Loki embraces his inner bad cop in “Breaking Brad”

The second episode of Loki allows the god of mischief to play cops and robbers

When last we left Loki the TVA was fucked, General Dox and her army were on a heavily armored hunt for Sylvie, and Loki had finally stopped time-slipping. As OB worked on a solution for the temporal loom, Loki and Mobius set out to find Sylvie before Dox and her army could.

We begin on the sacred timeline and although Loki is sure Sylvie isn’t there, Mobius has a different target. Brad Wolfe aka Hunter X-5, has decided to live the life he was denied. A Hollywood actor of some clout, he’s strangely unbothered at seeing his fellow TVA associate and Loki. It’s all smooth talk and empty promises until he runs. The god of mischief isn’t surprised or deterred and happily uses his magic to capture the rogue minuteman. But, Brad isn’t fond of talking, even after some stewing time, and manages to get under Mobius’ skin. It’s unclear if he actually riles Loki or the imp simply plays the part. Still, the Asgardian anti-hero indulges in some theatrics later when he (lightly) tortures Brad into opening up. He and Mobius continue to make a great team!

Brad is reluctantly recruited to reveal Sylvie’s hiding spot, the branched timeline we saw from the premiere’s mid-credits scene. While Loki has a chat with his variant self, Brad sits uneasily with Mobius in the McDonald’s where she works. Mobius tries to get the deserter to calm down and take in the odd turn of events but Brad’s behavior starts to set off alarm bells. Why is he so eager to get back to the TVA?

Turns out General Dox didn’t take the order to stop pruning well, at all. Meaning, she’s sent her minutemen army out to the branched timelines in order to plant explosives which will then be detonated all at once, simultaneously pruning all the branched timelines. It’s a damn clever plan that proves nearly impossible to stop. Mobius, Loki, and Sylvie give it their best effort but the general instructs her followers to blow what they can. On the downside it’s a massacre, on the upside the temporal loom should be OK for now.

Side events of note include Casey’s geeking out over meeting Ouroboros, the mystery of Brad’s temp-pad (tampered with to allow for the general’s mass pruning event), the fact that Ravonna may have joined up with Kang, and the revelation that Miss Minutes is integral to fixing the temporal loom (since getting Kang DNA is unlikely).

Things that bothered me about this episode include Casey’s knowledge of the temp pad being ignored, Hunter X-5 resuming his life on the sacred timeline, Sylvie’s reactions to the timeline massacre, and Loki’s questions about the future.

Firstly, Hunter X-5 can’t return to his place on the sacred timeline because he’s a variant. Isn’t the point of pruning variants that they cause branched timelines if they are allowed to exist? Does this mean Hunter X-5 killed his sacred timeline self? Did the general? Logically, it’s the only way he could exist without causing a branch, right? The last possibility is he found a point on the timeline where his sacred self died but no one found out so he just took his place.

Then there’s Casey, a fan favorite who shows himself to be well-informed this episode. My biggest problem is that if OB is busy working on the temporal loom why wouldn’t Casey be given the task of figuring out the temp-pad issue? He clearly knows it isn’t tampered with in the way Brad said it was, so why not let him figure out how it was altered? And sure, one could argue that Casey was busy trying to track Ravonna, but since that’s not a secret couldn’t any of the other analysts do that? I hope Casey gets a bigger part this season.

Next, Sylvie’s reaction to the massacre is not great. Granted, her anger at the TVA for the massacres does fit the profile of a covert narcissist if you believe all Loki’s are prone to narcissism (which isn’t a stretch). When Loki confronts her about giving people free-will and then walking away, her response is that yes, that’s how it works. But, to destroy an entire system built on a lie and not stick around to help it develop a new system isn’t “how it works.” To give people free-will without any instruction is equally as bad as denying people any free-will and constant instruction. Yes, free-will is a choice everyone should get but unchecked free-will causes chaos. Loki’s speech from his first trip to NY (referenced in this episode by the way) does touch on a fundamental truth of humanity: we do crave subjugation – at least to a degree – that’s why religion persists despite science.

For Sylvie to turn around and blame the TVA is laughably obtuse. She’s the one who destroyed their ideals and way of life. The institution itself isn’t rotten but zealots have a tendency to fill a vacuum when it presents itself. Loki at least has the self-awareness to understand Kang’s greater purpose. Is pruning branching timelines equivalent to mass murder? Kind of, sure, but one could easily argue that those timelines were never meant to exist so is it really murder? On the other hand, variants seem to be a naturally occurring phenomenon which means branched timelines are also natural? Technically, this all boils down to Kang and his problematic selves. Still, I wonder if someone will call the lady Loki out on her bullshit.

Finally, why does Loki ask Sylvie about the future? Is he fishing for some sign that she still has affection for him? She doesn’t ask him about the time-slipping, she only gets mad when he implies that because he saw the future it has to be true. In fairness, he doesn’t question her about what happened after she pushed him through the time door. He does however wonder if she can be happy in her fake new life, which she returns to once she discovers it isn’t one of the timelines that was destroyed.

Overall, this was a good episode. Seeing Loki using his magic, and even get a bit of the old him back during the interrogation scene was great fun. Brad Wolfe made for an interesting foil, even if Loki did get the better of him eventually. And the Loki/Sylvie team up was long-awaited. Too bad it was short lived. Still, the relationship between Loki and Mobius is the heart of this show and the way Loki helps Mobius confront his feelings is sweet. Turns out Mobius isn’t bothered by the prospect of finding out he might had lived a terrible life, no, his fear is that he was denied a wonderful life. Makes sense, who would lament a life of pain and tragedy? To learn you could have been happier though? Ouch. Most variants get stuck on the idea of being denied a chance to live, but look at Loki. His place on the sacred timeline didn’t exactly go great. Sure, he got to die a hero but he still died. And while everyone dies, my guess is Asgardians have significantly longer life-spans meaning Loki possibly died young. Here at the TVA he’s found a purpose, he’s been given the opportunity to grow and evolve – something his sacred self also got to do (well, the personal growth part, not so much the purpose). Mobius sees the advantage to living this strange life, especially since he lost his memories of his life before, what’s there to miss really?

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A good flow, the second episode answers some questions while setting up others. Loki embraces his inner bad cop in “Breaking Brad”