Life is a little bit of sweet, a little bit of sour, at any given moment.
AMC’s Breaking Bad
Season 2, Episode 5: “Breakage”
Directed by Johan Renck
Written by Moira Walley-Beckett
* For a review of the previous episode, “Down” – click here
* For a review of the next episode, “Peekaboo” – click here
We start on a couple men obviously crossing from Mexico over the U.S. border. They swim to shore, their boots around their necks and other belongings in knapsacks. On their way along shore one of them stumbles over something in the mud: Hank’s (Dean Norris) souvenir of the grill from Tuco. Hmm, strange no?
Walter (Bryan Cranston) is in the throes of chemotherapy now. The show does a real fascinating job at times of getting psychological, as we’re almost put right in his head; everything goes by with a strange quickness, at the same time it’s dreamy and stagnant, and even when Walt is back in his doctor’s office, he still seems in another world. Like the drugs pumping in his veins, the episode takes us into how it might feel for someone to sit in that chair and let the chemo run through them. In other news, Skyler (Anna Gunn) isn’t with him, which speaks volumes considering it’s not simply a doctor’s appointment. He’s got fucking cancer. So now, if it wasn’t already clear, their marriage is deteriorating at an exponential rate lately. But also, Walt is feeling the financial strain even more now with the therapy. His bill is staggering, and we don’t even see it for ourselves. Just Cranston’s acting takes us there.
At home Skyler is just as stressed. On the phone she bitches someone out with a smile over hospital charges. It’s staggering to me as a Canadian to hear three days in the hospital cost Walt $13,000+ alone. That is mind boggling. Nevertheless, here he is, and you know what all this means, right? Meth will be cooked. A lot of it. All the while Walt is feeling the horrible effects of chemotherapy, spending lots of time praying to the porcelain god.
Over at his office, Hank is catching his boss up on things concerning Heisenberg, a supposedly secretive cook making the “big blue” in New Mexico. Yowzahs, that’s getting close to home.
Then ASAC George Merkert (Michael Shamus Wiles) reveals he’s being promoted to a big time task force taking the cartel on. While he acts excited outwardly, in private Hank finds himself breaking apart at the seams. In an elevator he almost has a full-blown panic attack. Of course he pulls himself together, but now we’re given a look behind the curtain of his tough guy exterior. There’s something happening underneath that thick skin. Be interesting to see how that plays into things further down the line.
Finally, Jesse Pinkman (Aaron Paul) makes good on his word as bond. He heads back to see Clovis, who isn’t happy to see him. Obviously. Jesse pays up, even for the damaged gate and the port-a-potty. Then they strike a deal for Jesse to park the Winnebago there, y’know, for a bit of cover. Even better, Jesse buys up an unsuspecting car to drive around, so that he doesn’t look suspicious; a little red beater. Plus, he’s found himself a possible place to live. He meets a woman named Jane Margolis (Krysten Ritter) renting an apartment owned by her father that she manages. Through it all, he ends up convincing her to take cash instead of all the usual bureaucracy. This is the beginning of a troubled relationship between landlord and tenant.
At home Hank is bottling some home brewed beer. Marie (Betsy Brandt) isn’t exactly pleased to see him home after just receiving a big promotion the day before and all. She believes he’s playing “Oktoberfest in [his] mancave“, though he plays it off as taking a well deserved day off. However, we know the difference. That tough exterior is there, but slips more and more. The pressure literally gets to Hank after he busts open a bottle while trying to put the cap on, busting open his hand while he’s at it.
In the desert, Jesse drives the Winnebago to meet Walt. It’s cook time. Furthermore, Walt’s got big plans for their little enterprise. He wants to take the business out on their own: he’ll cook, Jesse distributes on the street. Pinkman isn’t at all interested in “exposing” himself to the risk involved after his run-in with the DEA. Nor is Walt eager to “jump into bed with another Tuco.” They’ve both got nothing to their name after all the madness they’ve landed themselves in. Jesse offers to create their own distribution network, using friends of his to help sell it on the streets, but Walt is afraid of branching out. He wants his cake and to eat it, too. He doesn’t like “unknown entities” becoming a part of their partnership. Only Jesse doesn’t like the “division of labour“, so things are about to go his way for once. He gives his older counterpart an ultimatum: “You need me more than I need you, Walt.”
The whole Scooby gang gets together at Jesse’s new spot – Combo (Rodney Rush), Badger (Matt Jones), and the one, the only Skinny Pete (Charles Baker). They’ve got business to discuss. Well they’re a bit sceptical of Jesse and his pricing. At least until they understand how good the product is, coupled with the streets coming up a bit dry as of late. The rules are strict for the “big opportunity” Jesse lays out for them, but either way the gang is in.
What’s most interesting here is seeing how Jesse gleans much of his personality from others. He recycles lines and words from Walt, we’ve seen that already. Now, he applies the “DBAA” rule from Jane (Don’t Be An Asshole) to his own buddies in their new distribution project. It’s funny, yet sad all the same. Jesse still hasn’t figured himself out after all these years.
The Whites and the Schraders are having dinner together. Skyler eventually can’t listen to her sister blab on any longer about nothing endlessly. She wants an apology for the whole tiara debacle. Still no movement on that front, and Skyler’s sick and tired of everyone around her lying. She knows Walt is up to something, now on top of it all her own sister can’t even give her a sincere apology to mend their relationship. But Marie isn’t all bad and she eventually shows her humanity instead of being a stone cold bitch.
Jesse and the crew are out slangin’. This sequence is so awesome, it is frenetic and full of energy with a slow change in style that gets darker and darker, slightly more sketchy just like the meth scene. They move the product quick to all the hungry customers on the street. Only some of them are shadier than you’re already expecting. Skinny Pete winds up selling to a meth head who tricks him into running from police, supposedly. He’s ran into a hallway where the meth head and her man rob him at knife point. This is actually a creepy scene. So creepy. The ever wonderful Dale Dickey plays the lady meth freak, and normally she can be scary as is, but they’ve truly made her look awful, scabs on her face. She also does this laugh that’s completely unnerving when Pete is at the end of a knife.
So now this causes issues with Jesse and Walt. The money bag is light. And the naivety of Walt is incredible. He basically goads his younger partner into doing something dumb. Saying that this whole situation makes Jesse look weak because “Jesse Pinkman – druglord – can be robbed with impunity.” Such an awful thing for Walt to do. He’s so removed from the violence that he is willing to say anything. Yet we know he’s also capable of violence when put into the corner, no other way out. It’s simply a malicious thing to treat Jesse how he does here.
Hank thinks he hears gunshots outside. He rushes downstairs with his own gun drawn. Except in his garage he finds it’s just some beer bottles popping. However, the look in Hank’s eyes is clear. There is something happening to him after shooting Tuco, it isn’t good for him. This throws his new promotion slightly into question.
Later in the night, Walt goes over to see Jesse at his new digs. He’s brought a request for his younger partner: “I want you to handle it,” Walt says after laying a gun on the counter. Wow. Walter White – piece of shit of the year. Because no longer is he simply doing this to make some cash, get out, provide for his family. Walt is loving being a meth cook and distributor. He is getting a sick thrill out of it.
At the end of the episode, we watch Hank toss Tuco’s memorialised grill into the river. Trying his best to get rid of the memories associated with the token.
Another great, well written episode that drives forward so much character and plot at once. Love Krysten Ritter, so glad she’s in this season. She brings lots to the cast, in terms of acting and just the fact her character opens up so much. Stay with me for a review of “Peekaboo” coming shortly.
AMC’s Breaking Bad
Season 1, Episode 5: “Gray Matter”
Directed by Tricia Brock
Written by Patty Lin
* For a review of the previous episode, “Cancer Man” – click here
* For a review of the next episode, “Crazy Handful of Nothin'” – click here
The fifth episode of Breaking Bad opens with Jesse Pinkman (Aaron Paul) circulating his “curriculum vitae” – his words – to try and get a sales position. Only it’s not what he thinks; more so an advertising gig. One that involves putting on a big dollar bill costume and waving a sign. After walking out, Jesse finds his old friend Badger (Matt Jones) is doing the job currently. They end up smoking a joint together. A little talk and Jesse starts thinking more and more back to his amazing meth, the stuff he made with Walter White (Bryan Cranston). Badger wants to partner up and make a bunch, though, Jesse seems to want a normal life. It doesn’t look like it’s in the cards for him, all the same. He pours through the classifieds, but then heads back to see Badger. His decision’s made, I guess.
In Walter’s world, he and Skyler (Anna Gunn) are going to a party thrown by Gretchen and Elliott Schwartz (Jessica Hecht/Adam Godley) – the old partners he worked with in his real chemist days, before teaching high school. Elliott’s birthday is well underway with all sorts of people. A few awkward moments pass where Walt is introduced to others, his role in Grey Matter, the company Elliott and Gretchen run, is talked of then he has to slyly get through a man asking which university is it where he teaches now. Most of all, we get the impression of Walt’s supposed missed opportunities, all that sort of thing. Not that Walt has a bad life. He just has shit luck, now compounding with the fact he didn’t stay with Grey Matter. Although, there are many slight clues as to why he didn’t, and those are things we come to find out more of later, as well. For the moment, Walt ends up pissed. We understand the connection he and Elliott had once upon a time, but Skyler ends up telling the man about Walt and his cancer. Bad move, at least in Walt’s eyes. He’s a proud man, and when Elliott offers him a job, it’s more than Walt can handle; a sort of peace offering, a “fig leaf” (olive branch, Walt?), to bridge their troubled relationship. He knows what it’s for – not to help, rather a way for Elliott to assuage any guilt about the company, what happened between them all those years ago, and so on.
When Badger and Jesse get together in the Winnebago, the change in Pinkman is obvious. He’s been touched by the partnership with Mr. White. Even if it’s not immediately clear to him, as it is to us. First, he corrects Badger on the different beakers and “basic chemistry, yo“. Very similar to how Walt had to initially show Jesse a few things when they started cooking. But now Jesse is back to the lower class, if meth cooking can ever be considered anything except low. They use a ton of ingredients Badger had to lift from pharmacies around town. Plus, Jesse has to do everything properly, the way Walt showed him. While Badger jokes around with a crossbow, eats cheesies, and a ton of ridiculous stuff. More than that, Jesse is not pleased with their final product. It’s glass grade stuff, but not as perfect as he and Mr. White made originally. He constantly regurgitates lines from Walt, such as the fact their customers will expect a certain “standard“, all the time Badger is freaking out over the meth Jesse keeps throwing out. Later on, they fight. Badger ends up thrown from the Winnebago trying to crossbow the R.V., as Jesse takes off through the desert.
Cut to Walt Jr (RJ Mitte) and his friends outside a convenience store. Of his three friends, Walt Jr has to go ask a guy if he’ll buy them beer. Turns out he’s an off-duty cop. What luck, right? Well, luckily for Jr he decides to call Uncle Hank (Dean Norris) instead of Walt. Hank helps him out of the situation, but cautions maybe Jr should’ve called his father: “Not cool,” says Hank. At the White house, Skyler isn’t impressed with her son. Hank and Marie (Betsy Brandt) try to put her at ease. They all have a talk about Walt, where it finally comes out he was smoking pot, and not Jr, which Marie believed. Laughing, Hank comments: “Shit. Didn‘t think he had it in him.” But Skyler decides they have to stage a sort of “family meeting“, or “intervention” as Marie calls it, so that they can all tell him how they feel about his refusing treatment.
The family all meet. Except Walt is adamant – he will not be having treatment. Everyone has their say, including Jr who calls his father “a pussy“. At the same time, Hank and Marie sort of understand Walter and his decision, to die on his own terms, in his own way.
Not too long after the family sit-down, Walt agrees to go for treatment. He realizes the massive hole he will leave financially, but more so he sees the emotional hole. He knows how deeply Skyler loves him, same with Jr, and so he agrees reluctantly, bravely. Walt lies and tells Skyler that Elliott will be sending a cheque, or at least that he’ll “take care of it“. We all know what’s about to come down the pipe shortly. Regardless, now we watch Walter begin the treatments for his lung cancer. It isn’t gruesome, there’s simply something about watching him get strapped into the plastic bag-looking contraption that makes me feel weird. Always has, each time I watch.
Then, before the episode closes and after his treatment, Walter pulls up in front of Jesse’s house. His eyes are full of regret and an unsure instability, yet he forges on. Before that, though, he gets a call on his cell from Gretchen. She’s heard of “the cancer” and offers more of their help, which Walt does not want. She wants him to take the money for the treatment, saying that money belongs to him anyways. Now, we hear of the “you and me” between Walt and Gretchen, something we briefly saw in an earlier episode where the two of them worked on a problem together. He lies to Gretchen about being covered by his insurance. We understand more why Walt won’t take the money; it isn’t simply business, it is very personal.
“Wanna cook?” asks Walt, as Jesse comes bursting from his garage, sort of pissed.
The next episode is titled “Crazy Handful of Nothin'” and brings us closer to the end of this first season.