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'Loki' director teases the future of He Who Remains in the MCU: 'He's such a different villain to Thanos'
Loki shocked audiences yesterday by confirming itself as the first MCU series on Disney+ to be renewed for a second season. It was kind of a no-brainer when you're dealing with something as massive as, say, a multiverse of endless possibilities.
In addition to announcing more adventures for Tom Hiddleston's god of mischief, the Season 1 finale also introduced a character who could be shaping up to be Marvel Studios' next Thanos-level baddie.
***WARNING! The following contains major spoilers for the Season 1 finale of Loki!***
That character is, of course, a benevolent version of Kang the Conquerer (played by Lovecraft Country's Jonathan Majors), a brilliant scientist from the 31st century who created the TVA in order to prevent all-out multiversal war between his more combatant selves. However, that war seems inevitable, now that Sylvie (Sophia Di Martino) has murdered "Kang Prime." This decision leads to innumerable branches on the Sacred Timeline that will allow those other Kangs to come pouring through "like vomit through the bottom of a wet paper bag," to quote Stephen King.
"It sets the table for future outings with them," Loki director Kate Herron explained to IGN. "It was a massive responsibility and privilege to bring that character to the screen. He's such a different villain to Thanos. I remember what I saw in the outline when I first pitched [to direct the series]."
“We wanted it to really end with a bang and have a huge impact on the MCU moving forward,” head writer Michael Waldron told Marvel.com. “Knowing that Kang was probably going to be the next big cross-movie villain, and because he is a time-traveling, multiversal adversary, it just always made so much sense. I came up with that big multiversal war mythology and pitched it out in the room one day to our producers. And they said, 'Yeah, let's go for it.' We knew we were going to end up meeting the man behind the curtain. And then it was just on us to make sure that that meeting really delivered."
The Kang we meet in the Season 1 finale isn't pure evil per se. He's more of an eccentric and self-righteous recluse who, like the Wizard of Oz or Willy Wonka, operates in a morally gray area for some sort of greater good. He fully believes that what he's doing is right and Waldron described the character as a "very charismatic sociopath." We can't be as complimentative for the other Kangs across the multiverse, who are only interested in pummeling other realities into submission.
“You had to leave a lot of meat on the bone in terms of how evil he could be, because that's He Who Remains' whole thing, that 'It's not me who you should be afraid of,'” Waldron continued. “‘It's the other versions of me that are going to come.’ It was trying to really hint at that terrifying evil within without going all the way there."
The quantum ripples of what Sylvie has done are felt immediately once Loki returns to the TVA and attempts to warn Mobius (Owen Wilson) and Hunter B-15 (Wunmi Mosaku) about what's happened. His warning falls on deaf ears because Mobius has no idea who Loki is. Just then, a horrified Loki — channeling Charlton Heston at the end of Planet of the Apes — claps eyes on a towering statue of Kang where the stone effigies of the Time-Keepers once stood.
"We wanted to end Loki's story well, but also there's this cliffhanger of, 'Where's he going to go?'," Herron said of that twist ending that would fill Rod Serling with pride. "It was an ending that we all knew we wanted...that the multiverse would be born and open again, and here he goes."
The birth of the multiverse is something that will be felt across several Phase 4 movies, including Spider-Man: No Way Home, Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, and Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania. In fact, Kang's arrival in the MCU was first mentioned in connection with the third Ant-Man film. "That's what's so exciting about these TV shows, they are going to interconnect with the movies in a big way," Herron added. "I found that really exciting, not only as a fan, but just as a filmmaker."
All six episodes of Loki's debut season are now available to stream on Disney+.