Avengers: Endgame introduced time travel into the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and it required a whole exposition-filled conversation for fans who may have been expecting it to work as they’ve seen in other franchises like Back to the Future and Star Trek. Now Loki has come along and made things even more complicated by expanding on those rules.
Loki head writer Michael Waldron recently discussed how he and the show’s writing staff built on those rules and had to define a whole new set of them by introducing the Time Variance Authority. It’s all very nerdy and geeky, but this is exactly the kind of stuff we love to hear about when it comes to making projects like this.
Collider had an extensive interview with Michael Waldron about all things Loki, and one of the more fascinating bits was just how meticulously planned the series needed to be with regards to time travel. Waldron explained:
“That was the great challenge of our show, it was because the Time Variance Authority is an organization that literally manages and polices all of time, we had to define what time is to them and what time is in the MCU. How does it move? What is time travel? How does it operate? We had to essentially create an institutional knowledge among the writer’s room. A foundation of what constitutes a broken time law and what doesn’t, so that we could then just, which is about Loki breaking a time law, and then you have to move all that stuff as far to the background as humanly possible, because you don’t want the audience focusing on the rules of time travel during your show.”
Defining Time Travel
What makes Loki even more challenging than Avengers: Endgame is that there’s scrutiny every single week as the show unfolds with a new episode. That’s why Waldron and the Loki writing staff had to carefully decide how to define time travel, and it ended up being one of the most entertaining aspects of the show. Waldron said:
“Endgame laid the foundation for what time travel is in the MCU. It was our job to build that out further and to identify, ‘All right, how does this work? How does it look? Is time travel magic? Is it scientific? Is it engineered, is it cast?’ Those are all questions we had to ask and define for ourselves. I think that what’s fun about the TVA is it takes something remarkable, like time travel, and really packages it in a very soulless, sort of bureaucratic way. That’s what was exciting to me, as a writer, was to take something so magical and just make it utterly soulless.”
Not only does the procedural approach to time travel bring some comedy to the table, but it also helps make the show feel familiar while also dealing with the complications of time travel in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
How Rick and Morty Helped
In our own interview with Michael Waldron, this kind of difficult sci-fi task is exactly where his work on the Adult Swim series Rick and Morty came in handy. Since that show tackles complex sci-fi concepts in a comedic way almost every episode, it helped Waldron figure out how to explain the rules of the TVA in a clear and concise manner. Waldron told us last week:
“Rick and Morty was helpful in the sense that, in that show, we would introduce a big, pretty complicated concept sometimes… and we’d have to explain it very quickly in a way that the audience can understand and then not be hung up on, so they could just go on the emotional journey. That was exactly what we had to do with this show, with all the time travel and the TVA.”
With only one episode of Loki streaming right now, we’re not sure if all the careful time travel planning has fully paid off for the series just yet. There’s a chance things could get even more complex as the show continues, and surely fans will be looking for loopholes in how time travel is established in the MCU after this. After all, like WandaVision, this is likely another seed being planted that will grow into Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, so there’s plenty more multiversal time travel shenanigans to come.
For more from Michael Waldron, check out our interview right here. The first episode of Loki is streaming now.
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