How Tom Hiddleston Fulfilled His ‘Glorious Purpose’ With ‘Loki’ Season 2

It was the end of production on the first season of “Loki” in Atlanta. Writer Eric Martin and producer Kevin R. Wright walked up to Tom Hiddleston, who was standing outside of the soundstage on a tea break. “This is the last day of Season 1. What are we doing for Season 2?” Martin asked.

Hiddleston responded by quoting from “Four Quartets” by T.S. Eliot: “We shall not cease from exploration / And the end of all our exploring / Will be to arrive where we started / And know the place for the first time.” Wright and Martin paused and asked him what he meant by that, and Hiddleston replied, “I don’t know. I think we just have to bring it full circle. There has to be some sort of poetic catharsis and redemption to this long journey of struggle and pain and self-discovery. Let’s aim for that.”

And that’s what they did.

In the second (and seemingly final) season of “Loki,” Hiddleston’s God of Mischief finds redemption. But not in the way you might expect. This is a character who, among other things, led the Battle of New York against the Avengers, attempted to kill his brother Thor multiple times and, in Loki’s inaugural season, threw the entire Marvel Cinematic Universe into chaos by monkeying with the various timelines that constitute the multiverse.

Ke Huy Quan (left), Wunmi Mosaku, Tom Hiddleston and Owen Wilson in “Loki” (Gareth Gatrell/Marvel)

This season, he travels to the Chicago World’s Fair of 1893 and teams up with a benevolent variant of He Who Remains (Jonathan Majors), the timekeeper who Loki bested at the end of Season 1. He makes friends, loses them and hops around timelines and multiverses. At the end, he takes responsibility for himself and the timelines he was so desperate to save to ensure the safety of his friends.

This is the most layered version of Loki, whom Hiddleston has been playing since “Thor” in 2011, and the perfect sendoff for the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s most beloved bad guy. It’s playful and poetic, moving and eye-popping. And it could also earn Hiddleston his first Emmy nomination since “The Night Manager” back in 2016.

Hiddleston calls playing Loki “the great surprise and delight of my whole life.” He was first cast in 2009, when he was 28 years old. “I was thrilled to be given the opportunity to play this complex, deep, ancient, elevated character that represents playfulness, spontaneity, unpredictability,” Hiddleston said. “What a sandbox to play in.” But he didn’t think he’d be playing the character 15 years later.

“The great surprise for me is that it’s been a joy every time,” he said. “It’s never felt like the same job. It’s always felt new. It’s always felt inspiring for different reasons — different actors, different stories, different themes. And yet all the way through a depth and a range of feeling.”

For the second season of the series, Hiddleston thought a lot about that Eliot quote. “What does that mean for Loki?” he said. “What would it mean for Loki to arrive where he started and know they thought back to Loki’s first appearance in Thor. It starts with a scene of Loki and Thor as children. Their father Odin (Anthony Hopkins) says to them, “Only one of you will ascend to the throne, but you were both born to be kings.” (Spoiler alert!) Loki does inherit a throne at the end of Season 2, but it comes in a “shape he would never have known and would never have recognized,” Hiddleston said.

Tom Hiddleston in “Loki” (Marvel)
Tom Hiddleston in “Loki” (Marvel)

When the team was working on season 2, Hiddleston wrote “glorious purpose” on a whiteboard in the writers room. It was a callback to the first Avengers movie, when Loki tells Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) that he is “burdened with glorious purpose.”

“The glorious purpose he always wanted has no glory in it. It has only burden,” Hiddleston said. “He would finally end up in a position of responsibility and in a position of belonging. But he would be alone in his belonging.” That, Hiddleston said, was a jumping-off point and would guide the show to its conclusion. Martin told him, “The first season is Loki learning how to love and the second season should be Loki learning how to lead.”

“We’re given this extraordinary privilege and opportunity to create fiction,” the actor said. “But you want the fiction to resonate for people in their souls and in their lives.” In other words: glorious purpose, fulfilled.

This story first ran in the Drama Series issue of TheWrap’s awards magazine. Read more from the issue here.

Gary Oldman photographed by Molly Matalon for TheWrap
Gary Oldman photographed by Molly Matalon for TheWrap

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