The following recap contains spoilers for Loki S2E2, “Breaking Brad” (written by Eric Martin and directed by Dan DeLeeuw).
Editor’s Note: This piece was written during the 2023 SAG-AFTRA strike. Without the labor of the actors currently on strike, the series being covered here wouldn’t exist.
As I watch the first two episodes of Loki Season 2, I find myself focusing a lot on the titular character’s arc since the beginning of Season 1. Over the course of that first season, Loki came to understand, and become self-aware, of the things he has done in the past, and realized that his purpose, perhaps, was down a different path. That path led him to Sylvie and Mobius, and ultimately to a choice. Would he U-Turn back towards a path of chaos and destruction, or continue on one of greater meaning and purpose?
Loki Season 2 Episode 2, “Breaking Brad,” forces Loki to confront that arc, and his past, more than any other episode to date. He, Mobius, and B-15 have set out on their hunt to try and find Sylvie before General Dox, X-5, and the rest of the Time Variance Authority (TVA) stooges do. Each side believes Sylvie holds important information to help reset things the way they should be. The two sides, of course, differ on what those paths are, but both seek Sylvie, the Loki variant that killed He Who Remains, to ensure that they are able to preserve their way of life.
The hardliners at the TVA maintain that there is still a Sacred Timeline and it is their sworn duty to protect it, preserve it, and prune anything that branches off of it. Despite Loki and Mobius’s pleas and proclamations that all of these TVA employees are variants of their normal selves, they all believe in the mission and the purpose and the glorious burden of the TVA and want to set things straight, just as they have for hundreds of years in power.
In his time in the TVA and with Mobius, Loki has also come to understand that his purpose and his path are not initially what he thought. But for as much growth and self-reflection as he has done, Episode 2 does a fantastic job showing that Loki still lives on a razor’s edge, pushing him in either direction. He could fall back into the side of world-destroyer and God of Mischief, or he could keep leaning into the side of protection and power to those who feel powerless.
The primary plot point of Episode 2 is Loki and Mobius hunting down the soldier X-5, who is hiding in 1977 London, under the name of Brad Wolfe. He proves to be not too hard to find because he has chosen to hide under the guise of one of the world’s most famous actors, and our heroes track him down at a movie premiere and bring him back to the TVA where the questioning begins. Loki and Mobius want to know General Dox’s plan to not only find Sylvie but also to reset the timelines that are emerging after the death of He Who Remains.
But X-5, it seems, certainly knows how to get under Loki and Mobius’s skin during this interrogation. He knows the right buttons to push, particularly when he spends time one-on-one with Loki.
Brad/X-5 tells him:
“Everyone here knows what you’re doing now. You’re just trying to make up for the terrible, awful shit you got in your life, you pathetic little man. At the end of the day, you just make it really worse. For Mobius, for B-15, for your mother. Because that’s what you do. You lose. You’re a loser. Stop trying to be a hero, man. You’re a villain and good at it. Do that.“
This is the first time since Loki’s awakening of last season that he is forced to confront his new priorities and purpose. Someone has tried to call out who he has been in the past—that’s who he was and people believe that’s all he will ever be.
When Loki is interrogating, X-5, we think momentarily that he is going to revert back to that person, the villainous, wretched schemer who will do anything to get what he wants. But X-5’s words to Loki don’t set him off as they would have in days gone by. Rather they force Loki to be more tactical and strategic about how they convince the soldier to give them the information that they need.
Mobius and Loki come up with a plan to extract information from Brad, which leads not only to Sylvie in 1980s Oklahoma, but also to the understanding that the TVA are in the process of planting time charges in as many timelines as they can, in an attempt to eliminate everything from every timeline except the most sacred one.
Perhaps the best scene of the episode is after they get the information they need from Brad, and Mobius and Loki are sharing a congratulatory slice of key lime pie in the TVA commissary. Loki has been on the hero’s journey not just of self-reflection, but also understanding who he must now be based on who he was before. Loki knows that Mobius, being an employee of the TVA, is a variant. There is the real Mobius somewhere out there in the world on another timeline. This is the Mobius he was supposed to be all along, Loki believes. Loki implores Mobius to find out what his past was, who he was meant to be, and what he’s meant to do.
But Mobius refuses. Mobius is not worried about finding out that his true life is something bad, or miserable, or heartbreaking. He’s more worried about finding out that his life outside of TVA is something wonderful. He says, “Something bad I can handle. What if it’s something good? Do you think I want that route rattling around in here? Of course not!“
The two philosophies Loki and Mobius stand in an interesting contrast of one another. On one side, Loki knows his past, knows who he was, and knows what he’s capable of, but he is currently walking the hero’s journey and effort to try and change that which he has done in the past. Mobius believes in what he’s now doing and wants no part of the path he was on for the life he wants to live.
It raises an interesting point about the nature of how we change. Can we more easily change, looking back, knowing the things that we have done before, and not liking all that we see? Or can we more easily change by only looking forward to seeing who we want to be and trying to reach that place?
Loki and Mobius have the same goal and the same destination, but they’ve chosen very different paths to get there. One thing they do have in common, however, is the desire to find Sylvie.
When we last saw Sylvie in the end credits stinger of Episode 1, she had jumped through time after killing He Who Remains and wound up in 1980s Broxton, Oklahoma. She walks into the McDonald’s and sees blissful, innocent people living their lives, spending time with family, and enjoying being with friends. This is the life that she has wanted for so long because she spent most of her years on the run from the TVA as they have chased her as a variant that deserves to be pruned.
She clearly wants no part of Loki and Mobius’s mission back at the TVA and is still afraid of what damage she has caused by unleashing a legion of Kangs, the many variants after the death of He Who Remains.
She tells Loki and Mobius, “The TVA is the problem. It’s broken. It’s rotten.” Despite those feelings, she agrees to help them only because the army that X-5 is part of is meticulously pruning timelines and killing millions and billions of innocent people on these timelines that emerged after the death of He Who Remains.
The most sobering part of Episode 2 is when Loki, Mobius, and Sylvie arrive back at the TVA, and watch the screen that shows all of the emerging branches of the Sacred Timeline, knowing that they haven’t yet been able to completely stop General Dox and her pruning efforts. They watch as hundreds of timelines are erased from the screen, essentially ending countless lives. This universe has seen already Thanos destroy half of all living things a few years ago. This heinous act by a hardline faction of the TVA rivals even the cruelest things Thanos ever did.
After Mobius and Loki realize they are too late to stop pruning, they begin to feel the weight of failure and the fight to come. For a 60-second amount of time at the end of this episode, the only words you hear B-15 saying are, “Those are people. Those are lives.”
Sylvie is furious that Loki and Mobius would allow something like this to happen and wants no part in what they will try to do to stop it, no matter how hard Loki tries to convince her. From there, she time-jumps back to 1977 in Oklahoma and the last we see Sylvie this episode is her sitting on the hood of her truck outside at the McDonald’s.
She is holding the unique time-altering Tem-Pad that belongs to He Who Remains. The special piece of technology allows its owner to travel anywhere throughout time, and anywhere that she can imagine.
She has seen the hero’s journey that Loki and Mobius are on, and she has presently decided to pass. The biggest question left for She Who Remains (Sylvie) is whether she stays in a blissful, innocent fast-food life or if she will go and fight for those who can’t fight for themselves.