Tagged Raymond Cruz

Breaking Bad – Season 2, Episode 2: “Grilled”

AMC’s Breaking Bad
Season 2, Episode 2: “Grilled”
Directed by Charles Haid
Written by George Mastras

* For a review of the Season 2 premiere, “Seven Thirty-Seven” – click here
* For a review of the next episode, “Bit by a Dead Bee” – click here
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Open on the car Jesse Pinkman (Aaron Paul) was driving at the end of the premiere. There are gun casings, shells laying everywhere. Glass. The hydraulics of the car are bouncing. Everything is desolate.
Cut to Hank Schrader (Dean Norris) explaining to the DEA office that Tuco Salamanca (Raymond Cruz) is the new head honcho of the meth business in the ABQ. He took over from Krazy-8. But also, they discovered the two dead men at the scrapyard are involved with Tuco. PLUS – a fingerprint belonging to the man himself. So, perfect timing? I think so. Now that Walter White (Bryan Cranston) is along for a ride with Tuco, Jesse in tow. Perfect timing for the story. Terrible for Walt. Even further, Skyler (Anna Gunn) called Hank saying she hasn’t seen her husband since the night before; he left out of nowhere and never came back, still missing. A real situation is brewing for ole Walt. If he makes it out unscathed, how will he explain the disappearance? Cops are called. Hank is poking around. There are so many ways this entire thing could go wrong.
The key – Walt receiving a text on his phone before leaving. Skyler mentions it to the cop working on finding him. Remember, Walt has two cell phones. Will this come back to cause him grief, either personally or legally? It’s just the beginning.
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In the desert, Tuco gets rid of all the cell phones around him, tossing them into the weeds. He has Walt and Jesse holed up a little cabin. Or, he does after letting them free of the trunk.
At the same time, Skyler is out putting up MISSING posters with Walt’s face on them. Nobody has any idea where he could’ve gone, least of all her. If only they knew it was all a result of cooking meth. Would his wife still be out there hoping to find him? Then there’s all the cash sitting in a box of diapers, just feet from Walt Jr (RJ Mitte) who prints of more posters with his father’s face on them, teary eyed.
Over in the small cabin in the desert, Tuco’s ill uncle Hecter ‘Tio’ Salamanca (Mark Margolis) sits in a wheelchair, only able to communicate with the ringing of a bell set at his fingertip. Tuco goes about intimidating Walt and Jesse more, looking through wallets, discovering more about the Heisenberg he supposedly knew. A sad juxtaposition: Walter’s wallet holds family pictures, identification cards and more, as Jesse only has a condom in his, sort of a statement of their two lives. Regardless, the worry for these two is real now that Tuco has them stashed away out there. The DEA is after Tuco, and he’s a little suspicious about his new business partners. He plans to take Walt and Jesse with him – across the border.


Back over at the White place, Skylar finally finds out about a second cellphone. Marie (Betsy Brandt) sort of forces Hank’s hand, but out it comes. He’s further forced to hypothesize about Walt possibly having a “secret.” But nobody, and I mean NOBODY in that family has any inkling what Walt’s been up to. Not even close in the same league or ballpark or even state. Then out Hank looking for Walt, ending up at Jesse’s parents place. Naturally this eventually sparks the suspicious curiosity about why Hank, a DEA agent, might be inquiring about her son. Never have the cooking duo found themselves so close to the brink of law crashing down around them. Certainly getting risky for ole Walter.
In the desert he and Jesse are stressing out. Worst of all, Hector’s beginning to get suspicious, too. About the two men Tuco has with him. And while the crazy gangster cooks them up some food, the dynamic duo argues over how to proceed with their new plan, after Jesse fucked up their poison plans with his “chili powder” scheme. What’s most interesting is seeing how Walter, because of his own bad choices, finds himself further whipped into a downward whirling pool of even worse forced choices. Here, his mind is being further bent into criminality. Just as he gets some of the poison into a tortilla Tuco will be eating, crafty Hector sees what’s happening. He warns with his bell, though it only pisses his nephew off. Until they swap food, then Walt and Jesse get quite nervous.
This entire set of scenes in the desert is wildly tense. The suspense is amazing, made tighter by the fact Hector can only communicate via his annoying little bell. Solid writing, as usual with this series. Then, once Tuco starts to ask the right questions, at least for a moment, the pulse starts pounding. Jesse comes up with a nice little story. Just not nice enough.
When Tuco finally flips he takes Jesse and Walt outside into the desert. It’s only when Walt is confronted with either confessing or seeing Jesse die does he tell Tuco the truth. Before the duo fights against the gangster for their lives.
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Tuco: “Tell me what you did!”
Walt: “We tried to poison you. We tried to poison you because you are an insane, degenerate piece of filth and you deserve to die.”


Fate has a strange way of weaving through the writing of Breaking Bad; or y’know, they could just be solid writers. Because first Tuco keeps coming even after taking a bullet, then the unimaginable happens: Hank shows up. He’s tracked down Pinkman’s vehicle. Just never thought he’d encounter Tuco Salamanca in all his savage glory. What follows is a brief gunfight between DEA Agent Schrader and Tuco, ending in the insane meth head going down for the count with an impressive shot from Hank. Wilder still is when Walt sees his brother-in-law there.
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This is an intense ending to a great episode. Next up is “Bit by a Dead Bee”, another quality chapter in the start of Season 2.

Better Call Saul – Season 2, Episode 9: “Nailed”

AMC’s Better Call Saul
Season 2, Episode 9: “Nailed”
Directed & Written by Peter Gould

* For a review of the previous episode, “Fifi” – click here
* For a review of the Season 2 finale, “Klick” – click here
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The penultimate Season 2 episode of Better Call Saul begins with a truck headed in the direction of El Paso. The man inside rocks to a bit of music; is he the same one from “Fifi”, who at the beginning stopped off for the gun in the box?
Ahead, a man is preparing something nasty. It’s Mike (Jonathan Banks). He’s put the truck out of commission with his nail-spiked garden hose. Now, he has the upper hand. What I love most about Mike is that he’s actually a smart criminal. Sure, not everyone can have their bases covered all the time. But Mike has an impressively criminal mind, one which works both ways and usually helps him cover his tracks, or think of every angle possible in a situation. Goes to show that some people develop cop-like skills that are put to use elsewhere other than law enforcement. Mike Ehrmantraut is one of those types of people.


Chuck McGill (Michael McKean) is still trying to put his least crazy foot forward, though, Howard Hamlin (Patrick Fabian) still seems wary. Obviously. Chuck is crazy as a shithouse rat. But effective with law, all the same. He’s heading out for more business with Howard, trying not to go absolutely mental due to all the electricity everywhere. Meanwhile, Jimmy (Bob Odenkirk) is up to no good, spying, waiting for them to leave Chuck’s place.
The older brother is suffering, but manages to get himself in for the hearing involving Mesa Verde. However, after a short time things get held up by the board. Neither Chuck nor Howard look happy, as the head of the board brings up some problems with paperwork. Ah, the young McGill and his tricky ways! He’s managed to muck things up, at least for the time being. Because the hearing gets rattled, as does Chuck whose mental illness starts to get worse with every negative stroke against them. Back at home, he’s inconsolable. He’s degrading. All because Jimmy pulled a fast one, and big brother might just know it.
So what’s next for Mike and his plan? He watches Hector Salamanca (Mark Margolis) go nuts in the groceteria, Nacho (Michael Mando) watching on. It looks like Hector stumbles, not well. Mike is very interested in that. Is this headed where I’m thinking? Is it possible that Mike is the reason Hector ends up having a stroke? Or is a more direct, violent resolution coming? For the time being, he drinks at a bar and even buys a round for the house. Hubris, Mike. Be careful.


In other news, Jimmy and Kim Wexler (Rhea Seehorn) are digging into their new office space, clearing out all the dentist office chairs, so on. Getting the place ready for it to become their shared space, each to run their own firms across the hall from one another. It’s a wonderful life, right? Even better since Mesa Verde is crawling back to Kim after Jimmy and his recent stunt. The house of lies he’s always building will eventually come crashing down. We know that because that’s how he ends up on the trajectory to becoming Saul Goodman, to meeting Jesse Pinkman, later Walter White. The suspense going forward is all about how he balances the entire act, as the lies get bigger he’ll be taking more chances, telling larger lies, putting more and more on the line. For now, it’s a bit of document forging to help Kim, and himself, out in their new venture. Who knows how god damn wide the lies can and will get.
We now know Chuck is onto Jimmy’s little games. He’s even changed the locks, too. Chuck lays it all out for Kim, he wants and needs her to hear it. Of course, Jimmy doesn’t want her to hear a thing. He plays it off, trying to make it seem like a crazy idea. But Kim knows him a little too well. Can she look past that to believe Jimmy? Doubt it. This is about to taint every last little bit of Jimmy’s life; penultimate Season 2 closer and all. The whole act by Jimmy was meant as a “twisted romantic gesture” Chuck claims, an attempt at chivalric action. Kim will not immediately believe Chuck, though. Luckily for the younger McGill. In fact, she sort of tears Chuck down for his treatment of Jimmy. Sadly, it’s all on false pretense because we know the exact truth. Afterwards, in the car, it seems pretty obvious she suspects and likely knows the truth.


Chuck (to Jimmy): “You and Mozart, huh?”
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The makeshift commercial Jimmy’s been shooting is ready to clue up. They wait for a schoolyard to clear out, to use the American flag. Amazing, and hilarious. “You wanna be a filmmaker, grow a pair,” Jimmy explains to his cohorts. He ends up crafting another bullshit story for some teachers who come out wondering why he’s there, including “Escape” by Rupert Holmes. This part had me in stitches, simply because of how smooth Bob Odenkirk plays it and the whole sketchy part of Saul that continually peeks its head out from underneath Jimmy McGill.
Again, we’re back to Mike. He reveals being from Philly, this being his first winter in the ABQ. He seems happy. Almost too happy. Nacho gives him a call and changes all that. He reveals they were jacked “a couple hundred thousand“, as well as the fact he believes Mike did it. Due to a reluctance for murder. He’s mostly worried about any blowback that might involve him, in case Mike’s involvement is figured out. There’s a rift growing between Nacho and Mike, as the former isn’t impressed with the latter’s quest for revenge against Hector. But Mike says now he’s done. Only the scene Mike left was cleaned up, and a “Good Samaritan” took a bullet to the face. This will not sit well with the honourable criminal.


And speaking of rifts, there is one splitting between Kim and Jimmy already. She seems to accept his bad behaviour, but warns him, in a roundabout way, that caution is absolutely necessary. At the copy place, Chuck’s already got the situation being worked on. Uh oh. Inside, Jimmy bribes out some compliance from the copy shop attendant. A Band-Aid solution, though, the quick fix works this time. Soon enough the electricity sends Chuck into a downright crazy episode, ending with him cracking his head on a counter.
Jimmy watches on helplessly, hoping someone will call 9-11. But nobody does.


What a whopper of a finish to this episode. I’m dying to see the last episode, “Klick”, and to see what happens with Chuck. If Jimmy has caused the death of his brother, or made him into a vegetable, this is some dark shit. And I dig it.

Better Call Saul – Season 2, Episode 4: “Gloves Off”

AMC’s Better Call Saul
Season 2, Episode 4: “Gloves Off”
Directed by Adam Bernstein
Written by Gordon Smith

* For a review of the previous episode, “Amarillo” – click here
* For a review of the next episode, “Rebecca” – click here
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With Jimmy McGill (Bob Odenkirk) in hot water with Clifford Main (Ed Begley Jr) over the Davis & Main commercial, is Kim Wexler (Rhea Seehorn) about to feel blowback, too? And what about Nacho (Michael Mando) and his request to Mike Ehrmantraut (Jonathan Banks) at the end of “Amarillo”?
“Gloves Off” begins on Mike, which is always a treat. He comes home with a manila envelope filled with money. He has a nice sip of Blue Ribbon from the fridge and puts some frozen carrots on his aching face. Mike sits in his living room and rests. It’s clear there have been goings on. Likely major ones. Then in the light we see his face is beat to pieces; a swollen eye, cuts, Band-Aids. From his pocket he removes a silver chain of some sort, two diamond-studded boxing gloves on it. Very, very interesting.
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Cut to Jimmy’s commercial – the black-and-white setup, the old woman in the rocking chair as she does a voice-over narration, then looks into the camera. Jimmy’s trying to show Cliff and the board what he came up with, though, nobody looks too pleased. At all. They couldn’t care less about money. They’re mostly concerned with their name being on it. It’s definitely cheesy. However, Jimmy reveals they’ve received a couple hundred phone calls. Above all else, it’s insubordination on his part. But Jimmy fights, he’s always fighting, he clearly only wants to get ahead. “We are a team at Davis & Main,” says Cliff, trying to make Jimmy understand. It’s a 2-1 vote to fire him. Except Cliff is a “fan of second chances” and that keeps him around a little while longer.
Jimmy tries to call Kim. But she’s in a meeting with Howard Hamlin (Patrick Fabian), and surprise, surprise – Chuck McGill (Michael McKean). They are not pleased either, with her involvement concerning Jimmy’s experimental commercial. So, yes, Kim is getting the blowback of Jimmy’s decision. It’s unclear how hard that will come at her.


So finally, back to Mike and Nacho. We’re likely going to see more of Tuco Salamanca (Raymond Cruz), as he’s brought up in conversation by Nacho in reference to the new job for which they require Mike’s help. Special reference.
There is a plan in place. Mike gets tasked with the “headshot“, but he has lots of questions for Nacho. Mike’s a guy who likes to have everything planned, start to finish; he needs an exit plan, all the details. Yet Nacho says that’s he is there for – to iron all that out. What I love here is that Nacho sheds light on the character of Tuco, more than we’ve even seen from Breaking Bad, and we’re able to get a look behind the curtain of madness. We hear a story about Tuco killing a guy, which put a piece of the man’s skull underneath Nacho; a mark he still carries with him. So, this entire plan is a way to get Tuco up and out, as he’s getting hard into the crystal meth. But we know better, those of us Breaking Bad fans, about what happens to Tuco. What’s extremely fun to watch is how everything plays out, not knowing exactly how things end up the way they do. And regardless, Mike is in on the job for “fifty grand“, so I can’t wait to connect the events of the episode to our grim beginning.
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At the office, Jimmy shows up after hours. He finds Kim’s desk wiped out, completely bare. Downstairs in one of the board rooms, she’s face down in a ton of work. Jimmy tries apologizing. But that doesn’t do a whole lot of good. He’s safe in his job for now, yet Kim has been knocked down a few pegs, taking the blame. Their relationship is fast degenerating. Every greasy move Jimmy makes puts them further apart. He wants to fight the good fight for her. Although, that’s not what she wants either. “If you go to Howard, you and I are done,” Kim explains to him. They aren’t finished just yet, but she tells Jimmy: “I need this job.”
Nevertheless, Jimmy does go to see Chuck. He’s about to go inside without checking his electronics at the door. Instead, being the dutiful brother, Jimmy deposits them loudly into the mailbox then heads inside. He finds his brother wrapped up in a foil blanket on the couch, in what looks like great pain. Something I love about Jimmy is that he hates how his brother treats him, hates the be underestimated and looked down upon, but STILL, he always helps Chuck, he looks after his older brother without question, even in times he’s incredibly aggravated with him. It’s noble. Tragic in a way, too.
Another Breaking Bad reference – Lawson (Jim Beaver), the man who got Walter White some of his heavy artillery later in the series, brings a sniper rifle for Mike to look at. They meet in another little hotel room, all hush-hush. Mike’s not too happy with the weight and size of the first one. Then he’s shown a smaller one, that might not be “a hernia with a scope on it“; excellent line. Love how the parent series bleeds into this one without feeling forced. These characters we see again, other than the main ones, are worked in organically, and provide that little thrill for fans who remember them. Finally, he finds the A-1 model of sniper rifle, one he seems to know well – this gives us an idea that Mike possibly served in the army, remarking someone ought to have figured out its complications before sending it into the “jungle“; highly suggests Vietnam. More character development, another thing I dig so much about this series.


Jimmy’s trying to talk with Chuck about Kim. The older brother denies his part in any of the nonsense happening. Chuck lays it all on Howard – “Can he talk when you drink a glass of water?” Jimmy asks. But Jimmy goes on white knighting, trying his hardest to take the full blame of his commercial fiasco. At the same time, Kim didn’t say a word about not knowing what was going on, and that shows she tried protecting him. “Thats your problem,” Chuck tells his brother: “You think the ends justify the means.” Instead of trying to stand behind his brother at all, Chuck harps on about Jimmy being irresponsible, about his inability to take things seriously. Furthermore, Jimmy tries to make a deal with his brother. Chuck won’t admit he doesn’t want Jimmy in the law business. But the latter knows his older brother wants that: “I need to hear it from your mouth.” Essentially, Jimmy wants him to commit extortion, he simply can’t get Chuck to admit the real truth, despite anything that’s at stake.
Meanwhile, Mike doesn’t agree to the job Nacho offers. He doesn’t want to “draw Salamancas like flies” by killing Tuco and alerting the cartel. “Somethings gotta give,” Nacho says: “With or without you.” Not trying to rock the boat hard enough to sink it, Mike suggests making Tuco “go away“, but how?
Now we get another Breaking Bad reference – Krazy-8 (Max Arciniega) meets with Tuco and Nacho, dropping off a fat roll of money. Interesting to see Krazy-8 not as the gangster he was when meeting Walter and Jesse, but a green little guy worming his way into the meth business. Again, love these characters reappearing and filling out the world of Vince Gilligan and Co.


Outside the restaurant where Tuco and Nacho conduct business, Mike waits across the street by a payphone. He puts a voice on, reporting a “gang thing” happening around the area. Perfect, slick little moment on the part of Mike; he wipes off his fingerprints before heading out. Pulling into the restaurant parking lot he dings Tuco’s car a little. On purpose, or no? Tuco’s not happy – you can also notice the diamond-studded pendant hanging from his neck. Mike gets confronted by Tuco, who calls him “Mr. Magoo” and gets angry when he thinks the old guy is calling him “a liar“, which then brings Nacho into the situation. The talk heads outside, with Mike getting more belligerent by the minute; he agrees to exchange insurance and so on. Tuco won’t be having any of that. But the further this goes, we can see Mike is playing a game. What is it? How will it play?
After things start to get a little physically intimidating, and Nacho looks more nervous by the second, Tuco brandishes his gun. Once Nacho leaves at the sound of sirens nearby, a fight starts between Tuco and Mike. The older man manages to keep himself from death, but gets a nasty beatdown. When the police show up, things finish. And Mike is able to live another day, albeit with a few nasty bumps and bruises.
Afterwards, he meets Nacho in their usual dark place. “Wow,” exclaims Nacho after seeing Mike’s face: “Look at you.” At least now Tuco will be out of commission for a while. “You went a long way to not pull that trigger,” says Nacho: “Why?” But no reply from Mike, no answer at all. Just a look, a bruised and beaten smile.


This way another excellent chapter in the series. I love that Mike Ehrmantraut gets as much of a backstory and dissection as Jimmy/Saul. Can’t wait for “Rebecca” next week. Stay tuned with me, friends and fellow fans.

Breaking Bad – Season 1, Episode 7: “A No-Rough-Stuff-Type Deal”

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
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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: “Ive 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: “Its blue,” he remarks before sniffing some to test its awesomeness. “Blue, yellow, pinkwhatever man,” Tuco says: “Just keep bringinme 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!

Breaking Bad – Season 1, Episode 6: “Crazy Handful of Nothin'”

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
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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 dont know jack about slingindope.”
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 “youll 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 hidinsomething?” 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.
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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.