Better Call Saul – Season 3, Episode 6: “Off-Brand”

AMC’s Better Call Saul
Season 3, Episode 6: “Off-Brand”
Directed by Keith Gordon
Written by Ann Cherkis

* For a recap & review of the previous episode, “Chicanery” – click here
* For a recap & review of the next episode, “Expenses” – click here
Pic 1We open with Hector Salamanca (Mark Margolis) and Nacho (Michael Mando) at their place of business, the latter counting rolls upon rolls of cash as his boss drinks coffee and reads the newspaper. Business as usual. Then one payment comes light, from the man we later know in Breaking Bad as Krazy-8 (Max Arciniega). Although Nacho lets him off with it, until his boss comments: “Who works for who, huh?”
And so Krazy-8 gets one rough beating in the kitchen from Nacho.
Cut to Nacho in back of a shop, sewing steadily until he just about sews his hand right into the garment he’s making. There’s a lot more to this dude, and I hope we’ll see this before he disappears eventually.
Pic 1AIn court, Kim (Rhea Seehorn) pleads the case of Mr. James McGill (Bob Odenkirk), that he is a compassionate man helping his ill brother Chuck (Michael McKean) and many seniors. She paints a picture of betrayal by the older brother. He gets a 12-month sentence, I assume a time during which he can’t practise law. Definitely worthy of their celebration.
At the same time, Rebecca (Ann Cusack) goes to see her former husband in his fortress of electrical solitude. He won’t answer, he simply wastes away in darkness. So Rebecca goes to see Jimmy, who does not want to help him anymore: “I dont owe him squat.” She is very disappointed, believing Chuck was right about the younger brother.
Rebecca: “Hes mentally ill. Whats your excuse?”
Stacey Ehrmantraut (Kerry Condon) sits and talks with a support group, her father-in-law Mike (Jonathan Banks) at her side. She says she volunteered him to help with a playground at the church. We see more of that whole other side to Mike in these moments with his family, which were only short and sweet in Breaking Bad. It’s interesting to see how he got to such a desperate place in that original series through the moments in this wonderfully written prequel.
Howard (Patrick Fabian) goes to see Chuck, refusing to leave without a word. And a drink. Although the older McGill isn’t happy about anything. Not his mental state, not Jimmy’s one-year suspension. His partner tries painting a positive picture, but it’s not of much use. He wants Chuck to focus on the future, to keep being a good lawyer, so on. Saying he’s too smart a man to throw a life away on a delinquent brother.
So, can he bounce back? Or will he succumb to his unfortunate mental condition? Alone at his desk Chuck takes a battery in his bare hands, forcing himself to hold it tight and cringing the whole time.
Pic 2And what about Jimmy? What’s next? He has to take care of the situation with his clients for the coming year. He calls them to let everyone know he’s taking a “sabbatical from the law.” That’s it, y’know. Plenty of the older folk will miss him, so it’s mostly a lot of chatting. He’s a slick one, that we already know. A great montage sequence of him calling his clients fits right in with his character. Perfectly placed.
He also finds out his commercial’s still running on TV, in for another $4K of ad space with it off the air. So many money issues with him leaving for a whole year. Wonder how he’s going to fund the whole venture while not working. He goes out trying to hawk the ad space, offering to shoot the commercials for the $4,000. 9 commercials, 9 airings. Or one commercial at a lower rate, airing still included. But no one’s biting at the sales pitch yet.
What Jimmy decides on doing is “offbrand” to him, though finally he comes to a decision: “Well have to Karloff this thing.”
Pic 3Meanwhile, the drug trade in New Mexico continues through the trucks of Los Pollos Hermanos trafficking the cartel’s meth. Men go to work taking out packages and packages of product from the trucks’ false flooring, giving it over to Nacho. We see a familiar face with Victor, one who actually takes the place of Victor later on in Breaking Bad: Tyrus (Ray Campbell). Gus (Giancarlo Esposito) gets a call when Nacho tries taking more than expected, and the boss says to give it over. All ends well, for now.
Speaking of Gus, he’s checking out the new digs at an industrial laundry facility. Oh, you know the one. He’s got an eye out for a place where he’ll construct a lab, one to make him the kingpin of meth distribution in New Mexico. Another familiar face shows up, Ms. Quayle (Laura Fraser), helping him on the search for the perfect location.
Poor Chuck, out on the streets covered under his clothes with the space blanket. He finds a payphone and calls a Dr. Laura Cruz, his former doctor. He wants to get treatment again, obviously. I feel so horrible for him, despite any of his own faults aside from his condition. It’s heartbreaking.
When Nacho and Arturo (Vincent Fuentes) get back to Hector, the old guy’s not impressed with what happened at Fring’s place. He wants to go into his own big time distributing business, hoping Nacho will convince his father to help. But the young man doesn’t want to let that happen. At the same time they find out Tuco’s in trouble for a stabbing. This prompts the old fella to nearly have an attack. Also, note the errant pill Nacho keeps under his boot.
Pic 4Looks like the McGill plan has worked. He’s optimistic about the ad time. He “made a commercial for commercials” in a single afternoon. A hilarious little cheap commercial with star swipes and chunky-lettered graphics.
Finally, FINALLY – we have the pseudonym, Saul Goodman making an apperance. “Sall good, man.” Even though he says it’s merely a name, we know better. This becomes the first time he dips into a truly other identity, his second life. His future.
Pic 5What an impressive episode. I love how the writers weave together and make these little moments from Breaking Bad come to life more vivid, as well as still creating their own world of Jimmy McGill before he too broke bad. Can’t wait for the next episode “Expenses” because I smell more cartel treachery coming soon.

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Breaking Bad – Season 3, Episode 6: “Sunset”

AMC’s Breaking Bad
Season 3, Episode 6: “Sunset”
Directed & Written
by John Shiban

* For a review of the previous episode, “Más” – click here
* For a review of the next episode, “One Minute” – click here
IMG_0039Near the border a police officer checks on a family’s property. Inside is a shrine, the statue with a skull face and holding a scythe. At its base is a drawn picture of Heisenberg’s face. Outside are suits hanging on the line. Very suspicious, indeed. And when the officer heads out back he finds the fly ridden corpse to complete the scene. Inside is one of the Salamanca brothers. The other sinks an axe into the officer from behind.
No one is safe. Least of which is Walter White (Bryan Cranston).
IMG_0041He’s busy working over the divorce with Skyler (Anna Gunn), deciding on what to do with Walt Jr (RJ Mitte), explaining it to him and justifying everything so that they don’t have to tell him dad cooks meth. At the same time our anti-hero’s hubris is off the charts, bleeding from his professional life right into the personal.
Those Salamancas! They show up at Los Pollos Hermanos to see Gus. They sit in terrifying silence in the midst of the restaurant.
Over at the Pinkman residence, Jesse (Aaron Paul) shows off his Jolly Rancher-sized crystals to Badger (Matt Jones) and Skinny Pete (Charles Baker), who get high on the product while he watches on. Surrounded by addicts he’s only being given their junkie opinion. He doesn’t realise it isn’t as perfect as Walt’s, which isn’t REALLY that big of a deal. But in his own way a hubris develops. Now, even after the death of Combo, he wants to put his friends back out on the street, in the line of fire.
The whole time Hank (Dean Norris) watches from down the street, his eyes on the house after tracking down Combo’s mom and the RV. Uh oh. And Walt is going about his business as usual, getting into more of it with Gus and the super lab. He has no idea how close his own brother-in-law is to figuring out his drug dealing identity. They’re so near in that criminal v. cop parallel, in so many ways, it’s an exercise in brutal tension at times.


One of the other perks of the lab is having an assistant, a proper one with chemistry experience and training. Walt now has Gale Boetticher (David Costabile) at his side; an enthusiastic soul who’s prepared to learn from his journeyman chemist. Even brought a resume. Has an MA and specialised in “xray crystallography” and he makes a sweet cup of coffee with his elaborately refined method. They get to cooking, like a match made in heaven. They have fun, they play chess between processes. Very different in comparison to Walt and Jesse, in every way imaginable from the lab itself to how they work together. Gale genuinely cares about the chemistry.
So, in a sense, we’re seeing Walt’s genuine love for the chemistry behind the drug dealing, for the first REAL time. Also, it’s nice to see someone like Gale admittedly talking about how he got into that shady business. Basically he’s “definitely a Libertarian,” with an intent on giving people a clean product. They talk a bit more, of chemistry and Walt Whitman; this wonderful poet will come back into play later in the series, take note!
Hank sits waiting for Jesse to do something stupid, to lead him to the RV and break the case wide open. He’s been sitting in his car for what seems like days, fast food wrappers and containers and cups piled in the passenger side. Things work out for Walt, though. He gets a call from Hank wanting to know if he knows anything about Jesse’s RV, setting off alarm bells and whistles like FUCKING CRAZY. The game is on. Walt’s got to do something about their “rolling lab” before his brother-in-law actually finds the damn thing. He calls Jesse and they’ve got to start figuring out their problems.
IMG_0044Saul suggests getting rid of the RV altogether. The boys have no plan. It’s back to Badger and his cousin who owns the junkyard. They’ve got work to do. When Walt doesn’t include Jesse in the mix Badger calls him up. Ah, so many things happening.
The shittiest? Jesse’s leading Hank right to the RV.
Saul: “The Starship Enterprise had a selfdestruct button, Im just sayin‘!”
Preparing to get rid of the vehicle Walt has a walk down memory lane. So weird. Then Jesse shows up, pissed. With Hank on his tail. This is it: either he finds them, together, in that RV, or they manage to get themselves out of hot water.
When the chips are down, Walt gets Saul in the mix to pull them out of the boil. He has a call made saying Marie is in the hospital after a horrible car crash. Hank rushes off immediately, leaving the boys free to get out of there. After his wife calls he figures out the whole thing was a ruse it’s too late because the RV is destroyed.
At sunset Gus meets the Salamancas in the desert. He says Walter will not be killed. He says that if they must kill someone for what happened to Tuco, then they can have Agent Schrader. Whoa.
IMG_0046The green light is lit.
Next is “One Minute” and there are many things about to change. Very quickly.

Breaking Bad – Season 3, Episode 5: “Más”

AMC’s Breaking Bad
Season 3, Episode 5: “Más”
Directed by Johan Renck
Written by Moira Walley-Beckett

* For a recap & review of the previous episode, “Green Light” – click here
* For a recap & review of the next episode, “Sunset” – click here
IMG_0030We start on a flashback to Walt (Bryan Cranston) when he gave Jesse (Aaron Paul) the money to buy an RV for them to cook. So, Jesse does the smart thing: he takes Combo (Rodney Rush) and Skinny Pete (Charles Baker) out to the strip club, for lap dances and “Don Perignom,” as he calls the champagne.
After the night’s over Jesse feels a bit shitty. Well Combo has the fix. His mom owns an RV. He takes the rest of Mr. Pinkman’s cash, after the funds were drained the night prior down to $1,400, and lets him take the RV off their hands. Without permission, naturally.
Ah, even the trusty meth lab has its backstory!
IMG_0031Skyler (Anna Gunn) still enjoys her getaways with Ted Beneke (Christopher Cousins) at his place. He has money, he doesn’t cook meth. What we see though isn’t all rosy. I don’t think that Skyler is as bad as most make her out. However, she’s still cheating on Walt. And her husband’s a bag of shit in his own way, he isn’t such a righteous guy. Remember that Mr. White could’ve swallowed his pride over Gretchen, he didn’t have to make meth. He chose this, and unfortunately cheating on him was the only way to truly get back at Walt right now.
Then there’s the situation with Jesse and Walt, the halved money for the recent deal. Saul (Bob Odenkirk) tries keeping the peace, stuck in the middle, as Gus Fring (Giancarlo Esposito) plays a game pitting the two former partners against one another.
If the boys aren’t careful, they’ve got other problems, as well. Hank (Dean Norris) and Steve Gomez (Steven Michael Quezada) are scoping out RVs, narrowing down a list of vehicles. They mostly run in to people who aren’t, at all, cooking meth. Making things less and less credible all the time for poor Hank. Worst part is that we the audience know better, so it’s really agonising (in the right ways). At home, Marie (Betsy Brandt) can’t get anything out of her husband, either. Makes theirs a strained relationship, as he’s bottled up tighter than a pressed Mason jar.


Walt finally gets talking with Gus about his “ploy” to get him back cooking. But the thing which is clear is the fact Walt can’t let go of the business. He can’t help ragging on Jesse, for not cooking the product as good as himself. What Gus does is use the man’s hubris against him. Smart as he is, Walt is so full of it that he can’t resist falling into the trap. Because what’s waiting for him is the opportunity of a lifetime.
He’s taken to an industrial laundromat Gus owns. There, behind a piece of machinery, they go downstairs to a lab that’s been setup, top of the line and state of the art equipment. Like Christmas for the chemistry nerd. Walt gets an instant science-erection. Not just the lab. There’s no way to trace the chemicals, as they’re ordered in for the laundry service, employees are trustworthy and trained, chemicals are filtered out with the laundromat steam.
Walt still refuses. What will make him break?
At home things aren’t as bad, though not good. Love the imagery in one shot at the dinner table: Walt on one end of the table and Skyler at the other, a wall between them literally dividing them as is the wall of their own choices, their mistakes, so on. One great thing about Breaking Bad is the use of visuals, in many forms. This being one fine example. Something so simple becomes powerfully resonant in terms of themes.
IMG_0035At the office Steve’s being celebrated as he prepares to take the place of Hank in El Paso. Poor Agent Schrader. He looks crazy to others, and in some ways weak. I can’t blame him not wanting to go back after seeing what he saw, a head on a tortoise exploding and maiming, killing people? That’s fucked up. All the same law enforcement is what he chose, DEA at that. Furthermore, Hank’s inability to deal with his problems and talk, to anybody let alone a doctor of any kind makes it the hardest. Although he’s validated when getting himself closer to that RV. Baby steps.
In other news, Walt is granting Skyler the divorce for which she asked. But does she still want it?
Back to Jesse and Saul, who’ve got a meeting on the books with Mr. White. They have to talk about the halved cash and what’s to be done. No love between the two former partners, that’s a definite. Rather than comply with any of what Jesse wants, Walt has decided otherwise. He gives back the half of the money and he’s going back in business with Gus. $3 million dollars for three months of work with only 5% going to Saul.
Walt (to Jesse): “Im in, youre out.”
When Hank goes to see a Mrs. Ortega about her RV, we see it’s the same place where Combo took the one he gave to Jesse. From his dear ole mama. Closer and closer we see our man Hank getting nearer to Jesse. In turn, he gets closer to Heisenberg, his own brother-in-law.
IMG_0037Another damn good episode. Lots of tension building between Jesse and Walt, which isn’t anything new. The steam is getting ready to release, and things will implode eventually. One way or another.
Next episode is “Sunset” and we’re also getting closer to another implosion, or explosion, in Hank Schrader.

Breaking Bad – Season 3, Episode 4: “Green Light”

AMC’s Breaking Bad
Season 3, Episode 4: “Green Light”
Directed by Scott Winant
Written by Sam Catlin

* For a recap & review of the previous episode, “I.F.T.” – click here
* For a recap & review of the next episode, “Más” – click here
IMG_0005At a gas station, Jesse (Aaron Paul) stops and fills up the RV. He doesn’t have enough cash to pay, then offers all he can: the blue meth. Takes a bit of convincing, especially with a cop lurking around. The worst part of it is that Jesse is pulling more people into the unclean web he’s been living in for the better part of the past few years. He wants to get away from that person he was, though as long as he’s in that world it’ll never happen.
Saul Goodman (Bob Odenkirk) receives a visit from Mike Ehrmantraut (Jonathan Banks) about the situation between Walter White (Bryan Cranston) and his wife Skyler (Anna Gunn), who’s just banged her boss Ted Beneke (Christopher Cousins).
Worst is the jilted husband’s headed for the office, to pay him a visit. Something Mike and Saul would rather keep contained, if possible. Bad news for everybody any time Heisenberg’s true identity shows up noticed by any authorities. Also, Walt looks pretty foolish in his, albeit justified, bruised masculinity trying to break the window at the office before security shows up. Everyone in there knows exactly what’s going on, too. Real awkward for them, Ted, and Skyler.
Before anything gets too crazy Mike arrives to cart him off to their mutual lawyer. Saul tries to talk some sense into him. But it isn’t long before Walt figures out he’s business partner is keeping tabs on him, real close. “Thats just my meticulousness,” Saul explains. After a bit they wrestle. The relationship’s begun to sour. What our anti-hero needs to remember is that he’s got other people watching him, and a sinister chalk marking on the street outside his house is a grim reminder for the audience, as well.
Saul: “Oh, boo hoo, ‘I wont cook meth anymore.’ Youre a crybaby, who needs you?”
IMG_0006Walt has troubles at school, then tries putting the moves on Carmen (Carmen Serano) when they meet in her office to talk. He is out of sorts, taking the betrayal of Skyler in their marriage in strange ways. He isn’t the only one feeling strange, either. Hank Schrader (Dean Norris) and wife Marie (Betsy Brandt) are at odds over his going to El Paso. Particularly after the last brush with death. Before he can go into the airport he gets a call: more blue meth. He decides to stay; both as a way to further his vendetta against the mysterious Heisenberg and as an excuse not to go, because of the fear inside he won’t talk to anyone about.
After Walt takes a sabbatical from school – “indefinite,” he says – Jesse turns up outside the school to chat. He wants to meet the distributor, to get back into the business. He’s sober, but won’t give up the meth money dreams. His former partner wants no part of it, though Jesse has his heart set on it. He’s cooked his own blue stuff. Only Walt calls it inferior, “my formula” and “mine” are the words he uses. Suddenly he becomes full of anger, resentment. Another relationship going sour; more like already there, long ago.
Meanwhile, Skyler faces backlash in the office over the affair with Ted. They keep having one, despite that. And there’s a spark, too. They have chemistry, which makes matters worse.


Over at DEA headquarters Hank and partner Steve Gomez (Steven Michael Quezada) keep chasing the blue meth connection. Problem is they’re all too often getting information from idiot junkies. Aside from that Gomez isn’t thrilled with what they’re doing lately, feeling that his partner’s reaching for a case.
At his office Saul’s visited by Jesse with his bag of blue. He wants a meet with the distributor. However, something tells us it won’t be easy for him to get a meet on his own. Speaking of the man himself, Gus Fring (Giancarlo Esposito) gets a full report on Walter White’s cancer, his mental state, et cetera, from Mike. Plus he lets him know the Salamanca brothers marked the house with a chalk scythe. Moreover, Gus agrees to do a deal with Pinkman. Because he wants to get to Heinseberg, to motivate. He wants to do business, and bad.
Hank finds himself at the gas station where we saw Jesse in the beginning. He questions the girl who took the meth. Agent Schrader gets what he wants, eventually. She tells him about the guy who came in, trading for gas. But there’s not much to tell, outside a basic description. Add that to the fact she remembers the RV. Nothing to really go on. Not until Hank discovers an ATM outside; one with a camera inside. This will give him a picture of the vehicle. Uh oh.
Later, Jesse receives money from Victor (Jeremiah Bitsui). Only half. Why? “Thats your half,” he’s told. You know where the rest is headed.
IMG_0010There’s now a choice on the table for Hank: go to El Paso, or stay. He puts it off, saying it’s about the Heisenberg case. Finally, he has to make the choice. He decides to stay and keep chasing the blue meth, despite how it looks to anyone else. His boss knows there’s something up, everyone does. It’s up to Hank to sort that out for himself.
Walter heads on down the road and hears that Donald Margolis, father of Jane, has shot himself. Then he stops at a red light. Victor pulls up quick, tosses him a bag full of cash: “Your half.” This confuses Walt, but we understand. He will too. Soon enough.
IMG_0012Another excellent episode. Further down the rabbit hole we go.
Up next is another solid chapter called “Más” and that means MORE in Spanish.

Breaking Bad – Season 3, Episode 3: “I.F.T.”

AMC’s Breaking Bad
Season 3, Episode 3: “I.F.T.”
Directed by Michelle MacLaren
Written by George Mastras

* For a review of the previous episode, “Caballo sin Nombre” – click here
* For a review of the next episode, “Green Light” – click here
img_4034 We start on Tortuga (Danny Trejo). He sits in a little bar drinking, being an asshole, as usual. Then Juan Bolsa (Javier Grajeda) shows up. They chat, drink. The boss man has a present for Tortuga, he missed the man’s birthday. Only the present is a tortoise, that Juan paints HOLA DEA on before the Salamanca twins cut Tortuga’s head off.
The prequel to Hank and his run-in with the head-bearing tortoise.
img_4037 In the present day, Mike Ehrmantraut (Jonathan Banks) is still watching Walter White (Bryan Cranston), checking in with whom I can only assume is Gus Fring (Giancarloa Esposito). All the while Walt scrapes the pizza off the roof. Not to mention now Skyler (Anna Gunn) is on her way home discovering her estranged husband has moved back in. Things aren’t pretty for the Whites, that’s for sure. Walt won’t budge, so she threatens calling the police. He’s willing to call her bluff. She does call, although when the police arrive they discover no evidence of him having forced his way in. He’s acting calm, rational, eating grilled cheese and potato chips with Walt Jr (RJ Mitte). As they’re not legally separated, the police have their hands tied. And by all outward appearances Walt isn’t a violent or bad man. Nobody else, aside from Skyler, knows what he’s been up to in his spare time. She’s not willing to come out and tell the police, or anyone, about Walt’s crimes.
Skyler: “Welcome home
Poor Jesse Pinkman (Aaron Paul) reels from the death of his girlfriend Jane. He’s a bit of a broken man. In his new house he looks like a shattered soul, lost and lonely. Saul Goodman (Bob Odenkirk) pops by to try talking him into getting in touch with Walt. Right now Jesse would rather be by himself.
Then there’s big Hank Schrader (Dean Norris) and his partner Steve Gomez (Steven Michael Quezada), they’re out doing their thing. Hank gets a call about going back to El Paso. He acts excited, to his boss, to his partner. It isn’t hard to tell he’s not one bit excited in reality.
And those creepy Salamancas, they’re looking for a handicap van. You can guess why – papa Tio (Mark Margolis) has somewhere to go. They’re meeting with boss Juan Bolsa and Gustavo. All about Heisenberg and the near hit on him. Problem is that Tio loved Tuco like a son, and Walt betrayed him supposedly; Juan believes the Salamancas have a “right to exact revenge.” But Gus won’t have that. Business must be completed with Walt, then they can have their revenge. This may lead to a much more devastating proposition for the time being.


Continually, Jesse calls Jane’s phone to hear her voice. He dials over and over, unable to let go. And how can he? Worst of all is the fact that Walt let it happen; he could’ve tried saving her and chose not to in an effort to save his own skin. At home, Walt suffers in karmic ways: unable to sleep in his own bed, in the same house as his wife yet on another planet altogether, pissing in the sink since Skyler won’t let him into their own. Privately with her divorce lawyer, Skyler reveals that her husband cooks meth.
At a bar, Hank and Steve have some beers. Except that Hank is distracted. He sees a little drug deal action going on at one of the tables. So, to try proving his own faux-masculinity to himself, he decides on going the hard knocks route; he leaves his gun in the car before they leave, heads back in, and throws some fists with a couple tough guys. He kicks the absolute shit out of them, though it’s clear Hank has some serious shit going on in his head. Later, Steve calls him out for leaving the gun in the car, clearly understanding his partner’s fucked up.
When Jane’s line finally goes dead, this is a real blow to Jesse. The last remnant of her voice is gone, never to return. And the real world, the life after Jane now officially begins as the pain breaks through further. Thus Pinkman goes back out to the desert in the Winnebago to start cooking. Because it’s all he has left.
Skyler prepares to leave then finds Walt in the living room, a bag of money at their feet filled to the brim. He gives what he considers his explanation: “That is college tuition for Walter Jr, and Holly, eighteen years down the road. And its health insurance for you and the kids, for Jrs physical therapy, his SAT tutor. Its money for groceries, and gas, for birthdays and graduation partiesThis money, I didnt steal it, it doesnt belong to anyone else; I earned it. The things Ive done to earn it, theythe things Ive had to doIve got to live with them.”


What will she do? Not long after she rushes into the arms of Ted. When she gets back to the house later, dinner’s ready and Walt is playing the adoring husband, doing his best to make things nice. A pot roast is in the oven, a salad made.
So after her husband rattles on like nothing’s ever happened, Skyler leans in and tells him: “I fucked Ted.”
img_4049 Wow! The reaction of Bryan Cranston in the end after Anna Gunn speaks those words is fantastic. Utterly perfect. They’re both quality actors and they play so well off one another, one of the greatest television couples in any series.
Next episode is “Green Light” and plenty’s poised to go down.

Breaking Bad – Season 3, Episode 2: “Caballo sin Nombre”

AMC’s Breaking Bad
Season 3, Episode 2: “Caballo sin Nombre”
Directed by Adam Bernstein
Written by Peter Gould

* For a review of the Season 3 premiere, “No Más” – click here
* For a review of the next episode, “I.F.T” – click here
IMG_3838
America’s “Horse With No Name” plays as Walter (Bryan Cranston) drives out along the highway in the desert. He sings with the tunes and has a great time. Until a cop flicks on their lights, pulling him over. Immediately his guilty conscience starts to play on him. He imagines the worst. It’s only about the cracked windshield from the plane crashes, not as if the cop cares. Hey, at least he’s not getting pinched for distributing and cooking up meth, right? You’d think Walt wouldn’t be so pushy about getting a citation.
He pushes too far and gets pepper sprayed after getting out of his car. Wow, Walt. You are a god damn genius. He pays the price, too. Pepper spray is no joke.
IMG_3840
Hank (Dean Norris) is busy with the Salamanca brothers’ murders, the fire. Of course they have no idea who it was. For his part Hank believes it’s cartel. So him, Steve Gomez (Steven Michael Quezada) and the rest of the team are going hard at their leads. That’s when Hank gets a call – he’s got a buddy to pick up from jail.
Then there’s Jesse (Aaron Paul). With a sort of new lease on life, albeit a negative one, he ends up over at the old house where he lived. It’s being renovated and revamped, as his father and mother are taking care of things. He and his dad end up chatting, which naturally results in Jesse finding himself insulted and rejected.
More and more Walt feels his ego being wounded. Hank essentially talks him out of some charges by pleading with a cop friend of his, mentioning Walt’s cancer diagnosis, and so on. Well they get a little apology out of him for the officer and on he goes. Lucky to have Hank, if not things might have ended up a ton worse. Hank’s the Tim Allen sort of classic male who doesn’t much want to talk, though Walt brings up Skyler (Anna Gunn) doesn’t want him around the kids and that sort of throws him for a loop. Oh, Hank – if ye only knew the dark depths of Mr. White!


Finally, a bit more Saul Goodman (Bob Odenkirk). He and Walt meet to talk about his new situation. Saul spins things nicely for him. Mentioning going to the police wouldn’t benefit her at all: “blowback,” he says. Hank would get screwed over for not having noticed. All the assets gone, family on the streets. It’s quite possible, yes. Regardless, Walt is just concerned about losing her and the family. He still has a soul. Even if it’s itty bitty.
Saul also suggests Walt gets back to cooking meth. “I cant be the bad guy,” says Walt with so much irony you could nearly choke.
Even better, more Mike Ehrmantraut (Jonathan Banks). We see he’s got a little granddaughter whom he loves very much. Love the juxtaposition of him with his family and him with his business. This leads to one of my favourite scenes of the entire series a little later.
Right now, we check back with Skyler. More importantly we see Walt Jr (RJ Mitte) is taking things quite hard. No wonder. It’s hard for anybody to adjust. Sad, though, that he sees his mother as a villain in the situation when he knows nothing about his father. At dinner with Hank and Marie (Betsy Brandt), Junior flips out and even calls his mother a bitch. Feisty, man. Hank really didn’t like hearing that, either. He pokes his head in a little too much before Skyler shuts him down. Still, Hank privately with Marie believes Walt’s been having an affair. Although Marie thinks it’s “something more.” God, is she so right.
Most interesting is Hector Salamanca (Mark Margolis). He’s visited by the two Salamanca brothers, most likely his sons. They break out a Ouija Board for him to spell out the name of Heisenberg: Walter (motherfuckin’) White. Now the brothers are even closer.
Other trouble is on the horizon: Ted Beneke (Christopher Cousins) cooking the books at his company is going to play into the White family issues, sooner or later. But Skyler asks about his kids, what if they knew he was doing something illegal. There’s a part of her, deep down, that wants to rationalize what Walt has done. Just a tiny part. Then when she gets a call from it turns out Junior has taken off to his father’s place.
This leads us up to an amazing scene. When Walt brings his son back home, he uses it as an opportunity to have dinner together, get some chemistry and conversation going again. He brings a pizza with him. Well Skyler refuses and won’t let him in. And in what’s now known to be a one-take shot, Walter tosses the pizza in frustration and it lands on the roof. A-ma-zing. Every time I watch it I laugh harder.
At the same time, Saul finagles a deal for the old house Jesse lived in. He uses the old history of meth cooking against Jesse’s parents and their lawyer. What a twist. Dig it. Because Jesse has tried to turn a new leaf, yet nobody cares to give him the benefit of the doubt. And that’s one reason why many addicts dive back in after getting clean, when loved ones and friends treat them like they’ll never be any different. So fuck his parents. He’s got the house now, at a huge discount.


Walter goes on a bad binge and wakes up face down on the floor. He gets a shitty message from Skyler, even bangs his head on the table getting up. Nothing’s working for him. A laugh out loud moment comes when Walt hears her talk about a restraining order on the message, so he grabs his crotch and screams: “Restrain this!” I mean, I almost died laughing.
The new owner of the Pinkman house strolls up and heads inside. Jesse’s parents are shocked to see it’s him. A slap in their stupid faces.
But my favourite scene of the series (almost) comes now with Skyler and Junior out of the house. Mike heads on up, accompanied by Timber Timbre’s “Magic Arrow”, and goes about bugging the house for Saul. At the very same time Walt is back trying to move himself into the house, unbeknownst to Skyler, obviously. So there’s this hilariously juxtaposed scene with Mike out back tapping the lines and setting things up, while Walt finds the locks changed and has to get inside another way. Also shows how damn sneaky Mike can get. And I guess Walt, as well.
Then another angle: the Salamanca brothers. They come wielding axes, shiny ones. Mike sees it and alerts the appropriate parties – a.k.a Victor over at Los Pollos, who in turn tells Gustavo Fring (Giancarlo Esposito). Uh oh. Inside the White home, the brothers sit waiting for Heisenberg. He’s now on the verge of being annihilated once and for all. One of the most intense sequences yet, the tension is unbelievably thick, as Walt sings in the shower. So vulnerable and oblivious.
The Salamancas get a text, which quickly takes them out of there. Is this Fring intervening? The text reads: POLLOS. Walter gets out of the shower and finds the teddy bear eyeball from the pool in a different place than where he remembers it. Though, he has no idea of how close death came. Past his doorstep, right into his bedroom.

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The next episode, “I.F.T”, promises more developments in the personal and professional lives of Walter White, as well as the intermittent danger Walt brings into the lives of those around him.

Breaking Bad – Season 3, Episode 1: “No Más”

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
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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.
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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.

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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.
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Jesse: “Its all about accepting who you really are. I accept who I am.”
Walt: “And who are you?”
Jesse: “Im the bad guy
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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.
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This was a proper season opener. Can’t wait to watch the next episode, “Caballo sin Nombre” again.

Breaking Bad – Season 2, Episode 13: “ABQ”

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
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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?
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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.
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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
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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.
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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.
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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.

Breaking Bad – Season 2, Episode 12: “Phoenix”

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
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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.
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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: “Thats right. Daddy did that. Daddy did that for you.”

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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.
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The next episode, “ABQ”, is the Season 2 finale.
It has much to give us.

Breaking Bad – Season 2, Episode 11: “Mandala”

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
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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 dont think were 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. “Ill 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.
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Let’s see what happens in the penultimate Season 2 episode “Phoenix” up next with a recap and review soon.