Loki episode 2 director says the show's Brad Wolfe isn't necessarily the Zaniac fans know from the comics

Rafael Casal as Brad Wolfe in Loki season 2
(Image credit: Marvel Studios)

Warning! This article contains spoilers for Loki season 2 episode 2. If you've yet to tune in, and don't want to know anything that happens, turn back now.

Well, that's it, Zaniac is officially in the MCU. Marvel TV series Loki welcomed the character into the franchise in the second episode of its second season, though director Dan DeLeeuw claims he's not quite the guy comic book fans will be expecting.

"I think, within the multiverse, in terms of him being Brad Wolfe, he's on a timeline that's not really gone to the evil version of that," he laughs in an exclusive interview with GamesRadar+. "Go a few timelines over and you'll probably find someone who's more like the villain character."

In the source material, Zaniac, or Brad Wolfe as DeLeeuw mentions, was abused and neglected by his mother as a child, but went on to become an actor – eventually landing the titular role of a misogynistic serial killer named Zaniac. Wolfe later explained that he gravitated towards the low-budget slasher because he identified with the main character's tragic backstory, and that it'd likely lead to bigger, better work. 

One night on set, though, he was caught up in an explosion behind-the-scenes, and the residual radiation from the Manhattan Project gave him super strength and the ability to generate energy knives from his hands. At the same time, he was possessed by a demonic entity and driven mad and murderous so, you know, all in all, a bit of a bad day... For now, the most heinous crime Loki's Brad, or X-5 as his Time Variance Authority pals know him, has committed is being a snarky jobsworth.

Tom Hiddleston as Loki, Loki, and Loki in Marvel TV series Loki

(Image credit: Marvel Studios)

Initially in cahoots with Kate Dickie's General Dox, who's hellbent on erasing every branched timeline set off by Sylvie's murder of He Who Remains, X-5 sidestepped his boss's order to capture Sylvie after he discovered his real life in the Sacred Timeline. Turns out, he likes fame and a swanky suit more than Time Sticks and the TVA's uniform...

"We wanted to play around with that Easter egg and introduce a character that was fairly obscure in the comics," DeLeeuw continues. "But also, we couldn't resist the idea of exploring someone that wasn't really believing in the reality of the TVA, and the artifice of the Timekeepers and all that, being an actor. Now he's someone that, you know, puts on a perception of reality for a living. So, it kind of worked for both sides of that."

Loki's toned-down version of Zaniac checks out with a humorous exchange between Brad (Rafael Casal) and Mobius (Owen Wilson) in episode 2, as the pair chat over a meal at the McDonald's where Sylvie (Sophia Di Martino) works. "Tell me about Zaniac... it looks scary," Mobius whispers enthusiastically, before Brad claps back: "It's not... scary, it's an elevated thriller."

"He brought an interesting humanity to it," DeLeeuw says of Casal's take on the character. "X-5 was more of a straight villain, more of a heavy; a foil for Loki. But he definitely brought the humanity to that idea of why he wanted to make the choice to be Brad Wolfe. He wanted to push the TVA not being X-5's reality. His reality is, 'I want to be out here where I'm not controlled'. Again, it all goes back to the season's them of free will. He's kind of the avatar for that."

Loki season 2 episode 2 is streaming now on Disney Plus. Hear more from our interview with Dan DeLeeuw on the latest episode of the Inside Total Film podcast. For more on the show, check out our deep-dives on:

Amy West

I am an Entertainment Writer here at GamesRadar+, covering all things TV and film across our Total Film and SFX sections. Elsewhere, my words have been published by the likes of Digital Spy, SciFiNow, PinkNews, FANDOM, Radio Times, and Total Film magazine.