Jimmy and Kim face their differences. Gus finds more cartel trouble.
In the wake of Gus Fring's death, Walt, Jesse, and Mike have to find a way forward. Skyler deals with fear of her husband, and worries about Ted.
Walt's family is locked down by the DEA in the face of a threat against Hank. Andrea's boy is poisoned.
In the aftermath of Walt's decisions, he and Jesse have to figure out a way to stay alive.
Mike finds himself at Los Pollos Hermanos when backtracking the people keeping an eye on him. And he's got Jimmy helping him spy.
AMC’s Breaking Bad
Season 3, Episode 1: “No Más”
Directed by Bryan Cranston
Written by Vince Gilligan
* For a review of the Season 2 finale, “ABQ” – click here
* For a review of the next episode, “Caballo sin Nombre” – click here
In a Mexican village people crawl along the ground, as others walk and some drive.
Then two twin brothers, scary and intimidating, exit their nice Mercedes Benz. They too start crawling along the desert ground. It’s clear they’re cartel, as they wear boots with little silver skulls on them.
Seems this crawling is a type of ritual. Everybody reaches a small shack where inside people leave blessings around a Grim Reaper-esque statue. The brothers place a picture of none other than Heisenberg a.k.a Walter White (Bryan Cranston) drawn on paper next to the statue. A death curse of some sort? Likely. Either way it spells intent for the cartel. They’re hunting him down.
Now we’re back to the double plane crash in mid-air caused by Donald Margolis (John de Lancie) after his daughter Jane’s death. I love how they led up to that in Season 2. Kept lots of suspense going right up until that finale. Crafty, excellent writing.
So this season is dealing with that aftermath. The trail of destruction Walt leaves in his wake is extraordinary. Plus, Walt and Skyler (Anna Gunn) are also separated. He’s busy at home deciding on whether to burn his money. He does, and then decides against it. A hilarious, sort of sad moment. At the same time Skyler is beginning the divorce proceedings wanting it all to be over. Well there’s gonna be some issues with all that. A messy one, indeed.
Hank (Dean Norris) heads over to help Walt with his stuff. An excellent bit comes when Hank tries to take the bag with the money for him, and they have this brief little stand-off before Hank asks what he has in there: “Half million in cash,” he replies to an ironic laugh. If only Schrader knew.
Jesse (Aaron Paul) is taking to rehab, for the most part. He gets to plant some flowers, relax in a quiet space. He goes to group discussions with others. Except the lies he’s been fed have him hating himself. There’s no telling how he’ll get through that, being deceived consistently and constantly by Walt. That’s one toxic relationship.
Walt Jr (RJ Mitte) isn’t taking well to the separation. Naturally, his mother does her best, but he has no clue as to the extent of his parents problems. Already life is tough, now it gets tougher for Walt. He’s left caring for himself, and that’s not something he knows how to do – not in the sense for himself, more so in the way that he’s used to having FAMILY to care for and not just being on his own. However, he gets a message to head over to Los Pollos Hermanos. More business is on the rise. Also, of interest is how Walt cuts his sandwich – he slowly whittles away at it, until it’s a little square: exactly like the sandwich he once made for Krazy-8. Maybe nothing, but maybe it’s that lingering memory of his that keeps those type of things in the back of his mind.
At school when there’s an assembly about the plane crashes, Walt ends up giving an awkward speech. It partly speaks to his emotional and personal troubles, clouding his thought and judgement. It also is partly him trying to rationalize the entire thing, knowing that Jane’s death – one he did nothing to help prevent – is what precipitated the disaster. Essentially, Walt knows he’s at fault for Donald and his mental state. And so the awkward speech makes sense, though is no less awful.
The two cartel brothers head elsewhere in their Benz. They arrive at a small farm where they trade their nice suits for some clothes off the line. How rude! At least they stole no underwear. Everyone recognizes there’s something evil about these two, not daring to interrupt them. Of course, those boots are significant. People know about those boots, what the skulls signify. And with that the Brothers Grim head out into the desert, leaving behind the key to their car. The family at the farm is glad to see them go, just about relieved for their very lives.
Marie (Betsy Brandt) ends up seeing Walt Jr flip on his mother, so the whole White-Schrader family is just off balance. For her part, Marie tries to get things out of her sister. She has no idea what’s been happening. Nobody does, only Skyler and Walt.
At the rehab retreat, whatever you wanna call it, Jesse talks to his group, goaded into it by the one leading things (Jere Burns). When Jesse asks if he’s ever really hurt another person, the man tells him about how he killed his own daughter by accident, drunk as hell and high on cocaine. Whoa. A powerful little speech from him illuminates things for Jesse, showing him there is a way out of grief. Somehow. Some way. Got to say, Burns being in the show as a character briefly is a solid appearance on his part, he’s a good actor but man does he ever show it in this episode particularly.
Over at Walt’s place Skyler arrives with divorce papers. This blind sides him. He expected to work things out. He confesses his love, laying it all on the table. She still doesn’t know the full extent of things, and it’s probably better off because it’d only be worse if she did. Is Walt going to concoct another lie? Will he manage to scam his way back into their marriage and their family? She believes it’s all marijuana, that he’s been selling weed to get all kinds of cash for cancer treatments.
Then he comes clean about the meth, manufacturing and the like. It’s clearly too much for her to understand. It doesn’t make sense other than economically, not morally. Skyler is terrified. She promises not to say a word, as long as he divorces her. Yowzahs. Not at all how Walt envisioned that one going. He claims there’s a lot of “angles” to his side of the story – a.k.a bullshit.
Later, Jesse gets a lift out of rehab from Walt. Thus begins his transition into the real world again. He says he’s done using. Walt claims it’s a wake up call for them, but I know that’s bullshit, too. This brings about one of the saddest moments of Jesse Pinkman yet. Kills me to think Walt lets him go on believing so many lies.
Jesse: “It‘s all about accepting who you really are. I accept who I am.”
Walt: “And who are you?”
Jesse: “I‘m the bad guy”
Walt goes to Los Pollos Hermanos to tell Gustavo Fring (Giancarlo Esposito) he’s out of the game. That’s it. No more, after his family has started tearing apart. However, an offer too sweet might change all that: $3-million for 90 days work. Walt refuses, though I’m sure he’s going to backslide.
In a truck crossing in Texas, the two cartel brothers get closer and closer to Heisenberg by the second. A young man talking to them eventually goes quiet after he notices the skull-headed boots; a sign of the cartel, the death squad. And then everybody has to die. This scene already shows us that the two brothers – Marco and Leonel Salamanca (Luis & Daniel Moncada), cousins of Tuco mentioned back in Season 2 – are not to be fucked with, not now, not ever. They burn the truck and let the bodies go with it.
Further, to Heisenberg.
This was a proper season opener. Can’t wait to watch the next episode, “Caballo sin Nombre” again.
AMC’s Breaking Bad
Season 2, Episode 13: “ABQ”
Directed by Adam Bernstein
Written by Vince Gilligan
* For a review of the previous episode, “Phoenix” – click here
* For a review of the Season 3 premier, “No Más” – click here
Again, the black-and-white, the eyeball, the pink teddy bear in the pool missing one eye. The ominous openings will give us their meaning here in the Season 2 finale. The familiar images work towards colour, now we see helicopters in the air, police everywhere. Smoke and fire in the distance.
What’s gone on around the White residence?
Jesse Pinkman (Aaron Paul) wakes to find Jane (Krysten Ritter) dead in bed next to him. Frantically he pumps her chest to try and revive her. But no such luck. Heartbreaking to watch this scene. Now, he’s got to figure out what to do next. You know who he calls: Walter White (Bryan Cranston). As one young girl dies, he cradles his newborn daughter. Jesse frantically tells Walt what’s gone on, as if the latter didn’t already know. So they set about cleaning things up. Walt says he knows who to call.
At Jesse’s place, Mike Ehrmantraut (Jonathan Banks) arrives on request of Saul Goodman (Bob Odenkirk). He’s a fixer. Inside, he starts getting things organized. All the drugs and the paraphernalia get tossed in a bag. Mike is clearly an ex-cop, he knows all the rights things to do. Or a career criminal. We’ll figure that out as things go on. Either way, he irons Pinkman’s house out. He also tells Jesse only to say a couple brief things. He sets the story straight.
Living a supposedly normal life, Walt, Skyler (Anna Gunn) and Junior (RJ Mitte) – I mean, Flynn – sit and eat breakfast together. Like a happy family. However, the obvious strain of letting someone’s daughter die is wearing on him. The SaveWalterWhite.com funds are rolling in now. It doesn’t do much to assuage Walter’s feelings of emptying manhood, unable to be given credit for his money, the funds he raised illegally to support his own cancer treatment. Instead the cash and his fate are seemingly attributed to the kindness of strangers. Does not sit well with Walt, amongst all the other things that don’t sit right in his gut.
Worst of all, Donald Margolis (John de Lancie) shows up to find Jane dead. This is so unbelievably devastating. He doesn’t even have to go inside. He knows what’s happened. And this is an event that will have further reaching consequences than anybody could ever imagine.
At the DEA office, Hank Schrader (Dean Norris) puts out a collection jar for his brother-in-law. Meanwhile, he’s on the case of Combo being murdered. This leads into the Heisenberg meth, though – “blue sky,” Steve Gomez (Steven Michael Quezada) calls it. Of course Hank doesn’t buy Jimmy being pinched as being Heisenberg. He thinks the man himself is actually upping his distribution. The blue stuff’s been moving outside of New Mexico, everywhere around it specifically. So now Hank thinks there’s a bigger operation happening behind the scenes. And boy is he right, just nobody else knows it yet.
Mike has tracked down Jesse after Walt’s been looking for him. He finds the poor young dude in a drug house in a rough neighbourhood. So Walt has Mike bring him down there, he wants to go inside and find his partner. He is responsible for it all, not helping Jane as she choked on her vomit. Now this is part of his delusional redemption, in his eyes anyway. Going in Walt finds all kinds of characters skulking in the shadowy, run down corners of the building. He tracks Jesse down and eventually manages to pull him out of that hideous place. After Jesse weeps in his arms a moment. It’s more tragic for the fact of Walt having stood by and watched Jane die, especially since Jesse weeps: “I killed her.”
In this scene, Aaron Paul broke my heart to pieces. I genuinely cried a bit. Some detractors have said he isn’t as good as people say. To me, that’s bullshit. In this and his latest series, The Path, Paul proves his chops for dramatic roles. He’s got raw, emotional talent.
Sadder still is when father Donald has to pick out the clothes for his dead daughter, which is impressively juxtaposed with a follow-up cut to Walter, changing his newborn daughter’s diaper. This is a wonderful moment of editing and writing together, which shows off Vince Gilligan and his abilities. Subtle, brief moment that means so much.
I love that Hank still has the little statuette on his desk that he was given while on the Juarez task force. It was something he almost mocked when first seeing it there. But most importantly at the DEA arrive a few businessmen who raise funds for community programs, et cetera. One of whom is Gustavo Fring (Giancarlo Esposito). Ironic, funny moment when Hank mentions the scourge of meth, which Fring says is “terrible” while shaking his head. Most intense is when Gus notices the donation jar for Walter White. Now he knows the relation between Hank and Walt, as well as Walt’s cancerous affliction. This could mean a number of awful things. Let’s watch this unfold dramatically, shall we?
At the same time, Walt is dropping Jesse off at a very beautiful, New Age-looking spa where the younger of the two will receive rehab treatments. Poor Jesse, even physically he looks depressed and drained of any proper emotion. “I deserve this,” he repeats to Walt; the same thing Walt said in the desert. Yet really, Walt did deserve that, or more. Jesse deserves none of this. He deserves someone better than Walt.
Back at his place Walt finds the camera crew from a local news station there to do a story on his philanthropic son raising money for his treatment. Joy and splendour! Mr. White is non too pleased, though he placates his wife and son by going along. You can just see his pride and ego being battered by the second, merely from the look on his face. Worst of all his son is praising him as being an amazing person, a “good man” and everything. Deep down, Walt knows the difference. All too well.
Walt Jr (re: his father): “And he always does the right thing”
As Walt prepares now to go under the knife for surgery, something happens he didn’t expect. The drugs he’s given loosen him up. Too much. After Skyler asks about his cellphone, he druggily replies: “Which one?” And in that moment, she realizes his lies never end. What a potent moment of writing again, Mr. Gilligan. Love how these little plot pieces come apart and come together and fit into puzzle pieces. Testament to the quality of this series.
When Walt comes out, he’s doing well. Except for his relationship with his wife. That may be fractured completely. She and the baby are going to Hank and Marie’s for the weekend, after which she expects Walt to move. They’re separating. To Walt and his oblivious surprise. She tells him about the loopy, drugged confession, and now things are about to get very messy. Turns out Skyler also talked with Gretchen, and she found out there’s been no money coming from them at all. Uh oh, Walter. Things are falling apart QUITE fast. Skyler also figured out Walt never went to see his mother. So where did he go? Man. It all unravelled in one hard tug.
Donald Margolis isn’t doing so well. He’s back at work, but life is not the same that his daughter is gone. He prefers to get back into the routine again. However, that might be a little too early. His job as an air traffic controller is stressful. Finally the black-and-white flashes at the beginning of several episodes this season begin making sense. The grief and horror of losing his daughter has melted into the exterior world, affecting all kinds of horror on two planes that crash into one another mid-air.
Sitting alone at home in his backyard, Walter wears a shirt the same colour as the pink teddy bear from those flash forwards. In the sky, the planes crash and explode, debris falling to the ground all around Walt’s neighbourhood. This is the symbolic destruction of Walt and his actions. They have far reaching consequences, which spread out and infect everything and everyone around him. This is the metaphorical chaos he exerts over the lives of others.
An amazing, terrifying finale that has a ton of development. I loved Season 2, perhaps one of my favourites in a series that’s marked by high quality. Continue on with me soon as I dive deep into Season 3 for another watch.
AMC’s Breaking Bad
Season 1, Episode 7: “A No-Rough-Stuff-Type Deal”
Directed by Tim Hunter
Written by Peter Gould
* For a review of the penultimate Season 1 episode, “Crazy Handful of Nothin'” – click here
* For a review of the Season 2 premiere, “Seven Thirty-Seven” – click here
Breaking Bad‘s first season finale opens as the high school is having a meeting concerning the drugs in Albuquerque. Walter White (Brystan Cranston) sits next Skyler (Anna Gunn), listening to everything, as if he has no idea what’s been happening. His newly discovered hypermasculinity starts working overdrive. Walt slips a hand to his wife’s knee, slowly between her legs, and then we’ve got this definitely new man showing off his dangerous side. Living life on the edge. Eventually, Principal Carmen Molina (Carmen Serano) calls on Walt to discuss the equipment stolen from the school lab. Such irony. Then we cut to Walt and Skyler in their vehicle, in the parking lot, having sex like two teenagers. Walt’s got a new lease on life. He likes the drugs because they’re illegal, just as he explains to Skyler why he got so hot in the meeting and wanted to bang in the car. We’ve got a criminal on our hands here. A serious one.
The Pinkman house is being shown by a realtor to a nice quiet couple. Only they notice the strange patch in the ceiling, the rickety floor beneath. Neither of them knowing what had happened in that very house days ago.
Walt arrives to see Jesse (Aaron Paul), who takes refuge in the Winnebago. Sitting right there in the driveway. He’s starting to feel better, but his ribs especially are pretty damn beat up. He doesn’t know anything of what Walt has been up to. The older of the two reveals his meeting with Tuco Salamanca (Raymond Cruz), as well as the money he got for them – even an extra $15,000 for Jesse because he “earned it“. But tension escalates between the partners. Jesse isn’t happy about Walt outright making a deal for 2 pounds of meth a week with Salamanca. Problems, problems, problems. First, there’s Tuco himself; a psychotic criminal who snorts meth like it’s nothing. Second, the pseudo required to make the meth – Jesse schools Walt on what it takes to get the amount needed for their cooks.
Juggling the criminal life and his family, Walt and Skyler go see his doctor. The man makes it clear the cancer fight is about “managing expectations“. Most of all we’re seeing how Skyler is so invested, obviously, in the fight against cancer her husband is going through. Simultaneously, there’s Walt whose mind is totally fixated on the criminal enterprise that’s sitting in his lap.
At a junkyard, Walt and Jesse wait for Tuco to arrive. The younger partner chastises the new criminal in Walt for suggesting a drug meet in a junkyard, saying how sketchy it is, which clearly we can see. Especially meeting a maniac like Tuco out in the middle of nowhere. Yet this is the apex of the insanity Walt has come across so far. Even above the Krazy-8 stuff, the bathtub and the bodies. Walt – or Heisenberg, as he’s now called – doesn’t have the 2 pounds for the new deal, which infuriates Salamanca. Things get settled, to a degree. The deal is now 4 whole pounds. This does not make Jesse feel any better: “What.. did you, just do?”
Heading back to the Pinkman headquarters, Walt has a plan. They aren’t using pseudo for this cook. Instead, they’ll use another method laid out by Walt. “Yeah Mr. White! Yeah science!” cries Jesse in excitement. They’ll need a ton of supplies, most of which Jesse can’t even pronounce. Lots of new things happening. But are they any good at all? Only for the wallet.
Double back to the family life. A big party is thrown for Skyler’s baby shower, which includes everybody from the principal at Walt’s school, of course Hank (Dean Norris) and Marie (Betsy Brandt), and a ton of others. Walt Jr (RJ Mitte) is busy taking video of the party, sneaking peaks of cleavage here and there. Skyler is taken aback when Marie gives her a tiara made of white gold – extremely expensive – as is Hank, who asks Walt to go for a drink, not wanting to take in any further presents. Out back, Hank and Walt have a big Cuban cigar together: “I‘ve already got lung cancer,” Walt tells him. This prompts an interesting conversation about illegal things. Walt makes the distinction of “drawing that line” between what we determine is illegal, what is not. For us, it brings to mind Walt’s new business venture. But at the same time, even while Hank is right about meth needing to be illegal, there is an irony in the fact they’re smoking illegal cigars; certain things are fine to do illegally, I guess, according to Hank. It’s just a funny little scene, well written, and such a great way to flesh out the character of Walt, how he thinks, his morals, without too much expository dialogue. Great few moments, some of my favourite so far.
Walt convinces Skyler he’s going to a sweat lodge, as she earlier suggested alternative medicine. Rather than that he’s off to a different sort of weekend retreat. With Jesse. They’ve got most of the supplies needed. Only a few things are missing; some of the most important things. A couple thieves offer to break into a chemical storage facility to get the chemicals needed. In a sudden light of inspiration, Walt has a plan – they’ll steal it on their own. He breaks out an Etch-a-Sketch sort of contraption claiming they’ll use that to break in. It has thermite inside, which can be used to blow a lock. Walt gives a nice story about the Germans and World War II, a good preamble to their next little adventure. The boys are going from small time to big time awful damn quick.
Interesting things happen when Skyler goes to return the tiara Marie gave her for the new baby. It was stolen and she ends up being detained by the store security. They take her to a little room where she waits for the police. But Skyler didn’t steal it, we know that. Obviously Marie is a kleptomaniac who cannot help herself and stole something she later gave as a gift. Skyler’s fairly sly herself and ends up getting out of the situation. And now she is going to bring the fire of Hell to Marie, leaving a voicemail to start saying they need a little chat. When Skyler does catch up with her sister they’ve got lots of tension going on. Obviously Skyler has a point, but Marie cannot accept or admit she has a problem with stealing. An interesting twist to add in the mix. The reason why is because there are different levels of criminality at play in this series, as well as various degrees of gray morality that blurs the lines. YES – Walt is the biggest criminal of them all, but there is still a part of this series that examines where we draw the line on crime, what we excuse, who we excuse it from, so on. Interesting writing constantly and it continually impresses me.
At the chemical storage facility, Walt and Jesse pull on hilarious tuque ski masks before snipping through a fence and heading inside. They manage to lock the security guard patrolling the area inside a blue port-a-potty giving them time to infiltrate the lock and door on the building. Such an amazing sequence, which is funny at times, always tense, as well as the fact we’re seeing the further evolution of both Walt and Jesse. Yes, Walt is obviously the biggest change, but Jesse wasn’t doing a whole lot before this other than cooking and selling off a bit of drugs; he was definitely never involved in disposing bodies, kidnapping, high level meth dealing or wild break and enter operations.
Best of all is when the pair discovers there are no “gallon jugs“, as Walt hoped. Only big oil drum-style quantities. So they manage to carry it away while the security guard tries to escape the portable toilet. Off they go with their new product.
They head back to Pinkman’s to cook. Now they have a new problem: it’s Open House Day for the realtor, who doesn’t get Jesse’s call. So now there are a ton of people about to show up, just as the boys get into their major cook. They have to yield 4 pounds for Tuco, which might prove to be a problem. Bunches of people start milling around upstairs, as Walt and Jesse try to figure out how to get rid of them all. They manage to get everyone out, finishing the cook. Which sends Walt home still pretending he was at a sweat lodge, passing off the smell of meth on his skin as some of the stuff they used in the medicinal ritual – “sacred Navajo herbs,” Walt tells Skyler. The lies just build up, more and more with each passing chapter.
So we return to the junkyard. Full circle, this episode. Heisenberg brings his product to Tuco: “It‘s blue,” he remarks before sniffing some to test its awesomeness. “Blue, yellow, pink – whatever man,” Tuco says: “Just keep bringin‘ me that.”
However, things take a major turn. After one of the henchmen makes a comment to Heisenberg and Jesse, the maliciously violent side of Salamanca comes out. His terror is beyond evident. He trips out and yells a little. But afterwards, he beats the man into a bloody pulp of flesh on the ground. Now, the horrifying consequences of this new life, this new deal, this new business, it is all extremely clear to Walt – I mean, Heisenberg. He started to think things were floating on casually. But this beating in front of him, it sparks an understanding in Walt. A grim one. Both he and Jesse are left in the dust to take in the gravity of their situation, with only money to comfort them. Is it enough?
A great first season for this AMC show. Looking forward to going through the second season again, it’s even better and builds on everything Vince Gilligan and Co. worked towards in Season 1. Stay tuned and I’ll have more reviews coming your way!
AMC’s Breaking Bad
Season 1, Episode 6: “Crazy Handful of Nothin'”
Directed by Bronwen Hughes
Written by George Mastras
* For a review of the previous episode, “Gray Matter” – click here
* For a review of the Season 1 finale, “A No-Rough-Stuff-Type Deal” – click here
The start of this episode opens as Walt (Bryan Cranston) returns to Jesse (Aaron Paul), ready to cook in the Winnebago. But as he proclaims “no more violence“, we also get cuts of a new Walt, a shaved head. He walks across a parking lot with a ton of people bewildered by him. He’s bleeding slightly and toting a large bag, no doubt filled with money. The irony is not lost.
Cut back to a time before this coming incident. Walt does his chemotherapy, as Skyler (Anna Gunn) sits next to him, supportive and loving. She asks again about Elliott Schwartz and his paying of the bills. Turns out, Walt is continually lying. The mountain of lies has already begun. How big will it grow? Awful damn high, I bet. For the time being, Walter writes out thousands of dollars in cheques to the treatment center and goes about his daily life, trying to hide the burgeoning meth business under his chemistry teacher facade. At school, he’s discovering the side effects of the chemotherapy coming down on him; Walt sneaks away from class after struggling a little, vomiting hard into the school toilet. “The faster they undergo change the more violent the explosion,” he tells his class while discussing chemical compounds, but really – he’s talking about himself. In the bathroom, a janitor named Hugo helps Walter out after he makes a bit of a mess. So sad to see an independent guy like Walt having to deal with this brutal illness.
Then there’s Skyler, Walt Jr (RJ Mitte) and Walt Sr at a meeting, some support group for cancer patients and their families. His wife asks about where he disappears from time to time, which pushes Walt into one of the first few lies he’s been trafficking in. Walt says he needs alone time, so that gets him out of the house and away from the family a bit.
And now we’re back in the Winnebago with Walt, cooking up their product. He’s having trouble, though. The chemicals make him woozy and eventually send him flying out the door, into the desert. Jesse ends up noticing some marks on Mr. White after he unzips the protective suit he’s wearing. Pinkman knows about the cancer, due to his aunt having a similar dot on her chest, the targeting for radiation. Turns out Jesse is a little pissed about not being told, them being partners and all. Above all, he now understands exactly why Mr. White wanted to get into the meth business: he’ll likely be checking out, soon enough.
Too ill to get the batch done, Walt has Jesse finish up where he started.
In the city, Hank Schrader (Dean Norris) and his parnter Steve Gomez (Steven Michael Quezada) meet up. They’ve identified the gas mask in the desert: it came from the high school where Walt teaches. Uh oh? Nah. Hank would never ever suspect Walt has anything to do with it. He was almost floored when finding out Walt smoked a bit of pot, so naturally Mr. White is too inconspicuous for anybody to ever assume he’s cooking drugs.
Taking over on all fronts, Jesse is out about town selling off their new excellent product, from gas stations to laundromats to silver-grilled gangsters hanging in parking lots. Only the money he brings back to Walt isn’t what the man was expecting. He wants to move to the big time, he doesn’t want Jesse selling it in small amounts. Although, the younger of the two points out: “You don‘t know jack about slingin‘ dope.”
They start to talk about who took Krazy-8’s place in the meth food chain. A man named Tuco Salamanca (Raymond Cruz) has taken over the business. He is very high up the chain, which Jesse makes clear. So they need to have some sort of in-road to the big man. Walt yells at his partner – “Just grow some fucking balls” – but is that going to be good for Jesse? Will being forced into talking with this Tuco make things any better, or is it going to spiral them downward into more criminality, more murder, more madness?
Now, Hank is over at the high school to talk with Walt. He’s tracking down the gas mask, and it brings him to chemistry teacher Mr. White. At the same time, the obvious answer is not obvious. Hank never once assumes Walter to be the culprit, but merely sees him as a bit of a dough-head chemistry teacher who doesn’t take care of his equipment, or keep track of it. We almost sweat alongside Walt, as he wonders what is about to come next. He further finds out that Krazy-8 was a snitch for police agencies, which definitely is interesting to him. But the conversation goes on a little, and the more we stress with Walt, the more dark comedy comes into the situation. Because whereas Hank is definitely a good, solid DEA agent, this is his blindspot. Walter is easily underestimated, so can you blame him? Regardless, Occam’s razor presents itself and Hank doesn’t go for it. Why would he? There’s no reason to suspect ole Walt. At this point.
Meanwhile, Skinny Pete (Charles Baker) says he and Tuco are like “two nuts in a ballsack, yo“, and so he brings Jesse up to see the man in charge. Apparently Pete and Tuco were cellmates at one point. This puts Pinkman in a meeting with the new dangerous man in charge of Albuquerque’s meth game. And he certainly is dangerous – a meth sniffing, knife wielding, psychotic business sporting a telltale teardrop tattoo. Jesse presents the meth, which Tuco samples quickly and also give him a taste, to ensure they’re all on the same criminal level. The meth impresses, to say the least. Things become tense when Tuco doesn’t hand over the $35,000 for the bag of drugs immediately, saying “you‘ll get it“. Afterwards, when Jesse tries taking the bag and running he ends up on the bad side of Tuco and his temper; and boy, does he ever have a mean, nasty one.
Because Walt isn’t suspected, poor Hugo the janitor gets pinched for the stolen meth making supplies. Hank and Gomez show up to arrest Hugo, which obviously makes Walt feel terrible. Yet not terrible enough to clear up the whole mess. At home, things aren’t much better. Walt hasn’t yet heard from Jesse about their latest venture, clearly worrying him. Playing cards together the whole family is at the White house, with Hank and Marie (Betsy Brandt) present for a bit of fun. Furthermore, talk of Hugo comes up and burrows the guilt deeper into Walt, as Hank talks of Hugo’s previous criminal record, a “big fat” joint in his truck, so obviously he must’ve been skipping over to meth, right? No. But still, Walt has to let another man take the fall. “You hidin‘ something?” Hank asks, referring to the poker game at hand but it calls Walt’s new business to mind; amazing writing, as usual. In fact, the whole poker situation speaks incredibly to the overarching plot and themes happening. The titular handful of nothing comes to describe Walt’s poker hand, and it also leads us into the opening situation of the episode, which we see in the finale shortly.
Walt tries to reach Jesse, then finds out he’s in the hospital. Skinny Pete watches on faithfully, as Pinkman lays there in a neck brace, busted ribs, and more. Tuco went wild on him. But no longer can Walt let others get hurt because of him: first Hugo, now this. It can only get worse as time goes on. So Walt decides there must be retribution, both for Jesse and for them to get their money back.
The new and improved Walter White comes to us now. Pissing out rusty coloured liquid, losing his hair, taking pill after pill, he makes the choice to shave his head. Before the chemo can take it. Everything about Walt is him trying to get ahead – of the illness, of the debt. And shaving his head is a way Walt can step out in front of everything, on his own terms. His family is a little taken aback first seeing him completely bald. Though, while Skyler is almost mortified, Walt Jr (RJ Mitte) calls it “bad ass“.
We arrive to the finale. Walt heads up to see Tuco, shaved head, bag of drugs on him. A new side to the chemistry teacher. Beginning with the poker game, Walt is going all in. On everything. He no longer has much fear with the cancer creeping up on him, inside him, every single day. Further and further. When he gets in to see Tuco, though, things become decidedly different. Walt declares his name as “Heisenberg“, a reference to Werner Heisenberg (the Uncertainty Principle). A new man is born. Walt also asks for money to make up for Jesse’s hospital visit, plus money for the methamphetamine. Except it isn’t meth in the bag Walt brought. It is an explosive.
He tosses a crystal at the floor. Outside, the top floor of the building blows up. Heisenberg holds the back above his head threatening to blow everything sky high. And this is how the episode opens, after Walt walks out with money in hand, bleeding slightly, as well as with a deal in tact to make Tuco more meth. Amazing. Down in his car, Walt celebrates by himself, yelling, touching the money. Is this the birth of a new man completely?
Next episode is the last of the season, titled “A No-Rough-Stuff-Type Deal”. Stay with me for the finale.
AMC’s Breaking Bad
Season 1, Episode 5: “Gray Matter”
Directed by Tricia Brock
Written by Patty Lin
* For a review of the previous episode, “Cancer Man” – click here
* For a review of the next episode, “Crazy Handful of Nothin'” – click here
The fifth episode of Breaking Bad opens with Jesse Pinkman (Aaron Paul) circulating his “curriculum vitae” – his words – to try and get a sales position. Only it’s not what he thinks; more so an advertising gig. One that involves putting on a big dollar bill costume and waving a sign. After walking out, Jesse finds his old friend Badger (Matt Jones) is doing the job currently. They end up smoking a joint together. A little talk and Jesse starts thinking more and more back to his amazing meth, the stuff he made with Walter White (Bryan Cranston). Badger wants to partner up and make a bunch, though, Jesse seems to want a normal life. It doesn’t look like it’s in the cards for him, all the same. He pours through the classifieds, but then heads back to see Badger. His decision’s made, I guess.
In Walter’s world, he and Skyler (Anna Gunn) are going to a party thrown by Gretchen and Elliott Schwartz (Jessica Hecht/Adam Godley) – the old partners he worked with in his real chemist days, before teaching high school. Elliott’s birthday is well underway with all sorts of people. A few awkward moments pass where Walt is introduced to others, his role in Grey Matter, the company Elliott and Gretchen run, is talked of then he has to slyly get through a man asking which university is it where he teaches now. Most of all, we get the impression of Walt’s supposed missed opportunities, all that sort of thing. Not that Walt has a bad life. He just has shit luck, now compounding with the fact he didn’t stay with Grey Matter. Although, there are many slight clues as to why he didn’t, and those are things we come to find out more of later, as well. For the moment, Walt ends up pissed. We understand the connection he and Elliott had once upon a time, but Skyler ends up telling the man about Walt and his cancer. Bad move, at least in Walt’s eyes. He’s a proud man, and when Elliott offers him a job, it’s more than Walt can handle; a sort of peace offering, a “fig leaf” (olive branch, Walt?), to bridge their troubled relationship. He knows what it’s for – not to help, rather a way for Elliott to assuage any guilt about the company, what happened between them all those years ago, and so on.
When Badger and Jesse get together in the Winnebago, the change in Pinkman is obvious. He’s been touched by the partnership with Mr. White. Even if it’s not immediately clear to him, as it is to us. First, he corrects Badger on the different beakers and “basic chemistry, yo“. Very similar to how Walt had to initially show Jesse a few things when they started cooking. But now Jesse is back to the lower class, if meth cooking can ever be considered anything except low. They use a ton of ingredients Badger had to lift from pharmacies around town. Plus, Jesse has to do everything properly, the way Walt showed him. While Badger jokes around with a crossbow, eats cheesies, and a ton of ridiculous stuff. More than that, Jesse is not pleased with their final product. It’s glass grade stuff, but not as perfect as he and Mr. White made originally. He constantly regurgitates lines from Walt, such as the fact their customers will expect a certain “standard“, all the time Badger is freaking out over the meth Jesse keeps throwing out. Later on, they fight. Badger ends up thrown from the Winnebago trying to crossbow the R.V., as Jesse takes off through the desert.
Cut to Walt Jr (RJ Mitte) and his friends outside a convenience store. Of his three friends, Walt Jr has to go ask a guy if he’ll buy them beer. Turns out he’s an off-duty cop. What luck, right? Well, luckily for Jr he decides to call Uncle Hank (Dean Norris) instead of Walt. Hank helps him out of the situation, but cautions maybe Jr should’ve called his father: “Not cool,” says Hank. At the White house, Skyler isn’t impressed with her son. Hank and Marie (Betsy Brandt) try to put her at ease. They all have a talk about Walt, where it finally comes out he was smoking pot, and not Jr, which Marie believed. Laughing, Hank comments: “Shit. Didn‘t think he had it in him.” But Skyler decides they have to stage a sort of “family meeting“, or “intervention” as Marie calls it, so that they can all tell him how they feel about his refusing treatment.
The family all meet. Except Walt is adamant – he will not be having treatment. Everyone has their say, including Jr who calls his father “a pussy“. At the same time, Hank and Marie sort of understand Walter and his decision, to die on his own terms, in his own way.
Not too long after the family sit-down, Walt agrees to go for treatment. He realizes the massive hole he will leave financially, but more so he sees the emotional hole. He knows how deeply Skyler loves him, same with Jr, and so he agrees reluctantly, bravely. Walt lies and tells Skyler that Elliott will be sending a cheque, or at least that he’ll “take care of it“. We all know what’s about to come down the pipe shortly. Regardless, now we watch Walter begin the treatments for his lung cancer. It isn’t gruesome, there’s simply something about watching him get strapped into the plastic bag-looking contraption that makes me feel weird. Always has, each time I watch.
Then, before the episode closes and after his treatment, Walter pulls up in front of Jesse’s house. His eyes are full of regret and an unsure instability, yet he forges on. Before that, though, he gets a call on his cell from Gretchen. She’s heard of “the cancer” and offers more of their help, which Walt does not want. She wants him to take the money for the treatment, saying that money belongs to him anyways. Now, we hear of the “you and me” between Walt and Gretchen, something we briefly saw in an earlier episode where the two of them worked on a problem together. He lies to Gretchen about being covered by his insurance. We understand more why Walt won’t take the money; it isn’t simply business, it is very personal.
“Wanna cook?” asks Walt, as Jesse comes bursting from his garage, sort of pissed.
The next episode is titled “Crazy Handful of Nothin'” and brings us closer to the end of this first season.
AMC’s Breaking Bad
Season 1, Episode 4: “Cancer Man”
Directed by Jim McKay
Written by Vine Gilligan
* For a review of the previous episode, “…And the Bag’s in the River” – click here
* For a review of the next episode, “Gray Matter” – click here
Agent Hank Schrader (Dean Norris) introduces a new operation for the DEA. They have their eyes on Krazy-8, whose car was found in the desert recently with high-grade meth in it. Turns out, he was ratting on people. They’re both missing, which we know already. But the focus here is the methamphetamine – purest their lab “has ever seen“. The gas mask found out there tested for the same grade meth.
Amazing editing here. Cutting from Hank talking about a new kingpin in the city to Walter White (Bryan Cranston) in his tighty whiteys, brushing his teeth like a dummy and looking hilarious, it is absolute genius. Makes all the difference for the writing and a juxtaposition for us to see what irony there is in this statement.
At the White residence, everyone is having a nice barbecue. Walt and Hank are poolside by the grill, as Skyler (Anna Gunn) and Marie (Betsy Brandt) are sitting in the shade, the latter having a drink. The happy family is happy, though, Skyler eyes Walt; not suspiciously, but with a sad eye. At the end of the previous episode he was about to reveal something to her. She knows something now, and it weighs on her. Heavy. In fact, as the story of Skyler meeting Walt for the first time (over crossword puzzles) comes out from his lips, she breaks down slightly and their strong front is weakened. Walt then tells everybody what’s been going on: he has terrible cancer. Everyone is obviously shocked, Walt Jr (RJ Mitte) is devastated. Worse than that is the fact Walt hid it from his family so long, a whole month. He’s just such a strong, independent type. He doesn’t want people doting on him, worrying, and most of all he doesn’t seem like a person who wants other people to make his decisions. Walter is a man of principle, despite his faults. When Hank says “I‘ll always take care of your family“, you can see the look on Walt’s face; an appreciation is there, but the fact is he wants to take care of them. Only him.
Walt: “You know I, I just think, that ah, things have a way of working themselves out.”
Jesse (Aaron Paul) introduces his friends Combo (Rodney Rush) and Skinny Pete (Charles Baker) to the new product he and Walt cooked up. Now, the meth is out there. It’s already digging claws into addicts. Even Jesse alone, who we find in the next scene alone by the window, paranoia running wild as he peers outside, smoking another bowl. The editing again here is perfect. It brings out his paranoia so well. Then he has a vision of two bikers coming up over his lawn wielding weapons. This entire sequence really plays with your head for a few seconds before you figure out what’s actually happening – two Mormons are knocking at the door, leaving a pamphlet when nobody answers. Meth psychosis is real, folks.
Tending to the plate shard wound in his leg at home, Walt uses a bit of glue to seal the wound, patching a bandage over top. Then a little blood seeps through his pant leg. The whole time he coughs and hacks over the sink. His double life is ever so slowly, like the blood through his pants, soaking into the fabric of his regular life, Skyler just outside the door knocking and wondering what’s going on.
More money piles up in debt at Walt’s door, as Skyler and Marie have hooked up a five-star oncologist to give a second opinion on the lung cancer. There is a further need for money now, worse than before. This will likely drive Walter back to the meth instead of staying away from Jesse and that entire world. The double life reels him back in. For the time being, he uses money from the stash in a vent, conveniently in the baby’s new room.
We see Walt have a run-in with a guy who steals his parking spot. Well, there’s no confrontation, only a pissed of Walt left waiting in the lot. Inside the bank this guy talks loud enough to fill the room, everybody noticing his obnoxious nature, which isn’t easy to ignore. Walt eyes him with an evil eye, then goes about his business. This is not a red herring, a passing thing. We’ll come back to this guy and his vanity license plate.
Cut to Jesse falling all over the patio furniture at his parents’ house. They’re not overly thrilled to see him. His younger brother is a vastly different person than Jesse. Although, it’s clear the parents haven’t given up on their oldest boy. He is no doubt a disappointment, especially considering all the stuff they don’t know, even while they know a good deal. Still, if they could see what he’s been doing they might never look at him in the eyes again. They clearly worry for him. Jesse wants to try setting things right with his parents, after the events of the first few episodes have rocked his soul to the core. But they’re reluctant to just dive right into forgiving him, letting him do what he surely does every time. With one scene we feel the history of the family, so evident and in your face. Again as I’ve said plenty already the writing in this series from Vince Gilligan has been something special.
Parallel to Jesse and his family there’s Walt and his own. The opposite situation. They’ve all watched Walt live his life as a straight and narrow type of guy. Suddenly, he’s transforming into a starkly difference human being. Seeing the two characters of Jesse and Walt go through their separate yet oddly similar troubles, it’s a great way to bring out the life in them. We feel bad for Walt, even if he is resorting to criminal activity; his situation sucks. Likewise, even though Jesse is a bit of a washout, smoking meth and cooking it, generally going nowhere, you feel bad because now we’re seeing more of him – who he used to be, before drugs took him. As a former drug addict, I know what it’s like to change, and see the person you once were. Strangely enough, Jesse finds an old chemistry test he failed, big red marker on it from Mr. White. Then after all this beginning of growth, our feelings for Jesse starting to rise, Combo calls and needs some of the new meth. Tempting Jesse away from any thoughts of trying to change.
Jesse goes to Walter’s place, after the “ball breaker” leaves. He wants to have a little meeting with Walt, to “touch base“. Only it turns out Jesse has a bunch of money, and everyone is loving their meth. To an extreme. Junkies on the street are already dying for more of the product, they want, need, any and all of it. Seems as if Jesse’s fleeting dreams of something more were exactly that. Now he only wants to do more cooking.
And perhaps the $4,000 from the initial batch might start to change Walt’s mind, too.
At the same time, Walt also goes to meet the new doctor. He’s told about great, supposedly effective treatments at the clinic aimed towards prolonging life. What we’re seeing now is Walt having to make a choice: chemotherapy, or no chemotherapy. It is a tough choice, no doubt. Problem being others want to try and make it for him. He doesn’t feel in control, yet this is one way he can control his life; by choosing to not do something, if that’s what he truly wants. His family, obviously, is concerned.
Over at the Pinkman house, the maid finds a joint. Everyone assumes it belongs to Jesse. His parents confront him. Then after all sorts of argument, Jesse discovers the weed belonged to his little brother, the angelic little boy nobody expected. Jesse takes the fall, but also crushes the joint instead of giving it to his brother. An admirable moment here from a guy nobody seems to want to help. He’s a lone wolf.
The White family has a confrontation over Walt’s decision to possibly not seek treatment. Walt Jr is upset, as is Skyler. They want him alive. He just doesn’t really want to go that route, having to hook up to chemo, to suffer through all that brings on. He also is afraid of the money, not wanting to leave his family in crippling debt. “Then why don‘t you just fucking die already?” Walt Jr yells at his father. “Just give up and die.”
Walt coughs blood into his hand a little while later while driving. It just so happens this nasty surprise brings a better one. Pulling into a parking lot, Walt ends up seeing the tool from earlier: KEN WINS, on his license plate. The man parks at a gas station, still talking on his Bluetooth headset. Walt saunters over to the pump and picks up the windshield squeegee, pops the hood and jams the thing inside. It sparks, creating fire. It explodes, as Walt walks back to his vehicle and heads out.
Maybe Walt can’t control cancer. Maybe he can’t beat it. For now, he’ll take settling up with one of the world’s assholes.
Next episode is titled “Gray Matter”. We’ll start to get more into the family dynamics and the cancer diagnosis, as well as the series starts to bring in more of Walt’s life from earlier on after former research partners reach out to try and help funding his treatment. Stay with me.
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!