Jesse and Walt must deal with a fly threatening to contaminate their latest batch.
Nick and Happy keep up their search. Amanda gets proactive in finding her daughter.
John Grant finds life getting even worse in the Yabba, after Mick & Joe take him for a pig hunt in the bush.
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
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?
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.
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”
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.
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.
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.
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
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: “I‘ve 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: “It‘s blue,” he remarks before sniffing some to test its awesomeness. “Blue, yellow, pink – whatever man,” Tuco says: “Just keep bringin‘ me 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!