AMC’s Breaking Bad
Season 2, Episode 4: “Down”
Directed by John Dahl
Written by Sam Catlin
* For a review of the previous episode, “Bit by a Dead Bee” – click here
* For a review of the next episode, “Breakage” – click here
At the start of this episode we’re given a black-and-white flash forward. The only item not in black-and-white is a pink teddy bear floating in a pool. Above the water, someone in a Hazmat-like suit peers down at it. They remove the bear and bag it, alongside a ton of other things bagged, tagged, and laid out across the side of the pool. Including glasses which look strangely like those belonging to Walter White (Bryan Cranston).
Cut back to the current timeline. Jesse (Aaron Paul) stops his bike at a store where he says hello sweetly to a homeless man outside before heading in. Inside, he meets Walt. A real clandestine affair, as they chat across a magazine rack and other areas of the aisle. The big problem is that Jesse is broke, and waiting for Walt to get things settled at home before they can cook again isn’t flying well. Again, money is the great divider between the partners.
Walt’s busy at home trying to be the perfect dad and husband, making up for his strange episode. He’s making breakfast for the family, doing the dishes, trying to get everybody on his side. Not sure it’ll work for Skyler, though Walt Jr (RJ Mitte) is properly impressed, as we all know his fondness for breakfast foods. But the look on Skyler’s face says it all, never quite able to fully trust her husband after all the doubts that have crept into her head. Things are only negatively exacerbated when Walt comes up with a pitiful lie about his second cellphone likely just being an alarm he set for taking medication.
Out of nowhere, Skyler disappears. She just up and leaves, freaking Walt out and causing confusion. Maybe deserved, on Walt’s part. Maybe a little passive-aggressive, as well.
In other news, Jesse is meeting with his parents (Tess Harper/Michael Bofshever). Turns out they’ve discovered the meth making – well, they call it speed – what’s been going on in that house, so they’re kicking the poor guy out. Nowhere for him to live any more. Didn’t help Hank (Dean Norris) showed up to try finding him, which led his mother to the makeshift laboratory. Nevertheless, things aren’t looking good for Jesse. Suffice to say, if he didn’t have bad luck he’d have no luck at all. The relationship Jesse has with his parents deteriorates completely now, as they have no remorse whatsoever about throwing him out on the streets. Understandably they’re disappointed in him. Yet is it the best thing to do to toss someone out on the street when he’s got absolutely nothing left? Not so sure that’s proper tough love. At least make sure he isn’t homeless first.
Skyler eventually turns up at the house again, offering no explanations or condolences for Walt. This hurts him, though she’s sure of the hurt he caused her with his lies. It’s almost as if she knows the fugue state was a load of bullshit. Meanwhile, Walt feels a little slighted when he discovers Walt Jr likes to be called Flynn nowadays. Sort of slap in the face to the patriarch’s name. But as Skyler puts it, he simply wants his “own identity” instead of being a Junior all the time.
One of the saddest scenes yet sees Jesse looking for a place to stay. He goes to see an old buddy who used to play in a band with him. The guy has a kid that he’s trying to feed, a wife coming home not pleased to see Pinkman hovering around. It’s such a tragic sort of moment, especially when his buddy’s wife is clearly not having any of the situation. Just to see Jesse in juxtaposition with the family life, people moving onward and upward while he’s stuck cooking meth and getting booted out of his home onto the streets, it is a heart wrenching moment. Great writing that draws out more characterization and development in Jesse. Nobody will help Jesse, everybody either unwilling or holding onto past grudges, et cetera. Things get even worse when he discovers his bike stolen from the parking lot where he’s making calls.
This leads Jesse to the only place of which he can think – where the Winnebago is being stored by Badger’s cousin Clovis (Tom Kiesche). He breaks in through the gate climbing on top of a portable outhouse. Then he goes right through, into the blue liquid and the piss and the shit and who knows what else. Perfect. He’s stained blue, leaving a trail everywhere he goes right up into the vehicle where he spends the night crying with a gas mask on, trying to sleep, and dry heaving. This only leads Clovis right to him prompting an eventual getaway in the Winnebago. Although, Jesse does promise to go back with the cash.
An interesting scene sees Walt tell his son about “the easy way” and “the right way“, as if he holds some moral high ground. Such a scene can easily be watched as insignificant, but it shows us how morally corrupt Walt is in acting like he’s still able to claim a pride in what he does to support his family. Because never forget, part of why Walt’s career with Grey Matter never went ahead further was because of personal issues – ones that he ultimately let come between him and a bigger career. Not saying they were small issues, they were big, deep ones. But that’s just something I’ve always thought about while considering Walt and his actions. People think it’s admirable he lives so dangerously to provide for hi family. I find it reprehensible on a lot of levels, which gradually reveal themselves episode after episode. When Walt and Skyler chat later, their rift only opens further and threatens to swallow them whole. Even with Walt and his bullshit, her passive-aggressiveness does nothing to help. Though I side with Skyler more than a lot of people seemed to this behaviour is kind of childish, and not talking directly, openly to Walt in lieu of being cryptic only serves to make their problems larger. Things escalate before she can actually ask him what’s been happening. So by then, he’s further inclined to lie and deflect, just as she does. And the cycle perpetuates itself into a vicious spin.
Walt (to Skyler): “Do you know what I’ve done for this family?”
Jesse’s parked outside the White place in the Winnebago. This creates another conflict now, between the two partners. But the younger of the two is desperate, and Walt takes out his frustrations on him. It all builds to a fight between them. A sad fight. They’re both broken men in their own ways. You can never tell which one is more than the other.
My favourite moment comes nearing the end when, after the fight, Walt invites Jesse into his home and then soon asks: “You want some breakfast?” Because that’s the only way Walt can say he’s sorry. He doesn’t know how to actually repent, but rather tries to make it up in practical ways, even to Jesse.
In a car outside a store Skyler sits, pregnant visibly, lighting up a cigarette. A nearby woman is highly unimpressed. It signifies the fact Skyler is ready to throw caution to the wind, as Walt does with their family. To the point she is risking damage to their child. So the passive-aggressiveness continues long after their initial confrontation.
Another wonderful character driven episode. Next is titled “Breakage” and introduces some excellent plots to the second season.