After last week's remarkable season 2 premiere, we were wondering if Loki would be able to maintain its modus operandi of putting characters over plot in most instances. In many of the Marvel Studios-produced TV shows, sometimes it's hard to find some breathing room amidst all the action and adventure. It's not a coincidence that the most respected Marvel TV shows are the ones able to slow things down a bit and let the actors dive deep into who their characters are and where they come from. WandaVision, Loki, Hawkeye, and Moon Knight come to mind.
In 'Breaking Brad' (a fantastic title for many reasons), Tom Hiddleston and Owen Wilson are able to recapture some of season 1's finest moments between Loki and Mobius while their characters are pushed forward through actions that don't involve huge set pieces or fixing a giant device. So far, Loki remains a show that is able to produce genuine wonder and tension by going smaller instead of bigger, which is notable given the saga-defining elements at the center of it all.
Before we dive into time-slipping madness and discuss what the God of Mischief is up to, you might want to check how Marvel Studios is doing so far on the big screen with our best Marvel movies ranked list. If you need a refresher on which movie goes where in the timeline, we also have the Marvel movies in order list, updated up to Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3. Up next in cinemas is Nia DaCosta's The Marvels, which promises an off-beat adventure in outer space.
Spoilers ahead for Loki season 2 episode 2: 'Breaking Brad'
Cold open time! Mobius and Loki walk into 1977 London as they search for clues about Sylvie's whereabouts. The scene right after this one seems to imply there's been a bit of an ellipsis between the end of episode 1 and this point, but it appears that our two main Time Variance Authority (TVA) agents aren't too bad at following Sylvie's trail (more on that later). For now, they want to grab famous actor Brad Wolfe during the premiere of his new movie: Zaniac!
Marvel aficionados will surely recognize both Brad Wolfe and Zaniac as long-forgotten names of Marvel's weirdest mythos, but here, they don't seem to be more than a small nod to veteran comic book readers. In fact, the script doesn't linger in late 70s London for long, as Rafael Casal's Hunter X-05 (yet another TVA member with questions about their past in the last episode) is quickly found by Mobius and Loki, and it turns out he's Brad Wolfe in the Sacred Timeline.
We'd already seen another MCU character with a fantastical background hiding among the people as an actor: Kingo (Kumail Nanjiani) from Eternals. Actually, eagled-eyed fans might spot a poster of one of his movies in this London set, so we have to wonder if Brad and Kingo crossed paths at some point too. Anyway, X-05 has been trying to live a new life in the Sacred Timeline, but the TVA have some questions for him (and likely some punishment, as he broke their rules). After a small chase, Loki brings out his dark side and captures Wolfe with some illusions and spooky shadow powers.
The time-cop-turned-actor also has some words for Loki, who – let's not forget – left the Sacred Timeline right after his dictatorial ambitions for Earth failed. He's since learned quite a lot about himself and began to explore a different life path, but such actions are hard to totally leave behind, especially for a centuries-old god. Brad does manage to almost push him over the edge, and here Tom Hiddleston shines brighter than usual as he gets to play with the duality of "nice guy" Loki, quickly going from reasonable TVA agent then back to his old ways.
A good chunk of the episode revolves around Mobius and Loki playing "good cop, bad cop" to try to break Hunter X-05 aka Brad Wolfe. His disappearance right after he went searching for Sylvie is extremely suspicious, and it's obvious he doesn't want anything to do with the TVA anymore. Of course, we the audience already know Sylvie is in 1980 Broxton, Oklahoma, as teased by the post-credits scene last week. But what's actually engaging about 'Breaking Brad' is how such a simple task allows everyone involved to self-reflect and examine why they're doing what they're doing.
As Brad correctly points out, Mobius and Hunter B-15 already had a taste of the lives they'd seemingly left behind, so going back to the old "time cop" days without making changes to the TVA may be a bit of a mistake, especially after everything that transpired with He Who Remains. Last week, we mentioned there was a great opportunity here to comment on a "crumbling cop-like organization," and it appears the writers are keeping that thread going, for now at least.
In fact, that darker side that's simply buried not too deep is what actually resolves the impasse, but only after a "pie break" for Mobius and Loki, who haven't had much time to reconnect after the cascade of stressful events since the middle point of season 1. It's all wonderful, friendly chatter and the kind of playful banter that makes their chemistry so special. However, this seemingly harmless downtime also makes them realize how to crack the situation.
Enter another janky analog machine actually capable of magic-like things. Loki and Mobius fake an "oh no, the God of Mischief has gone mad" situation, with the former locking the latter out of the holding cell and trapping Brad inside an increasingly small cube. Loki becomes genuinely scary in this scene, but anyone paying attention to the pie session right before knows what's up. Still, the exchanges between the actors are what truly make this such a fun watch.
Meanwhile, Casey (Eugene Cordero) is surprisingly given a lot to do in this episode. So far, the show has had him around as a funny type of secondary character that didn't directly affect what goes down. But the writers are now playing the "office worker who actually has many hidden skills" angle, and it's good to take some weight off Ouroboros' (O.B.) shoulders when it comes to figuring out the TVA's tech and systems.
The most pressing issue for O.B. is fully fixing the Temporal Loom (which was only stabilized in episode 1) to avoid a temporal meltdown by properly adjusting how it handles all the branching timelines. The problem is that the gates can't be accessed anymore without Ravonna Renslayer or Miss Minutes' (the AI that helped with the management and all the systems of the TVA) authorization. Casey thinks he can help with that as well as finding Renslayer, so we'll likely see a work relationship between O.B. and him grow over the next few episodes.
After almost literally breaking Brad, Loki and Mobius head to the 80s to find Sylvie at the McDonald's where we last saw her. After spending her entire life on the run, she's enjoying her day-to-day work and peaceful new existence. Getting her to talk isn't very hard, but Loki isn't able to convince her to return and help them figure out their Kang situation, even if entire timelines (including this one she loves so much) are at risk.
An increasingly nervous Brad who really doesn't want to be anywhere but in the TVA or the Sacred Timeline reveals a terrible truth to Sylvie through mind-reading: General Dox never wanted to go after Sylvie, and instead left the TVA with as many timeline-destroying bombs (we saw those in season 1) as she could carry. With the fake Time-Keepers gone and dubious news about what happened at the End of Time, Dox isn't willing to risk the Sacred Timeline and would rather sacrifice all the others.
A quick trip – which feels a bit rushed this late into the episode – to Dox's location allows Loki and Sylvie to thwart her huge plan, but not before she and her troops have erased around 30% of the branching timelines. This is yet another reminder of how harmful the organization can be until it's rebuilt into something entirely different. By the end of this season, we'll probably be looking at a TVA that defends all the timelines from external threats (thus tying into Deadpool 3 and the upcoming event movies), but it might need to be threatened by complete and utter destruction before that.
The final moments of the episode have the entirety of the TVA realizing the terrible acts they've enabled for ages, and it's obvious things will never be the same after learning they'd been lied to by a puppeteer at the End of Time. They only needed another wake-up call, but it's a costly one. The surprising ending comes when Sylvie decides against all expectations and after witnessing entire timelines disappear that she still wants to spend the rest of her life back where they found her. However, let's not forget Loki clearly saw her inside a TVA in ruins at some future point.
With the threat of Dox and her loyalists defused and the Temporal Loom's clock ticking, it's only reasonable to expect the next stop in our journey across time has everything to do with Renslayer and Miss Minutes, but when will the Kang variants start factoring into the plot? Honestly, we don't mind waiting a bit longer if we're getting all these quality moments between charismatic characters in exchange.