Better Call Saul – Season 3, Episode 2: “Witness”

AMC’s Better Call Saul
Season 3, Episode 2: “Witness”
Directed by Vince Gilligan
Written by Thomas Schnauz

* For a recap & review of the Season 3 premiere, “Mabel” – click here
* For a recap & review of the next episode, “Sunk Costs” – click here
Pic 1Chuck (Michael McKean) is locking up for the night, having a cup of tea before bed. Diligently making sure the doors are locked, peeking through the windows. He has someone watching out at night, sitting in the dark at all hours. He’s waiting for something to happen. Anything.
Pic 1AA couple guys are waiting with a tracker. From a distance Mike (Jonathan Banks) watches them with his own tracker. He’s getting closer to figuring out who has a beat on him, his comings and goings. Could this all be a test? Is someone recruiting him to test out his skills? Or just somebody keeping tabs on a crafty guy like himself? Hmm. Whatever it is, Mike’s determined to get to the bottom of the mystery.
And then he follows a guy, in the night, into morning… all the way to, you guessed it: LOS POLLOS HERMANOS! God damn.
Jimmy (Bob Odenkirk) is meeting with a woman named Francesca Liddy (Tina Parker) applying for a job in the office. She meets with Kim (Rhea Seehorn), too. They check out her resume, her experience, so on. They need somebody organised, to keep the place afloat. Kim isn’t sold, but Jimmy wants to hire her. Something like this is going to play directly into the plot, at some point in Season 3. When, exactly? Francesca will play a big role, in some way, shape, or form. Maybe she’ll wind up seeing Jimmy do something shitty, or she’ll flip on him for some reason, or who knows.
Mike calls Jimmy at the office: he wants him to go into Los Pollos Hermanos, to keep an eye on things, the guy with the bag whom Mike previously followed. Ah, the beginning of how Mike and Jimmy come into contact with Mr. Gus Fring (Giancarlo Esposito). Jimmy has breakfast starting out his spy duties. Soon the man with the bag arrives and our hapless lawyer tries to keep him in his sight.
FINALLY, our first look at Gus in a couple years! He sweeps up around where Jimmy sits, and the man with the bag, too (does he sweep something up from the guy? Is that their sneaky system?). Mike gets no information that helps from Jimmy, walking away empty handed. For the time being.


Mike keeps on Los Pollos Hermanos, determined that he’ll find out what’s been going on. It’s a tiring job, one he no doubt was prepared for all those years as a cop. Soon, a black SUV pulls into the restaurant rather suddenly, backing into the rear out of sight. Then it’s gone again in a rush. Who’s driving? Victor (Jeremiah Bitsui), our old pal from Breaking Bad. Another lead to follow.
At the McGill/Wexler offices, Ernesto (Brandon K. Hampton) can’t go in, so he phones Kim. She goes out to meet him and he’s so obviously stressed, with the information he knows from hearing Chuck’s clandestine tape. He wants to tell Jimmy about it, but doesn’t want to get in trouble because of helping his friend. So, he opts for Kim, whose view of Jimmy has once again shifted.
Gimme a dollar,” she tells him – the same he did with Walter White and Jesse Pinkman when they had him in the desert, hood over his head. They’ve now got attorney-client privilege. He spills the beans, involving his emotions over Chuck, wanting to cut him some slack mentally. Only the tape exists now. Note: when Kim’s talking to him, and he’s peeling tape off the newly painted wall, at first (before he gets frustrated) he uses the technique his big brother Chuck taught him last episode; he can never escape him, even when Chuck is screwing him over, eternally.


Still following that tracker, Mike is out in the middle of nowhere. He’s lead to a gas cap in the road, a cellphone waiting on top. And surely when it rings, on the other end are instructions for where to go.
In other news, Howard Hamlin (Patrick Fabian) is sneaking around in the neighbourhood near Chuck’s place trying to remain unseen. They have a little secret meet. Howard’s getting impatient with all the nonsense, all the money spent on private investigators, et cetera. All in the name of trying to snag Jimmy for his crime. He wants to get on with “alternate strategies” and finish with Chuck’s paranoia.
No sooner do they finish their conversation does the younger brother show up, pissed off and ready to beat down the door. Which he does. He flies into a rage and calls out Chuck over his betrayal. He breaks open the desk to find the tape, then cracks it into pieces. Could likely mean only more trouble for Jimmy, as there are witnesses to his frustrated outburst.


Man, oh, man! What’s next for the Brothers McGill? Nothing good.
Coming up is “Sunk Costs” and I’m so intrigued to see more of Gus + Mike, as well as what Jimmy must deal with in the fallout of his actions here in this episode.

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Better Call Saul – Season 3, Episode 1: “Mabel”

AMC’s Better Call Saul
Season 3, Episode 1: “Mabel”
Directed by Vince Gilligan
Written by Vince Gilligan & Peter Gould

* For a recap & review of the Season 2 finale, “Klick” – click here
* For a recap & review of the next episode, “Witness” – click here
Pic 1We start Season 3 with another black-and-white flash forward into the future of Jimmy McGill a.k.a Saul Goodman a.k.a Gene the Cinnabon manager (Bob Odenkirk). Nancy Sinatra croons “Sugartown” as we watch his daily life at the Cinnabon in the mall. Far from where we saw him in Breaking Bad, juxtaposed beautifully with the place we follow along in the current timeline of Better Call Saul; one of the fascinating parts of the writing and the progression of characters is how Gilligan & Co. pull off making his journey into a, at times, non-linear adventure. In turn, this keeps things fresh even though we already know where Jimmy/Saul ends up down the road.
What I’m most interested in is where Gene goes from this point post-Breaking Bad, or if he continues on in his purgatorial existence, a fitting end for a greasy guy such as himself. Eating lunch alone on a bench he winds up seeing a sketchy young man who looks to be hiding, in trouble. Rather than let the kid go on, he rats him out to the cops. Then in a burst he tells the kid to say nothing, and advises him to get a lawyer. That old Saul came loose, even for a second. Gene’s not as measured as he once seemed. Later while glazing some buns he passes out. Yikes.
Pic 1ATo the current timeline. Jimmy and Chuck (Michael McKean) are back where we left them, when the younger brother confessed to his brother believing no one else would hear. Not knowing Chuck was hiding a tape recorder the entire time. All the while Jimmy thinks everything’s well, or at least stable. A situation he can manage. The brothers reminisce about being younger, triggered by The Adventures of Mabel which Jimmy finds in Chuck’s bookcase. For the first time, they actually seem like brothers. Not for long, though. The older of the two reminds with an ominous tone: “You will pay.”
Kim Wexler (Rhea Seehorn) is doing her best to keep her chin up, too. Despite the rollercoaster of a life she has sitting next to Jimmy. He’s not exactly a dream dude to be involved with in business, or in friendship, love, et cetera. Eventually I have to believe Kim won’t be able to reconcile her morality with being on his side. She already knows he’s not on the level, but just doesn’t realise how deep the well of deceit goes. But as always, the problem is that Jimmy’s such a likeable loser that it’s very tough not to root for him.
Jimmy: “For ten minutes today Chuck didnt hate me. I forgot what that felt like.”
Meanwhile, Howard Hamlin (Patrick Fabian) hears Chuck’s tape of Jimmy and the confession. Certainly the secret recording isn’t enough to hold up in court; Chuck knows. So why have the tape at all? Does it involve Kim?
Of most interest to me is Mr. Mike Ehrmantraut (Jonathan Banks). He was out in the desert, and found a note telling him to get away. A warning, but from whom exactly? Mike does the smart thing, speeding away from the scene then checking his car for any kind of devices; nothing. He heads to a scrapyard and has a closer look. And I mean a CLOSER FUCKING LOOK. Mike uses every last ounce of his training to look through the guts of his car, inspecting each inch with precision. Like he can smell it yet can’t seem to find the thing.
Finally, he discovers something hidden in the gas cap. THE GAS CAP! An ingenious, tedious place to hide a tracking device. That’s some next level deviousness. But now Mike has some idea, a starting point leading to whoever’s keeping an eye on him so close.


Jimmy receives a visit from Captain Bauer (Brendan Fehr), one of the military gentlemen whose eyes he pulled the wool over when needing to cut a commercial. Anyways, he’s not happy. Slick talkin’ Jimmy tries to sell him a load of horseshit, that doesn’t work. Either Jimmy takes the ad down or “therell be hell to pay.” He doesn’t dig that, so he threatens to take it to court and win. The captain advises him, in his own way of speaking, that eventually Jimmy’s going to get what he deserves. From the flash forwards and seeing Breaking Bad, we know this to be true.
With his newly acquired knowledge, Mike switches out his gas cap to head off after work. At an old warehouse he meets his friend the veterinarian (Joe DeRosa) to get himself some gear. Pricey, too: $1,000.
Back to Kim, over at Mesa Verde she’s doing great work. As always. Worse still she knows the treachery, the guilt eats her. How long before it eats her alive? Every time she hears about Chuck and his supposed mistake, it’s like a stab in the gut. Also, in the office – that rainbow… any imagery connections to that in Season 2? I’d like to revisit that.
Over at Chuck’s place, he has to get Ernesto to help him change batteries in the tape recorder. The thing is on when he changes them, he hears a bit of Jimmy confessing. This sends the old gentleman into a fit of anger, trying to make sure Ernesto won’t ever tell anybody about what he’s heard. “There could be terrible consequences,” Chuck convinces him with a torrent of quasi-threatening language.
Pic 3Mike, Mike, Mike; what will you think of next? He’s like the counter-intelligence king of the streets, using all that police knowledge from busting criminals, learning their ways, to fuel his own criminal enterprises. Except right now it’s like espionage, trying to discover who’s on the other end of the surveillance on him. He’s reversing the cat and mouse aspect of the dangerous game that’s being played, or at the least trying to do so. And he loves pistachios. Fucking loves them. I don’t blame him, either; they’re great.
After a long night of waiting, Mike sees a vehicle stop. Someone retrieves the GPS tracker from the gas cap then they’re off into the night fast as they came. So, Mike has a lead on where they’re headed.
Want to take a guess? Might have something to do with Los Pollos Hermanos, maybe?


Great start to the season! I don’t care if people say the show’s slow moving. It’s meant to; the storytelling and the character development and the plot moves are all spectacular. Great music and score, as well. Excited for “Witness” next week. Welcome back.

Breaking Bad – Season 2, Episode 13: “ABQ”

AMC’s Breaking Bad
Season 2, Episode 13: “ABQ”
Directed by Adam Bernstein
Written by Vince Gilligan

* For a review of the previous episode, “Phoenix” – click here
* For a review of the Season 3 premier, “No Más” – click here
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Again, the black-and-white, the eyeball, the pink teddy bear in the pool missing one eye. The ominous openings will give us their meaning here in the Season 2 finale. The familiar images work towards colour, now we see helicopters in the air, police everywhere. Smoke and fire in the distance.
What’s gone on around the White residence?
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Jesse Pinkman (Aaron Paul) wakes to find Jane (Krysten Ritter) dead in bed next to him. Frantically he pumps her chest to try and revive her. But no such luck. Heartbreaking to watch this scene. Now, he’s got to figure out what to do next. You know who he calls: Walter White (Bryan Cranston). As one young girl dies, he cradles his newborn daughter. Jesse frantically tells Walt what’s gone on, as if the latter didn’t already know. So they set about cleaning things up. Walt says he knows who to call.
At Jesse’s place, Mike Ehrmantraut (Jonathan Banks) arrives on request of Saul Goodman (Bob Odenkirk). He’s a fixer. Inside, he starts getting things organized. All the drugs and the paraphernalia get tossed in a bag. Mike is clearly an ex-cop, he knows all the rights things to do. Or a career criminal. We’ll figure that out as things go on. Either way, he irons Pinkman’s house out. He also tells Jesse only to say a couple brief things. He sets the story straight.
Living a supposedly normal life, Walt, Skyler (Anna Gunn) and Junior (RJ Mitte) – I mean, Flynn – sit and eat breakfast together. Like a happy family. However, the obvious strain of letting someone’s daughter die is wearing on him. The SaveWalterWhite.com funds are rolling in now. It doesn’t do much to assuage Walter’s feelings of emptying manhood, unable to be given credit for his money, the funds he raised illegally to support his own cancer treatment. Instead the cash and his fate are seemingly attributed to the kindness of strangers. Does not sit well with Walt, amongst all the other things that don’t sit right in his gut.
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Worst of all, Donald Margolis (John de Lancie) shows up to find Jane dead. This is so unbelievably devastating. He doesn’t even have to go inside. He knows what’s happened. And this is an event that will have further reaching consequences than anybody could ever imagine.
At the DEA office, Hank Schrader (Dean Norris) puts out a collection jar for his brother-in-law. Meanwhile, he’s on the case of Combo being murdered. This leads into the Heisenberg meth, though – “blue sky,” Steve Gomez (Steven Michael Quezada) calls it. Of course Hank doesn’t buy Jimmy being pinched as being Heisenberg. He thinks the man himself is actually upping his distribution. The blue stuff’s been moving outside of New Mexico, everywhere around it specifically. So now Hank thinks there’s a bigger operation happening behind the scenes. And boy is he right, just nobody else knows it yet.
Mike has tracked down Jesse after Walt’s been looking for him. He finds the poor young dude in a drug house in a rough neighbourhood. So Walt has Mike bring him down there, he wants to go inside and find his partner. He is responsible for it all, not helping Jane as she choked on her vomit. Now this is part of his delusional redemption, in his eyes anyway. Going in Walt finds all kinds of characters skulking in the shadowy, run down corners of the building. He tracks Jesse down and eventually manages to pull him out of that hideous place. After Jesse weeps in his arms a moment. It’s more tragic for the fact of Walt having stood by and watched Jane die, especially since Jesse weeps: “I killed her.”
In this scene, Aaron Paul broke my heart to pieces. I genuinely cried a bit. Some detractors have said he isn’t as good as people say. To me, that’s bullshit. In this and his latest series, The Path, Paul proves his chops for dramatic roles. He’s got raw, emotional talent.
Sadder still is when father Donald has to pick out the clothes for his dead daughter, which is impressively juxtaposed with a follow-up cut to Walter, changing his newborn daughter’s diaper. This is a wonderful moment of editing and writing together, which shows off Vince Gilligan and his abilities. Subtle, brief moment that means so much.


I love that Hank still has the little statuette on his desk that he was given while on the Juarez task force. It was something he almost mocked when first seeing it there. But most importantly at the DEA arrive a few businessmen who raise funds for community programs, et cetera. One of whom is Gustavo Fring (Giancarlo Esposito). Ironic, funny moment when Hank mentions the scourge of meth, which Fring says is “terrible” while shaking his head. Most intense is when Gus notices the donation jar for Walter White. Now he knows the relation between Hank and Walt, as well as Walt’s cancerous affliction. This could mean a number of awful things. Let’s watch this unfold dramatically, shall we?
At the same time, Walt is dropping Jesse off at a very beautiful, New Age-looking spa where the younger of the two will receive rehab treatments. Poor Jesse, even physically he looks depressed and drained of any proper emotion. “I deserve this,” he repeats to Walt; the same thing Walt said in the desert. Yet really, Walt did deserve that, or more. Jesse deserves none of this. He deserves someone better than Walt.
Back at his place Walt finds the camera crew from a local news station there to do a story on his philanthropic son raising money for his treatment. Joy and splendour! Mr. White is non too pleased, though he placates his wife and son by going along. You can just see his pride and ego being battered by the second, merely from the look on his face. Worst of all his son is praising him as being an amazing person, a “good man” and everything. Deep down, Walt knows the difference. All too well.


Walt Jr (re: his father): “And he always does the right thing
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As Walt prepares now to go under the knife for surgery, something happens he didn’t expect. The drugs he’s given loosen him up. Too much. After Skyler asks about his cellphone, he druggily replies: “Which one?” And in that moment, she realizes his lies never end. What a potent moment of writing again, Mr. Gilligan. Love how these little plot pieces come apart and come together and fit into puzzle pieces. Testament to the quality of this series.
When Walt comes out, he’s doing well. Except for his relationship with his wife. That may be fractured completely. She and the baby are going to Hank and Marie’s for the weekend, after which she expects Walt to move. They’re separating. To Walt and his oblivious surprise. She tells him about the loopy, drugged confession, and now things are about to get very messy. Turns out Skyler also talked with Gretchen, and she found out there’s been no money coming from them at all. Uh oh, Walter. Things are falling apart QUITE fast. Skyler also figured out Walt never went to see his mother. So where did he go? Man. It all unravelled in one hard tug.
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Donald Margolis isn’t doing so well. He’s back at work, but life is not the same that his daughter is gone. He prefers to get back into the routine again. However, that might be a little too early. His job as an air traffic controller is stressful. Finally the black-and-white flashes at the beginning of several episodes this season begin making sense. The grief and horror of losing his daughter has melted into the exterior world, affecting all kinds of horror on two planes that crash into one another mid-air.
Sitting alone at home in his backyard, Walter wears a shirt the same colour as the pink teddy bear from those flash forwards. In the sky, the planes crash and explode, debris falling to the ground all around Walt’s neighbourhood. This is the symbolic destruction of Walt and his actions. They have far reaching consequences, which spread out and infect everything and everyone around him. This is the metaphorical chaos he exerts over the lives of others.
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An amazing, terrifying finale that has a ton of development. I loved Season 2, perhaps one of my favourites in a series that’s marked by high quality. Continue on with me soon as I dive deep into Season 3 for another watch.

Better Call Saul – Season 2, Episode 10: “Klick”

AMC’s Better Call Saul
Season 2, Episode 10: “Klick”
Directed by Vince Gilligan
Written by Gilligan & Heather Marion

* For a recap & review of the penultimate Season 2 episode, “Nailed” – click here
* For a recap & review of the Season 3 premiere, “Mabel” – click here
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After Jimmy (Bob Odenkirk) stood by as his older brother Chuck (Michael McKean) smashed his head off a counter in the previous episode, the Season 2 finale begins with the two brothers – a psych out has us feeling it’s Jimmy at his brother’s hospital bed. But it’s the Brothers McGill at the bedside of their mother. One thing I love is how the flashbacks are always in this blue-grey tone, so immediately I should’ve known this was a view back to their lives. Before all the mess, or well, before the biggest mess. The dying mother wakes a moment and calls for Jimmy, right before dying. Calling out for him, the mother wastes away, and he gone out for a sandwich. The disappointment is evident by the look on Chuck’s face. He hates his younger brother, for always taking the easy way out, for always giving up, so on. I feel bad for Chuck, at the same time I recognize Jimmy’s situation, as someone who isn’t deliberately malicious, until absolutely pushed to that point. He simply doesn’t think. When he gets back to the hospital, Jimmy finds Chuck, who refrains from telling his brother about their mother’s last words, calling out for him.
With this opening sequence, the writing and direction of Gilligan is already doing wonderful things.
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Back to the end of “Nailed” – Jimmy races inside the copy shop to try and take charge of the situation. He gets Chuck’s head elevated slightly, though, the look in his brother’s is very spacey. In the hospital, he’s unable to protect himself from all the electronics beaming into him. You can almost feel the claustrophobia, as Gilligan uses a great rig shot to show him in this really up-close and personal perspective, which sort of cements us in a first-person point of view. A truly painful sequence to watch Chuck suffer underneath the lights and around all the electronic equipment. I’ve always felt he’s mostly crazy. Here, the acting, the writing, the direction makes this almost unbearable. Seriously. Not much affects me deeply, but Michael McKean had me wanting to cry, as Chuck pleads with them not to do a CAT scan. When the whole moment is over, I sighed a breath of relief.
But Jimmy doesn’t get such a chance to sigh. A doctor (Clea DuVall) explains to Jimmy there needs to be examinations done, however, Chuck is still refusing, obviously. The younger brother doesn’t want to commit the older one. Like anyone wouldn’t want to, either. Things for James McGill are about to get far more complicated than ever before. Because it’s been clear a long while, Chuck is not fit to be living without someone to help take care of him.
Worst of all, Chuck is sure of Jimmy’s treachery. To anyone else it sounds bonkers. To us, we know the truth. At the same time, man servant Ernesto says he called Jimmy, that’s why he showed up at the copy shop. Well, that pokes a hole in Chuck’s ideas. And he’s aware of what comes next. We’ll see how well that pans out, on all ends. As for Ernesto, he says he helped out because he likes Jimmy, and it seems as if Chuck has been out to get him. Yikes. Works for Jimmy.


In other areas of town, on the outskirts, Nacho (Michael Mando) and Arturo (Vincent Fuentes) are transporting the man who’d been driving the Mexican food trucks, the one Mike snatched up. And surprise, surprise – in the distance Mike watches them. Fairly close, too. I guess Nacho’s driving, so that gives him an advantage, as well as the fact he’s driving some old beater. With the finale upon us, Mike is definitely going to do something big, and dangerous.
At the hospital, Chuck just wants someone to believe him. Instead he’s put in for a CAT scan. It’s like a horror movie for him, stuck inside the electronic tube. Again, you almost feel the electricity the way he does. Out in the waiting room Kim (Rhea Seehorn) keeps Jimmy company, like the great woman she is, and he worries. Even if he’s partly responsible for Chuck’s situation. On television, Jimmy’s newest commercial turns up – “Gimme Jimmy – ‘cause moxie is in such short supply these days,” says an elderly lady, smiling, knitting. Hilarious little infomercial.
Except after coming out of the CAT scan Chuck isn’t moving, he isn’t speaking. Not even blinking. A “self induced” state of catatonia, where he’ll remain for who knows how long.


With his arms dealing friend Lawson (Jim Beaver), Mike is testing out a sniper rifle. He gets himself a nice new rig. And for what? There’s some sort of plan on the offensive. Even Lawson wipes his prints off the gun before the final sale. We’ll see exactly what Mike is preparing soon.
Meanwhile, Chuck finally wakes up. He gets to go home, no mental asylum or anywhere similar. For the time being, the older brother’s fine. Although, I’m not sure how long that will last. After Jimmy leaves he’s out in the garage, searching for something. Must be important, right?


But back to Mike. He’s out around the desert, hiking by some rocks to a place where he can set up his rifle. In the distance is a small shack where the van Nacho drove is parked, as well as another car beside it. Arturo digs a hole nearby (side note: is that the shack Tuco later brings Walt & Jessie?). When they bring the truck driver outside, Hector Salamanca (Mark Margolis) appears, as well. The two cartel brothers, his nephews, are also present. But trying to get Hector in his sights, Mike finds Nacho in the way. On purpose? Hard to tell exactly. Anyways, the truck driver is toast; dead and buried. There’s an amazingly drawn out suspense and tension to this sequence. For the longest time there’s no telling exactly what will happen. Gilligan’s direction keeps you guessing from one minute to the next. Once Mike’s car alarm starts blaring back behind him, it all gets gut wrenching. On his window Mike finds a note: it reads DON’T.
Scariest thing for Mike is he thinks he’s a shadow, invisible to everyone else, working behind the scenes. Now, someone proves they are more of a shadow, more invisible, and behind the scenes even to him. Trouble’s on the horizon, or perhaps… opportunity.


Catering to some elderly clientele, Jimmy, as always, continues to impress. At the new office, he continues to receive more new clients. Then Howard Hamlin (Patrick Fabian) is ringing, saying he needs to speak with Jimmy – about Chuck. What’s this now? As it happens, things are picking up at Chuck’s place. He’s turned the entire place into a foil casket, aluminum foil lining the walls. The whole house is a cage of aluminum. In addition, Chuck has retired – a.k.a quit – from HHM. All confidence has been shaken, Chuck feels he can’t be a lawyer anymore. He doesn’t think Jimmy’s to blame now, he blames himself. “What if I told you you didnt make a mistake?” Jimmy asks. He admits to what happened, to forgery, to all the nefarious doctoring and doings. He says he did it all for Kim.
Where do they go from here? Chuck reminds his younger brother he’s just admitted to felonious behaviour. There could be serious ramifications if Chuck were to take this thing to a legal level. And then, he stops his tape recorder after Jimmy leaves. WOW. WOW. No way, Chuck! You sly devil. Did not see that angle coming.


The end of the episode sets up an incredibly exciting Season 3 possibility. I love Better Call Saul. It is just as well written, if not sometimes better, than its sister series. Either way, Gilligan closed out Season 2 with a perfect finale and now I wonder exactly what sort of madness is in store for us moving into the next season. Can’t wait to see more and how it continues fitting into the puzzle pieces of its own creation.

Breaking Bad – Season 1, Episode 4: “Cancer Man”

AMC’s Breaking Bad
Season 1, Episode 4: “Cancer Man”
Directed by Jim McKay
Written by Vine Gilligan

* For a review of the previous episode, “…And the Bag’s in the River” – click here
* For a review of the next episode, “Gray Matter” – click here
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Agent Hank Schrader (Dean Norris) introduces a new operation for the DEA. They have their eyes on Krazy-8, whose car was found in the desert recently with high-grade meth in it. Turns out, he was ratting on people. They’re both missing, which we know already. But the focus here is the methamphetamine – purest their lab “has ever seen“. The gas mask found out there tested for the same grade meth.
Amazing editing here. Cutting from Hank talking about a new kingpin in the city to Walter White (Bryan Cranston) in his tighty whiteys, brushing his teeth like a dummy and looking hilarious, it is absolute genius. Makes all the difference for the writing and a juxtaposition for us to see what irony there is in this statement.


At the White residence, everyone is having a nice barbecue. Walt and Hank are poolside by the grill, as Skyler (Anna Gunn) and Marie (Betsy Brandt) are sitting in the shade, the latter having a drink. The happy family is happy, though, Skyler eyes Walt; not suspiciously, but with a sad eye. At the end of the previous episode he was about to reveal something to her. She knows something now, and it weighs on her. Heavy. In fact, as the story of Skyler meeting Walt for the first time (over crossword puzzles) comes out from his lips, she breaks down slightly and their strong front is weakened. Walt then tells everybody what’s been going on: he has terrible cancer. Everyone is obviously shocked, Walt Jr (RJ Mitte) is devastated. Worse than that is the fact Walt hid it from his family so long, a whole month. He’s just such a strong, independent type. He doesn’t want people doting on him, worrying, and most of all he doesn’t seem like a person who wants other people to make his decisions. Walter is a man of principle, despite his faults. When Hank says “Ill always take care of your family“, you can see the look on Walt’s face; an appreciation is there, but the fact is he wants to take care of them. Only him.


Walt: “You know I, I just think, that ah, things have a way of working themselves out.”


Jesse (Aaron Paul) introduces his friends Combo (Rodney Rush) and Skinny Pete (Charles Baker) to the new product he and Walt cooked up. Now, the meth is out there. It’s already digging claws into addicts. Even Jesse alone, who we find in the next scene alone by the window, paranoia running wild as he peers outside, smoking another bowl. The editing again here is perfect. It brings out his paranoia so well. Then he has a vision of two bikers coming up over his lawn wielding weapons. This entire sequence really plays with your head for a few seconds before you figure out what’s actually happening – two Mormons are knocking at the door, leaving a pamphlet when nobody answers. Meth psychosis is real, folks.
Tending to the plate shard wound in his leg at home, Walt uses a bit of glue to seal the wound, patching a bandage over top. Then a little blood seeps through his pant leg. The whole time he coughs and hacks over the sink. His double life is ever so slowly, like the blood through his pants, soaking into the fabric of his regular life, Skyler just outside the door knocking and wondering what’s going on.
More money piles up in debt at Walt’s door, as Skyler and Marie have hooked up a five-star oncologist to give a second opinion on the lung cancer. There is a further need for money now, worse than before. This will likely drive Walter back to the meth instead of staying away from Jesse and that entire world. The double life reels him back in. For the time being, he uses money from the stash in a vent, conveniently in the baby’s new room.


We see Walt have a run-in with a guy who steals his parking spot. Well, there’s no confrontation, only a pissed of Walt left waiting in the lot. Inside the bank this guy talks loud enough to fill the room, everybody noticing his obnoxious nature, which isn’t easy to ignore. Walt eyes him with an evil eye, then goes about his business. This is not a red herring, a passing thing. We’ll come back to this guy and his vanity license plate.
Cut to Jesse falling all over the patio furniture at his parents’ house. They’re not overly thrilled to see him. His younger brother is a vastly different person than Jesse. Although, it’s clear the parents haven’t given up on their oldest boy. He is no doubt a disappointment, especially considering all the stuff they don’t know, even while they know a good deal. Still, if they could see what he’s been doing they might never look at him in the eyes again. They clearly worry for him. Jesse wants to try setting things right with his parents, after the events of the first few episodes have rocked his soul to the core. But they’re reluctant to just dive right into forgiving him, letting him do what he surely does every time. With one scene we feel the history of the family, so evident and in your face. Again as I’ve said plenty already the writing in this series from Vince Gilligan has been something special.
Parallel to Jesse and his family there’s Walt and his own. The opposite situation. They’ve all watched Walt live his life as a straight and narrow type of guy. Suddenly, he’s transforming into a starkly difference human being. Seeing the two characters of Jesse and Walt go through their separate yet oddly similar troubles, it’s a great way to bring out the life in them. We feel bad for Walt, even if he is resorting to criminal activity; his situation sucks. Likewise, even though Jesse is a bit of a washout, smoking meth and cooking it, generally going nowhere, you feel bad because now we’re seeing more of him – who he used to be, before drugs took him. As a former drug addict, I know what it’s like to change, and see the person you once were. Strangely enough, Jesse finds an old chemistry test he failed, big red marker on it from Mr. White. Then after all this beginning of growth, our feelings for Jesse starting to rise, Combo calls and needs some of the new meth. Tempting Jesse away from any thoughts of trying to change.


Jesse goes to Walter’s place, after the “ball breaker” leaves. He wants to have a little meeting with Walt, to “touch base“. Only it turns out Jesse has a bunch of money, and everyone is loving their meth. To an extreme. Junkies on the street are already dying for more of the product, they want, need, any and all of it. Seems as if Jesse’s fleeting dreams of something more were exactly that. Now he only wants to do more cooking.
And perhaps the $4,000 from the initial batch might start to change Walt’s mind, too.
At the same time, Walt also goes to meet the new doctor. He’s told about great, supposedly effective treatments at the clinic aimed towards prolonging life. What we’re seeing now is Walt having to make a choice: chemotherapy, or no chemotherapy. It is a tough choice, no doubt. Problem being others want to try and make it for him. He doesn’t feel in control, yet this is one way he can control his life; by choosing to not do something, if that’s what he truly wants. His family, obviously, is concerned.
Over at the Pinkman house, the maid finds a joint. Everyone assumes it belongs to Jesse. His parents confront him. Then after all sorts of argument, Jesse discovers the weed belonged to his little brother, the angelic little boy nobody expected. Jesse takes the fall, but also crushes the joint instead of giving it to his brother. An admirable moment here from a guy nobody seems to want to help. He’s a lone wolf.


The White family has a confrontation over Walt’s decision to possibly not seek treatment. Walt Jr is upset, as is Skyler. They want him alive. He just doesn’t really want to go that route, having to hook up to chemo, to suffer through all that brings on. He also is afraid of the money, not wanting to leave his family in crippling debt. “Then why dont you just fucking die already?” Walt Jr yells at his father. “Just give up and die.”
Walt coughs blood into his hand a little while later while driving. It just so happens this nasty surprise brings a better one. Pulling into a parking lot, Walt ends up seeing the tool from earlier: KEN WINS, on his license plate. The man parks at a gas station, still talking on his Bluetooth headset. Walt saunters over to the pump and picks up the windshield squeegee, pops the hood and jams the thing inside. It sparks, creating fire. It explodes, as Walt walks back to his vehicle and heads out.
Maybe Walt can’t control cancer. Maybe he can’t beat it. For now, he’ll take settling up with one of the world’s assholes.
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Next episode is titled “Gray Matter”. We’ll start to get more into the family dynamics and the cancer diagnosis, as well as the series starts to bring in more of Walt’s life from earlier on after former research partners reach out to try and help funding his treatment. Stay with me.

Breaking Bad – Season 1, Episode 3: “…And the Bag’s in the River”

AMC’s Breaking Bad
Season 1, Episode 3: “…And the Bag’s in the River”
Directed by Adam Bernstein
Written by Vince Gilligan

* For a review of the previous episode, “The Cat’s in the Bag” – click here
* For a review of the next episode, “Cancer Man” – click here
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The start of this episode immediately shows us the aftermath of the previous one, where Jesse Pinkman (Aaron Paul) stupidly threw the dead corpse in his bathtub, along with hydrofluoric acid. He and Walter White (Bryan Cranston) are busy cleaning up the mess, wearing gas masks and other gear.
Cut back and forth with a younger Walt with a previous partner, Gretchen Schwartz (Jessica Hecht). They’re calculating what makes up a human being, in elements and such. There’s a missing piece, a small part at the end. Meanwhile, Walt empties bits and pieces of a man into the toilet for flushing. An amazingly written opening.


Walt: “You didnt follow my instructions!”
Jesse: “Oh, Heil Hitler, bitch!”
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Skyler White (Anna Gunn) is busy painting her baby’s new room, along with the help of her son Walt Jr (RJ Mitte), as her sister Marie (Betsy Brandt) watches on and talks about her brand new white shoes, quipping “you missed a spot“. Skyler brings up weed, claiming to be asking for a short story idea. Eventually, Marie susses out Walt Jr has been buying weed, though, her sister makes it clear that’s not the case. Excellent setup here that I’m sure will go somewhere, a case of mistaken identity, so to speak.
At Jesse’s, he and Walt hose one another down out in little kiddy pools on the driveway. Afterwards, Jesse sneaks away to smoke a bowl of crystal in the bathroom. By himself, obviously. His meth use will slowly become a point of contention between him and Walt, as the two grow closer in a bond. Walt is downstairs cleaning out the piss and shit bucket for Krazy-8 (Max Arciniega). The gangster asks him: “Turn around and look at me. This here –  I wouldnt do this to my worst enemy. This is degrading.” It strikes a chord with Walt, even though he tries not to let it. When he finds out Krazy-8 knows his name Walt feels a bit threatened, and to make matters worse Jesse is the source; he talks too much.
The tenuous partners have a fight over the bag of meth Jesse is smoking from, which causes them to wrestle a while. In a run for the door, Walt falls over the stairs coughing hard, almost passing out. A subtle reminder of his failing health. Soon enough Jesse makes off, leaving Walt to get things finished up.


We get a brief scene with Marie, as she shops for shoes. She talks with husband Hank (Dean Norris) on the phone about the possibility of Walt Jr smoking pot. It’s an awesome scene with Hank on the other side of the phone during a possible arrest, a few suspects up against a wall. Norris is an awesome actor whose talents are well used here in the character of Hank. He is a bit of a bad ass. Although, as the show progresses there are changes and developments in him which are super interesting. Speaking of interest, Marie shoplifts a pair of shoes. Is this a common thing for her? Or just spite at the girl from the counter? Hard to tell. She just walks right out with the new ones on.
Hank tries to do a good thing. He takes his nephew Walt Jr out for a ride to the Crossroads Motel. It has a lot of creepy and nasty looking characters, a few pathetic ones. Hank tells him it’s called “The Crystal Palace” and warns Walt Jr of the dangers of pot – the gateway drug. Hilarious scene, especially once Wendy (Julia Minesci) shows up at Hank’s window, by his request. Also sort of sad, tragic. In the motel, Jesse is actually staying with Wendy, but good for him Hank doesn’t know anything about that, or him really for that matter.


In a rational frame of mind, Walt sits on the toilet while making a list of pros and cons re: killing Krazy-8 versus letting him live. He is truly stressing the decision, as most human beings would do in that situation. Then he calls Skyler with an excuse for not being home, working late and so on. Only she already knows Walt quit two weeks before. Things are deteriorating between the married couple, and all after he was trying to do this to secure the future of his family. Albeit in a terribly planned manner, both morally and practically.
So then Walt goes to make a sandwich for Krazy-8. He is certainly not a killer, he is a decent man. Regardless of his new found meth trade. But Walter White is not some sort of person who kills on a whim. And as he goes downstairs with the sandwich, a coughing fit sends him flying, hitting the floor. The sandwich plate smashes.
When Walt comes to Krazy-8 is watching on patiently. Apparently Walt was out for “1015 minutes“. He cleans up the plate, then decides to go make another sandwich. While upstairs he grabs a couple beers. The two men continue on to have a fairly meaningful conversation. Almost like friends. They come across a connection involving Krazy-8’s family owning a shop, Walt buying a crib there for Walt Jr as a baby, and it highlights the different courses of two lives who sort of came full circle to where they now sit. Love the writing in this scene, in general. But this one scene is incredibly poignant and makes the whole situation for Walt especially more intriguing. The stakes of murder become even higher now, as a bond, even a tiny one, forms through their talk.


The turning point is when Walt goes back upstairs. He plans on letting Krazy-8 go. Then an epiphany strikes him after a quick open of the garbage can. Walt sees there’s a piece missing to the plate once he lays out the pieces on the kitchen counter. One big jagged piece missing. Fitting enough for a man to stab another with, made to kill. He hopes it isn’t true, rifling through the trash again. But it is the truth. He wanted a way out. It isn’t coming.
Downstairs he’s faced with the truth. Instead of letting Krazy-8 go, Walt pulls tight the lock around the gangster’s neck. All the while Krazy-8 swings the broken plate, stabbing Walt in the leg once or twice. But Walt prevails and chokes him to death. Another one bites the dust. At the very least, the situation is now over. Well the body’s still requiring disposal, but still – the deed, the worst of all, is done.
When a paranoid Jesse returns home things are a little less chaotic then last he was there. They’re clean, in fact. The basement is empty, the R.V. is tidied. Nothing seems even out of place. And above all, no Krazy-8 locked around the pole.


This episode clues up with a scene including Hank and his partner Steve Gomez (Steven Michael Quezada). They’re out in the desert where Krazy-8’s car is left, where the gas mask got dropped. Hank ends up finding a secret compartment in the car containing a bag of meth: “Its too damn white,” he remarks. This will lead to more obviously, as they also found the gas mask.
Walter sits parked in his car and thinking. We cut back to him and Gretchen from the episode’s opening. “What about the soul?” she asks when they try to figure out the missing element to a human being. What about Walt’s soul? He had one. Once upon a time. Returning home he finds Skyler waiting, clearly pissed off and upset. “Theres something I have to tell you,” Walt says right before it cuts to black.
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The next episode is titled “Cancer Man” and promises more revelations, from Walt, as well as the series itself. Lots of developments coming out and the writing stays solid. Onward, fellow fans!

Breaking Bad – Season 1, Episode 1: “Pilot”

AMC’s Breaking Bad
Season 1, Episode 1: “Pilot”
Directed & Written by Vince Gilligan

* For a review of the following episode, “Cat’s in the Bag…” – click here
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A large Winnebago is barreling down a road out in the desert surrounding New Mexico. Inside there’s a man driving wearing a gas mask and only tighty whitey underwear, in the passenger seat is a passed out man wearing the same (gas mask; not tighty whiteys). After a minor crash, Walter White (Bryan Cranston) runs out and frantically, at the sound of sirens, records a message to his family, tears in his eyes. Then he heads out onto the road confidently, with only a shirt and underwear on, brandishing a gun at the sound nearing him.
Intense opener to a favourite show of mine.


Walt: “My name is Walter Hartwell White. I live at 308 Negra Arroyo Lane, Albuquerque, New Mexico. 87104. To all law enforcement entities, this is not an admission of guilt. I am speaking to my family now.”
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Switching gears, we’re back with Walter lying in bed next to his sleeping wife Skyler (Anna Gunn). There are baby things everywhere. Colour swatches, likely for a baby’s room. On his wall in another room are commendations for scientific work in his name. In the morning, Skyler has a cute 50 spelled in veggie bacon over his eggs – Happy Birthday. Walt Jr (RJ Mitte) isn’t impressed with that.
At school, Walt drops his son off. Inside, he teaches chemistry to uninterested teenagers. We’ve all been in that position, as teens; I’m sure chemistry teachers know the feeling on the other side. Then there’s the real dick kid who makes it tough on Mr. White, if only for a moment. Part-time Walt also works for a caterpillar-browed man named Bogdan Wolynetz (Marius Stan). Humiliatingly enough the dick student from earlier ends up having his car cleaned by Walt after Bogdan needs him to do a bit of extra work.
It’s after this event, on the way home, we see a great subtle little moment with Walt alone in the car – his glovebox will not close and he repeatedly bangs it up, frustrated. Sort of symbolizes his life at the moment.


A surprise party really does take Walt by surprise at home, late to his own party. Skyler’s sister Marie (Betsy Brandt) is there, along with her husband Hank Schrader (Dean Norris) and a ton of others. Everyone’s drinking and having fun. Meanwhile, the loud and boisterous Hank gives a toast to the birthday boy. Then quickly brings everyone to the television where he’s on talking about a big bust. Here is the first mention of meth we see in Breaking Bad. The seizure was big, tons of money. Walt takes notice. Even further, Hank tells him to get a bit of “excitement in your life” offering to take him out on a raid someday. Later, Skyler flicks around on her laptop in bed while trying to jerk Walt off with one hand.
The next day at work Walt has a short coughing fit, which puts him on his face in the car wash. He wakes up in an ambulance with an EMT asking if he smokes cigarettes and Walt has laboured, heavy breaths. Tests at the hospital lead to a cancer diagnosis, naturally leaving the poor guy reeling: inoperable lung cancer.
Only Walt can’t help but focus on the doctor’s mustard stained white overcoat. Then he’s back at home, not telling his wife about what happened yet. Slowly, things begin to feel different for Walt. He’s outside himself almost. Nothing else is important compared to the whopper of a diagnosis he received.


Walt: “Fuck you, Bogdan.”
Bogdan: “What?”
Walt: “I said fuck you, and your eyebrows! Wipe down this.”
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Quitting his part-time job at the wash, Walt has Hank and his partner Steve Gomez (Steve Michael Quezada) take him for a ride along. They stay stashed outside a house supposedly run by a Captain Cook: he puts a dash of chili powder in his methamphetamine. A SWAT team shows up from the DEA, busting the place in. Out in the jeep, Walt gets information on the way meth operations run, et cetera, from an eager Hank.
But when Hank and Steve head in for a minute, a guy in his underwear slips out the top window of the house, pulling on pants while falling off the roof. A familiar face to Mr. White – former student Jesse Pinkman (Aaron Paul). He takes off in his car, license plate THE CAPN.
Walt catches up with Jesse later, the latter covering his car to avoid any heat. The older of the two makes an offer to “partner up” in the meth business. Walt’s looking for a quick payday cooking crystal.
The relationship between Jesse and Walt in this episode is perfect. “Did you learn nothing from my chemistry class?” asks Walt. “No,” replies Jesse, “you flunked me. Remember?”. As a scientist, Mr. White wants to do things perfectly, to make the most excellent product on the market. Only problem is they need a proper place to cook. Jesse knows someone needing to sell a Winnebago. Supposedly. Handing over every last bit of his money to Jesse, Walt puts his trust in him.


Jesse: “Nah, come on, man. Some straight like you, giant stick up his ass all a sudden at age, what, 60, hes just gonna break bad?”
Walt: “Im 50
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We start to see a tough side to Walt when he and his wife take Walt Jr out to get clothes. Some people are making fun of Junior who has trouble trying on some pants, due to problems with his disability. But Walt takes the guy down from behind, grinding his foot into the guy’s knee on the floor. He intimidates the guy and his friends, who leave. Junior looks impressed with his father. Is this the change in Walter budding?
Cut to Jesse and Walt out in the desert with a Winnebago. This is their new place to cook. Walt starts to take his clothes off and Jesse’s a little weirded out. In they go with Walt in his tighty whiteys. They start to get things ready and the cook begins. The yield? Glass grace crystal meth.


Jesse: “This is art, Mr. White.”


Trying to sell some of their new work, Jesse goes to see an acquaintance, Krazy-8 (Max Arciniega). Their meeting happens to be a bit tense, ending in a sequence which will bring us back to the episode’s opener.
With Jesse along, Krazy-8 and his cousin go to see Walt with a bag of cash. Not exactly friendly, though. When the cousin, Emilio, recognizes Walt from being with DEA Agents Schrader and Gomez, things go sideways. Using a bit of basic chemistry, Walt outwits the would-be captors and  locks them inside the Winnebago until they suffocate, or at least pass out. Grabbing a passed out Pinkman, the panicking Walt tries to tame a fire started from Emilio tossing a cigarette earlier.
Now, we’re back in the driver’s seat with Walt at the start of the pilot.
I love everything about the episode. Because how it’s filmed has a certain charm to it: both visually appealing, though, it’s not overly complex most of the time. The music, both soundtrack and score, is totally fun. And the plot is just incredibly wild, as well as darkly humorous. This episode sets up a ton of things to come in a vivid, interesting fashion.


A final shot sees Walt running money through his dryer. Then crawl into bed, late, to a worried Skyler. This new life, plus the cancer, is creating a divide between them already. It’s bound to widen. For now, Walt assuages any guilt of his and worry on her part with sex.


The following episode, “Cat’s in the Bag”, will be reviewed shortly. Stay tuned, fellow fans. I know most have already seen this, but hopefully you may find something worth re-reading. I’ve watched the series a few times over, so I want to see if there is anything I might spot a third or fourth time around.