Mythic Quest’s Brad Bakshi (Danny Pudi) doesn’t really care about the artistic details of the show’s eponymous, popular video game. As head of monetization, he is only concerned with generating dollars for the company. The Apple TV+ workplace comedy about Mythic Quest employees firmly establishes Brad as a no-nonsense, vicious shark at the office who helps his colleagues only if he gains something valuable in return. This sharp characterization continues in the current second season as Brad decides to impart his ruthlessness to his new assistant/de facto mentee, Jo (Jessie Ennis)—until the unexpected arrival of his sibling, that is. In season two’s fourth episode, “Breaking Brad,” his brother Zack (Parvesh Cheena) enters with balloons, a sheet cake, and a wicked agenda in tow. The invasion of Brad’s safely guarded private life into his professional sanctum allows Mythic Quest to finally scrutinize what makes him tick, unveiling an emotional sliver of his backstory.
The only major facts we know about Brad so far are his job title and that, like Pudi, he is half Indian, half Polish. Mythic Quest doesn’t use his ethnicity as a tightrope for him to walk on. He’s part-Indian but thankfully, no one has yet cracked an “Is he not an engineer?” joke, even on a show set in the gaming and tech world, and the topic of arranged marriages is nowhere to be seen. The show is effortless in its inclusivity, unlike United States Of Al, the latest CBS sitcom from Chuck Lorre, which overtly stereotypes the Afghani immigrant community it is attempting to represent with banal jokes and a weak accent. Despite Kunal Nayyar’s best efforts, his character Rajesh Koothrappali in Lorre’s Big Bang Theory remained in a particularly hackneyed mold throughout the show’s long run. Brad’s scheming ways and assertiveness might not be entirely relatable, but along with other notable characters like Cece Parekh in New Girl, Emet Kamala-Sweetzer in I Feel Bad, Devi Vishwakumar in Never Have I Ever, and Kim Laghari in Special, he’s another step away from the oft-clichéd Indian American portrayals in TV comedies.
Instead, we learn fun tidbits that flesh out Brad’s distinctive personality: He enjoys watching predator prey videos (“a killer whale eating a seal, or a cheetah running down a gazelle and ripping its throat out”), his favorite phrase is probably “piece of shit,” and he has an annoying talent for detecting exactly what a person will say when entering his office. Brad’s idiosyncrasies help construct the workplace comedy’s eccentric vibe, one that is well-suited for current times. Created by Charlie Day, Megan Ganz, and series’ star Rob McElhenney, Mythic Quest doesn’t alienate viewers unfamiliar with the technicalities of its subject matter; instead, it deftly folds in trends, commentary, and the constant need for creative disruption that imbues a universal appeal beyond just video games.
The clever writing makes it easy to form a connection with all of MQ’s oddball personnel, whether it’s egotistical founder Ian Grimm (McElhenney) or lead engineer Poppy Li (Charlotte Nicdao in a breakout performance). The show unpacks their sincerely platonic but warring dynamics, sets up a romance between testers Rachel (Ashly Burch) and Dana (Imani Hakim), garners sympathy for executive producer David Brittlesbee (David Hornsby), and uses head writer C.W. Longbottom (F. Murray Abraham) for comedic relief, but Brad has remained an enigma. His mystifying yet comical presence is bolstered by Pudi’s striking performance. The actor fully utilizes his screen time to convey Brad’s disregard, whether it’s with well-timed sneaky smirks and eyebrow raises or punchy dialogue delivery. He is clearly having a blast playing somewhat of an antagonist—Community’s darkest timeline Abed Nadir would be proud. It’s why “Breaking Brad”’s turnaround from funny to moving is felt just as deeply. The audience (and Jo) learn that behind Brad’s carefully constructed and cold tough exterior lies a warm heart.
The episode, written by Keyonna Taylor, brings in aspects of Brad’s cultural identity through his interactions with his brother, even if it’s something as simple as Brad and Zack greeting or referring to each other with epithets in Hindi. Pudi tells The A.V. Club that episode director Angela Barnes called him the week before filming so they could discuss how the actors could naturally build the world between them: “We decided to add those nicknames because it was just a way to dig into their characters. It shows that for Brad, who is so secretive, there is a person who knows him best and it’s his brother.” Mythic Quest has coherently demonstrated how protagonists’ cultural heritage might shape them without it dominating their story, whether it’s Poppy (who is Australian Filipino like Nicdao) being affected by the miles of physical distance from her family in “Quarantine,” or addressing how she and Dana, who are both women of color, navigate their hurdles to carve a space at MQ.
In his spotlight episode, Brad is immediately paranoid when Zack arrives to celebrate his faux birthday. The Bakshis don’t share a friendly rapport. Brad is certain (and he’s not wrong) that Zack is here to snatch the company and his job away from him. Cheena is perfectly cast in the role as he brings a charming, cherubic energy to Zack, which makes it easy for his brother’s colleagues to fall for his saintly behavior. It isn’t until the closing moments of the half-hour that the siblings have a serious confrontation wherein Zack brutally calls Brad a pussy and asks his brother to literally beg for mercy. While it’s a surprisingly heavy scene, Pudi and Cheena tell The A.V. Club in a joint interview that they were thrilled about it because they hail from an improv background from their time at Second City in Chicago. “Also, as Indian Americans in this industry, we’ve had the comedy thing down for a bit. We don’t get to do as much drama,” Cheena says. “It was nice to have a story that isn’t like, ‘Oh, growing up was hard’ or just about our culture. This was just about our brotherly relationship. We happen to be Indian, which is great, it’s in there, but it wasn’t about this grander scheme. It was about two of us.”
Cheena’s credits include NBC comedies Outsourced and A To Z and The CW’s Crazy Ex-Girlfriend. Cheena and Pudi previously starred together in 2016’s The Tiger Hunter and currently have recurring voice roles in the Disney+ animated series Mira, Royal Detective. They’ve been best friends in real life for over two decades; it’s why they’re able to share palpable chemistry even in their limited screen time together on MQ. Pudi says co-creators Ganz and McElhenney came up with the idea of Brad’s brother and decided to bring Cheena on board after spotting a bit they performed together on Instagram: “I was just like ‘yes, yes, yes’ when they asked me. They didn’t know the extent of our relationship and how I had actually stayed on Parv’s couch when I first moved to Los Angeles.”
Cheena, along with actor Sonal Shah, were Pudi’s plus ones at the Mythic Quest series premiere at L.A.’s ArcLight and Cinerama Dome (RIP), so Cheena’s guest role this season is a full circle moment. He says that the first scene they filmed together this episode was the hard-hitting confrontation: “Even for me, I’m not used to playing a bad guy. It was crucial for me to get that right. I was just glad I had my dearest friend with me as I did something challenging in my professional work.”
Pudi echoes this sentiment. “Brad is all about the numbers and he maintains a calm, confident exterior that can’t be fazed; I always wondered when that might fall apart. Clearly, it’s anytime anyone mentions his childhood or personal matter, and it was exciting to play that out with Parv of all people, as guest star Snoop Dogg watched us perform in a MOCAP from a distance.”
Mythic Quest sometimes swerves from its goofy workplace humor to unexpectedly hit audiences with poignant storytelling (season one’s “Dark Quiet Death” is further evidence). So it’s only fitting that the show surprises viewers with a tonal shift to understand someone like Brad. Pudi shares that when the show began, he wasn’t fully sure of who Brad was as a person: “I remember asking the creators about it, and they’re such good collaborators, so they wanted to add elements to characters by using the actors inhabiting them. It just makes sense that Brad is half Indian, half Polish like me, or that we call each other condescending nicknames in our language. It’s more natural.” The episode isn’t just a one-off that wraps up a difficult story for Brad in 30 minutes; its aftereffects will be felt as far ahead as the season-two finale, which streams in June. This mini-arc finally allows the show to dig into Brad’s backstory beyond his amusing defining traits, and Pudi hopes it continues if the show gets a season three renewal: “He’s clearly had a troubled home life and that’s built into his ruthless exterior, so maybe we’ll get to unpack it some more later.”
In Mythic Quest’s first season finale, “Blood Money,” Brad tells Rachel that he is inspired by DuckTales because he wants Scrooge McDuck’s money vault, but his sole motivation isn’t to be wealthy: “My pursuit of money is only the pursuit of ownership. Not in things, though. In people.” This one dialogue explicitly defines the character’s power-hungry mindset. The events in “Breaking Brad” are a significant progression that aid in deciphering his haughtiness. The episode also gives Pudi and Cheena the room to sink into cutting material and let their artistry shine beyond the confines of well-established comedic routines—and stereotypical clichés.