Better Call Saul – Season 3, Episode 6: “Off-Brand”

AMC’s Better Call Saul
Season 3, Episode 6: “Off-Brand”
Directed by Keith Gordon
Written by Ann Cherkis

* For a recap & review of the previous episode, “Chicanery” – click here
* For a recap & review of the next episode, “Expenses” – click here
Pic 1We open with Hector Salamanca (Mark Margolis) and Nacho (Michael Mando) at their place of business, the latter counting rolls upon rolls of cash as his boss drinks coffee and reads the newspaper. Business as usual. Then one payment comes light, from the man we later know in Breaking Bad as Krazy-8 (Max Arciniega). Although Nacho lets him off with it, until his boss comments: “Who works for who, huh?”
And so Krazy-8 gets one rough beating in the kitchen from Nacho.
Cut to Nacho in back of a shop, sewing steadily until he just about sews his hand right into the garment he’s making. There’s a lot more to this dude, and I hope we’ll see this before he disappears eventually.
Pic 1AIn court, Kim (Rhea Seehorn) pleads the case of Mr. James McGill (Bob Odenkirk), that he is a compassionate man helping his ill brother Chuck (Michael McKean) and many seniors. She paints a picture of betrayal by the older brother. He gets a 12-month sentence, I assume a time during which he can’t practise law. Definitely worthy of their celebration.
At the same time, Rebecca (Ann Cusack) goes to see her former husband in his fortress of electrical solitude. He won’t answer, he simply wastes away in darkness. So Rebecca goes to see Jimmy, who does not want to help him anymore: “I dont owe him squat.” She is very disappointed, believing Chuck was right about the younger brother.
Rebecca: “Hes mentally ill. Whats your excuse?”
Stacey Ehrmantraut (Kerry Condon) sits and talks with a support group, her father-in-law Mike (Jonathan Banks) at her side. She says she volunteered him to help with a playground at the church. We see more of that whole other side to Mike in these moments with his family, which were only short and sweet in Breaking Bad. It’s interesting to see how he got to such a desperate place in that original series through the moments in this wonderfully written prequel.
Howard (Patrick Fabian) goes to see Chuck, refusing to leave without a word. And a drink. Although the older McGill isn’t happy about anything. Not his mental state, not Jimmy’s one-year suspension. His partner tries painting a positive picture, but it’s not of much use. He wants Chuck to focus on the future, to keep being a good lawyer, so on. Saying he’s too smart a man to throw a life away on a delinquent brother.
So, can he bounce back? Or will he succumb to his unfortunate mental condition? Alone at his desk Chuck takes a battery in his bare hands, forcing himself to hold it tight and cringing the whole time.
Pic 2And what about Jimmy? What’s next? He has to take care of the situation with his clients for the coming year. He calls them to let everyone know he’s taking a “sabbatical from the law.” That’s it, y’know. Plenty of the older folk will miss him, so it’s mostly a lot of chatting. He’s a slick one, that we already know. A great montage sequence of him calling his clients fits right in with his character. Perfectly placed.
He also finds out his commercial’s still running on TV, in for another $4K of ad space with it off the air. So many money issues with him leaving for a whole year. Wonder how he’s going to fund the whole venture while not working. He goes out trying to hawk the ad space, offering to shoot the commercials for the $4,000. 9 commercials, 9 airings. Or one commercial at a lower rate, airing still included. But no one’s biting at the sales pitch yet.
What Jimmy decides on doing is “offbrand” to him, though finally he comes to a decision: “Well have to Karloff this thing.”
Pic 3Meanwhile, the drug trade in New Mexico continues through the trucks of Los Pollos Hermanos trafficking the cartel’s meth. Men go to work taking out packages and packages of product from the trucks’ false flooring, giving it over to Nacho. We see a familiar face with Victor, one who actually takes the place of Victor later on in Breaking Bad: Tyrus (Ray Campbell). Gus (Giancarlo Esposito) gets a call when Nacho tries taking more than expected, and the boss says to give it over. All ends well, for now.
Speaking of Gus, he’s checking out the new digs at an industrial laundry facility. Oh, you know the one. He’s got an eye out for a place where he’ll construct a lab, one to make him the kingpin of meth distribution in New Mexico. Another familiar face shows up, Ms. Quayle (Laura Fraser), helping him on the search for the perfect location.
Poor Chuck, out on the streets covered under his clothes with the space blanket. He finds a payphone and calls a Dr. Laura Cruz, his former doctor. He wants to get treatment again, obviously. I feel so horrible for him, despite any of his own faults aside from his condition. It’s heartbreaking.
When Nacho and Arturo (Vincent Fuentes) get back to Hector, the old guy’s not impressed with what happened at Fring’s place. He wants to go into his own big time distributing business, hoping Nacho will convince his father to help. But the young man doesn’t want to let that happen. At the same time they find out Tuco’s in trouble for a stabbing. This prompts the old fella to nearly have an attack. Also, note the errant pill Nacho keeps under his boot.
Pic 4Looks like the McGill plan has worked. He’s optimistic about the ad time. He “made a commercial for commercials” in a single afternoon. A hilarious little cheap commercial with star swipes and chunky-lettered graphics.
Finally, FINALLY – we have the pseudonym, Saul Goodman making an apperance. “Sall good, man.” Even though he says it’s merely a name, we know better. This becomes the first time he dips into a truly other identity, his second life. His future.
Pic 5What an impressive episode. I love how the writers weave together and make these little moments from Breaking Bad come to life more vivid, as well as still creating their own world of Jimmy McGill before he too broke bad. Can’t wait for the next episode “Expenses” because I smell more cartel treachery coming soon.

Advertisements

Breaking Bad – Season 2, Episode 3: “Bit by a Dead Bee”

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
IMG_3544
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.
IMG_3545IMG_3546IMG_3547
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 didnt intend. My fifteenyearold 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?”
IMG_3553
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.
IMG_3557IMG_3558IMG_3559
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.

Breaking Bad – Season 2, Episode 1: “Seven Thirty-Seven”

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
IMG_3508
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.
IMG_3517IMG_3518
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 goHank, 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?
IMG_3523IMG_3524
Next up is “Grilled”, continuing the wonderful second season started with this episode.

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
Screen Shot 2016-03-08 at 2.55.08 PM
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.
Screen Shot 2016-03-08 at 2.55.17 PMScreen Shot 2016-03-08 at 2.55.51 PM
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.
Screen Shot 2016-03-08 at 3.05.09 PM
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 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
IMG_2792
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.
IMG_2807
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.