Jimmy enacts his plan to help Huell. Nacho thinks about a way out.
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.
AMC’s Breaking Bad
Season 1, Episode 3: “…And the Bag’s in the River”
Directed by Adam Bernstein
Written by Vince Gilligan
* For a review of the previous episode, “The Cat’s in the Bag” – click here
* For a review of the next episode, “Cancer Man” – click here
The start of this episode immediately shows us the aftermath of the previous one, where Jesse Pinkman (Aaron Paul) stupidly threw the dead corpse in his bathtub, along with hydrofluoric acid. He and Walter White (Bryan Cranston) are busy cleaning up the mess, wearing gas masks and other gear.
Cut back and forth with a younger Walt with a previous partner, Gretchen Schwartz (Jessica Hecht). They’re calculating what makes up a human being, in elements and such. There’s a missing piece, a small part at the end. Meanwhile, Walt empties bits and pieces of a man into the toilet for flushing. An amazingly written opening.
Walt: “You didn‘t follow my instructions!”
Jesse: “Oh, Heil Hitler, bitch!”
Skyler White (Anna Gunn) is busy painting her baby’s new room, along with the help of her son Walt Jr (RJ Mitte), as her sister Marie (Betsy Brandt) watches on and talks about her brand new white shoes, quipping “you missed a spot“. Skyler brings up weed, claiming to be asking for a short story idea. Eventually, Marie susses out Walt Jr has been buying weed, though, her sister makes it clear that’s not the case. Excellent setup here that I’m sure will go somewhere, a case of mistaken identity, so to speak.
At Jesse’s, he and Walt hose one another down out in little kiddy pools on the driveway. Afterwards, Jesse sneaks away to smoke a bowl of crystal in the bathroom. By himself, obviously. His meth use will slowly become a point of contention between him and Walt, as the two grow closer in a bond. Walt is downstairs cleaning out the piss and shit bucket for Krazy-8 (Max Arciniega). The gangster asks him: “Turn around and look at me. This here – I wouldn‘t do this to my worst enemy. This is degrading.” It strikes a chord with Walt, even though he tries not to let it. When he finds out Krazy-8 knows his name Walt feels a bit threatened, and to make matters worse Jesse is the source; he talks too much.
The tenuous partners have a fight over the bag of meth Jesse is smoking from, which causes them to wrestle a while. In a run for the door, Walt falls over the stairs coughing hard, almost passing out. A subtle reminder of his failing health. Soon enough Jesse makes off, leaving Walt to get things finished up.
We get a brief scene with Marie, as she shops for shoes. She talks with husband Hank (Dean Norris) on the phone about the possibility of Walt Jr smoking pot. It’s an awesome scene with Hank on the other side of the phone during a possible arrest, a few suspects up against a wall. Norris is an awesome actor whose talents are well used here in the character of Hank. He is a bit of a bad ass. Although, as the show progresses there are changes and developments in him which are super interesting. Speaking of interest, Marie shoplifts a pair of shoes. Is this a common thing for her? Or just spite at the girl from the counter? Hard to tell. She just walks right out with the new ones on.
Hank tries to do a good thing. He takes his nephew Walt Jr out for a ride to the Crossroads Motel. It has a lot of creepy and nasty looking characters, a few pathetic ones. Hank tells him it’s called “The Crystal Palace” and warns Walt Jr of the dangers of pot – the gateway drug. Hilarious scene, especially once Wendy (Julia Minesci) shows up at Hank’s window, by his request. Also sort of sad, tragic. In the motel, Jesse is actually staying with Wendy, but good for him Hank doesn’t know anything about that, or him really for that matter.
In a rational frame of mind, Walt sits on the toilet while making a list of pros and cons re: killing Krazy-8 versus letting him live. He is truly stressing the decision, as most human beings would do in that situation. Then he calls Skyler with an excuse for not being home, working late and so on. Only she already knows Walt quit two weeks before. Things are deteriorating between the married couple, and all after he was trying to do this to secure the future of his family. Albeit in a terribly planned manner, both morally and practically.
So then Walt goes to make a sandwich for Krazy-8. He is certainly not a killer, he is a decent man. Regardless of his new found meth trade. But Walter White is not some sort of person who kills on a whim. And as he goes downstairs with the sandwich, a coughing fit sends him flying, hitting the floor. The sandwich plate smashes.
When Walt comes to Krazy-8 is watching on patiently. Apparently Walt was out for “10–15 minutes“. He cleans up the plate, then decides to go make another sandwich. While upstairs he grabs a couple beers. The two men continue on to have a fairly meaningful conversation. Almost like friends. They come across a connection involving Krazy-8’s family owning a shop, Walt buying a crib there for Walt Jr as a baby, and it highlights the different courses of two lives who sort of came full circle to where they now sit. Love the writing in this scene, in general. But this one scene is incredibly poignant and makes the whole situation for Walt especially more intriguing. The stakes of murder become even higher now, as a bond, even a tiny one, forms through their talk.
The turning point is when Walt goes back upstairs. He plans on letting Krazy-8 go. Then an epiphany strikes him after a quick open of the garbage can. Walt sees there’s a piece missing to the plate once he lays out the pieces on the kitchen counter. One big jagged piece missing. Fitting enough for a man to stab another with, made to kill. He hopes it isn’t true, rifling through the trash again. But it is the truth. He wanted a way out. It isn’t coming.
Downstairs he’s faced with the truth. Instead of letting Krazy-8 go, Walt pulls tight the lock around the gangster’s neck. All the while Krazy-8 swings the broken plate, stabbing Walt in the leg once or twice. But Walt prevails and chokes him to death. Another one bites the dust. At the very least, the situation is now over. Well the body’s still requiring disposal, but still – the deed, the worst of all, is done.
When a paranoid Jesse returns home things are a little less chaotic then last he was there. They’re clean, in fact. The basement is empty, the R.V. is tidied. Nothing seems even out of place. And above all, no Krazy-8 locked around the pole.
This episode clues up with a scene including Hank and his partner Steve Gomez (Steven Michael Quezada). They’re out in the desert where Krazy-8’s car is left, where the gas mask got dropped. Hank ends up finding a secret compartment in the car containing a bag of meth: “It‘s too damn white,” he remarks. This will lead to more obviously, as they also found the gas mask.
Walter sits parked in his car and thinking. We cut back to him and Gretchen from the episode’s opening. “What about the soul?” she asks when they try to figure out the missing element to a human being. What about Walt’s soul? He had one. Once upon a time. Returning home he finds Skyler waiting, clearly pissed off and upset. “There‘s something I have to tell you,” Walt says right before it cuts to black.
The next episode is titled “Cancer Man” and promises more revelations, from Walt, as well as the series itself. Lots of developments coming out and the writing stays solid. Onward, fellow fans!
AMC’s Breaking Bad
Season 1, Episode 1: “Pilot”
Directed & Written by Vince Gilligan
* For a review of the following episode, “Cat’s in the Bag…” – click here
A large Winnebago is barreling down a road out in the desert surrounding New Mexico. Inside there’s a man driving wearing a gas mask and only tighty whitey underwear, in the passenger seat is a passed out man wearing the same (gas mask; not tighty whiteys). After a minor crash, Walter White (Bryan Cranston) runs out and frantically, at the sound of sirens, records a message to his family, tears in his eyes. Then he heads out onto the road confidently, with only a shirt and underwear on, brandishing a gun at the sound nearing him.
Intense opener to a favourite show of mine.
Walt: “My name is Walter Hartwell White. I live at 308 Negra Arroyo Lane, Albuquerque, New Mexico. 87104. To all law enforcement entities, this is not an admission of guilt. I am speaking to my family now.”
Switching gears, we’re back with Walter lying in bed next to his sleeping wife Skyler (Anna Gunn). There are baby things everywhere. Colour swatches, likely for a baby’s room. On his wall in another room are commendations for scientific work in his name. In the morning, Skyler has a cute 50 spelled in veggie bacon over his eggs – Happy Birthday. Walt Jr (RJ Mitte) isn’t impressed with that.
At school, Walt drops his son off. Inside, he teaches chemistry to uninterested teenagers. We’ve all been in that position, as teens; I’m sure chemistry teachers know the feeling on the other side. Then there’s the real dick kid who makes it tough on Mr. White, if only for a moment. Part-time Walt also works for a caterpillar-browed man named Bogdan Wolynetz (Marius Stan). Humiliatingly enough the dick student from earlier ends up having his car cleaned by Walt after Bogdan needs him to do a bit of extra work.
It’s after this event, on the way home, we see a great subtle little moment with Walt alone in the car – his glovebox will not close and he repeatedly bangs it up, frustrated. Sort of symbolizes his life at the moment.
A surprise party really does take Walt by surprise at home, late to his own party. Skyler’s sister Marie (Betsy Brandt) is there, along with her husband Hank Schrader (Dean Norris) and a ton of others. Everyone’s drinking and having fun. Meanwhile, the loud and boisterous Hank gives a toast to the birthday boy. Then quickly brings everyone to the television where he’s on talking about a big bust. Here is the first mention of meth we see in Breaking Bad. The seizure was big, tons of money. Walt takes notice. Even further, Hank tells him to get a bit of “excitement in your life” offering to take him out on a raid someday. Later, Skyler flicks around on her laptop in bed while trying to jerk Walt off with one hand.
The next day at work Walt has a short coughing fit, which puts him on his face in the car wash. He wakes up in an ambulance with an EMT asking if he smokes cigarettes and Walt has laboured, heavy breaths. Tests at the hospital lead to a cancer diagnosis, naturally leaving the poor guy reeling: inoperable lung cancer.
Only Walt can’t help but focus on the doctor’s mustard stained white overcoat. Then he’s back at home, not telling his wife about what happened yet. Slowly, things begin to feel different for Walt. He’s outside himself almost. Nothing else is important compared to the whopper of a diagnosis he received.
Walt: “Fuck you, Bogdan.”
Walt: “I said fuck you, and your eyebrows! Wipe down this.”
Quitting his part-time job at the wash, Walt has Hank and his partner Steve Gomez (Steve Michael Quezada) take him for a ride along. They stay stashed outside a house supposedly run by a Captain Cook: he puts a dash of chili powder in his methamphetamine. A SWAT team shows up from the DEA, busting the place in. Out in the jeep, Walt gets information on the way meth operations run, et cetera, from an eager Hank.
But when Hank and Steve head in for a minute, a guy in his underwear slips out the top window of the house, pulling on pants while falling off the roof. A familiar face to Mr. White – former student Jesse Pinkman (Aaron Paul). He takes off in his car, license plate THE CAPN.
Walt catches up with Jesse later, the latter covering his car to avoid any heat. The older of the two makes an offer to “partner up” in the meth business. Walt’s looking for a quick payday cooking crystal.
The relationship between Jesse and Walt in this episode is perfect. “Did you learn nothing from my chemistry class?” asks Walt. “No,” replies Jesse, “you flunked me. Remember?”. As a scientist, Mr. White wants to do things perfectly, to make the most excellent product on the market. Only problem is they need a proper place to cook. Jesse knows someone needing to sell a Winnebago. Supposedly. Handing over every last bit of his money to Jesse, Walt puts his trust in him.
Jesse: “Nah, come on, man. Some straight like you, giant stick up his ass all a sudden at age, what, 60, he‘s just gonna break bad?”
Walt: “I‘m 50”
We start to see a tough side to Walt when he and his wife take Walt Jr out to get clothes. Some people are making fun of Junior who has trouble trying on some pants, due to problems with his disability. But Walt takes the guy down from behind, grinding his foot into the guy’s knee on the floor. He intimidates the guy and his friends, who leave. Junior looks impressed with his father. Is this the change in Walter budding?
Cut to Jesse and Walt out in the desert with a Winnebago. This is their new place to cook. Walt starts to take his clothes off and Jesse’s a little weirded out. In they go with Walt in his tighty whiteys. They start to get things ready and the cook begins. The yield? Glass grace crystal meth.
Jesse: “This is art, Mr. White.”
Trying to sell some of their new work, Jesse goes to see an acquaintance, Krazy-8 (Max Arciniega). Their meeting happens to be a bit tense, ending in a sequence which will bring us back to the episode’s opener.
With Jesse along, Krazy-8 and his cousin go to see Walt with a bag of cash. Not exactly friendly, though. When the cousin, Emilio, recognizes Walt from being with DEA Agents Schrader and Gomez, things go sideways. Using a bit of basic chemistry, Walt outwits the would-be captors and locks them inside the Winnebago until they suffocate, or at least pass out. Grabbing a passed out Pinkman, the panicking Walt tries to tame a fire started from Emilio tossing a cigarette earlier.
Now, we’re back in the driver’s seat with Walt at the start of the pilot.
I love everything about the episode. Because how it’s filmed has a certain charm to it: both visually appealing, though, it’s not overly complex most of the time. The music, both soundtrack and score, is totally fun. And the plot is just incredibly wild, as well as darkly humorous. This episode sets up a ton of things to come in a vivid, interesting fashion.
A final shot sees Walt running money through his dryer. Then crawl into bed, late, to a worried Skyler. This new life, plus the cancer, is creating a divide between them already. It’s bound to widen. For now, Walt assuages any guilt of his and worry on her part with sex.
The following episode, “Cat’s in the Bag”, will be reviewed shortly. Stay tuned, fellow fans. I know most have already seen this, but hopefully you may find something worth re-reading. I’ve watched the series a few times over, so I want to see if there is anything I might spot a third or fourth time around.