With the six-episode Loki, it’s a different prospect – visually, structurally and in ambition – with the series centred on the villainous trickster-in-chief who quickly became a fan favourite after his debut in 2011 film Thor.
Set off-world in a dimension or place ruled by the Time Variance Authority, whose purpose is to maintain the integrity of the sacred timeline and prevent multiverses, Loki finds himself recruited by TVA agent Mobious (Owen Wilson) to stop a threat.
It’s an intriguing premise anchored by the shenanigans of a character the MCU fans just love to watch.
The Loki fandom, who received the first episode with rapturous delight if social media reactions are anything to go by, is something Loki head writer Michael Waldron harnessed when he was tapped for the role.
“When I got the job, I immediately started to lurk in different little corners of the Loki fandom and just familiarise myself with who was still really passionate about this character after he had died in [Avengers: Infinity War] a year or so prior,” Waldron told news.com.au.
“They relate with this character, and they see themselves in Loki and his humanity and his vulnerability.”
Hopefully those fans aren’t relating to the megalomaniacal, world-conquering parts of Loki but the parts of Loki that – despite his nature – form real connections to his family. Like with his mother Frigga, played by Rene Russo.
Russo’s character was killed in Thor: The Dark World, a calamitous event that had a real effect on Loki’s development, but the Loki we’re following in the Disney+ series hasn’t had this formative experience yet. He’s the one plucked from the 2012 timeline, just after he tried to subjugate Earth by unleashing aliens on New York City.
But Waldron knew Loki’s relationship with Frigga was a pivotal one for the Asgardian’s emotional grounding, which is why the first episode of Loki featured the scene in which Loki watches Frigga die in a flashforward of sorts.
It might seem like an unlikely source but the significance of that scene had its conception, in part, in the Loki fandom when Waldron realised how many people felt the way he did about that Loki-Frigga relationship.
“They were so moved and affected by Loki’s relationship with his mother, which I felt was a really strong thing and resulted in some really strong, dramatic moments in Thor: The Dark World.
“For a lot of people online, that was a relationship they absolutely love. So, that gave me the confidence to really build a pivotal moment in episode one, around Loki’s mother and around her death.”
Waldron is on the East Coast of the US at present, having returned in April after spending many months in London on the production of Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, which he also co-wrote in addition to being the head writer of Loki.
The first episode of Loki debuted on Disney+ at 3am American eastern time, but he didn’t stay up for the reactions after his wife “made me shut my phone off and actually get some rest”.
But the moratorium didn’t last long as he had to wake up early for this round of interviews and remembered, “Oh, sh*t, it’s like Christmas morning, and I got online and furiously read everything. Everybody seems pretty happy with the first episode so far, so that’s good.”
Many of those social reaction specifically referenced Hiddleston’s performance in that scene in which he finds out about Frigga.
“It’s rewarding for us because these fans notice what you’re doing and why you’re doing it.
“I haven’t had quite enough time to see who’s unspooled the entire show, who’s figured it all out yet. I’m sure somebody on Reddit has already cracked it, and my hats off to them.”
An audience of invested fans also comes in handy when it comes to Loki’s high-concept themes involving time travel, free will and determinism – not exactly subjects broached in an old episode of Friends.
But Waldron had no qualms about whether it would be too challenging for audiences to grasp.
“When you’re doing a show about all of time and an organisation that manages all of time, then I think you’ve got to ask those questions, and Loki is inherently a philosophical character.
“Obviously, there’s a concern of ‘does that slow things down, does that remain interesting?’ But I find that stuff thrilling, more than action sequences at times. I hope the fans do as well.
“I trust the audience,” he said. “I know how smart audiences are now. I’m glad we got to make the show in 2021 when audiences are smarter than ever before.
“We’ve all been calibrated to expect that even our blockbuster, popcorn entertainment be good and be thoughtful. It’s not enough for it to just have cost a lot of money to make, it has to challenge us because I think that’s what people want.”
Loki is streaming now on Disney+ with new episodes available weekly on Wednesdays