymous Marvel series on Disney .

In the scene, the fan-favorite God of Mischief (Tom Hiddleston) is reluctant to walk through what appears to be a metal detector but in actuality is used to confirm he's an organic creature and has a soul. The ordeal is just one more piece of red tape to cut through when getting processed by the Time Variance Authority (TVA).

On one hand, Loki's question could be seen as apprehension dealing with the TVA's bureaucratic slog. Director and executive producer Kate Herron confirmed this interpretation in an interview with Salon.

"A lot of our writers spoke about the DMV, and I would talk about trying to go through Customs at the airport because I get very anxious trying to do that," she said. "They put you in different queues and you're like, 'Oh, God, please let me through.' So I think we wanted to kind of bring that human feeling of just being very disoriented."

Approached from a different angle, however, Loki's throwaway line could indicate a bigger question he has about himself and his new bizarre reality. After all, this is a different Loki from the one who died in "Avengers: Infinity War." Escaping much earlier in the series thanks to the Tesseract inadvertently falling into his hands, this Loki is having his own "Sliding Doors" moment when he's getting a do-over that involves helping the TVA and possibly even redemption.

"Our show is about identity and it is about Loki finding what is his sense of self now because he isn't on the path that he was supposed to be on. He was supposed to be arrested and go to Asgard and become the Loki that we've seen across the films," said Herron. "But this isn't that Loki; he's done something very different now. I think that was the real joy in putting him into this very new scenario, like, 'Well, nature versus nurture – how will he react to this new environment?' It's a question that definitely echoes across the whole show."

In some ways, Loki is the ideal character to be put into this situation. He has never lived on the binary, whether it's his gender, his morality or even as a supposed god who has proven to be mortal. Now he's thrust into a similarly ambiguous position as a criminal who's trying to take down a possibly more alternate timeline variant of himself, working in an office that exists outside space and time, and one that is simultaneously futuristic and yet riddled with old equipment like brass service bells. Is it any wonder he's having a bit of an existential moment?

Check out the rest of the interview with Herron, who discusses Hiddleston' contribution to the series, the show's retro look and the fun of playing with time travel.

The following interview has been lightly edited for length and clarity.

There's a discussion Loki has with Mobius (Owen Wilson) about hurting people as a trick to inspire fear, creating an illusion of power to establish his villainous cred. What observations do you have about this epiphany?

I think the thing that's so interesting about it is that he gets this view on himself that our Loki across the last 10 years, very slowly got through changing through those films. So I think the thing I love about it is, I think there's that moment where building off what he says there to Mobius, "You know, people just see me as a villain." And Mobius is like, "Well, that's not how I see it." And I think that's really powerful for me, because it shows that Loki obviously is feeling some empathy towards his actions, but at the same time, it kind of reminded me a bit of like "Good Will Hunting" with how Mobius is towards him. He's this kind of mentor, but also I think it lays the foundation that hopefully there can be a friendship with these characters going forward. Because Mobius is like, "I don't just see the bad in........

© Salon


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