It's been—what's the word?—a hectic couple of months for Loki's executive producer and head writer, Eric Martin. Rolling out a six-episode television series from a billion-dollar-plus-grossing superhero universe is no easy feat, even during normal times. But doing it during an actors' strike, which pretty much shifts the promotion of said television series entirely onto your own shoulders? Phew.
So when I caught up with Martin not even 24 hours after Loki's uber-chaotic Season Two finale aired, I asked him, you know, how he was doing. "I'm good," he said. "Relieved more than anything. I'm not great at celebrating victories. But I definitely felt some pride and had a bunch of people over from the show last night to watch the finale. That was a lovely event."
Even by MCU-postgame standards, we had a lot to talk about. Of course, the Loki finale begged a multiverse's worth of questions: Is Tom Hiddleston's Loki the most powerful being in this entire story, quite literally holding time and space together? Will Owen Wilson's Mobius transition to a full-time, Heineken-sipping suburban dad? Is Season Three in the cards? Also, how Martin handled the ongoing legal issues of star Jonathan Majors, which emerged after filming wrapped. Uneven responses from reviewers and fans, too. Add to that, Variety's explosive dispatch from earlier this month, which alleged significant turmoil at Marvel.
Here, Martin opened up about Loki's journey to true godliness, where Sophia Di Martino's Sylvie goes next, his thoughts on Loki's critics, and more. This conversation has been edited and condensed for clarity.
ESQUIRE: Before we really get into it, I have to ask: How does food work at the TVA?
ERIC MARTIN: That's an interesting question, because time isn't passing. I always approached it as if there is a [nutritive] requirement. Thermodynamics still apply and they need to create energy to move. But they don't get much time for it. Everything moves quickly at the TVA. You're always working and you get your nine-minute lunch break. There was a great gag we had in Season One. We ended up just having to cut it, but it was funny. We see a hunter in the cafeteria—they finish their meal, and then they just prune the tray. Instead of throwing anything away.
Now that we’ve seen the season, we know what the bookends are: Loki going from the He Who Remains aftermath to becoming the man at the end of time himself. Tell me about getting from point A to B.
The big idea was taking Loki from a lowercase-g god, to a capital-G God, powering him up to that place where he gets his throne—but it's not a throne he wants anymore. This is a duty. He's doing this so everyone else can have their lives. He's giving up the thing that he wants most so that everyone else can have their free will… We wanted to power up his abilities, but also his wisdom and knowledge.
Are we meant to understand that he’s suffering?
I leave that up to interpretation. That final image is meant to be ambiguous. So I'll let people make up their own minds there. If you look into mythology, someone like Atlas is an interesting person to look at with that.
Let’s talk about some of the other heroes. It’s great that Mobius is choosing the path of an Owen Wilson Character.
Mobius was the one in turmoil through all of this, truly not knowing which way to go. As much as he was this rascal that kind of broke the rules a little bit, he was a company man. Now, finding out that company isn't a place [where] he wants to work scrambled everything going into Season Two. So it's like, Well, what is my role? He just takes on the mission, while trying to ignore the other possibilities that are now out there. So with him by the end of the season, it's like he's just now able to go explore and figure out the opportunities that are out there.
I was surprised to see Sylvie alongside him in that moment. She seems to be in the same place of We’ll see where I go next.
Sylvie is interesting, because of all the stuff with McDonald's and her living that quiet life. It feels very gap year-ish. I'm not quite ready to grow up and do the thing. And she was pulled out of that. Now the work begins. I'm not sure where she goes from here. But I don't think she's going to live just a quiet life. Maybe she would. I don't know. But she's going to make a very active decision about what she's going to do—whatever that is. She's making that choice. It isn't just like, Oh, I'm going to feel things out. She's going to go in a direction.
Did you ever get to step foot in that McDonald's?
Oh, yeah. It was amazing. Everything was so period-specific. McDonald's has an in-house historian that advises on [projects like this]. It's one of those things I never considered like, Is that a thing? And then it's like, Of course it is. That's a gigantic company.
What about Ravonna's final scene?
I'll let people muse about what that can mean. She's up in the air. There are things that can happen with her. If you look to the comics, there are some fun inferences that can be drawn from the pyramid. And you know, who knows? Does Alioth kill her? Or did they strike up a friendship? Maybe Alioth remembers her? I don't know.
Jonathan Majors figures heavily into the season, between Victor Timely and the return of He Who Remains. I imagine it might have been a difficult position for you when allegations against Majors first surfaced. Tell me what happened next for you as a head writer.
You know, it's just: Try to keep it about the show. Let's do the best thing we can, here. There's so much, like—we just don't know about anything. So, OK, what can we do with our show? Let's just treat our show with respect, and you see what happens. It's a difficult situation all the way around.
Did you ever consider reshoots or editing the character out at any point in production?
You know, that's a larger studio conversation. For us, we were just focused on what we had and making that.
It does seem like everything was compiled and shot before his March arrest.
Yeah, no, we didn't do any reshoots for this season. There was no additional photography. So everything we shot, there in London, is what we see.
We see a small tease with the files—that the He Who Remains variants are running amok. Is it more likely that we see the character return in Loki, or somewhere else down the road? Or is that part of a larger studio conversation?
That is a decision that is made above my pay grade. They decide who's going to end up in what things.
On a macro level, where would you say Loki Season Two fits in within the overall Marvel story?
I actually don't know what the overall story is going to be. Things are so siloed off. I hope that we've been good teammates and created fertile ground for other things. The goal is to make it so good that the rest of the MCU comes to you. Obviously, I'd love to see all of our characters live on—OB and Ke certainly deserve to continue on. I'd be shocked if they didn't use them.
What would you say to the corner of fans and reviewers who have been critical of this season—and even the Marvel operation at large lately?
Thanks for watching? [Laughs.] No, I mean, I don't want to be ridiculous about that. Seriously, thanks for watching, and I hope they stuck with it. I think we had a challenging season with a lot going on. And I'm sure people at points got a little frustrated, like, Well, is this gonna lead to anything? But it always was.
That's the tough thing about Rotten Tomatoes, and people reviewing and weighing in on things that are in progress. Nobody's going out and reviewing a movie at the midpoint. It doesn't make any sense. You need to see the whole [season]. But I hope they stuck around, and I hope it landed for them. Ultimately, I'm just glad they watched.
That's a great point. Rotten Tomatoes does a Tomatometer for each episode, which is a different bar versus a binge release.
Yeah, for sure. I'm really happy. We had a weekly release. It's good for the industry. It's good for the viewers. It's good for the people making it. It makes what we do a little more precious, and it doesn't reduce it down to your weekend binge, and then you forget about it. It's good to live with these things, and to absorb them and fight about it. It makes it all more valuable.
With all the chatter lately about the state of the superhero genre, where do you see this type of storytelling going in the next five, 10, 15 years?
Does anybody know? I don't think anyone knows where Hollywood is going from year to year. I think we all have guesses. At the end of the day, it just comes down to making things that people want to see. And I haven't noticed less engagement, because my experience is all with Loki. I'm not sure with anything else, but I haven't seen any dip in enthusiasm. I've seen an increase. The fans of the show seemed like they've only gotten more excited about it. So, I don't know what to read. We can all kind of decipher that how we will. But I think we made a good show and people like it. At the end of the day, that's what it's about–you make something that's quality. You can connect with the audience, and the audience is going to connect with you.
What’s next for you?
I don't know. There are so many different paths. I'm super grateful to Marvel for this opportunity, because it was a huge door that was opened for me. I hope I did well by that opportunity, and that it will provide more opportunities.
My strike project was a novel about a family that wins the lottery, and it's just the worst thing that can happen to them. So I'm getting into editing my manuscript right now and hoping to go out with that next year. I just want to do good work, whatever form that's in. So I'm just looking out for quality. Is there a chance for something to be great? Can I work with people that I can learn from, that also care to make something great?
I love that mindset—especially during our current existential threat to the arts.
I have this feeling that we can still make great work in this industry that can draw lots of eyes. A lot of people are a little pessimistic about that. People just want to just make something and shove it out there. They think people will watch anything, but there is a hunger for quality filmmaking. I look at the '70s Hollywood and '90s indie cinema, when the big hits were also great pieces of art. Maybe I'm fooling myself and thinking that that's possible. But what's the point, if you're not trying to make something great?
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