Leave it to the god of mischief to liven up the Disney+ schedule. As portrayed by Tom Hiddleston, he first announced that Wednesdays were the new Fridays when the first season of Loki debuted in the summer of 2021. Then the series surprised everyone by announcing a second season — the program was previously believed to be a miniseries — only to disappear for the better part of two years while the season filmed and completed post-production work.
But the wait is nearly over. Thursday is the new Friday as Loki returns October 4 to dazzle viewers with its mind-bending, time-looping sci-fi drama. But as it has been some time since Loki returned to a Time Variance Authority, featuring the presumed face of the enemy all around him and hard-won friends unaware of just who Loki Laufeyson is, let’s get primed to return to the mid-century confines of the TVA. Here are five things to know before you sit down to watch the premiere of Loki’s Certified Fresh second season.
While two years might seem like a long time for a television show — it’s also the time fans of House of the Dragon, The Sandman, and The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power have to wait until those programs return — Loki is part of the interlocking Marvel Cinematic Universe. So, naturally, enough, one might wonder if films like Thor: Love & Thunder and shows like Secret Invasion will matter to Loki’s ongoing adventure outside the confines of ordinary time.
As far as we can tell, much like the TVA itself, Loki’s story continues to take place away from current events within the MCU itself. Loki is oblivious to the events of subsequent films — Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, Spider-Man: No Way Home, Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, Eternals, Black Panther: Wakanda Forever, and Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 — and all of the Disney+ shows following Loki, which includes Hawkeye, Moon Knight, Ms. Marvel, She-Hulk: Attorney at Law, and Secret Invasion.
But to make things even more extreme, this variant of Loki is pulled from the aftermath of the Battle of New York featured in Avengers: Endgame. He never went through the growth his prime variant experienced in the middle two Thor films. He is aware his prime died at the hands of Thanos, though.
So, if a viewer is a little behind on Marvel happenings, Loki only requires a memory of the first season and, perhaps, an understanding of who he was in the first Thor and Avengers films. All of that material is, as of now, within easy reach on Disney+.
So where did Loki leave things off two years ago?
Sylvie (Sophia Di Martino), a female variant of Loki, succeeded in her glorious purpose — killing the man responsible for her troubles at the TVA. It just so happened that man was He Who Remains (Jonathan Majors), the architect of the TVA and, as he explained to Sylvie and Loki, the only will in the whole of creation preventing a Multiverse war between his other variants. He also told them a much more menacing and terrible version of himself would emerge if Sylvie did away with him and ended his stranglehold over the Sacred Timeline.
Wait, what’s the Sacred Timeline?
It is, as explained in Loki’s first season, a proscribed flow of time the TVA manages from a position outside of time. When variants, like the title character or Sylvie, are detected, a strike team “prunes” them and essentially rewinds events so their actions cannot give rise to a divergent branch of the timeline. As it happens, “pruning” is an apt term even if it describes murder on a scale that is inconceivable. But also complicating matters: He Who Remains staffed the TVA with variants of people on the timeline. Their memories erased, they have no idea they once had lives outside of He Who Remains’ version of events.
The time-twistyness of the series is one of its great assets, even if it is awash in strange terms and largely set in a place outside of time: a concept that will bake anyone’s noodle with just a few moments of contemplation.
Meanwhile, the Sacred Timeline is the bulwark against that all-out war in the Multiverse. Although, the only skirmish seen elsewhere in the MCU is a variant of He Who Remains called Kang (also Majors), who appeared in Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania. But according to Marvel, Kang is the big bad of the current Multiverse Saga, which will eventually tie the events of Loki closer to the rest of the films and shows.
All that said, we’ll argue the show is quite enjoyable in its own right thanks to Hiddleston’s dedication to the part and a strong cast of characters, including Owen Wilson’s TVA agent Mobius M. Mobius, Wunmi Mosaku’s Hunter B-15, Eugene Cordero’s Casey, Gugu Mbatha-Raw’s Ravonna Renslayer, and the TVA’s central AI, Miss Minutes (voiced by Tara Strong).
Back in our reality, Loki had a monumental shift of its own with season 1 director Kate Herron departing the show just as its second season was announced and head writer Michael Waldron moving on to write other Marvel projects, including the final Multiverse Saga film, Avengers: Secret Wars.
Rotten Tomatoes caught up with Loki executive producer Kevin Wright to ask about the sense of continuity as Moon Knight directors Justin Benson and Aaron Moorhead — along with a small group of other directors — and Eric Martin took over the roles vacated by Herron and Waldron.
“It was a pretty easy handoff, which sounds crazy when you lose your lead writer and director,” Wright told us. Both he and Hiddleston, who also serves as an executive producer, were there from the start and had, he said, a “real sense of continuity between ourselves and the team” going into the second season.
Martin, for one thing, was part of the season 1 writing staff and co-wrote that season’s finale with Waldron. Additionally, Wright said Martin was the “writer throughout production” of season 1 as Waldron was already deep into scripting Multiverse of Madness.
“By the time we were doing additional photography for season 1, we were already starting to build these scripts and stories for season 2,” Wright added. So, on the that front, the transition was already baked in.
Switching from one director to a group fulfilled something Herron always desired for the show: “She wanted this to be a little bit like a series like Doctor Who, where different filmmakers could come in, take the reins, drive it in a stylistic direction that they wanted to do, but that it was [also] like an institution,” he said.
“So much of what Tom and I had to do was build that base, build the continuity in between, and then other people could come in and play in our playground,” Wright continued.
That base includes returning crew like the entire editorial team, VFX Supervisor Dan DeLeeuw — who also helms an episode this season — and production designer Kasra Farahani, who maintains the TVA’s intoxicating mid-20th century aesthetic, but also adds writer and director to his season 2 contributions.
And as for Benson and Moorhead?
“Justin and Aaron just hit the ground running,” Wright said.
And despite the two years between seasons, Loki wastes no time getting viewers back up to speed. Loki must still deal with the fact Mobius and B-15 do not recognize him. He also has to contend with all of the statues of He Who Remains littered around the TVA. So don’t expect a cozy reintroduction to the ideas or characters. Loki literally has no time for a piece of pie as the action speeds up from moment one.
“This is something that Waldron would talk a lot about in the writers’ room,” Wright said. “I think then I carried over just in my thinking of these things, he would always talk about story acceleration.”
Instead of allowing a certain plot point to dominate the season, it could end up being 10 minutes of story and then exploring the consequences of resolving it quickly.
“As the series progresses, it was always that, ‘How can we condense this? How can we speed it up?’” he added. “And Justin and Aaron are huge advocates of that: ‘All right, we’re going to write the [page-long] version of this exposition. How do we get it down to two lines and a visual so that we can just move, move, move?’”
That sense of acceleration is definitely on display in the season 2 premiere.
As various previews and trailers have revealed, Everything Everywhere All at Once Oscar-winner Ke Huy Quan joins the program as a mysterious character called Ouroboros (aka “O.B.”). You won’t have to wait too long to meet the character, though, and he immediately makes sense in the altered, Brazil-esque world of the TVA. And while we can’t say if his other Multiversal experience will come into play on Loki, the actor’s charming demeanor immediately meshes with Loki and the other TVA agents.
But is there more to him? Like a full name? Maybe. But consider we’ve gone all this time with no clues about Mobius beyond his love of Jet Skis. OB may have his own quirks and links back to a life in the Sacred Timeline.