This story contains spoilers for the Season Two finale of Loki.

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.

MARVEL STUDIOS

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.

KATIE MARTIN

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; for the viewers; 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.

Originally published on Esquire US

The premiere of Stranger Things Season Five is still far off, but the writers' room is ready to share what they’ve been working on. Last night, the Stranger Writers X (formerly known as Twitter) account posted a picture of the script for Season Five. The picture shows the opening scene, which reads, “Darkness. The sound of cold wind. Groaning trees. And… a child’s voice. Singing a familiar song.” The song must be Kate Bush's "Running Up That Hill," right?

Meanwhile, the Stranger Things cast is preparing to film Season Five. Earlier this year, Noah Schnapp, who plays Will Byers in the series, said that filming was set to begin in May of 2023. Since then, production has been paused due to the ongoing SAG-AFTRA strike. Until production begins, all we know for sure is that Season Five is the final chapter of the show.

The Duffers confirmed as much in an open letter to fans via The Hollywood Reporter. “Seven years ago, we planned out the complete story arc for Stranger Things," they wrote. "At the time, we predicted the story would last four to five seasons. It proved too large to tell in four, but—as you’ll see for yourselves—we are now hurtling toward our finale.”

Let's change the subject, shall we? When you're ready, here's everything else we know about Season Five of Stranger Things so far.

How many episodes will there be in Season Five of Stranger Things?

Don't worry, Stranger Things heads. There are still anywhere from 80 to 120 hours of the show left, depending on how many volumes the brothers divvy Season Five up into. Kidding, mostly because it seems like Season Five will consist of eight episodes. In the meantime, though, we have one question—well, more of a worry—on our minds. After we lost the great, late Eddie Munson, are we in for another heartbreak?

We hate to say it, but yes, most likely, especially considering the Stranger Things crew is out and about, teasing their counterparts' deaths. In a new interview with Rolling Stone, Maya Hawke (who plays Robin), said, “I would love to die and get my hero’s moment. I’d love to die with honour, as any actor would.” Maya, stop it! Stop it right now. We can't take much more. Regardless, she added, "It’s the last season, so people are probably going to die." Ugh.

Are there any new characters in Season Five of Stranger Things?

Linda Hamilton, who famously starred in The Terminator, is joining Season Five of Stranger Things. It makes me wonder: What’s harder, dealing with a cyborg assassin or Vecna? I suppose we’ll have to wait and see!

Hamilton announced the casting news at Netflix’s Tudum event in Brazil. After greeting her former co-star Arnold Schwarzenegger, who is Netflix’s chief action officer (!), she said, “Good to see you, Arnold. Let’s get dinner soon... and everyone else, I’ll see you in Hawkins.”

Will Eddie Come Back in Stranger Things Season Five?

In our interview with Joseph Quinn, who plays the show's resident deviant, we asked whether or not the actor would like to return to Hawkins. (Despite his character's fate.) "Yeah, of course," Quinn said. "He's great fun to play and they're great people to play with. So yeah, I would be up for coming back, but it feels like his story's been told, slightly, to me." Ugh. At least there's a chance.

Regardless, Eddie's death is sure to affect our heroes—especially Dustin, who had to watch his buddy die in front of him. In an interview with TV Insider, Gaten Matarazzo, who plays Dustin, seemed to have very specific thoughts about how his character will live with the trauma. As Matarazzo said, "there’s no denying that there’s going to need to be a shift there and there’s going to need to be a bit of focus on the fact that nobody can really come back from seeing that." The rest of the actor's thoughts are worth checking out here:

[Dustin] has dealt with loss in the past. He’s seen horrible things, but to have a very close friend of his brutally die, not just there in front of him, but directly with him is [another thing]. The one thing that I’m always thinking about going into it is that we don’t necessarily see it happen, but Dustin would’ve had to have left [Eddie] there to get out and leave himself. And that’s something that I was thinking about during the scene with Eddie’s uncle. Because of the leg injury and because of Dustin’s lack of upper body strength, he would’ve needed to leave [Eddie’s] body there while needing to get out himself. And if they’re going to play with that, it’s something I’ll be thinking about quite a lot.”

What Will Happen in Season Five of Stranger Things?

How about we start with the interdimensional rift that turned Hawkins into a disaster site? The war between the Upside Down and Hawkins is fully on. The final shot shows massive, hellish clouds looming above the neighbourhood—and a field of flowers slowly dying. It nearly goes without saying that by opening the doorway between the Upside Down and Hawkins, the oft-terrorised Indiana town will slowly morph into the red-and-black hell our favourite kiddos have fought to destroy for the entirety of Stranger Things. TBD how long residents will be able to convince themselves that it was all just an earthquake.

Does the gang have one last fight in them? They better. Even though Vecna, you know, will be busy creating a new world order, he’ll surely seek out Eleven to get some sweet revenge. Since we’re slowly learning that the Hawkins Lab prodigies essentially have god powers—they can resurrect the dead, I guess!—she’ll most likely level herself up before the final battle. Here’s my one theory: she’ll have some help. And not the Dusty-Bun-with-a-garbage-can-lid kind.

Either Will or Max will develop powers, somehow. Maybe Will’s time in the Upside Down imbued him with abilities he’ll only uncover as he nears adulthood. And Max? After just surviving Vecna’s grasp, maybe the Duffer Bros. will write in a Harry Potter-esque, Boy Who Lived situation, where she’s scarred from the near-death experience but has some kind of an edge against the baddie because of it. Either way, she’ll probably wake up from her coma soon enough, but Eleven will have to pull more mind tricks to make it happen. However it all goes down, Season Five will most likely pick up with our heroes struggling to put the Upside Down back in the Upside Down—or destroy it entirely.

Speaking of Will, it seems like the poor kid is in some serious trouble. In an interview with Variety, Noah Schnapp seemed to know something that we don't. Check this out. After Schnapp said that he has "hope for a coming out scene" and clarity on Will's connection to the Mind Flayer, he said, "And I’ve always been wondering, why was Will the first victim and the first one captured?" Interesting! Noah, you can mess with Doja Cat. Don't mess with us.

Elsewhere in the Stranger Things-verse, if you have any doubt that Vecna will return, the actor behind the baddie, Jamie Campbell Bower, confirmed to The Hollywood Reporter that the baddie will come back. "Let me put it this way: I know about Season Five. Take from that what you will," Campbell said. Want a good laugh? At the time, he teased how Vecna would change in Volume Two. "I think what you will see is more of the human aspect of Vecna," he said. “Let me say that much. And there’s a huge, great, cool thing—I need to keep my mouth closed!—but there’s a huge, great, cool thing you see as well!” A huge, cool, thing, man? Your character turning out to be the singular evil force behind the entirety of Stranger Things is a wee bit more than a huge, cool thing?!

Now, begin your prayer circles, so that none of your favourite characters will die at the monstrous hands of Vecna in the series finale. Brace yourselves for the horror, people.

Originally published on Esquire US

The release of Beckham, Netflix’s four-part documentary chronicling the rise of English football’s most famous son. Directed by Succession and Short Circuit actor Fisher Stevens and assembled by Beckham's own production company, it promises “never-before-seen” footage of the former England captain’s career and family life. No mean feat for a man who has taken us behind the Brylcreemed curtains from the very beginning.

Ours was a full-blown national obsession that transcended sport and social strata, whipped up by a consummate self-promoter with a face for billboards. In the eight transformative years that followed his wonder goal at Selhurst Park in 1996—the ones that took him from a house-share in Salford to a mega mansion in Madrid—David Beckham released three autobiographies: My Story, My World, and My Side.

They were best-sellers, supplemented by three access-some-areas documentaries—David Beckham: Football Superstar (1997), The Real David Beckham (2000) and The Real Beckhams (2002)—as well as countless interviews in magazines and newspapers and TV studios.

GETTY IMAGES

All but one of the aforementioned documentaries promised the kind of candour and intimacy that you very rarely receive—or arguably even deserve—from a star of his wattage. They occasionally deliver on it. Watching them all back is an exercise in squaring his supposedly shy, solitary, family-first persona with a relentless pursuit of global fame. The clothes are fun, too.

In Beckham, the latest "definitive" effort, we're watching a man bask in the glow of his own legacy, often mere millimetres away from his (admittedly, still great) face. It's the never-ending victory lap, available in perpetuity around the world. And to director Fisher Stevens' credit, the film is as deftly put together as its subject. But to watch the old documentaries back—shot in more detached, traditional formats—is to see David in the eye of a long storm, as the giddy days of Beckham-mania give way to something eerier, more perilous and overwhelming.

It starts out innocently enough with the straight-to-VHS David Beckham: Football Superstar (with “free double-sided Becks poster!”) filmed a year before the World Cup in France. The 22-year-old seems to be taking his newfound fame in his stride, proudly showing off the racks of designer clothes that fill his modest home (alongside a life-size cardboard cut-out of… himself. He swears it’s not his).

But in other ways, Beckham seems unfit for it. He talks protectively about his alone time, and likes nothing more than going to his local Chinese restaurant for a solo meal. “I enjoy my own company," he tells the documentary-maker, bashfully. "I suppose I’ve got used to being alone for a long time”. You wonder when he last enjoyed a prawn cracker in peace.

Then things ramp up several notches. In the 2000 BBC documentary, The Real David Beckham, he talks about the people who rummage through bins outside Vidal Sassoon "trying to find my blonde locks"; about the fall-out from that self-inflicted red card at the 1998 World Cup, the death threats and the abuse and the bouts of depression. Sitting in a sports car outside Gary Neville's house, the documentary fades to black as Beckham laments his lack of trust with the outside world.

If Netflix's Beckham owes a debt to The Last Dance, then The Real Beckhams from 2002, aired again on the BBC, is a heavily subdued take on the early reality shows of that era. It catches the couple in a moment of flux: David has just been (somewhat reluctantly) carted off to join the Galácticos of Real Madrid, while wife Victoria is on the verge of launching a new single and touring the world.

But it's at this crossroad that you can see the pair finally begin to wrestle control of the PR machine, talking solemnly about their business politics, commercial interests and desire to take personal brands to "the next level". The disapproving spectre of Alex Ferguson is no more. Ironically, an otherwise dry conversation about setting up an office in Madrid produces one of the film's lighter, more revealing moments.

"We both worry about the overexposure thing," says Victoria, as her husband lounges on the sofa chomping Hobnobs. "There isn’t a lot that David hasn’t advertised recently. He’s got away with it because he’s played fantastic football. But we're very much aware of the sell-by-date."

David looks bruised. "I haven't advertised that much".

"Babe, you have," responds Victoria. "But you haven't advertised McVitie's, so stick them behind the terrapins."

But none of the documentaries, in my mind, can match the accidental pathos that arrived with David Beckham’s cameo in ITV's seminal piece of football reportage, Rio Ferdinand’s World Cup Wind-Ups. Aired in the summer of 2006 in the build-up to another doomed international tournament, it was a hidden camera rip-off of the MTV reality show Punk’d, aimed at the England squad, with Rio larking about in the Ashton Kutcher role (it followed Nancy Dell'Olio’s Footballers' Cribs a year earlier, which was cancelled after a spate of robberies). Some of the pranks were surprisingly dark—Wayne Rooney comforting a boy whose dog has just died, in particular—but Beckham’s episode is equal parts melancholy and menace.

The set-up was simple: a taxi driver and loudmouth security man have been tasked with whisking the Real Madrid winger from Manchester's Lowry Hotel to an important business meeting, and they decide to take a time-wasting, deal-delaying detour. Harmless stuff. But from the moment Beckham enters the cab and folds to the floor like a discarded sarong, the everyday reality of his A-list status sets in.

We recognise smiley Becks. We recognise steely Becks, posing over a free kick, a magazine rack or a major shopping district. But here he looks uncharacteristically shifty, scoping out a potential paparazzi ambush while resting awkwardly against the car door handle, as speed bumps jostle his expensively insured body around the carpet. Even when the coast is clear, he can’t help but stare out of the rear windshield like a hunted animal.

Then the drama ramps up. Beckham asks if the driver is going the right way, and before you know it the pair are refusing to let him go, building to a full-blown barney. With the car still rolling with some speed towards a red light in Manchester’s Moss Side, Beckham jumps out and legs it before Rio and his camera team can catch up. Obtuse as this may sound, it does leave you wondering: what is the real upside to all this? Why would someone so self-contained want to be quite so famous? It looks like hell.

As sell-by-dates go, Beckham has long outlasted the biscuits. A pre-destined move to America four years later launched him into the stratosphere, first as a player for Los Angeles Galaxy and then, lately, as the Messi-whispering co-owner of Inter Miami. There have been more TV specials; more books, merchandise and commercial deals. He has received justified criticism for some of those—not least from the LGBTQ+ community for his ambassadorial role at the Qatar World Cup—but he can fall back on his 83 million Instagram followers, or the 3.6 billion views he has received on TikTok.

The world of celebrity has changed irrevocably, but the artist formerly known as Golden Balls remains on top. Now comes the award-bothering Netflix treatment. What next? And, perhaps more interestingly, why? Only David Beckham knows.

Originally published on Esquire UK

When Ahsoka takes her final bow in the season finale of her solo outing, it's more of a beginning than an end. Over eight episodes, the latest Star Wars series on Disney+ spent it time boosting bad guys to new heights, forming a team of galactic Avengers, and reconnecting with the Force. If anything, Star Wars fans just watched an eight-hour-long prologue. It's funny, considering Ahsoka was initially touted as a sort of Star Wars: Rebels Season Five—a quasi-sequel that would finally bring the beloved animated series to live-action.

After spending such a long time introducing all of our new characters, there's a big "So… what now?" that hangs over our heroes' heads. Ahsoka, Sabine, and Ezra finally reunite, but there are still more villains than I can count roaming around the galaxy. The only one to fall in Ahsoka's finale is Morgan Elsbeth—who you can tell is nothing more than a mini-boss, because her title is "magistrate." The Nightsisters do grant her a cool sword, but it's not enough to rival the Darksaber. She meets her end in the same episode that she's promoted to Major Villain, which may be the most obvious tell that there's still plenty of Ahsoka left when the credits roll.

Ahsoka is all about introducing Grand Admiral Thrawn to the galaxy far, far away. DISNEY+

Speaking of credits: it was a big surprise when Ray Stevenson's Baylan Skoll survives. This move was the greatest shock for fans, because Stevenson tragically died earlier this summer. A tribute to the actor appears in the final moments of the finale. It'll be interesting to see how the show continues his story without him, especially since his ideas about the galactic power struggle are the most intriguing motivations for a Star Wars character we've seen in years. His apprentice, Shin Hati, may end up taking up a bigger role than initially planned.

Still, like many fans predicted, Ahsoka was about introducing Grand Admiral Thrawn as much as it was built to give Ahsoka her own supporting cast back. Hell, not even the addition of zombie stormtroopers in the finale could distract from Ahsoka's true aim. As much as I love Rosario Dawson and Ray Stevenson's fantastic performances, Ahsoka's main mission was clearly to introduce Thrawn as this franchise's Thanos. Will we see him in a potential Ahsoka Season Two or the Mandalorian movie? Who knows! It's an ending that promises more Ahsoka Tano—there's another major element of story that the finale leaves unanswered—but it remains unknown just how much the fans have bought into the story here.

Either way, Thrawn is ready to rule the galaxy with an iron fist. In the end, we're left with a Force ghost of Anakin Skywalker still looking over Ahsoka, as she tells her friend Sabine that it's "time to move on." But to where? When? How? I have an even more pressing question: Will audiences see it? For the fans' sake, I certainly hope so. Maybe even with Baby Yoda in a mechsuit.

Originally published on Esquire US

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