Walt is trying to make a go of the meth business all on his own this time. Will it work? Probably not without help.
Walt and Skyler grow further apart on his birthday
Walt and Skyler have to come together to sell their lies to Hank, when Walt finds out his brother-in-law is helping on a new case.
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 2, Episode 12: “Phoenix”
Directed by Colin Bucksey
Written by John Shiban
* For a review of the previous episode, “Mandala” – click here
* For a review of the finale, “ABQ” – click here
With Skyler (Anna Gunn) in labour, Walt (Bryan Cranston) found himself saddled with making a big deal with the new prospective distributor, the low key Mr. Gustavo Fring (Giancarlo Esposito). Only problem was Jesse (Aaron Paul) and Jane (Krysten Ritter) shot up heroin, so Walt was left holding the bag for getting everything together.
Now, he’s missed the birth of his daughter. Too busy dropping of 38 pounds of meth at a drop spot. But then off he rushes to be with his wife and newborn daughter. Luckily, Skyler is fine, so is the baby. So she isn’t worried. Of course Walt is a little surprised, and unhappy, that Ted Beneke (Christopher Cousins) got to be there while he did not. The only thing is that while Skyler isn’t mad at Walt, there’s just the fact Walt is pissed at Jesse for having facilitated his missing the birth via the irresponsibility of shooting up heroin.
However, can we really blame Jesse?
While it’s a bonehead thing, to get on heroin, I don’t think it’s a fair thing for Walt to hold that against him. Not as if he knew there was a big deal going down. Walt went out and did all that himself, never once consulting Jesse afterwards. No way he could’ve imagined they’d need to make a massive drop like that for Fring. Still, there’s no stopping Walt. Even if he’s got a massive satchel of cash, a healthy baby girl and a wife that for once is not raging with him (for good reason), he can never pass up an opportunity to lecture Jesse.
And then there’s Jane whose own problems are big enough. She and her father Donald (John de Lancie) attend Narcotics Anonymous meetings together. While she’s high on heroin, he calls up to go to one. She lies and then prepares to leave. Before freaking Jesse out about a break-in. This sends him into a spin, not knowing Walt collected their meth. So now he believes they’ve lost every last bit of their product.
When Jane and her father hit their meeting, he can clearly tell there’s something off about her. She looks sickly, fumbling her 18 Month chip nervously. It’s so obvious, and Donald isn’t stupid either. I have to mention – John de Lancie is a fantastic actor and I’m thrilled he was given this part, I fondly know him from his brief yet thoroughly memorable part as Q in Star Trek: The Next Generation, so to see him here is a lot of fun in a beefier, highly emotional role that only gets more important in the coming episodes.
At home, Walt gets a call from Jesse about the missing meth. He only hangs up on his partner. Later, a remarkable moment during dinner – Hank brings over some Los Pollos Hermanos, and Walt is struck by the whole dirty irony of it all. But further we see the emptying manhood Walt perceives in himself, as Skyler wants to jet back to work so they have money when he gets his surgery, even Walt Jr (RJ Mitte) is thinking of getting a job to pitch in. The look on Walt Sr’s face says it all.
So later, he takes the only person in his life that won’t say a word about his business in to see all the money he’s made: little baby Holly. This is such a perfect writing moment. I absolutely adore this, even if it’s sort of twisted. Yet Walt beams when he tells Holly: “That‘s right. Daddy did that. Daddy did that for you.”
Jesse goes to Walt in his classroom, confronting him after figuring out he took the meth. Either way, Walt is pissed, but I can’t help there’s also disappointment in there. He sometimes treats his partner like he’s still a student in his class, often like a son whom he’s way too hard on. Now it gets worse: Walt refuses to give Jesse his money, assuming he’ll shoot it up his arm with his new found predilections. Except Jesse says he’s not into heroin, he didn’t like it. But Mr. White is not so keen. He wants a drug test. Well, this is beginning to drive a huge wedge between the two partners. One that’s going to have far reaching repercussions.
Now that emptying manhood over which Walt is obsessing starts to empty quicker. In his wonderful goodness, Walt Jr set up what essentially now would be a GoFundMe page: SaveWalterWhite.com, all in order to help solicit donations to help with Walt’s cancer treatments. That’s a beautiful thing for his son to do. The pride of the father is bursting through. At the same time, I kind of understand. Though I despise Walt on a certain level for his behaviour, he’s putting himself on the line cooking and selling meth while not getting any credit. As if credit is deserved. But it’s just the fact he’s risking his life, his freedom, and getting no reward whatsoever. So he goes to Saul Goodman (Bob Odenkirk), the man who always has the plan. And he doesn’t disappoint – they’ll have Walt’s money shovelled into Junior’s website via “zombies” that are essentially fake donors giving real cash from all over the world.
And as it turns out, Jesse ain’t done with the skag. He and Jane are shooting up once more. She figures out how much money her new boyfriend is worth, then it’s clear she’s very interested in this new situation. Meanwhile, at the next NA meeting, Donald finds his little girl nowhere to be found. He discovers that Jesse is a bad influence in her life, he goes on inside to find needles on the bedside table and so on. Jane’s father wants her back in rehab, so she spins a great big story about her and Jesse discussing rehab every single night, yadda yadda yadda. The loving dad in Donald breaks down and agrees to let her go for rehab in the morning. Perhaps a bad move to skimp on the tough love here. In reality, Jane is only concerned with the $480K Jesse is owed. Again, Jesse is being manipulated. Just by someone new this time.
Then comes the blackmail. Jane calls Walt, with Jesse nervous in the background, and starts demanding the cash. Or else. “Do right by Jesse – tonight – or I will burn you to the ground,” Jane tells him. We can see Jesse isn’t happy about this, or at least he isn’t comfortable. They’re still partners. Despite being angry at one another, Jesse doesn’t want to cause all this trouble. But Jane is planting herself firmly in his life, however she sees fit. To get whatever she can.
When Walt needs to go on a diaper run he takes the cash with him for Jesse. He takes the cash over there. Then things turn dark, as Jane basically wants to start spending that cash immediately. They talk of travel, of going places and doing all types of things. But first, before getting clean, they’ve got to get themselves nice and fucking high.
At a nearby bar, Walt ends up sitting next to none other than Donald Margolis. They have a chat about children, so on. Vaguely, Walt talks about Jesse, as Donald relates his own troubles with his daughter’s troubles. Love this because we’re seeing another side of things, as we’re already privy to the other. Just another example of wonderful writing.
One of the most devastating moments in Breaking Bad comes after Walt goes back to Jesse’s place. Inside, he finds him and Jane in bed together, strung out on heroin. Then Jane begins to overdose. And standing there over them Walt simply watches on while she chokes on her own vomit. This is one of the second (or third) moments in the series where I truly felt Walt has lost his humanity. Despite not wanting to get on the cops’ radar or have Jesse end up in custody, Walt has let a human being die terribly and did nothing in the way of helping. Stone cold heart. He feels the guilt and horror of his decision, but it’s contained. In a vacuum. Walt will go on, and it isn’t until the very last season he ever reveals any of this to anybody.
The next episode, “ABQ”, is the Season 2 finale.
It has much to give us.
AMC’s Breaking Bad
Season 2, Episode 11: “Mandala”
Directed by Adam Bernstein
Written by George Mastras
* For a review of the previous episode, “Over” – click here
* For a review of the next episode, “Phoenix” – click here
Combo (Rodney Rush) is out on the streets getting mad dogged by a couple dudes in a car nearby. They look sketchy as hell, not looking to buy any meth. Doesn’t look good. When they stay on him he decides to call up Skinny Pete (Charles Baker). A little kid rides his bike around Combo constantly.
Then he hears the guys in the car honk followed by a click behind him. The boy shoots him down in the street. Hardcore. That is vicious.
Walter (Bryan Cranston) and Skyler White (Anna Gunn) are at the doctor hearing what a surgeon has to say. Appears surgery is now on the table for Walt due to the reduction in size in his tumour. The married couple are reluctant to go ahead at first, at least Skyler is in her position. The surgeon sells a good game about going for it to prevent any further spreading. Cost is always on the table: from $170-200K. Yowzahs, that is one big price tag. Not to mention death is possible. Walt doesn’t feel like talking, he opts to go for the surgery without consulting Skyler immediately. A couple weeks and the whole thing is a go. Of course working around Skyler’s pregnancy.
Jesse (Aaron Paul) has news for Walter about Combo. Although, Mr. White isn’t exactly a peach about that. Nearly soulless. At the same time, Skinny Pete and Jesse are talking everything over, the former not happy about them encroaching on other territories without the muscle to back it. The meth enterprise of Pinkman-White is falling apart, bit by bit. ‘Cause Pete is out, too. Not to mention Jesse’s street cred is gone after Spooge’s woman confessed to the murder.
Saul Goodman (Bob Odenkirk) is doing his thing to help his newest clients. Walt brings the distribution issue in the fallout from Combo’s violent death to their lawyer. And the shady Saul’s got just the sort of guy that might be good for them to meet. Naturally, they don’t want to deal with anybody like Tuco, or even a Krazy-8. This time around Saul has somebody rock solid in mind. Very “low profile“, secretive type.
In the meantime, Jesse is crumbling to pieces. He needs Jane (Krysten Ritter) to leave him alone for a while. So he can smoke away the pain of Combo getting brutally gunned down. He feels all the guilt, heavily. She prefers to stay, maybe she can help.
Here’s our first introduction to Los Pollas Hermanos. Manager Gustavo Fring (Giancarlo Esposito) runs things, as the day goes by hectic. People are eating, drinking their sodas. Walt waits, looking around for the guy they’re supposed to be meeting. As usual, Jesse arrives late. High as fuck. Eventually he leaves, unimpressed with the entire deal. But Walt waits. And waits. And continues to wait. Nobody ever comes.
This makes him late for an ultrasound with Skyler (Anna Gunn). Good one, Walt. Anyway, Skyler has to rush off back to the office because there’s a birthday party for Ted Beneke (Christopher Cousins). Creepiest is when they throw the little shindig with a cake, he request that Skyler sing him a Marilyn Monroe-esque Happy Birthday. It’s just awkwardly sexual and especially because of the fact she’s currently pregnant.
When Jesse gets home he finds the place in disarray how he left it, as well as a sleeping Jane in bed. His bad influence perpetuates itself and now has threatened her sobriety. He’s only becoming more of what he hates, dragging other people into his web. First Combo, now Jane. It only gets worse from here.
So it seems as if Saul’s connection doesn’t want to do business with Walt. Finito. Done. There is only the “one shot” according to Goodman. However, Walt is not satisfied with this result. He goes back to Los Pollos Hermanos intent on figuring out some way forward. Soon, he figures out that it’s manager Gustavo Fring behind the secretive business dealing. The two men sit down for a chat together. Things slowly come out after Walt pushes a bit. Fring is keen on being careful. Though he makes clear: “I don‘t think we‘re alike at all, Mr. White. You are not a cautious man at all. Your partner was late, and he was high.” So already, Gus has Jesse figured out. He also has Walt figured out, as well. Because let’s face it – Walt does suffer from poor judgement, no matter how book smart he happens to be. But Walt manages to plead Jesse’s case, saying he can essentially control him. Gus happens to disagree. A deal may go ahead all the same.
In other business, Skyler is bringing some accounting problems to Ted about the account she’d previously mentioned in an earlier episode. She’s turning up under reported revenue, also a bit of fudging numbers and such. Tsk, tsk, Ted. Not good, buddy. Also this foreshadows a bit of trouble down the road with Skyler working with Beneke.
Jesse is consistently falling apart. Combo’s funeral went by without him there, even Badger (Matt Jones) came in from out of state. Jesse and Jane have become one of those junkie couples that just get high together and burn out. Worse, Jane’s gotten back to old habits: heroin. They’ve really become junkies with this move. She shoots him up and it’s as if heaven comes down to touch Jesse. He spins out in bed after a good hit, then falls in a deep stupor. “I‘ll meet you there,” Jane tells him.
Well things start to get tense this time around. Worst time for Jesse to be in a heroin induced trance. Walt hears his cellphone vibrating in the ceiling of his classroom, obviously making his students wonder what’s going on. Afterwards, he checks it only to realize the deal is set with Gus. A guy named Victor (Jeremiah Bitsui) tells him he has to get the required 38 pounds of meth, in one hour, to the appropriate location. If he doesn’t make it apparently that’s it. Never again.
And at the very same time, Skyler goes into labour at the office. Man, the utterly awful fate of Breaking Bad showers down on Walt at the craziest times. Now with Jesse on heroin and the Gus deal going down, Walt is faced with missing the birth of his daughter. That is one whopper of a fucking disappointment. All because of meth.
Let’s see what happens in the penultimate Season 2 episode “Phoenix” up next with a recap and review soon.
AMC’s Breaking Bad
Season 2, Episode 6: “Peekaboo”
Directed by Peter Medak (The Changeling)
Written by Vince Gilligan & J. Roberts
* For a review of the previous episode, “Breakage” – click here
* For a review of the next episode, “Negro y Azul” – click here
On a street corner, Jesse Pinkman (Aaron Paul) watches a little bug crawl around near his shoe. He could crush it, easily. But doesn’t. Or can’t. Despite his involvement in the drug trade he is not a malicious person. Not in the way his partner Walter White (Bryan Cranston) seems to be. And then Skinny Pete (Charles Baker) comes along, crushing the bug immediately with a “Damn, bitch!” This is a hilarious encounter between Skinny P and his boss. He tells Jesse about the meth heads that robbed him – a guy named Spooge (David Ury) and his woman (Dale Dickey). Funny, though, how everyone around Jesse is so intent on him taking care of business, yet nobody else is willing to do anything but push him.
So this leads Pinkman right to the door of the meth head couple’s home.
Of course, nobody is there. He gets inside to wait for the druggies to get back, only to find a little kid inside. The place is an absolute fucking mess, obviously owned by tweakers. What’s really interesting is how Jesse essentially ends up trying to take care of the kid, whose situation is beyond heartbreaking. He uses the alias “Diesel” (says it more street like D-Sol) to stay undercover.
Amazingly enough, Skyler White (Anna Gunn) gets a call from Gretchen Schwartz (Jessica Hecht). Oh no. Walt (Bryan Cranston) is back at school for his first day since taking time off. And now, Skyler goes ahead thanking Gretchen, which obviously throws Mrs. Schwartz for a loop. An awkward, tense moment. What’s about to come out of this? How is Walt going to spin that? While some might see this whole thing as a bad angle, wondering why Walt never thought of all this before. But simply, it is his hubris. In life, as in his new business, Mr. White is far too confident in his abilities to control every last little thing. Can’t wait to watch this unfold.
Meanwhile, in class Walter is back in front of his students teaching chemistry. His transition from time off seems to be going well. Even Principal Carmen Molina (Carmen Serano) is impressed. But the bit of lecture Walt gives about Howard Tracy Hall, inventor of the diamond, sort of speaks to his own feelings about himself, how he’s been treated in the profession he chose. This puts a sort of downer on things, for a moment. After class, Carmen expresses her support for Walter, as if deeply, personally moved by Mr. White’s struggle. It’s almost a strange moment where you’re not sure if she’s speaking romantically, or if merely concerned for a teacher she admires. I believe the latter, though it sets up an awkward moment in a later episode.
While Walt tries to live a normal life, Jesse is still taking care of the meth heads’ kid, waiting for them to get home. We see his sweet side come out, that side of him that’s not built for the hardcore drug business. And then Spooge/Mrs. Spooge come back after their adventures, so Pinkman gets the jump on them.
Arriving home from school, Walt Jr (RJ Mitte) and his father find someone parked in their driveway. Walter’s heart goes into his throat. He knows the vehicle, especially after reading the license plate: GRAYMTR. Poor Gretchen is caught completely off guard, especially after Junior thanks her for all she and Elliott have done for his father. It’s just incredibly hard to watch. When Walt awkwardly excuses himself to try and talk to Gretchen alone, he discovers she doesn’t care at all what he has to say. So now the nervousness builds in him, as he has no idea what’s next.
Cut to Jesse, trying hard to get his money back. He roughs up Mr and Mrs. Spooge, gets them to empty their pockets, their shoes, even getting them to pull what they have out of their buttholes. A nasty, necessary precaution. Funny enough, Spooge talks about “division of labour” just as Jesse did in the previous episode. Turns out in the backyard there’s an ATM they Spooge family lifted from a convenience store. Certainly, they did so in the most ruthless fashion, not at all inconspicuous.
Walt meets Gretchen at a restaurant in Santa Fe. He expresses his “regret“, so he says. Although Gretchen isn’t buying all his shit. She knows there’s something going on. She’s also offended that he thinks it’s none of her business what is really paying for the cancer treatments. The whole thing is messy with Walt feeling he was cut out of Grey Matter, and Gretchen not agreeing with how Walt sees things.
Gretchen: “I feel so sorry for you, Walt.”
Walt: “Fuck you”
And just as Jesse’s got everything under control, things take a turn. The married meth heads take advantage of his attention slipping. Now, they have the upper hand. This is not a good position in which Jesse finds himself. Hopefully he can make it out without sacrificing a body part, or his life.
Back at home, Skyler asks Walt about where he’s been but with tongue in cheek: “We‘re long past that, I suppose.” Seems Gretchen called. The Schwartz family is cutting off the money. This allows Walt even more room to lie, more yarn with which to weave a blanket of bullshit for his wife. He claims to have met Gretchen and Elliott at the restaurant, that they’ve been having financial troubles. He bandies about words like “cash poor” and so on, selling the magic beans to Skyler, who – like anybody would with such a good story – eats it all right up. Still, this all makes for more lies. One untruth begets another. With this lie to cover up the original lie, Walt requires another one to replace it. And so on, perpetually.
Jesse wakes to the addicts trying hard to break into the ATM. Doesn’t help Spooge constantly calls his woman a skank, which she does not like. Soon leading to her dropping the ATM base right on Spooge’s head, finishing him off. Amazingly enough, the ATM compartment pops open and a ton of cash flies out while Jesse wipes his fingerprints off. So he banks up and moves on fast. Smartest move of his in awhile. He calls 911 before leaving the kid wrapped in a blanket outside. This is one emotional moment where Jesse’s heart is clearly visible, no matter what else he’s involved in.
Perfect episode that had thrills and even more development. Excited to do another recap and review of “Negro y Azul” coming shortly.
AMC’s Breaking Bad
Season 2, Episode 2: “Grilled”
Directed by Charles Haid
Written by George Mastras
* For a review of the Season 2 premiere, “Seven Thirty-Seven” – click here
* For a review of the next episode, “Bit by a Dead Bee” – click here
Open on the car Jesse Pinkman (Aaron Paul) was driving at the end of the premiere. There are gun casings, shells laying everywhere. Glass. The hydraulics of the car are bouncing. Everything is desolate.
Cut to Hank Schrader (Dean Norris) explaining to the DEA office that Tuco Salamanca (Raymond Cruz) is the new head honcho of the meth business in the ABQ. He took over from Krazy-8. But also, they discovered the two dead men at the scrapyard are involved with Tuco. PLUS – a fingerprint belonging to the man himself. So, perfect timing? I think so. Now that Walter White (Bryan Cranston) is along for a ride with Tuco, Jesse in tow. Perfect timing for the story. Terrible for Walt. Even further, Skyler (Anna Gunn) called Hank saying she hasn’t seen her husband since the night before; he left out of nowhere and never came back, still missing. A real situation is brewing for ole Walt. If he makes it out unscathed, how will he explain the disappearance? Cops are called. Hank is poking around. There are so many ways this entire thing could go wrong.
The key – Walt receiving a text on his phone before leaving. Skyler mentions it to the cop working on finding him. Remember, Walt has two cell phones. Will this come back to cause him grief, either personally or legally? It’s just the beginning.
In the desert, Tuco gets rid of all the cell phones around him, tossing them into the weeds. He has Walt and Jesse holed up a little cabin. Or, he does after letting them free of the trunk.
At the same time, Skyler is out putting up MISSING posters with Walt’s face on them. Nobody has any idea where he could’ve gone, least of all her. If only they knew it was all a result of cooking meth. Would his wife still be out there hoping to find him? Then there’s all the cash sitting in a box of diapers, just feet from Walt Jr (RJ Mitte) who prints of more posters with his father’s face on them, teary eyed.
Over in the small cabin in the desert, Tuco’s ill uncle Hecter ‘Tio’ Salamanca (Mark Margolis) sits in a wheelchair, only able to communicate with the ringing of a bell set at his fingertip. Tuco goes about intimidating Walt and Jesse more, looking through wallets, discovering more about the Heisenberg he supposedly knew. A sad juxtaposition: Walter’s wallet holds family pictures, identification cards and more, as Jesse only has a condom in his, sort of a statement of their two lives. Regardless, the worry for these two is real now that Tuco has them stashed away out there. The DEA is after Tuco, and he’s a little suspicious about his new business partners. He plans to take Walt and Jesse with him – across the border.
Back over at the White place, Skylar finally finds out about a second cellphone. Marie (Betsy Brandt) sort of forces Hank’s hand, but out it comes. He’s further forced to hypothesize about Walt possibly having a “secret.” But nobody, and I mean NOBODY in that family has any inkling what Walt’s been up to. Not even close in the same league or ballpark or even state. Then out Hank looking for Walt, ending up at Jesse’s parents place. Naturally this eventually sparks the suspicious curiosity about why Hank, a DEA agent, might be inquiring about her son. Never have the cooking duo found themselves so close to the brink of law crashing down around them. Certainly getting risky for ole Walter.
In the desert he and Jesse are stressing out. Worst of all, Hector’s beginning to get suspicious, too. About the two men Tuco has with him. And while the crazy gangster cooks them up some food, the dynamic duo argues over how to proceed with their new plan, after Jesse fucked up their poison plans with his “chili powder” scheme. What’s most interesting is seeing how Walter, because of his own bad choices, finds himself further whipped into a downward whirling pool of even worse forced choices. Here, his mind is being further bent into criminality. Just as he gets some of the poison into a tortilla Tuco will be eating, crafty Hector sees what’s happening. He warns with his bell, though it only pisses his nephew off. Until they swap food, then Walt and Jesse get quite nervous.
This entire set of scenes in the desert is wildly tense. The suspense is amazing, made tighter by the fact Hector can only communicate via his annoying little bell. Solid writing, as usual with this series. Then, once Tuco starts to ask the right questions, at least for a moment, the pulse starts pounding. Jesse comes up with a nice little story. Just not nice enough.
When Tuco finally flips he takes Jesse and Walt outside into the desert. It’s only when Walt is confronted with either confessing or seeing Jesse die does he tell Tuco the truth. Before the duo fights against the gangster for their lives.
Tuco: “Tell me what you did!”
Walt: “We tried to poison you. We tried to poison you because you are an insane, degenerate piece of filth and you deserve to die.”
Fate has a strange way of weaving through the writing of Breaking Bad; or y’know, they could just be solid writers. Because first Tuco keeps coming even after taking a bullet, then the unimaginable happens: Hank shows up. He’s tracked down Pinkman’s vehicle. Just never thought he’d encounter Tuco Salamanca in all his savage glory. What follows is a brief gunfight between DEA Agent Schrader and Tuco, ending in the insane meth head going down for the count with an impressive shot from Hank. Wilder still is when Walt sees his brother-in-law there.
This is an intense ending to a great episode. Next up is “Bit by a Dead Bee”, another quality chapter in the start of Season 2.
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!