What to Watch Verdict
⚔️Getting to see a very different side of Brad (and Danny Pudi's portrayal).
⚔️Suspense from not knowing whether Zack is lying.
⚔️Ian's (lack of) driving skills and Rachel's pleasure at this.
⚔️No C.W on a screen this week and his presence (and voice) are missed.
It took a season and a half for the unflappable Brad (Danny Pudi) to become flummoxed by a surprise visitor at the Mythic Quest office in "Breaking Brad". He is still riding high from the success of the battle royale game update that has been a huge hit with the younger demo (as he predicted) and sent their profits soaring. Brad’s outward demeanor doesn’t usually change too much whether he is experiencing glee or discomfort, however, the arrival of his brother Zack (Parvesh Cheena) has a disquieting impact on MQ’s most shrewd employee. Typically, Brad is the master of manipulation who knows how to press people’s buttons, but what happens when his kryptonite swings by to wish him a happy birthday?
Zack’s arrival in "Breaking Brad" is heralded by David (David Hornsby), who you will not be shocked to find out is desperate for a brother figure in his life. Burying the sparkler in the sheet cake is a pretty standard reaction from Brad, as is his impassive stance when his brother embraces him but a flicker of fear crosses his face to lets us know he is perturbed by this arrival. If that was too subtle, the next scene ensures the viewer is tapped into Brad’s spiraling state of mind. “What’s his angle? What’s he planning?” he asks out loud before he tells Jo (Jessie Ennis) that Zack is a “private equity douche” whose interest in this company is probably because battle royale juiced the numbers too well. This easy win has suddenly turned into slow releasing poison and Brad thinks that Zack either wants his job or he’s here to “kill my pig.” The latter sounds like a metaphor, but we find out later that this comment has a more literal meaning.
It doesn’t help Brad’s case that Zack is so personable and pretty much the opposite of his brother. He wears a jaunty striped sweater and he smiles a lot. Whereas Brad wants people to believe he is a sociopath as it helps to retain the illusion of power, it would seem that Zack is the one exhibiting psychopathic behavior. Brad keeps insisting it isn’t his birthday, which only makes him sound more paranoid and even ungrateful. He sends Jo out to get rid of Zack and while she puts up a good fight using her best Brad-inspired putdowns, it results in David offering the older Bakshi brother a tour of the building.
Later in "Breaking Brad", Brad stalks the corridors muttering in a way that highlights how quickly he has descended into conspiracy theories about this visit. He bribes Poppy (Charlotte Nicdao) to be on Team Brad and insult Zack in front of her programmers, but she is instantly charmed by Zack thanks to the flattery he showers on her. In fact, it feels like maybe Zack has done his research as he tailors his niceties based on what feels like prior knowledge. His big birthday treat is something the whole team can enjoy and this performance from Snoop Dogg also benefits MQ. The rapper wears a mocap suit to aid the in-game skin suits money-making scheme — this sentence sounds way too Silence of the Lambs out of context.
The brilliance of “Breaking Brad” is that we don’t find out whether this is all in Brad’s head until near the end of the episode, which is enough time to think our antagonist has lost it. Everything about Zack suggests he is kind when, in reality, he is the terrifying vision his brother has been describing. In an act that tells us so much about their dynamic, he makes his younger sibling beg him to not take this business away from him. Even when Brad sinks to this humiliation level, Zack doesn’t back off beyond saying “we’ll see.” For all his previous cutthroat comments, Brad cares about MQ and his position here, and perhaps he isn’t the heartless figure who only dreams of Scrooge McDuck’s gold silos. And while it seems like maybe the birthday part is true, Zack confirms this is also part of his ruse. Where this leaves Brad is unclear, but Jo’s beliefs are shaken after she takes an elevator ride with her boss’ nemesis. Instead of yelling at him as I expected, she instead asks the question Zack was likely hoping to hear. Considering he has been dropping references to a mysterious Kate throughout it probably shouldn’t come as a surprise that this is what Jo is curious about. And it turns out that Kate is linked to the pig Brad has been referencing throughout. The story goes that they were given a sow each to raise as children and eventually they would have to slaughter the animal for its meat. Brad grew attached to his charge and even named her (the Kate in question) and he choked when it came to the killing moment (Zack had to do it for him). This story destroys her view that Brad is a shark, and as we have seen, Jo is drawn to the powerful.
She ditched David for Brad without hesitation, but will she do the same with Zack? It is ominous when he tells her “I will be in touch” and Brad better watch out. One clue as to how Jo is feeling is tied to how she dresses. In recent weeks she has mirrored her current boss and his fondness for sweaters and her tight ponytail is also a version of power dressing. While riding in the elevator, the visual link between Jo and Zack is revealed through the orange and green of her blouse that matches the stripes on Zack’s sweater. Her loyalty is far from guaranteed and costume designer Sabrina Rosen ensures we know this through the clothing choices.
Meanwhile, the Poppy and Ian (Rob McElhenney) disturbance is elevated thanks to Poppy being gifted a Porsche from Montreal. Battle royale is the reason for this lavish gift and this plot point felt like a throwaway scene at the start of the season premiere. Instead, it has turned into a major source of tension throughout the Mythic Quest office. Dana (Imani Hakim) and Rachel (Ashly Burch) are still stuck in the middle and both are tasked with driving roles this week. Dana has to pick up Poppy from the side of the road as she can’t drive the fancy new car and Rachel’s is dropping off Ian so he can take Poppy’s new wheels for a spin.
Several things are going on here including a quickfire exchange after Poppy uses some questionable language about Dana as her “chauffeur.” It veers into racist microaggressions territory with Poppy claiming she can’t be canceled because she is also a woman of color. In this cancel-off, Poppy comes out looking like a terrible boss and mentor. Later, she reveals that she made Dana film Ian’s pitiful driving attempt and we learn it has been two weeks since Dance asked for career assistance; so far Poppy has taught her nothing. In the funniest scene of the episode, Rachel lets Ian talk himself in circles while he tries to find an adequate excuse why he can’t drive stick (his legs are too strong).
Unlike Poppy, Ian gives some decent career advice beneath several layers of insults and insistence that he does not care about Rachel’s personal issues. When he asks her what she wants from her career he pushes her to name her dream job. All she comes up with is “a seat at the table” but she doesn’t know which one, as she has been so preoccupied with the idea that there are obstacles she can’t surmount. Ian is still blunt and self-obsessed during this forced conversation but he does at least call her Rachel instead of “Tester” at one point.
The mood and atmosphere at Mythic Quest are shifting and in an industry that is always looking for the next big thing, it makes sense for the second season to address these changes. One person missing in "Breaking Brad" is C.W. (F. Murray Abraham) and his presence is missed. Introducing Zack is a fun way to shake matters up further, and Mythic Quest is adept at forming the longer arcs as well as the quickfire jokes. The expansion is far from the only source of tension and there is no cheat code to escape the harder levels.
Emma Fraser spends most of her time writing about TV, fashion, and costume design; Dana Scully is the reason she loves a pantsuit. Words can also be found at Vulture, Elle, Primetimer, Collider, Little White Lies, Observer, and Girls on Tops. Emma has a Master’s in Film and Television, started a (defunct) blog that mainly focused on Mad Men in 2010, and has been getting paid to write about TV since 2015. It goes back way further as she got her big start making observations in her diary about My So-Called Life’s Angela Chase (and her style) at 14.