Loki: Deconstructing He Who Remains’ Life’s Work at the Citadel at the End of Time
Production designer Kasra Farahani lays out how He Who Remains has left his mark from the beginning, and explains the final parting shot of the finale.
In the Season 1 finale of Marvel Studios’ Loki, “For All Time. Always.,” Loki and Sylvie enchant Alioth long enough to see what lies beyond the Void—the Citadel at the End of Time. After all the pain and suffering they’ve endured at the hands of the Time Variance Authority (TVA), they will now finally meet its maker.
While the duo is unsure of who they will find at the End of Time, series production designer Kasra Farahani assures us that He Who Remains has made his presence known since the very beginning, when Loki first stepped foot in the bureaucratic organization in the first episode, “Glorious Purpose.”
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The Citadel at the End of Time exists on top of an asteroid. Speaking to Marvel.com, Farahani reveals the inspiration, “In the comics, there’s precedent for the Citadel at the End of Time being on an asteroid,” referring to THOR (1966) #245. “What I proposed, early on, was this idea that the entire building, all of the architecture, was carved in situ from the asteroid; there were no other building materials,” comparing it to carvings like Petra in Jordan. The Citadel at the End of Time would be all carved from this black stone with gold vein embellishments.
Farahani recommends fans to rewatch the series and spot the citadel stone making its presence early on, pointing out that the statues in Judge Renslayer’s office, the front of the judge’s dais in the Time Court, and the elevator to the Time Keepers’ chamber, are all carved from the same stone. “This is the link from He Who Remains to the TVA — this rock that the whole place is quarried from,” says the production designer.
The Citadel at the End of Time is meant to punctuate He Who Remains’ position as “this sad, lonely figure rattling around a big empty space.” After all, the creator of the TVA had to stave off his other variants, culminating in the Mutiversal War. Achieving cosmic harmony is an arduous and solitary task. To reflect He Who Remains’ eons of isolation, Farahani remarks, “The thinking with the Citadel was that it was in ruins except for the office. He retreated from all the different parts of the Citadel, abandoned them, and just holed up in his office.”
Adding to the mystery of who the man behind the curtain was, Farahani constructed 13-foot-tall sculptures of these Sentinels of time in the Hall of Heroes that Loki and Sylvie navigate through upon their arrival to the Citadel at the End of Time. A lot of care and thought went into these sculptures, with Farahani noting, “The Sentinels are each holding half of an hourglass. One is collecting time by holding it up, and the other one’s holding it down and time is coming out of it.” As you navigate into the next room, Farahani designed an elaborate timekeeping apparatus where the room itself serves as the clock. He adds, “It’s slowly unveiling these kinds of mysteries of the place without telling you who he actually is until you get there.”
Loki and Sylvie follow He Who Remains into the elevator and take it up to his office. The office, showcasing a massive library, presented a new challenge for the design team. There were no lamps as everything was carved in situ from stone; there was no set dressing. The entire environment was lit entirely by windows and the glow of the fire from the fireplace. To bring an outside light source, the team came up with having a nebula outside of his office window.
For a man who existed from the beginning of time to the end of it, what kind of books would He Who Remains entertain himself with. “There are many books on chronology, orology, the study of time, the study of clocks,” lists Farahani. “There’s lots of astronomy and astrological study. All the different worlds’ cultures, and their philosophies on these topics. He’s somebody who’s trying to evaluate all possible permutations of reality, basically. That was how we created this mad scientist recluse for a persona for him.”
Farahani adds that the strange, anachronistic objects on his shelves and his desk are from the strange, far-flung corners of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, “things He’s picked up along the way that influence his thinking.”
In the final confrontation with Sylvie and Loki in his office, He Who Remains makes good on his threat. If they kill him, they’ll expose the Sacred Timeline and invite an infinite number of versions of himself who aren’t as keen on peace and harmony. With Sylvie sending Loki back to the TVA through a Time Door, the god of mischief frantically searches the bureaucratic organization for his friend, Mobius. Coming across the agent and Hunter B-15 in the TVA Archives, Loki explains that he and Sylvie made a grave mistake. He’s found the mastermind, and countless versions of this dangerous person is coming. They’re set on war and they need to prepare. However, as Mobius and Hunter B-15 question who he is, and if he’s a new analyst for the TVA. Mortified, Loki looks to the Time Keepers statue area and finds the statues are no longer there. In its place is a single statue of the face of the man he just met at the end of time in a futuristic suit— the variant He Who Remains warned them about—Kang.
Farahani reveals that the look and design of the Kang statue was a game day decision designed by the in-house VisDev team. He assures Marvel.com that the entire set dressing of the TVA architecture was identical to the TVA we started the series with, in order “to delay the audience and Loki’s understanding that they were in a different place, that they were in a different timeline.”
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