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!