Warning: the following interview contains spoilers about tonight’s first episode of season 2 of Loki

After Loki’s amiga Sylvie (Sophia Di Martino) opted to kill He Who Remains (Jonathan Majors) spurring multiple nefarious versions of the newbie villain across several timelines, Loki was sent back to where it all started: the bureaucratic, office grind of the TVA — but a very different one; one where his new best friend Mobius (Owen Wilson) doesn’t recognize him. Out of touch with his soulmate, Loki is trying to find his way back to her. However, like Chicken Little, he’s trying to tell everybody that the sky is falling; that Kang the Conqueror is coming their way. We talk with Marvel executive and Loki season 2 EP Kevin Wright, who is with the series from start to finish, script to post, about the daunting task of living up to what was a spectacular season one.

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EP and director Kate Herron left some big shoes to fill on Loki season one and was shocked when she told Deadline she would not be returning for season 2. What went on there?

Kevin Wright: Throughout season one, I was constantly teasing her with, ‘Hey, when we come back for season two,’ and she said she made it very clear through shooting, she’s like, ‘This one’s it’ and I think it was purely from the…She really put everything into it, and look, COVID was right in the middle of shooting.

So, it was an even longer commitment than she had initially even signed up for, and while that was happening and while we were shut down, she was editing, and we were working together through that. I think she felt like she really put her heart and soul into it, and she wanted to be able to hand the storytelling reins over to other filmmakers, and her fingerprints are certainly on it, and she was somebody that, when we first met her, knew she was fully aligned with what we wanted to make.

So she departs, who do you go to from there? The new directors Justin Benson and Aaron Moorhead? Were they driving the ship on season 2?

KW: There was a little bit of downtime. Before they even came on, (EP & star) Tom (Hiddleston) and I kind of recalibrated. Figured out what we wanted this new season to be. We spent a lot of time developing that. Eric Martin had come on roughly around additional photography on season one as our season two kind of lead writer, and so, the three of us just starting building out story.

And there was a long stretch of just writers’ room, developing these scripts, figuring out what it was going to be, while we figured out where we would go in the directing front. Pretty early on, we knew we were going to bump up (production designer) Kasra Farahani to direct, as well. He was with us in the writers’ room, so he had already taken on a big creative role there and had so much to do with the world-building in season one. (VFX Supervisor) Dan DeLeeuw even kind of came on fairly early just because he was with us in that post-production process of season one. And he’s such a storied brain, we brought him in, but yeah, we needed that captain. I had met with Justin and Aaron. I brought them into the studio before season one. We had met generally. I really liked them for Loki. We had already brought on Kate, and so we passed them off to another project, which ended up not working out, either, and then they ended up becoming Moon Knight.

So, they were guys who were in our system, that we liked and had been in the periphery of Loki, and while they were doing additional photography for Moon Knight, I recruited Kevin Feige, the big guns, to go in there and visit them on set and say, ‘Hey, we want you to take the reins of Loki and come in on that.’ So, it was like a meandering process, but it had felt like they were eventually going to come on and work on this.

Loki season one is perfect television in the Mr. Robot sense of the word. Coming off season one, what were the challenges? You’ve established this great world, great villain in Jonathan Majors’ He Who Remains – was it a high bar to jump?

KW: Yes. Incredibly high bar. Partially, though, one of the biggest challenges was, early on, Tom and I just talking about not only was season one good, and then people liked it, which is not a given. We had a really great time making it, and it was a crazy time in the world, but it was, like, a really exciting, happy process for everybody involved, and coming back for a season two did feel a little bit like, well, how do we capture that lightning in a bottle again?

And so, we had a lot of conversations about we can’t just come back and try to play the hits and do what we did in season one, because even if we recapture it and do that again, it won’t be fulfilling, and I think there was a sense of we built something really cool, and the audience went along with it. It was big sci-fi weird stuff, and if they have bought it, it felt like we had a lot of, then, freedom to go further and deeper with these characters and not fast-forward. Like, it had this great cliffhanger.

Let’s pick up in that: what is the drama and the stakes of what is happening with Loki in the TVA with Sylvie? And I think anything that could be scary about picking up in a new season like this goes away when everybody just starts going, what is right for these characters? We’re not trying to build some bigger Marvel arc. We’re not trying to do this. If we’re true to these characters, we will deliver on what people liked about season one, and we can build the world out and dive deeper into these characters and their drama.

So, tonight we see that there’s cacophony. Loki returns to the TVA, Mobius forgets him. Sylvie’s lost. However, the TVA was destroyed in season one, and we come back to place where it’s still in existence. Was this just the best place to start with the mishegoss of timelines?

KW: I think, for us, the exciting thing then was, in that chaos of multiverse, to be able to play with those first few minutes of season two, being loose footing for Loki, trying to make sense of what is happening. Is this a different TVA, which shouldn’t make sense, because it’s outside of time? So, it’s not like it’s a different reality. Is this ours? Why don’t they remember him then?

And I think it just gave us a groundwork. We wanted to come in and not do the same thing in season two. We had a high bar that we wanted to hit, and a cyclical story structure is hard to do. Eric, our writer, even said, I think we can pull this off, but it’s going to be messy for a while, while we figure it out. That opening allowed us the tools and the groundwork to start telling this time-looping narrative, and it was sort of the mechanism to kind of get this whole thing rolling. That just gave us a lot of character drama.

Now Sylvie – we see her for a minute toward the end of episode one. That’s Loki looking into the future…

KW: Yeah. So, in the context of that, he’s been slipping in the past and to the present, and in that moment, he has slipped into the future, and so, he is seeing something in Sylvie that has yet to happen for him on his personal timeline, that will loop back around again.

Does Loki season 2 like other Marvel series bridge to another big movie in the near future? Clearly, the next Avengers: Kang Dynasty, but are there others?

KW: Nothing that I could say in the near future. The implications will ripple into other projects, though, certainly, and the TVA is an organization that will continue to have stories to tell, which is one of the exciting things about it to us.

Is there an arc here? Do you guys have, like, a five-season plan, a three-season plan, or do you take it season by season?

KW: We take it season by season, and there are certainly things that Tom and I and other casts have talked about of where we see this going, and I know there’s some excitement for that internally, but just from a storytelling standpoint, I think we always conceived of seasons 1 and 2 as a whole. That these are two chapters of the same book, and that season two is finishing that book, and there are other stories to be told there, but I think they would be new books, if that’s not too coy.

Are we going to be just as shocked as we were at the end of season one? I mean, season one was jaw-dropping.

I hope so, but what I will say is it’s not a cliffhanger. We want to be able to deliver real fulfillment in what we’re doing, but I do think it’ll be exciting and unexpected and everything people like about this show.

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