Jimmy has to figure out how to sell off airtime when his suspension comes down. And thus emerges Saul Goodman, peeking out for the first time briefly.
AMC’s Breaking Bad
Season 2, Episode 3: “Bit by a Dead Bee”
Directed by Terry McDonough
Written by Peter Gould
* For a review of the previous episode, “Grilled” – click here
* For a review of the following episode, “Down” – click here
Headed away from where they last saw Tuco get gunned down by Hank (Dean Norris), Walter (Bryan Cranston) and Jesse (Aaron Paul) bury the gun the latter used in a hole. Then they’re faced with a long, sweaty journey back towards civilization. And that brings us to another point: how do they explain their disappearance? In particular, how does Walt explain that to Skyler (Anna Gunn) after so quickly having to take off after finding Jesse at gunpoint with Tuco in his backseat? Well, we’re about to find out.
For the most part the plan’s kind of genius. At the same time, it’s insulting. To his family, to Skylar most of all, and also to the people suffering from cancer that might actually go through an episode like that. Whereas he’s using it for a drug cover, essentially. This is one of the first times I stopped feeling bad for Walt. I mean, yes, he’s done bad shit before. But I feel like this is the first real break from his old self, even above the killing of Krazy-8 and all that wild shit. This lie, coupled with the fact of the two cellphone debacle, is a beginning of a multi-headed beast of Walter’s creation; a single event that has large, wide repercussions heading forward.
For the time being, Walter Jr (RJ Mitte) and Skyler find him at the hospital, after he wandered into a supermarket then stripped to his bare naked ass and balls. “I feel like myself, really,” Walt tells them ironically. Simultaneously, Hank is being brief on his shooting, as Marie (Betsy Brandt) waits on impatiently. Now the wide breadth of Walt’s lie becomes part of the official word on Hank’s killing of “Mr. Salamanca” – you can almost feel Hank burn each time he has to officially refer to Tuco in this way, love it. Dean Norris doesn’t get enough credit, never did even during the run of the series. He is fantastic as Hank and brings a completely unique quality to the role that I’m unsure anyone else could offer.
Poor Jesse has cops sitting on his house. So he and Badger (Matt Jones) head inside to gather up a load of meth making equipment. Badger’s not much help, fiending for more of the blue stuff. However, Jesse tries to make clear things are more serious than he seems to comprehend. At least Badger has a relative that’s able to tow away the Winnebago for now, get it out of Jesse’s hair. Only no cash. So Jesse puts it all down on his word; something that’ll spark an interesting situation soon enough.
Sketchy Walter White is giving the doctors, and his wife, a hard – though subtle – sell. He manages to convince them all that his supposed episode was on the level. The scariest part is how easily Walt can turn on the dishonesty. We see all sides of his character, as the omnipotent observers, the audience to his transformation. And this scene is one of the more evident moments in which Walt proves he is, at heart, a bad man. He is the ultimate snake in the grass, the great manipulator. He doesn’t even have to work to get Skyler on his side, willingly offering up her own excuses alongside his own.
Meanwhile, Jesse holes up in a motel with the cracked out prostitute Wendy (Julia Minesci). He’s setting up his own version of events to explain his whereabouts, how his car wound up in the same place as Tuco Salamanca, so on. The SWAT team descends upon the motel to take him in for a nice little chat with Mr. Schrader.
Absolutely love the first moment Jesse is in the room with Hank; his excessive hand drumming is such a piss in the eye of law enforcement, it also shows Jesse’s immaturity in a world he really does not fully grasp. The conversation goes along with Jesse playing a fairly good role for Hank and Steve Gomez (Steven Michael Quezada). Only problem is when Hank breaks out the money they found, something Jesse would absolutely love to keep his hands on. The two partners taunt him a bit, but for his part Pinkman stays strong mostly. Luckily, Wendy also stays strong for what it’s worth.
Later on, Walt sort of comes clean. Sort of. In the sense he tells another lie that undoes the lie he already told. But in the confidence of a doctor Walter reveals certain parts of his own fears, the innermost troubles which stab at his gut. He claims the whole episode was a matter of gaining some control, doing something he wanted, getting away from home, from the cancer, from everything. So even through his lie there’s a sense Walt has confessed, relieved part of his burden. Except it’s never that easy. Certainly not for Walt.
Walt: “My wife is seven months pregnant with a baby we didn‘t intend. My fifteen–year–old son has cerebral palsy. I am an extremely overqualified high school chemistry teacher. When I can work, I make $43,700 per year. I have watched all of my colleagues and friends surpass me in every way imaginable. And within eighteen months, I will be dead. And you ask why I ran?”
At the DEA office, something extraordinary happens: Hank brings in Hector Salamanca (Mark Margolis). Is this the end of Jesse’s cover story? Ringing his bell, Hector lets Gomez and Hank know his answers to their questions; he even seems to be working at full mental capacity, despite Jesse objecting to his being there. Instead of giving anything up, Hector opts to take a big diarrhea shit in his pants for the DEA to signify there’s no chance he’ll help them out.
So Jesse walks free. For now. He gets in contact with Walt via payphone, touching base on how things are going. Only there’s always a divide between the two, usually involving cash, the ever horrible economic Satan. Walt’s more concerned about his safety and cooking more meth than about Jesse losing all his money. It’s actually scary how much Walt can only think of dollars.
But wait – maybe a good thing, as well. He suddenly remembers about the money at home, left out of its hiding spot from last when he’d been there. Before his supposed episode. And with that he’s off. Sneaking inside, he finds the gun and the money right where he left it. Sneakily, Walt gets it all situated, nearly being found out. Yet soon enough he’s snug as a bug back in the hospital bed. No one’s the wiser.
The P2P method of cooking is keeping Hank hot on the blue meth trail. He knows Krazy-8, Tuco, all that is connected. However, at the moment Steve and the DEA office have got Hank a cake and throw him a little party for bringing down Tuco. They even gave him a sort of odd present. “You sick, sick puppies,” Hank says to his friends and co-workers after opening up the little gift.
When he goes to see Walt in hospital, we finally see what it is: an encased souvenir of Tuco’s silver grill. Definitely a bit of a sick object. Juxtaposing this gift with Walt looking on with an almost look of horror is a perfect shot and moment to have included. Really poignant.
At home, things aren’t quite as cheery as Walt expected. He tries lightening the mood, but it just doesn’t work so well. Skyler is still fixated on the second cellphone, as one would if they were in her situation. It sticks with her, and the fact she knows Walt and can tell he’s being less than truthful only makes their situation more complicated.
Solid dramatic episode that needed no action to move it forward. This one was excellent all around, setting up many things to come. Next up is “Down”, so stay with me and I’ll have another recap/review.
AMC’s Breaking Bad
Season 2, Episode 1: “Seven Thirty-Seven”
Directed by Bryan Cranston
Written by J. Roberts
* For a review of the Season 1 Finale, “A No-Rough-Stuff-Type Deal” – click here
* For a review of the next episode, “Grilled” – click here
This season opens with an ominous view of a fake eyeball floating in a pool. Then a pink teddy bear – the only colour visible aside from the black and white of everything else.
Cut back to where we last saw Walter White (Bryan Cranston), a.k.a Heisenberg, and Jesse Pinkman (Aaron Paul). They’re out in the lonely scrapyard, where Tuco Salamanca (Raymond Cruz) has beaten one of his men to a seizure. Tuco heads back to try and get Walt to save the guy, but no such luck. He dies. While the other henchman is busy hiding the body, Tuco intimidates his new business associates both mentally and physically. This sets up new, more sinister trouble than they’d ever had with Krazy-8 in the first season.
Back at the White residence, Skyler (Anna Gunn) is moving along in her pregnancy, as usual. And when her husband shows up Walt just seems to shuffle on in, lifeless, moving to the television. He stands there watching it, saying nothing until Skyler draws him out of it. No doubt Walt’s scanning the channels for news of the murder he’d witnessed. The whole thing has shaken him. He’s been involved in two murders already in his first weeks of drug dealing; one by accessory, the other a product of his own doing.
Walt cries and cuddles up to his wife, but a little too much. He tries to take her in the kitchen, almost to the point of rape actually. It’s as if the animal side of him takes over for a moment trying to exert that force he watched Tuco exert over him, in the only way he can figure how, which is not great. His brain must be bouncing off the walls of his head, between murder and cancer and meth. Too many things happening for Walt to process.
Meanwhile, poor Jesse is paranoid, afraid. He sneakily buys himself a gun for protection. But the look of terror is in his eyes, you can see it. The next day he and Walter talk, or more like they yell at one another a bit. For once, Jesse is the one talking sense – “We are witnesses. We are loose ends.” And so the quest begins, as Walt tries to figure out the best and most effective way possible to kill Tuco. A gun? How many shots? Who will be there – a couple guys, some dealers maybe? No telling.
Over with the DEA, Agent Hank Schrader (Dean Norris) and his partner Steve Gomez (Steven Michael Quezada) have a new crime to investigate: someone stole a barrel of chemicals from a storage facility. You know, the one Walt and Jesse knocked off. The chemicals make it “old school biker meth“-style, something both Steve and Hank understand. They’re professionally impressed by the chemistry of these crooks, but no their robbery skills.
Later, when Walt arrives home he notices a vehicle watching his house. The same one Tuco was driving at the scrapyard. Just like Jesse said. The grim realization hits Heisenberg right in the face. Right at home. Then once Skyler wakes in the morning she finds Walt hasn’t even been to bed; he’s out prying his eyes open and keeping eye on the driveway. Like Hank mentioned to Steve before, the crooks (Walt and Jesse, obviously) better hope the cops catch them first and not the “boys from Juarez“.
So the plan is finally solidified for Walt and Jesse: ricin, from Castor beans. They’ll somehow slip it to Tuco, and it’ll cause death within a day. Untraceable.
Hank goes to talk with Skyler about Marie (Betsy Brandt). She’s a kleptomaniac whose impulses are being controlled, hopefully, with a bit of therapy. Hank wants his wife and sister-in-law to make up, but mostly so that it takes the load off him. However, Skyler wants no part of it: “but OHH, I see, now I am supposed to go ‘Hank, please what can I possibly do to further benefit my spoiled, kleptomaniac, bitch sister who somehow always manages to be the center of attention, ‘cause God knows, she is the one with the really important problems.”
In the laboratory, Walt and Jesse extract the ricin poison. Then they discuss how to get Tuco to ingest it. Perhaps touting a new meth formula will work, which isn’t a bad idea: “That degenerate snorts anything he can get his hands on,” says Walt.
Most interesting? When Hank calls Walt to tell him about the situation with Skyler, there’s a development. Hank takes a picture of the crime scene where he is, sending it to Walt: it’s the two henchmen of Tuco’s, both dead now. The bigger one looks as if he was trying to help his dead friend, maybe moving the body. This scares Walt and Jesse into believing Tuco killed his other man, now he’s on the way for them. They each frantically grab guns, money. Walt takes off to his home. Everything is chaotic at the moment.
At the crime scene, Hank figures out the bigger guy was moving his dead friend then ended up getting squashed by the car. Tragic, in a way. But does this mean Walt and Jesse are safe? Hmm.
As Skyler almost gets some kind of explanation from Walt – no doubt a lie – lights pull up to the house; Jesse is outside. Only he isn’t alone. In the backseat, Tuco is holding a gun on Pinkman: “Get in,” he gestures to Walt. This takes him away from the house all of a sudden, without letting Skyler know. What a rough situation all around. What will the maniac do?
Next up is “Grilled”, continuing the wonderful second season started with this episode.
AMC’s 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
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.
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.
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. “That‘s 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. “Something‘s 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.