Spoilers for the first episode of Loki below.
It's safe to say that the pilot episode of Loki started strong. It answered several pressing questions leading up to the premiere of the show, but raised a few more — especially about the enigmatic, slightly sinister Time Variance Authority and its true motives. (And perhaps, another more rhetoric question: "What's a fish?")
In the pilot episode, director Kate Herron introduces the byzantine organisation that is the Time Variance Authority — and the wonderfully dated, brutalist building it resides in.
We watch as Loki is unceremoniously and uncaringly whisked through a dizzying series of rooms and bureaucratic red tape, before winding up in a parody of an drab waiting room, replete with a disturbingly cheerful animated ad that plays on loop on the wall-mounted TV. (A guard insists that Loki take a queue ticket in the otherwise empty room. "There's only two of us in here," Loki deadpans; he takes one anyway.)
Director Herron says that feeling of claustrophobia and frustration that Loki experiences in the TVA was intentional — and based on her own personal experiences. "I actually spent a lot of my life working in admin offices as a temp, so I had a lot of personal experience in bureaucratic organisations to bring," she said in an interview with Entertainment Weekly.
But it's in the TVA's architecture that we might find some hints at where the organisation — and the series — might be headed.
Much of the architecture of the TVA building is based on brutalism: Think plain, exposed concrete, angular lines and an overall sense of coldness and detachment. It's something most noticeable in the courtroom scenes, and the interrogation room that Mobius takes Loki to. Several scenes for the TVA headquarters were also filmed at the Atlanta Marriott Marquis, a hotel famed for its vertiginous atrium.
Contrary to how it's now perceived, brutalism was once seen as an utopian ideal for architects; it was said that this particular style was all about democratising architecture — and in turn, the city — thus making it more open and accessible to all.
The style gained popularity in the 1950s to 60s, and was especially widespread through communist European countries of the time, like the Soviet Union. Over time, however, brutalism fell out of style as more began to associate these blocky high-rise buildings with crime, decay, and social deprivation. Many now see it as a style that represents not just bureaucracy, but also oppression.
Much of this echoes the TVA's idealistic — though arguably flawed — view of the world. They were put in place by a higher authority to enforce the theological-sounding "Sacred Timeline" — something that Loki himself questions and mocks multiple times during the pilot. Their view on life is essentially fatalistic: That every human being on earth must follow a fixed path that's already predetermined by a higher power, or risk being "pruned", should they deviate. Furthering the dogmatic motif is the fact that the TVA court is structured like religious institution — austere pews, ecclesiastical murals and all.
Adding on to the foreboding atmosphere is a general sense of staidness and decay in the TVA: There's Mobius' drab brown suit, the low ceilings and windowless rooms, and of course, TVA office drone Casey's hilarious but piteous admission that he's "lived [his] entire life behind a desk."
Still, there's no telling yet how director Herron might frame the organisation over the next five episodes, or whether the rogue Variant's rampage has anything to do with the TVA's stringent dogma. As others have pointed out: Only time will tell.