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.

Breaking Bad – Season 2, Episode 10: “Over”

AMC’s Breaking Bad
Season 2, Episode 10: “Over”
Directed by Phil Abraham
Written by Moira Walley-Beckett

* For a review of the previous episode, “4 Days Out” – click here
* For a review of the next episode, “Mandala” – click here
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Again, the foreboding pink teddy bear missing an eye floats in the pool. This time around, again in black-and-white aside from Mr. Ted, we start to understand more of what’s going on. Some kind of catastrophic event has occurred. Someone in a Hazmat suit. The baggies labelled, collected near the pool. Out on the street there are cracked windshields – in fact, it is the White family vehicle. Right in front of their house, something terrible has gone down.
And out front? Two bodies. Shit.
The anticipation is killing me, even if I’ve seen this series a couple times over.
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Walter White (Bryan Cranston) is gradually having to come to terms with the fact he will likely live, instead of succumbing to lung cancer. Everybody around him is overjoyed, yet it’s not so easy to turn around from the brink of death that way. Nevertheless, Skyler (Anna Gunn) and Junior (RJ Mitte) feel like having a party on the weekend. In celebration of Walt’s new found lease on life. “Youve got a lot to celebrate, dont you think?” Skyler quips. She puts her husband on bed rest then leaves him be for the day. He won’t have to have his soul crushed teaching high school today!
Instead he goes to meet Jesse Pinkman (Aaron Paul) at a little restaurant out of the way. They chat about life and how things are looking up for Mr. White. For his part, Walter says he’s out of the business. So it seems.
Over at Casa chez White, everybody is partying. Lots of margaritas, finger foods, Walt sort of sulking to himself and giving an awkward speech for everyone. Still, everybody has a great time. But what starts to come out is Walt consistently feeling as if he’s not the man, that he isn’t taking care of his own business, on his own terms. When he truly is getting things done, just illegally. Skyler mentions Gretchen and Elliott Schwartz being the benefactors of his treatment, and this just bites at poor Walt. Though I shouldn’t say poor Walt. Because later on, as he and Hank (Dean Norris) sit talking, drinking, he ends up going a little too far and getting Junior drunk off his ass on tequila. This winds up with the kid puking into the family pool. Not a nice scene at a party. Also, it brings out a primitive caveman battle of wits between Hank and Walt after the former is talking all about the cartel shit with Tortuga, talking tough as he does. It’s the fact Hank tries to take over fatherly duties that irks Walt and prompts him to act like a downright savage beast. Nobody’s impressed to say the least.


Jesse tries to make huevos rancheros for Jane (Krysten Ritter) in the morning like a sweetheart. It isn’t the greatest, but he really tried. They plan on spending the whole day together. Y’know, because he has a day of from being a meth cook and distributor.
Meanwhile, Walt has one hell of a headache and hangover. As well as the fact he made a complete asshole of himself in front of everyone at his house, and pissed off his wife hugely. Saddest is that Junior feels as if he had to keep up with his father. That makes Walt feel low, like it should. He did a shitty thing. Personally, I’m an alcoholic – recovering, sober now almost 6 years as of this writing – and I’ve never once let being drunk excuse my shit behaviour. So Walt deserves to feel terribly after treating his son as some sort of macho bargaining chip in a war with his brother-in-law. Petty.
So what he does to go about changing the situation, as well as to help himself feel like a man, is try to fix the hot water tank in his house. Plus the infesting rot he’s so concerned with apparently. At the store a poignant moment happens: Walt is paying in cash, obviously, and finds one of his bills with a bloody fingerprint on it. Classy, Walt. All class.


Jane and Jesse get much closer now, as she looks through his drawings. He used to do some serious doodling. Superheroes and such, like KangaMan, Rewindo, and other awesome creations. Too bad he never kept drawing. Could’ve had a career in comics, instead of being a meth dealer, and drug addict. Out of nowhere, Jane hears a knock at her door. It is in fact her father, owner of the property, Donald Margolis (John de Lancie). Jesse is taken aback when she acts professionally with him instead of like a boyfriend in front of her dad. He feels incredibly slighted actually. Later, she comes back and he isn’t thrilled that she acts like it was nothing. She totally disregards his feelings, so Jesse leaves.
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Jesse: “Im talking about us
Jane: “Us?”
Jesse: “Yeah. You and me.”
Jane: “Whos you and me?”
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Walt is driving everybody a little nuts with his renovations. Mostly Skyler, whose unimpressed demeanour with his drunken performance doesn’t seem to be washing off too quick. Anyways, Walt has rot to deal with – “fruiting bodies” and rampaging fungus. He’s really just projecting onto the house. Trying to find something to make him feel useful again after getting out of the meth business. Now that he’s not cooking, all that time is filled with dead air. Space he can’t handle.
The first inkling of trouble with Ted Beneke (Christopher Cousins) comes when Skyler starts asking about a particular account. However, he brushes it off. Then she starts crying, bringing her personal life right into the office for Ted to see. This is definitely not good. For anybody. Bringing Ted in closer won’t help his massive, obvious crush on her. Doesn’t help that she later starts to egg it on purposefully by knocking things over for him to pick up and so on.
Rejected, Jesse crawls back into the pipe. He sits in his living room and smokes meth trying to forget about the pain he’s experiencing. I feel terribly for Jesse, out of all the characters in the show. He was never a great dude, but the life he’s led into now through business with Walt is excruciating. But Jane apologizes at least, via drawing. So that’s something in his dismal existence.


My favourite sequence in any episode of this series comes at the end here. Walt goes out late to a hardware shop. There he notices someone picking up… familiar supplies. He tries giving the young tweaker advice, but the dude runs off. Then Walt, new found bad ass, takes it into his hands to warn a man outside waiting for the tweaker: “Stay out of my territory.” It is one of the single most powerful moments of the entire series. He says fuck the renovations. Now, he’s back in Heisenberg business. When he says those words to the man, an obviously bigger and scarier guy, we finally see the dangerous confidence inside Walt clear as day. Never before is it more plain and palpable. Gives me goosebumps each time I see it. Just amazing, chilling, heavy at once. Add to that a great song called “DLZ” by TV on the Radio, a fantastic group of musicians; it has the perfect feel for this specific moment and those lines.
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This episode builds up so much. The next one is titled “Mandala” and gets things energized even more heading towards the end of Season 2.

Breaking Bad – Season 2, Episode 9: “4 Days Out”

AMC’s Breaking Bad
Season 2, Episode 9: “4 Days Out”
Directed by Michelle MacLaren
Written by Sam Catlin

* For a review of the previous episode, “Better Call Saul” – click here
* For a review of the next episode, “Over” – click here
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Walter (Bryan Cranston) is at the doctor with his family in town. Everybody’s there, from Skyler (Anna Gunn) and Junior (RJ Mitte) to both Hank (Dean Norris) and Marie (Betsy Brandt). They’re all waiting for his next results from a PET-CT. I have to mention, I love Marie – she is incredibly annoying and ignorant at times, but she is loving, and only wants the best at all times for her family.
In the bathroom, Walt isn’t feeling so hot. Although it’s almost a good excuse to get away from the hovering presence of his loved ones. Cancer patients probably feel smothered at times by a constant need of others to be around them, worrying, fretting over the next result, the next test, the next this or that. Bad enough being put in those machines, it’s claustrophobic enough.
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Over with Saul Goodman (Bob Odenkirk), Walt is trying to get things settled in case he dies. Or well, for when he dies. What comes of all this is a bit of financial advice from Saul, and help with money laundering. Then Walt decides it’s time to start cooking. A lot.
Skyler is back in supportive wife mode. She’s now dealing with a new lie, though one she’s obviously oblivious of currently – Walt says he wants to go see his mother. A clear ploy to get himself time for a cook in the Winnebago with Jesse (Aaron Paul).
Speaking of Jesse, his day plans with Jane (Krysten Ritter) are about to be ruined. They plan on going to see the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum. However, the time for meth cooking is now, and Jesse’s assistance is required by MasterMr. White.
So Walt lies to his wife who drops him at the airport, then Pinkman picks him up in the ‘bago. They head out into the desert for a weekend full of meth. Love the tumultuous relationship between Jesse and Walt. It’s amazing how shitty he treats Jesse, over and over. The way he talks to him is awful most of the time, like lecturing a child. Either way, they get down to cooking. Only when the work is over and they decide to start back towards civilization – with 2.35 pounds of meth packaged and ready to go (netting them about $670K each) – the battery in the Winnebago has had it. Kaput. Now that is a kick in the nuts. Especially seeing as how Jesse put the keys in the ignition to keep them from getting lost, draining the damn thing.
Things get worse before they get better. They try getting Skinny Pete (Charles Baker) out to pick them up. Lot of good that does them. Some different ideas come, but nothing else happens for them. In between everything else Jesse figures out that Walt is getting sicker, closer to those final days, and lied about their batch of product going bad/needing to cook as much as possible.
Everything is looking bleak. Until another YEAH, SCIENCE! moment from Mr. White saves the day.


When they’re finally back, Walt casually asks Jesse to make sure his family gets money. Of course Jesse agrees. They part ways for now. We can see Jesse truly cares about Mr. White, even though Walter treats him like a child, or worse a dog.
But now Walt is back at the doctor’s office with the whole gang. Even better, the results of his scan are positive. Remission is possible now; his tumour shrank by 80%. A stark contrast from where he was just previously, believing he was on the verge of death. Everybody else is happy. Except for Walt. He’s happy, just not ecstatic. He almost wanted for things to go on as they were. Now he’s faced with living, moving on, and how could that work with what he’s brought into his life?
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This was a tight, contained episode that moved a lot forward in terms of the overall plot. Looking forward to watching the next one again, titled “Over”, that is also a solid chapter. Like so many of the others.

Breaking Bad – Season 2, Episode 8: “Better Call Saul”

AMC’s Breaking Bad
Season 2, Episode 8: “Better Call Saul”
Directed by Terry McDonough
Written by Peter Gould

* For a review of the previous episode, “Negro y Azul” – click here
* For a review of the next episode, “4 Days Out” – click here
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Oh, Badger (Matt Jones)! What are we gonna do with you?
Sitting on a bench unsuspectingly – one that has an add stating BETTER CALL SAUL no less – Badger is met randomly by a skinny guy looking for drugs. But smarty pants Badger judges him to be a cop, so he won’t immediately sell him anything. No way. Then as the guy pathetically wears him down Badger slips up, selling some of the good blue stuff.
And then swarm the police. Good job, dummy.
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On a television a commercial from Saul Goodman (Bob Odenkirk) plays while nobody watches. In bed, Jesse (Aaron Paul) and Jane (Krysten Ritter) lay together. What we can already see is how he’s becoming a bad influence on her possibly. She leaves abruptly, though he can tell something’s off. Turns out she’s in Narcotics Anonymous. You can already tell he is very interested in her, attracted and maybe even falling a bit. Or a lot.
At the White household things are still in a bit of disarray. Not as outwardly aggressive, yet still passive-aggressive slightly. Skyler (Anna Gunn) is off to work, and Walter (Bryan Cranston) worries about her being back around Ted Beneke (Christopher Cousins). Still, she kisses him and heads out like a normal couple.
Then Walt gets a call from Marie (Betsy Brandt). Seems things with Hank (Dean Norris) since the incident in Juarez have gotten worse. He sits around mostly, by himself, depressed and withdrawn. Naturally, though. I mean, he saw a bunch of guys get blown to bits. Tragic to see a guy like Hank, a tough dude with principals, get so shaken by his work. He tries putting on a good act for Walt, but it’s easy to see through. Perhaps Hank isn’t reacting how he hoped he would when coming up against the big terrifying stuff. Doesn’t help they think it was a little shitty he was the one to make it out of things, getting an evidence bag while the explosion went off. What’s interesting to me here is how Walt is on the opposite side of the law from Hank, yet he sits there caring for his brother-in-law, urging him to push forward. Such a darkly funny thing, and at the same time sort of awful, that Walt is there as a shoulder to lean on while heading out later to do some drug business.


Walt: “Fear is the worst of it. Thats the real enemy.”
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Jesse hasn’t heard from Badger yet, so their cash is light. Well little does he know. When he reaches Combo (Rodney Rush), he finds out what’s actually been going on. And that does nothing at all to ease the tension between him and Mr. White. So with Badger in jail and Walt worried sick, they’ve got to figure out what’s next.
Cut to Hank. He’s close to one of those panic attacks again heading into the DEA office for the first time since getting back. Yet he puts on the tough front and walks through the fire. Steve Gomez (Steven Michael Quezada) catches him up, as well as checks in on his old buddy.
In an interrogation room, Badger’s sweated by the young cop (DJ Qualls). Then Saul arrives – his lawyer! Goodman starts running his game, of course, and the tale has begun to weave. He tells Badger exactly how things are about to go; after he’s paid, certainly. He even has cheques made out to “Ice Station Zebra Associates“, which is awesome if you know that movie. Best of all, Saul goes right at the DEA even taunting Hank and his boys right to their faces.
Now we’ve got Jesse and Walt about to meet with Saul for the first time. Walt’s not at all impressed with the look of Saul’s stripmall practice. Although, the younger of the two makes a good case for having a “criminal [who’s a] lawyer” and not a Criminal Lawyer. When Walt heads in he makes the transaction. However, he’s appalled to find out the DEA is involved. Furthermore, Walt now knows the DEA is after Heisenberg. And that Saul plans on having Brandon take a deal involving talking to them about what he knows. Ironic to watch Walt on both sides of a situation once again, as Saul has no idea he’s the Heisenberg the law is after.
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Saul: “My real names McGill. The Jew thing I just do for the homeboys, they all want a pipe hittinmember of the tribe, so to speak.”


What happens next is a step up in the criminal game for Mr. White and his clueless partner. Jesse and Walt kidnap Saul and take him into the desert. They wear masks, of course. Only the cough Saul heard earlier in his office gives Walter away. Then the slippery lawyer greases out a little deal for himself, even making Jesse and Walt his clients in the process.
So Saul cooks up a deal with the DEA for Badger to give up Heisenberg. Really, it’s an old bald dude who gets paid to go to jail. He’s a lifetime ward of the system, so that’s sewed up. They set up a meet between this fake Heisenberg and Badger, on the very same bench where he was pinched at the episode’s start. Yet things get messy, and Walt ends up interjecting himself right in the middle of Hank and the boys staking things out from across the way. This is a tense and also comical moment, written well, played perfectly by both Bryan Cranston and Dean Norris; they have awesome chemistry and work great together. Through everything, the old con Jimmy gets arrested and things work out in the end for everybody. Er- not the DEA, just for Jesse, Walt, Badger, and Saul.
Hank ain’t sold, though. Not on this prison lifer being a mastermind meth cook.


Then Saul tracks Walt down in his classroom after hours. Wow. The Heisenberg persona wears thin, hey? Spells trouble for Mr. White who so relentlessly tries to conceal his true identity. But there’s nothing below board, Saul is merely looking out for his new client. First he confuses Walt with a reference to The Godfather, eventually offering up his silent partner services in their meth industry. Not blackmail. Definitely not ethical.


We’ll see how this new relationship becomes more prominent in the upcoming episodes. Next is “4 Days Out”, so stick with me for another recap and review.

Breaking Bad – Season 2, Episode 4: “Down”

AMC’s Breaking Bad
Season 2, Episode 4: “Down”
Directed by John Dahl
Written by Sam Catlin

* For a review of the previous episode, “Bit by a Dead Bee” – click here
* For a review of the next episode, “Breakage” – click here
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At the start of this episode we’re given a black-and-white flash forward. The only item not in black-and-white is a pink teddy bear floating in a pool. Above the water, someone in a Hazmat-like suit peers down at it. They remove the bear and bag it, alongside a ton of other things bagged, tagged, and laid out across the side of the pool. Including glasses which look strangely like those belonging to Walter White (Bryan Cranston).
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Cut back to the current timeline. Jesse (Aaron Paul) stops his bike at a store where he says hello sweetly to a homeless man outside before heading in. Inside, he meets Walt. A real clandestine affair, as they chat across a magazine rack and other areas of the aisle. The big problem is that Jesse is broke, and waiting for Walt to get things settled at home before they can cook again isn’t flying well. Again, money is the great divider between the partners.
Walt’s busy at home trying to be the perfect dad and husband, making up for his strange episode. He’s making breakfast for the family, doing the dishes, trying to get everybody on his side. Not sure it’ll work for Skyler, though Walt Jr (RJ Mitte) is properly impressed, as we all know his fondness for breakfast foods. But the look on Skyler’s face says it all, never quite able to fully trust her husband after all the doubts that have crept into her head. Things are only negatively exacerbated when Walt comes up with a pitiful lie about his second cellphone likely just being an alarm he set for taking medication.
Out of nowhere, Skyler disappears. She just up and leaves, freaking Walt out and causing confusion. Maybe deserved, on Walt’s part. Maybe a little passive-aggressive, as well.


In other news, Jesse is meeting with his parents (Tess Harper/Michael Bofshever). Turns out they’ve discovered the meth making – well, they call it speed – what’s been going on in that house, so they’re kicking the poor guy out. Nowhere for him to live any more. Didn’t help Hank (Dean Norris) showed up to try finding him, which led his mother to the makeshift laboratory. Nevertheless, things aren’t looking good for Jesse. Suffice to say, if he didn’t have bad luck he’d have no luck at all. The relationship Jesse has with his parents deteriorates completely now, as they have no remorse whatsoever about throwing him out on the streets. Understandably they’re disappointed in him. Yet is it the best thing to do to toss someone out on the street when he’s got absolutely nothing left? Not so sure that’s proper tough love. At least make sure he isn’t homeless first.
Skyler eventually turns up at the house again, offering no explanations or condolences for Walt. This hurts him, though she’s sure of the hurt he caused her with his lies. It’s almost as if she knows the fugue state was a load of bullshit. Meanwhile, Walt feels a little slighted when he discovers Walt Jr likes to be called Flynn nowadays. Sort of slap in the face to the patriarch’s name. But as Skyler puts it, he simply wants his “own identity” instead of being a Junior all the time.


One of the saddest scenes yet sees Jesse looking for a place to stay. He goes to see an old buddy who used to play in a band with him. The guy has a kid that he’s trying to feed, a wife coming home not pleased to see Pinkman hovering around. It’s such a tragic sort of moment, especially when his buddy’s wife is clearly not having any of the situation. Just to see Jesse in juxtaposition with the family life, people moving onward and upward while he’s stuck cooking meth and getting booted out of his home onto the streets, it is a heart wrenching moment. Great writing that draws out more characterization and development in Jesse. Nobody will help Jesse, everybody either unwilling or holding onto past grudges, et cetera. Things get even worse when he discovers his bike stolen from the parking lot where he’s making calls.
This leads Jesse to the only place of which he can think – where the Winnebago is being stored by Badger’s cousin Clovis (Tom Kiesche). He breaks in through the gate climbing on top of a portable outhouse. Then he goes right through, into the blue liquid and the piss and the shit and who knows what else. Perfect. He’s stained blue, leaving a trail everywhere he goes right up into the vehicle where he spends the night crying with a gas mask on, trying to sleep, and dry heaving. This only leads Clovis right to him prompting an eventual getaway in the Winnebago. Although, Jesse does promise to go back with the cash.
An interesting scene sees Walt tell his son about “the easy way” and “the right way“, as if he holds some moral high ground. Such a scene can easily be watched as insignificant, but it shows us how morally corrupt Walt is in acting like he’s still able to claim a pride in what he does to support his family. Because never forget, part of why Walt’s career with Grey Matter never went ahead further was because of personal issues – ones that he ultimately let come between him and a bigger career. Not saying they were small issues, they were big, deep ones. But that’s just something I’ve always thought about while considering Walt and his actions. People think it’s admirable he lives so dangerously to provide for hi family. I find it reprehensible on a lot of levels, which gradually reveal themselves episode after episode. When Walt and Skyler chat later, their rift only opens further and threatens to swallow them whole. Even with Walt and his bullshit, her passive-aggressiveness does nothing to help. Though I side with Skyler more than a lot of people seemed to this behaviour is kind of childish, and not talking directly, openly to Walt in lieu of being cryptic only serves to make their problems larger. Things escalate before she can actually ask him what’s been happening. So by then, he’s further inclined to lie and deflect, just as she does. And the cycle perpetuates itself into a vicious spin.


Walt (to Skyler): “Do you know what I’ve done for this family?”


Jesse’s parked outside the White place in the Winnebago. This creates another conflict now, between the two partners. But the younger of the two is desperate, and Walt takes out his frustrations on him. It all builds to a fight between them. A sad fight. They’re both broken men in their own ways. You can never tell which one is more than the other.
My favourite moment comes nearing the end when, after the fight, Walt invites Jesse into his home and then soon asks: “You want some breakfast?” Because that’s the only way Walt can say he’s sorry. He doesn’t know how to actually repent, but rather tries to make it up in practical ways, even to Jesse.
In a car outside a store Skyler sits, pregnant visibly, lighting up a cigarette. A nearby woman is highly unimpressed. It signifies the fact Skyler is ready to throw caution to the wind, as Walt does with their family. To the point she is risking damage to their child. So the passive-aggressiveness continues long after their initial confrontation.
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Another wonderful character driven episode. Next is titled “Breakage” and introduces some excellent plots to the second season.

Breaking Bad – Season 2, Episode 3: “Bit by a Dead Bee”

AMC’s Breaking Bad
Season 2, Episode 3: “Bit by a Dead Bee”
Directed by Terry McDonough
Written by Peter Gould

* For a review of the previous episode, “Grilled” – click here
* For a review of the following episode, “Down” – click here
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Headed away from where they last saw Tuco get gunned down by Hank (Dean Norris), Walter (Bryan Cranston) and Jesse (Aaron Paul) bury the gun the latter used in a hole. Then they’re faced with a long, sweaty journey back towards civilization. And that brings us to another point: how do they explain their disappearance? In particular, how does Walt explain that to Skyler (Anna Gunn) after so quickly having to take off after finding Jesse at gunpoint with Tuco in his backseat? Well, we’re about to find out.
For the most part the plan’s kind of genius. At the same time, it’s insulting. To his family, to Skylar most of all, and also to the people suffering from cancer that might actually go through an episode like that. Whereas he’s using it for a drug cover, essentially. This is one of the first times I stopped feeling bad for Walt. I mean, yes, he’s done bad shit before. But I feel like this is the first real break from his old self, even above the killing of Krazy-8 and all that wild shit. This lie, coupled with the fact of the two cellphone debacle, is a beginning of a multi-headed beast of Walter’s creation; a single event that has large, wide repercussions heading forward.
For the time being, Walter Jr (RJ Mitte) and Skyler find him at the hospital, after he wandered into a supermarket then stripped to his bare naked ass and balls. “I feel like myself, really,” Walt tells them ironically. Simultaneously, Hank is being brief on his shooting, as Marie (Betsy Brandt) waits on impatiently. Now the wide breadth of Walt’s lie becomes part of the official word on Hank’s killing of “Mr. Salamanca” – you can almost feel Hank burn each time he has to officially refer to Tuco in this way, love it. Dean Norris doesn’t get enough credit, never did even during the run of the series. He is fantastic as Hank and brings a completely unique quality to the role that I’m unsure anyone else could offer.
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Poor Jesse has cops sitting on his house. So he and Badger (Matt Jones) head inside to gather up a load of meth making equipment. Badger’s not much help, fiending for more of the blue stuff. However, Jesse tries to make clear things are more serious than he seems to comprehend. At least Badger has a relative that’s able to tow away the Winnebago for now, get it out of Jesse’s hair. Only no cash. So Jesse puts it all down on his word; something that’ll spark an interesting situation soon enough.
Sketchy Walter White is giving the doctors, and his wife, a hard – though subtle – sell. He manages to convince them all that his supposed episode was on the level. The scariest part is how easily Walt can turn on the dishonesty. We see all sides of his character, as the omnipotent observers, the audience to his transformation. And this scene is one of the more evident moments in which Walt proves he is, at heart,  a bad man. He is the ultimate snake in the grass, the great manipulator. He doesn’t even have to work to get Skyler on his side, willingly offering up her own excuses alongside his own.
Meanwhile, Jesse holes up in a motel with the cracked out prostitute Wendy (Julia Minesci). He’s setting up his own version of events to explain his whereabouts, how his car wound up in the same place as Tuco Salamanca, so on. The SWAT team descends upon the motel to take him in for a nice little chat with Mr. Schrader.


Absolutely love the first moment Jesse is in the room with Hank; his excessive hand drumming is such a piss in the eye of law enforcement, it also shows Jesse’s immaturity in a world he really does not fully grasp. The conversation goes along with Jesse playing a fairly good role for Hank and Steve Gomez (Steven Michael Quezada). Only problem is when Hank breaks out the money they found, something Jesse would absolutely love to keep his hands on. The two partners taunt him a bit, but for his part Pinkman stays strong mostly. Luckily, Wendy also stays strong for what it’s worth.
Later on, Walt sort of comes clean. Sort of. In the sense he tells another lie that undoes the lie he already told. But in the confidence of a doctor Walter reveals certain parts of his own fears, the innermost troubles which stab at his gut. He claims the whole episode was a matter of gaining some control, doing something he wanted, getting away from home, from the cancer, from everything. So even through his lie there’s a sense Walt has confessed, relieved part of his burden. Except it’s never that easy. Certainly not for Walt.


Walt: “My wife is seven months pregnant with a baby we didnt intend. My fifteenyearold son has cerebral palsy. I am an extremely overqualified high school chemistry teacher. When I can work, I make $43,700 per year. I have watched all of my colleagues and friends surpass me in every way imaginable. And within eighteen months, I will be dead. And you ask why I ran?”
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At the DEA office, something extraordinary happens: Hank brings in Hector Salamanca (Mark Margolis). Is this the end of Jesse’s cover story? Ringing his bell, Hector lets Gomez and Hank know his answers to their questions; he even seems to be working at full mental capacity, despite Jesse objecting to his being there. Instead of giving anything up, Hector opts to take a big diarrhea shit in his pants for the DEA to signify there’s no chance he’ll help them out.
So Jesse walks free. For now. He gets in contact with Walt via payphone, touching base on how things are going. Only there’s always a divide between the two, usually involving cash, the ever horrible economic Satan. Walt’s more concerned about his safety and cooking more meth than about Jesse losing all his money. It’s actually scary how much Walt can only think of dollars.
But wait – maybe a good thing, as well. He suddenly remembers about the money at home, left out of its hiding spot from last when he’d been there. Before his supposed episode. And with that he’s off. Sneaking inside, he finds the gun and the money right where he left it. Sneakily, Walt gets it all situated, nearly being found out. Yet soon enough he’s snug as a bug back in the hospital bed. No one’s the wiser.


The P2P method of cooking is keeping Hank hot on the blue meth trail. He knows Krazy-8, Tuco, all that is connected. However, at the moment Steve and the DEA office have got Hank a cake and throw him a little party for bringing down Tuco. They even gave him a sort of odd present. “You sick, sick puppies,” Hank says to his friends and co-workers after opening up the little gift.
When he goes to see Walt in hospital, we finally see what it is: an encased souvenir of Tuco’s silver grill. Definitely a bit of a sick object. Juxtaposing this gift with Walt looking on with an almost look of horror is a perfect shot and moment to have included. Really poignant.
At home, things aren’t quite as cheery as Walt expected. He tries lightening the mood, but it just doesn’t work so well. Skyler is still fixated on the second cellphone, as one would if they were in her situation. It sticks with her, and the fact she knows Walt and can tell he’s being less than truthful only makes their situation more complicated.
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Solid dramatic episode that needed no action to move it forward. This one was excellent all around, setting up many things to come. Next up is “Down”, so stay with me and I’ll have another recap/review.

Breaking Bad – Season 2, Episode 1: “Seven Thirty-Seven”

AMC’s Breaking Bad
Season 2, Episode 1: “Seven Thirty-Seven”
Directed by Bryan Cranston
Written by J. Roberts

* For a review of the Season 1 Finale, “A No-Rough-Stuff-Type Deal” – click here
* For a review of the next episode, “Grilled” – click here
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This season opens with an ominous view of a fake eyeball floating in a pool. Then a pink teddy bear – the only colour visible aside from the black and white of everything else.
Cut back to where we last saw Walter White (Bryan Cranston), a.k.a Heisenberg, and Jesse Pinkman (Aaron Paul). They’re out in the lonely scrapyard, where Tuco Salamanca (Raymond Cruz) has beaten one of his men to a seizure. Tuco heads back to try and get Walt to save the guy, but no such luck. He dies. While the other henchman is busy hiding the body, Tuco intimidates his new business associates both mentally and physically. This sets up new, more sinister trouble than they’d ever had with Krazy-8 in the first season.


Back at the White residence, Skyler (Anna Gunn) is moving along in her pregnancy, as usual. And when her husband shows up Walt just seems to shuffle on in, lifeless, moving to the television. He stands there watching it, saying nothing until Skyler draws him out of it. No doubt Walt’s scanning the channels for news of the murder he’d witnessed. The whole thing has shaken him. He’s been involved in two murders already in his first weeks of drug dealing; one by accessory, the other a product of his own doing.
Walt cries and cuddles up to his wife, but a little too much. He tries to take her in the kitchen, almost to the point of rape actually. It’s as if the animal side of him takes over for a moment trying to exert that force he watched Tuco exert over him, in the only way he can figure how, which is not great. His brain must be bouncing off the walls of his head, between murder and cancer and meth. Too many things happening for Walt to process.
Meanwhile, poor Jesse is paranoid, afraid. He sneakily buys himself a gun for protection. But the look of terror is in his eyes, you can see it. The next day he and Walter talk, or more like they yell at one another a bit. For once, Jesse is the one talking sense – “We are witnesses. We are loose ends.” And so the quest begins, as Walt tries to figure out the best and most effective way possible to kill Tuco. A gun? How many shots? Who will be there – a couple guys, some dealers maybe? No telling.


Over with the DEA, Agent Hank Schrader (Dean Norris) and his partner Steve Gomez (Steven Michael Quezada) have a new crime to investigate: someone stole a barrel of chemicals from a storage facility. You know, the one Walt and Jesse knocked off. The chemicals make it “old school biker meth“-style, something both Steve and Hank understand. They’re professionally impressed by the chemistry of these crooks, but no their robbery skills.
Later, when Walt arrives home he notices a vehicle watching his house. The same one Tuco was driving at the scrapyard. Just like Jesse said. The grim realization hits Heisenberg right in the face. Right at home. Then once Skyler wakes in the morning she finds Walt hasn’t even been to bed; he’s out prying his eyes open and keeping eye on the driveway. Like Hank mentioned to Steve before, the crooks (Walt and Jesse, obviously) better hope the cops catch them first and not the “boys from Juarez“.
So the plan is finally solidified for Walt and Jesse: ricin, from Castor beans. They’ll somehow slip it to Tuco, and it’ll cause death within a day. Untraceable.
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Hank goes to talk with Skyler about Marie (Betsy Brandt). She’s a kleptomaniac whose impulses are being controlled, hopefully, with a bit of therapy. Hank wants his wife and sister-in-law to make up, but mostly so that it takes the load off him. However, Skyler wants no part of it: “but OHH, I see, now I am supposed to goHank, please what can I possibly do to further benefit my spoiled, kleptomaniac, bitch sister who somehow always manages to be the center of attention, ‘cause God knows, she is the one with the really important problems.”
In the laboratory, Walt and Jesse extract the ricin poison. Then they discuss how to get Tuco to ingest it. Perhaps touting a new meth formula will work, which isn’t a bad idea: “That degenerate snorts anything he can get his hands on,” says Walt.
Most interesting? When Hank calls Walt to tell him about the situation with Skyler, there’s a development. Hank takes a picture of the crime scene where he is, sending it to Walt: it’s the two henchmen of Tuco’s, both dead now. The bigger one looks as if he was trying to help his dead friend, maybe moving the body. This scares Walt and Jesse into believing Tuco killed his other man, now he’s on the way for them. They each frantically grab guns, money. Walt takes off to his home. Everything is chaotic at the moment.
At the crime scene, Hank figures out the bigger guy was moving his dead friend then ended up getting squashed by the car. Tragic, in a way. But does this mean Walt and Jesse are safe? Hmm.


As Skyler almost gets some kind of explanation from Walt – no doubt a lie – lights pull up to the house; Jesse is outside. Only he isn’t alone. In the backseat, Tuco is holding a gun on Pinkman: “Get in,” he gestures to Walt. This takes him away from the house all of a sudden, without letting Skyler know. What a rough situation all around. What will the maniac do?
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Next up is “Grilled”, continuing the wonderful second season started with this episode.

Better Call Saul – Season 2, Episode 6: “Bali Ha’i”

AMC’s Better Call Saul
Season 2, Episode 6: “Bali Ha’i”
Directed by Michael Slovis
Written by Gennifer Hutchison

* For a review of the previous episode, “Rebecca” – click here
* For a review of the next episode, “Inflatable” – click here
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With the previous episode giving us more insight into the troubled relationship between the Brothers McGill – Jimmy (Bob Odenkirk) and Chuck (Michael McKean) – this week’s “Bali Ha’i” promises even more developments.
We start out with an image similar to where we saw Chuck in the last episode with his former wife. Except it’s Jimmy, in bed. Alone. Unable to sleep, Jimmy flicks through the channels from infomercials to C-Span to a Sand Piper commercial like the original one before he got his hands on it. Things aren’t looking so glamorous here for ole James McGill. He spends a bunch of the night throwing little decorative wicker balls around, in different ways, different made-up games. Until he can’t take it anymore. He heads over to the old spa, to the shifty backroom where he practiced law before Clifford Main (Ed Begley Jr) scooped him up, before Howard Hamlin (Patrick Fabian) got right in the picture. Before all this. Back there, Jimmy can lay his head down and actually get some sleep. Almost heavy handed, yet love this opening sequence. Great writing, on the nose.


Meanwhile, Kim Wexler (Rhea Seehorn) is just as interesting a character. Her whole life has been thrown for a whirlwind since Jimmy’s commercial fiasco. On her answering machine, she gets a message from Jimmy singing the titular song “Bali Ha’i” by South Pacific. He’s clearly in love, bad. Even though he screws up, even though he can’t keep from being criminal, he is charming.
Nothing is going too smooth for Jimmy right now. Not his life, not even fitting the coffee mug Kim gave him into the cupholder of his car. Back to Kim, though. She is trying to get a read of Howard now that she’s no longer banished to the boardrooms of nowhere sorting files. Howard upsets me; he’s like a robot, a soulless man who puts on a mask. Either way, they meet with Kevin Wachtell (Rex Linn) and Paige (Cara Pifko) on the new business.
Then there’s Mike Ehrmantraut (Jonathan Banks). He’s greeted at home by an associate of Hector Salamanca (Mark Margolis) named Arturo (Vincent Fuentes) who requires an answer re: the deal from last episode. “Respectfully Im gonna have to say no,” advises Mike. Afterwards, he literally lays a welcome mat on his front porch. Curious.
Kim’s in court doing her thing over the Sand Piper case. At the defense table is Rick Schweikart (Dennis Boutsikaris). He takes it upon himself to talk with Kim. “You went down swinging and I admire that,” says Schweikart. He ends up inviting her out for lunch, which might possibly lead to something better career wise for Kim. Let’s hope. She acts grateful to HHM, but you know there are some bad feelings on that part. He gives her a good pitch about the life of a lawyer, and offers her a position at his firm; including helping to pay off her student debt, et cetera, all the bells, the whistles, too. And still she is reluctant. Too loyal. Perhaps says something about the way she is with Jimmy, as well. Her loyalty brings her nothing in the end, sadly.


At his place, Mike reveals the trick to his mat – underneath is a sheet of paper, helping him figure out there’s been people at the door. He checks everything carefully, rubbing the door frame, the knob, checking for any sign of people entering his home. He heads inside, gun drawn. All I keep thinking is, despite whatever’s happened since, Mike must’ve made an impressive cop once upon a time. He isn’t perfect, though, the way he does things is so methodical. And it doesn’t feel contrived as a character, like the writers are almost visible there crafting him in front of us. His character comes off as organic, especially considering how Jonathan Banks plays him.
He ends up getting the jump on two guys waiting for him. It’s Arturo and another man. “Whats the message?” asks Mike. They were only trying to “scare” him. Nonetheless, the older man wins out, then washes the blood of his hands and gun in the sink. You can tell he doesn’t want to live this life. More than that, his hands are shaking, it’s giving him pause about all of the things he’s forced to do; all out of necessity. Even further, his granddaughter and daughter-in-law are stuck at the motel. Everything is pressing down on Mike.
The worst yet? He spies two men watching him – another Breaking Bad reference, as the Cartel brothers Marco (Luis Moncada) and Leonel (Daniel Moncada) loom in the distance. Trouble; big fucking trouble. And Mike don’t like that. Not when it involves his family. What I like is that he’s still tender with his granddaughter while stressed to the maximum, he doesn’t freak out and haul her away like a madman. The writing of his character is excellent and nuanced.


Kim does consider the offer she got earlier, sticking around the restaurant bar after Schweikart leaves. Then a man tries picking her up, which she seems to dig. At least a little. All of a sudden, she calls Jimmy: “Ive got a live one on the hook.” So that hook up on the verge of happening wasn’t exactly one after all. More so it’s Kim realizing she may be more like Jimmy than she’d ever imagined. They start running a con on her target. Jimmy reels out a big story about their dot-com company maybe going public, drawing out the big fish in him. Looks like Jimmy and Kim are a couple again. Momentarily, anyways.
At a groceteria, Nacho (Michael Mando) receives Mike. There, he meets with Hector, the Cartel Brothers and Arturo along as protection. Hector wants Mike to go to the D.A, to get Tuco (Raymond Cruz) off the hook for the gun possession. No more cash, either. “How about the payment is you get to leave?” Hector asks, and warns all at once. Everything starts getting tangly, with Mike reaching for his gun, starting to make everyone nervous. Seems for now a deal is struck. $50,000 and Mike takes the rap for the gun.


Hector (to Mike): “How you managed to live so long with a mouth like that, hmm?”


Luckily, Mike does have Nacho on his side. Not that it makes things better for Nacho. But Mike offers up half of the money to him; payment for a job completely improperly.
On the other side of town, Jimmy and Kim are waking up together. They pulled a fast one on their friend at the restaurant, coming out of it with free drinks, dinner, and a nice “souvenir” cheque made out to Ice Station Zebra Associates. Amazing. Also, Kim is wobbling between wanting to leave HHM, and not knowing what’s best for her. Just like her situation as a lover to Jimmy – maybe not the best thing for her, and she keeps on keeping on like an addiction. The cup she gave him not fitting in the holder is symbolic of their lives together; they do not fit. So in the end Jimmy uses a tire iron to smash the holder apart. He makes the cup fit. A perfect parallel to the relationship with Kim. They don’t fit, but he is determined to make his life fit the required structure. No matter what the consequence or price.


This is such a great season. Very excited to see next week’s episode, “Inflatable”, so stick with me as we cruise through Season 2 together.

Better Call Saul – Season 2, Episode 4: “Gloves Off”

AMC’s Better Call Saul
Season 2, Episode 4: “Gloves Off”
Directed by Adam Bernstein
Written by Gordon Smith

* For a review of the previous episode, “Amarillo” – click here
* For a review of the next episode, “Rebecca” – click here
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With Jimmy McGill (Bob Odenkirk) in hot water with Clifford Main (Ed Begley Jr) over the Davis & Main commercial, is Kim Wexler (Rhea Seehorn) about to feel blowback, too? And what about Nacho (Michael Mando) and his request to Mike Ehrmantraut (Jonathan Banks) at the end of “Amarillo”?
“Gloves Off” begins on Mike, which is always a treat. He comes home with a manila envelope filled with money. He has a nice sip of Blue Ribbon from the fridge and puts some frozen carrots on his aching face. Mike sits in his living room and rests. It’s clear there have been goings on. Likely major ones. Then in the light we see his face is beat to pieces; a swollen eye, cuts, Band-Aids. From his pocket he removes a silver chain of some sort, two diamond-studded boxing gloves on it. Very, very interesting.
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Cut to Jimmy’s commercial – the black-and-white setup, the old woman in the rocking chair as she does a voice-over narration, then looks into the camera. Jimmy’s trying to show Cliff and the board what he came up with, though, nobody looks too pleased. At all. They couldn’t care less about money. They’re mostly concerned with their name being on it. It’s definitely cheesy. However, Jimmy reveals they’ve received a couple hundred phone calls. Above all else, it’s insubordination on his part. But Jimmy fights, he’s always fighting, he clearly only wants to get ahead. “We are a team at Davis & Main,” says Cliff, trying to make Jimmy understand. It’s a 2-1 vote to fire him. Except Cliff is a “fan of second chances” and that keeps him around a little while longer.
Jimmy tries to call Kim. But she’s in a meeting with Howard Hamlin (Patrick Fabian), and surprise, surprise – Chuck McGill (Michael McKean). They are not pleased either, with her involvement concerning Jimmy’s experimental commercial. So, yes, Kim is getting the blowback of Jimmy’s decision. It’s unclear how hard that will come at her.


So finally, back to Mike and Nacho. We’re likely going to see more of Tuco Salamanca (Raymond Cruz), as he’s brought up in conversation by Nacho in reference to the new job for which they require Mike’s help. Special reference.
There is a plan in place. Mike gets tasked with the “headshot“, but he has lots of questions for Nacho. Mike’s a guy who likes to have everything planned, start to finish; he needs an exit plan, all the details. Yet Nacho says that’s he is there for – to iron all that out. What I love here is that Nacho sheds light on the character of Tuco, more than we’ve even seen from Breaking Bad, and we’re able to get a look behind the curtain of madness. We hear a story about Tuco killing a guy, which put a piece of the man’s skull underneath Nacho; a mark he still carries with him. So, this entire plan is a way to get Tuco up and out, as he’s getting hard into the crystal meth. But we know better, those of us Breaking Bad fans, about what happens to Tuco. What’s extremely fun to watch is how everything plays out, not knowing exactly how things end up the way they do. And regardless, Mike is in on the job for “fifty grand“, so I can’t wait to connect the events of the episode to our grim beginning.
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At the office, Jimmy shows up after hours. He finds Kim’s desk wiped out, completely bare. Downstairs in one of the board rooms, she’s face down in a ton of work. Jimmy tries apologizing. But that doesn’t do a whole lot of good. He’s safe in his job for now, yet Kim has been knocked down a few pegs, taking the blame. Their relationship is fast degenerating. Every greasy move Jimmy makes puts them further apart. He wants to fight the good fight for her. Although, that’s not what she wants either. “If you go to Howard, you and I are done,” Kim explains to him. They aren’t finished just yet, but she tells Jimmy: “I need this job.”
Nevertheless, Jimmy does go to see Chuck. He’s about to go inside without checking his electronics at the door. Instead, being the dutiful brother, Jimmy deposits them loudly into the mailbox then heads inside. He finds his brother wrapped up in a foil blanket on the couch, in what looks like great pain. Something I love about Jimmy is that he hates how his brother treats him, hates the be underestimated and looked down upon, but STILL, he always helps Chuck, he looks after his older brother without question, even in times he’s incredibly aggravated with him. It’s noble. Tragic in a way, too.
Another Breaking Bad reference – Lawson (Jim Beaver), the man who got Walter White some of his heavy artillery later in the series, brings a sniper rifle for Mike to look at. They meet in another little hotel room, all hush-hush. Mike’s not too happy with the weight and size of the first one. Then he’s shown a smaller one, that might not be “a hernia with a scope on it“; excellent line. Love how the parent series bleeds into this one without feeling forced. These characters we see again, other than the main ones, are worked in organically, and provide that little thrill for fans who remember them. Finally, he finds the A-1 model of sniper rifle, one he seems to know well – this gives us an idea that Mike possibly served in the army, remarking someone ought to have figured out its complications before sending it into the “jungle“; highly suggests Vietnam. More character development, another thing I dig so much about this series.


Jimmy’s trying to talk with Chuck about Kim. The older brother denies his part in any of the nonsense happening. Chuck lays it all on Howard – “Can he talk when you drink a glass of water?” Jimmy asks. But Jimmy goes on white knighting, trying his hardest to take the full blame of his commercial fiasco. At the same time, Kim didn’t say a word about not knowing what was going on, and that shows she tried protecting him. “Thats your problem,” Chuck tells his brother: “You think the ends justify the means.” Instead of trying to stand behind his brother at all, Chuck harps on about Jimmy being irresponsible, about his inability to take things seriously. Furthermore, Jimmy tries to make a deal with his brother. Chuck won’t admit he doesn’t want Jimmy in the law business. But the latter knows his older brother wants that: “I need to hear it from your mouth.” Essentially, Jimmy wants him to commit extortion, he simply can’t get Chuck to admit the real truth, despite anything that’s at stake.
Meanwhile, Mike doesn’t agree to the job Nacho offers. He doesn’t want to “draw Salamancas like flies” by killing Tuco and alerting the cartel. “Somethings gotta give,” Nacho says: “With or without you.” Not trying to rock the boat hard enough to sink it, Mike suggests making Tuco “go away“, but how?
Now we get another Breaking Bad reference – Krazy-8 (Max Arciniega) meets with Tuco and Nacho, dropping off a fat roll of money. Interesting to see Krazy-8 not as the gangster he was when meeting Walter and Jesse, but a green little guy worming his way into the meth business. Again, love these characters reappearing and filling out the world of Vince Gilligan and Co.


Outside the restaurant where Tuco and Nacho conduct business, Mike waits across the street by a payphone. He puts a voice on, reporting a “gang thing” happening around the area. Perfect, slick little moment on the part of Mike; he wipes off his fingerprints before heading out. Pulling into the restaurant parking lot he dings Tuco’s car a little. On purpose, or no? Tuco’s not happy – you can also notice the diamond-studded pendant hanging from his neck. Mike gets confronted by Tuco, who calls him “Mr. Magoo” and gets angry when he thinks the old guy is calling him “a liar“, which then brings Nacho into the situation. The talk heads outside, with Mike getting more belligerent by the minute; he agrees to exchange insurance and so on. Tuco won’t be having any of that. But the further this goes, we can see Mike is playing a game. What is it? How will it play?
After things start to get a little physically intimidating, and Nacho looks more nervous by the second, Tuco brandishes his gun. Once Nacho leaves at the sound of sirens nearby, a fight starts between Tuco and Mike. The older man manages to keep himself from death, but gets a nasty beatdown. When the police show up, things finish. And Mike is able to live another day, albeit with a few nasty bumps and bruises.
Afterwards, he meets Nacho in their usual dark place. “Wow,” exclaims Nacho after seeing Mike’s face: “Look at you.” At least now Tuco will be out of commission for a while. “You went a long way to not pull that trigger,” says Nacho: “Why?” But no reply from Mike, no answer at all. Just a look, a bruised and beaten smile.


This way another excellent chapter in the series. I love that Mike Ehrmantraut gets as much of a backstory and dissection as Jimmy/Saul. Can’t wait for “Rebecca” next week. Stay tuned with me, friends and fellow fans.

Better Call Saul – Season 2, Episode 2: “Cobbler”

AMC’s Better Call Saul
Season 2, Episode 2: “Cobbler”
Directed by Terry McDonough
Written by Gennifer Hutchison

* For a review of the previous episode, Season 2 premiere “Switch” – click here
* For a review of the next episode, “Amarillo” – click here
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After the excellent start to Season 2, Better Call Saul continues on, as we open on Chuck McGill (Michael McKean) playing the piano to his metronome. He plays beautifully, too. He stops once then goes again until messing up, getting angrier with himself this time. Soon, Howard Hamlin (Patrick Fabian) arrives bearing newspapers, groceries and the like; an unexpected visitor. Chuck mentions he wants to go into the office for “an hour or two” soon, which surprises Hamlin. Then Howard also mentions Jimmy (Bob Odenkirk) is working for Davis & Main, the firm of Clifford Main (Ed Begley Jr). Neither of them particularly respect Jimmy all that much from what I can tell. Is Howard using this as a way to push Chuck? Or do they merely share a caution re: Jimmy? Hard to know for sure. However, Chuck’s eyes tell the entire story afterwards when he sits back down to play his piano some more. He becomes lost, transfixed by the metronome. Interesting to see where Chuck goes from this point on.
Kim Wexler (Rhea Seehorn) is busy getting things ready in a board room, making sure Jimmy is sitting next to her when the meeting happens. The sit close together while Clifford goes over some documents. Underneath the table, Kim plays a little footsie. Cut to the both of them having a cigarette in the parking garage, chatting. There’s an obvious feeling between them, whether or not Kim wants to push forward. But we can see, no matter how she plays it cool when they’re together, Kim is into Jimmy, big time. She even gives him a hilarious little coffee cup with “Worlds 2nd Best Lawyer” printed on it. They share a kiss before he leaves, though, she looks over her shoulder. Such a conflicted woman.
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Over at the salon, Jimmy shows off his new decked out car, which takes him away from the old office and into his new life. He looks through all the bells and whistles before trying to fit his new coffee mug in the holder. Except it’s too big: “Must be metric,” he says to himself. So ironic that such an expensive, beautiful piece of machinery can’t even fit his cheap little cup. This show cracks me up because, just like Breaking Bad, there come these hilarious little moments that would never be that funny anywhere else, yet here they are making me crack up.
Meanwhile, Mike Ehrmantraut (Jonathan Banks) sees the ghastly yellow Hummer belonging to Daniel Wormald (Mark Proksch) pull up. He’s not pleased at all. Daniel is there to talk with the police, which does nothing further to please Mike. They have a chat in the Hummer. Mike advises him it isn’t the greatest idea for a criminal to willing talk with cops, but Daniel brings up an interesting point: because he falls outside the law sometimes when selling his pharmaceuticals, does that put him outside the help of the police? I don’t know; sort of interesting. Mike tries his best to talk Daniel out of talking with the police, though Wormald is pissy and only wants his baseball cards back. Turns out, some of the cards stolen belonged to his father, so y’know – sentimental value and all. Mike reluctantly tells his dumb friend: “Ill find your cards.”
Head down, pen to paper, Jimmy is working hard for the new firm. After hearing a bit of beautiful guitar music through the office he finds his way into Clifford’s office, the man obviously has a talent on the six-string. Jimmy chats briefly with his new boss and brings up some interesting points he might have stumbled across already looking through the papers on their case. A good start for the scrappy dog McGill.
Mike is busy tracking down the baseball cards. He goes into an auto shop and pretends to be looking for seats to be upholstered. This is the workplace of Nacho Varga (Michael Mando). They end up outside, alone and able to talk. Nacho’s definitely not happy to see the old guy, not that it bothers Mike; he lays things out for Nacho, how it needs to work. But the younger of the two gets his back up, thinking Mike is threatening him, his family. Mike makes clear there’s a profit to be made if they do things his way.
Chuck’s almost ready to leave his house, to head into work. His foil-lined jacket on, chin up. Did Howard’s plan work? What’s the long-term game?
Cue Daniel handing his ghastly yellow and flame-painted Hummer’s keys over to Nacho. In return, the baseball cards go in Mike’s trunk, back to Wormald. Of course the nerd in Daniel has to go through the cards, tracking down particular items to make sure they’re in tact. “Looks like everyones here,” says Daniel with a big, goofy smile.
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Nacho (to Daniel): “Now, our business is concluded.”
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In the midst of Jimmy telling everyone what’s happening on his end of the case, Chuck shows up at the board room. Preceding this Howard asks everyone to turn off electronics, give over their cell phones, et cetera. A worried, downtrodden look appears on Jimmy’s face as he watches this begin to happen. Howard comes off as smug, letting Jimmy continue, as if expecting a big fuck up. Only with Kim giving him strength via a thigh squeeze under the table he has the confidence to speak with pride. After the meeting finishes, Jimmy and Chuck have an awkward conversation. “Why are you here?” asks Jimmy; “To bear witness,” Chuck replies cryptically.
Then Mike calls Jimmy, asking if he’s still “morally flexible” because Daniel is going to need representation. The younger McGill heads to the station to try and help the situation. For his part, Daniel bumbles and rambles through the interview. The detectives obviously know he’s guilty, or at the least that he knows something more than is being said out loud. But save-the-day-Jimmy swoops in with a hilarious “art patron” story, claiming Daniel made some “personal videos” which were later stolen by that patron; “lovers quarrel” as Jimmy puts it. A genius way to get Daniel out from under the police: “Squat cobbler,” says Jimmy – “Full moon pie. Boston Cream Splat. Simple Simon the Assman.” I almost cried listening to Odenkirk describe the supposed videos. Spot on comedic writing, which serves the purpose of making us laugh, as well as being weird enough to help get Daniel free from any suspicion. Even better? Daniel’s actually going to have to make a video.
Directly following this scene, Jimmy heads to see Kim – with a stack of pies they dig into together. Apparently the pies are leftovers, “untouched by human buttocks.” Kim’s not impressed, though. Jimmy has now faked evidence to get a client off. She doesn’t understand why he’s risked so much for “a friend.”
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Kim: “I cannot hear about this sort of thing, ever again, okay? I mean it, Jimmy.”
Jimmy: “You wont
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This episode started a lot of things moving for the second season, in particular more of the relationship between Jimmy and Kim, as well as that of Jimmy and his brother Chuck, plus there’s the deviousness of Howard, and also the Mike situation re: Daniel. Many, many threads. Looking forward to where things progress after “Cobbler”, in the next episode titled “Amarillo” which will no doubt make things even more exciting.

Breaking Bad – Season 1, Episode 7: “A No-Rough-Stuff-Type Deal”

AMC’s Breaking Bad
Season 1, Episode 7: “A No-Rough-Stuff-Type Deal”
Directed by Tim Hunter
Written by Peter Gould

* For a review of the penultimate Season 1 episode, “Crazy Handful of Nothin'” – click here
* For a review of the Season 2 premiere, “Seven Thirty-Seven” – click here
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Breaking Bad‘s first season finale opens as the high school is having a meeting concerning the drugs in Albuquerque. Walter White (Brystan Cranston) sits next Skyler (Anna Gunn), listening to everything, as if he has no idea what’s been happening. His newly discovered hypermasculinity starts working overdrive. Walt slips a hand to his wife’s knee, slowly between her legs, and then we’ve got this definitely new man showing off his dangerous side. Living life on the edge. Eventually, Principal Carmen Molina (Carmen Serano) calls on Walt to discuss the equipment stolen from the school lab. Such irony. Then we cut to Walt and Skyler in their vehicle, in the parking lot, having sex like two teenagers. Walt’s got a new lease on life. He likes the drugs because they’re illegal, just as he explains to Skyler why he got so hot in the meeting and wanted to bang in the car. We’ve got a criminal on our hands here. A serious one.


The Pinkman house is being shown by a realtor to a nice quiet couple. Only they notice the strange patch in the ceiling, the rickety floor beneath. Neither of them knowing what had happened in that very house days ago.
Walt arrives to see Jesse (Aaron Paul), who takes refuge in the Winnebago. Sitting right there in the driveway. He’s starting to feel better, but his ribs especially are pretty damn beat up. He doesn’t know anything of what Walt has been up to. The older of the two reveals his meeting with Tuco Salamanca (Raymond Cruz), as well as the money he got for them – even an extra $15,000 for Jesse because he “earned it“. But tension escalates between the partners. Jesse isn’t happy about Walt outright making a deal for 2 pounds of meth a week with Salamanca. Problems, problems, problems. First, there’s Tuco himself; a psychotic criminal who snorts meth like it’s nothing. Second, the pseudo required to make the meth – Jesse schools Walt on what it takes to get the amount needed for their cooks.
Juggling the criminal life and his family, Walt and Skyler go see his doctor. The man makes it clear the cancer fight is about “managing expectations“. Most of all we’re seeing how Skyler is so invested, obviously, in the fight against cancer her husband is going through. Simultaneously, there’s Walt whose mind is totally fixated on the criminal enterprise that’s sitting in his lap.
At a junkyard, Walt and Jesse wait for Tuco to arrive. The younger partner chastises the new criminal in Walt for suggesting a drug meet in a junkyard, saying how sketchy it is, which clearly we can see. Especially meeting a maniac like Tuco out in the middle of nowhere. Yet this is the apex of the insanity Walt has come across so far. Even above the Krazy-8 stuff, the bathtub and the bodies. Walt – or Heisenberg, as he’s now called – doesn’t have the 2 pounds for the new deal, which infuriates Salamanca. Things get settled, to a degree. The deal is now 4 whole pounds. This does not make Jesse feel any better: “What.. did you, just do?”
Heading back to the Pinkman headquarters, Walt has a plan. They aren’t using pseudo for this cook. Instead, they’ll use another method laid out by Walt. “Yeah Mr. White! Yeah science!” cries Jesse in excitement. They’ll need a ton of supplies, most of which Jesse can’t even pronounce. Lots of new things happening. But are they any good at all? Only for the wallet.
Double back to the family life. A big party is thrown for Skyler’s baby shower, which includes everybody from the principal at Walt’s school, of course Hank (Dean Norris) and Marie (Betsy Brandt), and a ton of others. Walt Jr (RJ Mitte) is busy taking video of the party, sneaking peaks of cleavage here and there. Skyler is taken aback when Marie gives her a tiara made of white gold – extremely expensive – as is Hank, who asks Walt to go for a drink, not wanting to take in any further presents. Out back, Hank and Walt have a big Cuban cigar together: “Ive already got lung cancer,” Walt tells him. This prompts an interesting conversation about illegal things. Walt makes the distinction of “drawing that line” between what we determine is illegal, what is not. For us, it brings to mind Walt’s new business venture. But at the same time, even while Hank is right about meth needing to be illegal, there is an irony in the fact they’re smoking illegal cigars; certain things are fine to do illegally, I guess, according to Hank. It’s just a funny little scene, well written, and such a great way to flesh out the character of Walt, how he thinks, his morals, without too much expository dialogue. Great few moments, some of my favourite so far.


Walt convinces Skyler he’s going to a sweat lodge, as she earlier suggested alternative medicine. Rather than that he’s off to a different sort of weekend retreat. With Jesse. They’ve got most of the supplies needed. Only a few things are missing; some of the most important things. A couple thieves offer to break into a chemical storage facility to get the chemicals needed. In a sudden light of inspiration, Walt has a plan – they’ll steal it on their own. He breaks out an Etch-a-Sketch sort of contraption claiming they’ll use that to break in. It has thermite inside, which can be used to blow a lock. Walt gives a nice story about the Germans and World War II, a good preamble to their next little adventure. The boys are going from small time to big time awful damn quick.
Interesting things happen when Skyler goes to return the tiara Marie gave her for the new baby. It was stolen and she ends up being detained by the store security. They take her to a little room where she waits for the police. But Skyler didn’t steal it, we know that. Obviously Marie is a kleptomaniac who cannot help herself and stole something she later gave as a gift. Skyler’s fairly sly herself and ends up getting out of the situation. And now she is going to bring the fire of Hell to Marie, leaving a voicemail to start saying they need a little chat. When Skyler does catch up with her sister they’ve got lots of tension going on. Obviously Skyler has a point, but Marie cannot accept or admit she has a problem with stealing. An interesting twist to add in the mix. The reason why is because there are different levels of criminality at play in this series, as well as various degrees of gray morality that blurs the lines. YES – Walt is the biggest criminal of them all, but there is still a part of this series that examines where we draw the line on crime, what we excuse, who we excuse it from, so on. Interesting writing constantly and it continually impresses me.
At the chemical storage facility, Walt and Jesse pull on hilarious tuque ski masks before snipping through a fence and heading inside. They manage to lock the security guard patrolling the area inside a blue port-a-potty giving them time to infiltrate the lock and door on the building. Such an amazing sequence, which is funny at times, always tense, as well as the fact we’re seeing the further evolution of both Walt and Jesse. Yes, Walt is obviously the biggest change, but Jesse wasn’t doing a whole lot before this other than cooking and selling off a bit of drugs; he was definitely never involved in disposing bodies, kidnapping, high level meth dealing or wild break and enter operations.
Best of all is when the pair discovers there are no “gallon jugs“, as Walt hoped. Only big oil drum-style quantities. So they manage to carry it away while the security guard tries to escape the portable toilet. Off they go with their new product.
They head back to Pinkman’s to cook. Now they have a new problem: it’s Open House Day for the realtor, who doesn’t get Jesse’s call. So now there are a ton of people about to show up, just as the boys get into their major cook. They have to yield 4 pounds for Tuco, which might prove to be a problem. Bunches of people start milling around upstairs, as Walt and Jesse try to figure out how to get rid of them all. They manage to get everyone out, finishing the cook. Which sends Walt home still pretending he was at a sweat lodge, passing off the smell of meth on his skin as some of the stuff they used in the medicinal ritual – “sacred Navajo herbs,” Walt tells Skyler. The lies just build up, more and more with each passing chapter.


So we return to the junkyard. Full circle, this episode. Heisenberg brings his product to Tuco: “Its blue,” he remarks before sniffing some to test its awesomeness. “Blue, yellow, pinkwhatever man,” Tuco says: “Just keep bringinme that.”
However, things take a major turn. After one of the henchmen makes a comment to Heisenberg and Jesse, the maliciously violent side of Salamanca comes out. His terror is beyond evident. He trips out and yells a little. But afterwards, he beats the man into a bloody pulp of flesh on the ground. Now, the horrifying consequences of this new life, this new deal, this new business, it is all extremely clear to Walt – I mean, Heisenberg. He started to think things were floating on casually. But this beating in front of him, it sparks an understanding in Walt. A grim one. Both he and Jesse are left in the dust to take in the gravity of their situation, with only money to comfort them. Is it enough?


A great first season for this AMC show. Looking forward to going through the second season again, it’s even better and builds on everything Vince Gilligan and Co. worked towards in Season 1. Stay tuned and I’ll have more reviews coming your way!