AMC’s Breaking Bad
Season 1, Episode 3: “…And the Bag’s in the River”
Directed by Adam Bernstein
Written by Vince Gilligan
* For a review of the previous episode, “The Cat’s in the Bag” – click here
* For a review of the next episode, “Cancer Man” – click here
The start of this episode immediately shows us the aftermath of the previous one, where Jesse Pinkman (Aaron Paul) stupidly threw the dead corpse in his bathtub, along with hydrofluoric acid. He and Walter White (Bryan Cranston) are busy cleaning up the mess, wearing gas masks and other gear.
Cut back and forth with a younger Walt with a previous partner, Gretchen Schwartz (Jessica Hecht). They’re calculating what makes up a human being, in elements and such. There’s a missing piece, a small part at the end. Meanwhile, Walt empties bits and pieces of a man into the toilet for flushing. An amazingly written opening.
Walt: “You didn‘t follow my instructions!”
Jesse: “Oh, Heil Hitler, bitch!”
Skyler White (Anna Gunn) is busy painting her baby’s new room, along with the help of her son Walt Jr (RJ Mitte), as her sister Marie (Betsy Brandt) watches on and talks about her brand new white shoes, quipping “you missed a spot“. Skyler brings up weed, claiming to be asking for a short story idea. Eventually, Marie susses out Walt Jr has been buying weed, though, her sister makes it clear that’s not the case. Excellent setup here that I’m sure will go somewhere, a case of mistaken identity, so to speak.
At Jesse’s, he and Walt hose one another down out in little kiddy pools on the driveway. Afterwards, Jesse sneaks away to smoke a bowl of crystal in the bathroom. By himself, obviously. His meth use will slowly become a point of contention between him and Walt, as the two grow closer in a bond. Walt is downstairs cleaning out the piss and shit bucket for Krazy-8 (Max Arciniega). The gangster asks him: “Turn around and look at me. This here – I wouldn‘t do this to my worst enemy. This is degrading.” It strikes a chord with Walt, even though he tries not to let it. When he finds out Krazy-8 knows his name Walt feels a bit threatened, and to make matters worse Jesse is the source; he talks too much.
The tenuous partners have a fight over the bag of meth Jesse is smoking from, which causes them to wrestle a while. In a run for the door, Walt falls over the stairs coughing hard, almost passing out. A subtle reminder of his failing health. Soon enough Jesse makes off, leaving Walt to get things finished up.
We get a brief scene with Marie, as she shops for shoes. She talks with husband Hank (Dean Norris) on the phone about the possibility of Walt Jr smoking pot. It’s an awesome scene with Hank on the other side of the phone during a possible arrest, a few suspects up against a wall. Norris is an awesome actor whose talents are well used here in the character of Hank. He is a bit of a bad ass. Although, as the show progresses there are changes and developments in him which are super interesting. Speaking of interest, Marie shoplifts a pair of shoes. Is this a common thing for her? Or just spite at the girl from the counter? Hard to tell. She just walks right out with the new ones on.
Hank tries to do a good thing. He takes his nephew Walt Jr out for a ride to the Crossroads Motel. It has a lot of creepy and nasty looking characters, a few pathetic ones. Hank tells him it’s called “The Crystal Palace” and warns Walt Jr of the dangers of pot – the gateway drug. Hilarious scene, especially once Wendy (Julia Minesci) shows up at Hank’s window, by his request. Also sort of sad, tragic. In the motel, Jesse is actually staying with Wendy, but good for him Hank doesn’t know anything about that, or him really for that matter.
In a rational frame of mind, Walt sits on the toilet while making a list of pros and cons re: killing Krazy-8 versus letting him live. He is truly stressing the decision, as most human beings would do in that situation. Then he calls Skyler with an excuse for not being home, working late and so on. Only she already knows Walt quit two weeks before. Things are deteriorating between the married couple, and all after he was trying to do this to secure the future of his family. Albeit in a terribly planned manner, both morally and practically.
So then Walt goes to make a sandwich for Krazy-8. He is certainly not a killer, he is a decent man. Regardless of his new found meth trade. But Walter White is not some sort of person who kills on a whim. And as he goes downstairs with the sandwich, a coughing fit sends him flying, hitting the floor. The sandwich plate smashes.
When Walt comes to Krazy-8 is watching on patiently. Apparently Walt was out for “10–15 minutes“. He cleans up the plate, then decides to go make another sandwich. While upstairs he grabs a couple beers. The two men continue on to have a fairly meaningful conversation. Almost like friends. They come across a connection involving Krazy-8’s family owning a shop, Walt buying a crib there for Walt Jr as a baby, and it highlights the different courses of two lives who sort of came full circle to where they now sit. Love the writing in this scene, in general. But this one scene is incredibly poignant and makes the whole situation for Walt especially more intriguing. The stakes of murder become even higher now, as a bond, even a tiny one, forms through their talk.
The turning point is when Walt goes back upstairs. He plans on letting Krazy-8 go. Then an epiphany strikes him after a quick open of the garbage can. Walt sees there’s a piece missing to the plate once he lays out the pieces on the kitchen counter. One big jagged piece missing. Fitting enough for a man to stab another with, made to kill. He hopes it isn’t true, rifling through the trash again. But it is the truth. He wanted a way out. It isn’t coming.
Downstairs he’s faced with the truth. Instead of letting Krazy-8 go, Walt pulls tight the lock around the gangster’s neck. All the while Krazy-8 swings the broken plate, stabbing Walt in the leg once or twice. But Walt prevails and chokes him to death. Another one bites the dust. At the very least, the situation is now over. Well the body’s still requiring disposal, but still – the deed, the worst of all, is done.
When a paranoid Jesse returns home things are a little less chaotic then last he was there. They’re clean, in fact. The basement is empty, the R.V. is tidied. Nothing seems even out of place. And above all, no Krazy-8 locked around the pole.
This episode clues up with a scene including Hank and his partner Steve Gomez (Steven Michael Quezada). They’re out in the desert where Krazy-8’s car is left, where the gas mask got dropped. Hank ends up finding a secret compartment in the car containing a bag of meth: “It‘s too damn white,” he remarks. This will lead to more obviously, as they also found the gas mask.
Walter sits parked in his car and thinking. We cut back to him and Gretchen from the episode’s opening. “What about the soul?” she asks when they try to figure out the missing element to a human being. What about Walt’s soul? He had one. Once upon a time. Returning home he finds Skyler waiting, clearly pissed off and upset. “There‘s something I have to tell you,” Walt says right before it cuts to black.
The next episode is titled “Cancer Man” and promises more revelations, from Walt, as well as the series itself. Lots of developments coming out and the writing stays solid. Onward, fellow fans!