Things become totally clear for Hank Schrader, in the worst ways.
Walt is trying to make a go of the meth business all on his own this time. Will it work? Probably not without help.
Mike and Jesse want out of the meth business. Walt makes it difficult for them to leave.
Walt and Skyler grow further apart on his birthday
Gus receives a deadly message from the cartel. Skyler gets bad news from Ted Beneke.
While Mike takes Jesse with him doing pickups, Walt's left in the dark and cooking alone.
In the aftermath of Walt's decisions, he and Jesse have to figure out a way to stay alive.
Skyler offers to pay for Hank's medical bills. Walt and Gus meet alone to discuss current events.
When Walt & Jesse diverge on their latest business plans, Gus Fring makes things more complicated.
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
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.
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 go ‘Hank, 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?
Next up is “Grilled”, continuing the wonderful second season started with this episode.
AMC’s Breaking Bad
Season 1, Episode 6: “Crazy Handful of Nothin'”
Directed by Bronwen Hughes
Written by George Mastras
* For a review of the previous episode, “Gray Matter” – click here
* For a review of the Season 1 finale, “A No-Rough-Stuff-Type Deal” – click here
The start of this episode opens as Walt (Bryan Cranston) returns to Jesse (Aaron Paul), ready to cook in the Winnebago. But as he proclaims “no more violence“, we also get cuts of a new Walt, a shaved head. He walks across a parking lot with a ton of people bewildered by him. He’s bleeding slightly and toting a large bag, no doubt filled with money. The irony is not lost.
Cut back to a time before this coming incident. Walt does his chemotherapy, as Skyler (Anna Gunn) sits next to him, supportive and loving. She asks again about Elliott Schwartz and his paying of the bills. Turns out, Walt is continually lying. The mountain of lies has already begun. How big will it grow? Awful damn high, I bet. For the time being, Walter writes out thousands of dollars in cheques to the treatment center and goes about his daily life, trying to hide the burgeoning meth business under his chemistry teacher facade. At school, he’s discovering the side effects of the chemotherapy coming down on him; Walt sneaks away from class after struggling a little, vomiting hard into the school toilet. “The faster they undergo change the more violent the explosion,” he tells his class while discussing chemical compounds, but really – he’s talking about himself. In the bathroom, a janitor named Hugo helps Walter out after he makes a bit of a mess. So sad to see an independent guy like Walt having to deal with this brutal illness.
Then there’s Skyler, Walt Jr (RJ Mitte) and Walt Sr at a meeting, some support group for cancer patients and their families. His wife asks about where he disappears from time to time, which pushes Walt into one of the first few lies he’s been trafficking in. Walt says he needs alone time, so that gets him out of the house and away from the family a bit.
And now we’re back in the Winnebago with Walt, cooking up their product. He’s having trouble, though. The chemicals make him woozy and eventually send him flying out the door, into the desert. Jesse ends up noticing some marks on Mr. White after he unzips the protective suit he’s wearing. Pinkman knows about the cancer, due to his aunt having a similar dot on her chest, the targeting for radiation. Turns out Jesse is a little pissed about not being told, them being partners and all. Above all, he now understands exactly why Mr. White wanted to get into the meth business: he’ll likely be checking out, soon enough.
Too ill to get the batch done, Walt has Jesse finish up where he started.
In the city, Hank Schrader (Dean Norris) and his parnter Steve Gomez (Steven Michael Quezada) meet up. They’ve identified the gas mask in the desert: it came from the high school where Walt teaches. Uh oh? Nah. Hank would never ever suspect Walt has anything to do with it. He was almost floored when finding out Walt smoked a bit of pot, so naturally Mr. White is too inconspicuous for anybody to ever assume he’s cooking drugs.
Taking over on all fronts, Jesse is out about town selling off their new excellent product, from gas stations to laundromats to silver-grilled gangsters hanging in parking lots. Only the money he brings back to Walt isn’t what the man was expecting. He wants to move to the big time, he doesn’t want Jesse selling it in small amounts. Although, the younger of the two points out: “You don‘t know jack about slingin‘ dope.”
They start to talk about who took Krazy-8’s place in the meth food chain. A man named Tuco Salamanca (Raymond Cruz) has taken over the business. He is very high up the chain, which Jesse makes clear. So they need to have some sort of in-road to the big man. Walt yells at his partner – “Just grow some fucking balls” – but is that going to be good for Jesse? Will being forced into talking with this Tuco make things any better, or is it going to spiral them downward into more criminality, more murder, more madness?
Now, Hank is over at the high school to talk with Walt. He’s tracking down the gas mask, and it brings him to chemistry teacher Mr. White. At the same time, the obvious answer is not obvious. Hank never once assumes Walter to be the culprit, but merely sees him as a bit of a dough-head chemistry teacher who doesn’t take care of his equipment, or keep track of it. We almost sweat alongside Walt, as he wonders what is about to come next. He further finds out that Krazy-8 was a snitch for police agencies, which definitely is interesting to him. But the conversation goes on a little, and the more we stress with Walt, the more dark comedy comes into the situation. Because whereas Hank is definitely a good, solid DEA agent, this is his blindspot. Walter is easily underestimated, so can you blame him? Regardless, Occam’s razor presents itself and Hank doesn’t go for it. Why would he? There’s no reason to suspect ole Walt. At this point.
Meanwhile, Skinny Pete (Charles Baker) says he and Tuco are like “two nuts in a ballsack, yo“, and so he brings Jesse up to see the man in charge. Apparently Pete and Tuco were cellmates at one point. This puts Pinkman in a meeting with the new dangerous man in charge of Albuquerque’s meth game. And he certainly is dangerous – a meth sniffing, knife wielding, psychotic business sporting a telltale teardrop tattoo. Jesse presents the meth, which Tuco samples quickly and also give him a taste, to ensure they’re all on the same criminal level. The meth impresses, to say the least. Things become tense when Tuco doesn’t hand over the $35,000 for the bag of drugs immediately, saying “you‘ll get it“. Afterwards, when Jesse tries taking the bag and running he ends up on the bad side of Tuco and his temper; and boy, does he ever have a mean, nasty one.
Because Walt isn’t suspected, poor Hugo the janitor gets pinched for the stolen meth making supplies. Hank and Gomez show up to arrest Hugo, which obviously makes Walt feel terrible. Yet not terrible enough to clear up the whole mess. At home, things aren’t much better. Walt hasn’t yet heard from Jesse about their latest venture, clearly worrying him. Playing cards together the whole family is at the White house, with Hank and Marie (Betsy Brandt) present for a bit of fun. Furthermore, talk of Hugo comes up and burrows the guilt deeper into Walt, as Hank talks of Hugo’s previous criminal record, a “big fat” joint in his truck, so obviously he must’ve been skipping over to meth, right? No. But still, Walt has to let another man take the fall. “You hidin‘ something?” Hank asks, referring to the poker game at hand but it calls Walt’s new business to mind; amazing writing, as usual. In fact, the whole poker situation speaks incredibly to the overarching plot and themes happening. The titular handful of nothing comes to describe Walt’s poker hand, and it also leads us into the opening situation of the episode, which we see in the finale shortly.
Walt tries to reach Jesse, then finds out he’s in the hospital. Skinny Pete watches on faithfully, as Pinkman lays there in a neck brace, busted ribs, and more. Tuco went wild on him. But no longer can Walt let others get hurt because of him: first Hugo, now this. It can only get worse as time goes on. So Walt decides there must be retribution, both for Jesse and for them to get their money back.
The new and improved Walter White comes to us now. Pissing out rusty coloured liquid, losing his hair, taking pill after pill, he makes the choice to shave his head. Before the chemo can take it. Everything about Walt is him trying to get ahead – of the illness, of the debt. And shaving his head is a way Walt can step out in front of everything, on his own terms. His family is a little taken aback first seeing him completely bald. Though, while Skyler is almost mortified, Walt Jr (RJ Mitte) calls it “bad ass“.
We arrive to the finale. Walt heads up to see Tuco, shaved head, bag of drugs on him. A new side to the chemistry teacher. Beginning with the poker game, Walt is going all in. On everything. He no longer has much fear with the cancer creeping up on him, inside him, every single day. Further and further. When he gets in to see Tuco, though, things become decidedly different. Walt declares his name as “Heisenberg“, a reference to Werner Heisenberg (the Uncertainty Principle). A new man is born. Walt also asks for money to make up for Jesse’s hospital visit, plus money for the methamphetamine. Except it isn’t meth in the bag Walt brought. It is an explosive.
He tosses a crystal at the floor. Outside, the top floor of the building blows up. Heisenberg holds the back above his head threatening to blow everything sky high. And this is how the episode opens, after Walt walks out with money in hand, bleeding slightly, as well as with a deal in tact to make Tuco more meth. Amazing. Down in his car, Walt celebrates by himself, yelling, touching the money. Is this the birth of a new man completely?
Next episode is the last of the season, titled “A No-Rough-Stuff-Type Deal”. Stay with me for the finale.