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Marvel Knights Animation

Thor & Loki: Blood Brothers Episode 2 Postgame

'Thor & Loki: Blood Brothers' producer Ruwan Jayatilleke looks back at the second dramatic episode!

By Marc Strom

Loki has defeated Thor and conquered Asgard...but what happens next?

Producer Ruwan Jayatilleke continues to explore this question in Marvel Knights Animation's "Thor & Loki: Blood Brothers," with episode two debuting this past Wednesday on iTunes, XBox LIVE and PlayStation Network.

And as Loki pondered his dilemma in the most recent episode, we spoke with Jayatilleke to get his thoughts on the dramatic second installment of "Thor & Loki: Blood Brothers."

"Thor & Loki: Blood Brothers" episodes one and two available now

Marvel.com: Was there anything you’d learned about the process from producing the first episode that helped with the second?

Ruwan Jayatilleke: What I learned from episode one to episode two…is to really let the creative teams run with their imaginations. I pride myself on that from project to project. To be honest, I challenged these teams to bring their A-game and they all brought their A+ game. So as a producer on the project, a lot of my job was working with the teams on fine-tuning smaller elements rather than making broad-sweeping changes from episode to episode. In general what I learn through the episode development process is that it’s just as much about what we put up on the screen as what we don’t put up on the screen. From Mark Cowart’s and Joel Gibb’s co-directing of the episode to Magnetic Dream’s superb job animating the episode to the small screen and then James Snyder and Edge Studio bringing these outstanding acting performances from the cast, and tie it all together with Amotz Plessner of Underground Music's wonderful storytelling through [the] musical score, it’s a constant learning experience for me across the different pieces that make an episode. In terms of stepping back and not tinkering too much, it becomes easy to do with the aforementioned talented folks and their vision for "Thor & Loki: Blood Brothers."

Screenshot of Thor from "Thor & Loki: Blood Brothers"

Another thing I learned--or observed--on the second episode is really how important it was for all the teams to nail the story beats in harmony. The animation, music, and acting are all raising each other to higher levels of value for the audience. And that’s not to say that these elements were not in harmony in episode one. However it becomes so evident in episode two how well the creatives took Robert Rodi’s and Esad Ribic’s second chapter and worked their collective magic for a greater experience for all.

Marvel.com: Were there any sequences in this episode that were particularly challenging or interesting to animate? How so?

Joël Gibbs, Co-Director, Magnetic Dreams Studio: Thinking back over the production of episode two, I immediately think of Balder's tirade. It was particularly difficult to put together because in the comic the bulk of it takes place on one page over very few panels. If we had translated it directly we would have focused on close ups of Balder or Loki for up to a minute.  We tried several different approaches to cover the time and keep it alive.  Our goal was to illustrate some of the concepts that Balder is talking about without going overboard, but retain an abstract feel to it as it's talking about, universalities, eternity, gods...concepts that can't be plainly illustrated. We actually took several different passes at it. We included the medallion of Thor and Loki from the open, and Yggdrasil, the tree representing all the Norse worlds. We dug into Norse mythology or culture for elements, which eventually led us to using the runes.

I think the final piece turned out well. It has the right blend of elements--illustrative and abstract--to keep the story alive. The great voice work and music do a good job pulling the viewer deep into Balder's cosmic experience.

Screenshot of Thor vs. Loki from "Thor & Loki: Blood Brothers"

Marvel.com: Much of the episode is spent with Loki speaking with his prisoners--what type of impact do you think these discussions have on Loki’s mindset?

Ruwan Jayatilleke: To be honest, I am not sure it has an impact on his mindset because he has always set out to take over Asgard, usurp and subjugate his “oppressors,” take those gods to task, and to define his own destiny. At least in point of view, that’s been his goal.

The challenge for Loki is once he’s done all of that…what does he do next? That’s the psychological toll that creeps up on him. I find it interesting that despite Sif, Thor, and Balder being in a dungeon, Loki himself is a prisoner of his own delusions of fate and his paranoia throughout the episode. He has finally achieved everything, but in a sense nothing has changed…he is still reviled by many and in his attempt to show those who mocked him the error of their ways, he sways none of them.

So really has Loki changed anything? It remains to be seen in the latter parts of the story.

Marvel.com: How much sympathy do you personally have for Loki in this segment, as we begin to see his perspective of his treatment in the past?

Ruwan Jayatilleke: I had a lot of sympathy for Loki as a character, as I do for most of our fictional super villains. I definitely lean more towards the dark and villainy than most. [Laughs]

In all seriousness, what makes great stories work that revolve around opposing forces,"good vs. evil," etc. [are] highly complex antagonists like Loki. He has needs, goals, and feelings that run beyond just being society’s--or Asgard’s, in this case--malcontent. While not always justified, he has a reason for wanting those things other than being a plotting device or a reason to make a hero seem greater than said hero would be without Loki.

Definitely seeing his internal digestion of how events transpired is a big reason why one would have feelings of sympathy and empathy for him. It also gives anyone a reason to invest in him as a character rather than seeing him as just a means to an end. For me, it’s not just the way he sees his past and the various injustices upon him, but how cleverly and brutally honest he is when he says it to his persecutors. His greatest weapons really are cleverness, trickery--and a silver tongue!

Screenshot of Loki from "Thor & Loki: Blood Brothers"

What Robert and Esad did in the original story is challenge the paradigm of how stories between Thor and Loki are set out and resolve themselves. The interesting thing is the story itself breaks that fourth wall in a meta sort of way, by forcing the audience to confront Loki’s idea that Loki’s existence as a character was to be Thor’s foil both from Odin’s design as well as the actual conception of the character in Marvel’s version of Norse mythology. While this story does not attempt to give definitive answers on a meta assertion, it does raise the issue subtly in the story and hopefully prods a discussion outside the actual episode by people watching the animation or reading the comic book source material--or both.

Marvel.com: Balder gives Loki a history of his roles in various forms--why, even as he’s aware of it, is it impossible for him to break out of that mold?

Ruwan Jayatilleke: Well, I think that is what makes this story so great. It challenges us--the viewers--while putting Loki through the paces. We know but we don’t know what the answer is. Free will versus destiny. It’s something that most of us try to answer or debate about at one time or another in our lives because we wax on about life after taking an introduction to philosophy in college or because we have the audacity--sad but true--to think there’s just one simple answer. What the story does is it challenges the two ends of the spectrum, free will vs. fate, to extremes by having Loki do the impossible but still have [the] specter of destiny ready to take it all away.
Marvel.com: How did you approach Loki in his present and past forms? What were some of the differences between the two that you wanted to establish?

Ruwan Jayatilleke: It’s really what Robert and Esad set up through the story and visualization of Loki. He is a bit older, a bit wiser, a bit crazier, and bitter. But he’s still a trickster at heart. The main thing that this story establishes through the comic book source material and animation is that Loki has a humanity to him, despite being a god. The slings and arrows of a troubled past have taken their toll on him in not just the “evil” things he does but also in the hurt that prefaces and trails the things he says.  He is not an immovable rock or indestructible metal. The wear and tear is there on his face as well as in his heart. He is troubled, but as the story shows…he was not always embittered and he tried to work through it to no avail.

Marvel.com: What was your personal favorite moment from episode 2?

Ruwan Jayatilleke: The scene between Balder and Loki. Brilliant.  Phenomenal. Need I say more?

Marvel.com: Finally, what can fans look forward to in next week’s episode?

Ruwan Jayatilleke: Fighting your brother. An uncomfortable conversation with your father. And being completely embarrassed by your mother. Sounds like a lot like Thanksgiving at a lot of people’s homes! What’s not to look forward to in episode three!

Stay tuned to Marvel.com for even more on "Thor & Loki: Blood Brothers," and download episode one now on iTunes, XBox LIVE and PlayStation Network!

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