I think by now, my boyfriend (who is not caught up) has gotten used to me running in after an episode of Breaking Bad and saying, “Oh my god, shit went down.” In fairness, this episode wasn’t quite as unpredictable as the previous two, but it was just as volatile and just as gripping. What I especially noted in this episode though was the interplay between comedy and tragedy, the intersection between light and dark, and the intrusion of evil into normality.
From the casualness of Todd enthusing about his train heist in a roadside diner to Walter telling his son about his cancer to Skyler working the till at the carwash, this episode was full of moments of complete normality punctuated by the bizarre situation that everyone is in.
Todd’s Great Train Heist
Wasn’t this a frightening scene? I’ve said it before but Todd scares the bejesus out of me. The way he so casually talks about his train heist, his feeling of excitement and elevation, how he views it all as a tremendous success…completely neglecting the fact that he shot a little boy point blank in the face. And you know, I think this is a purposeful omission; I think Todd has pretty much forgotten about it, because it was such an insignificant event to him. He could have easily told his uncle and friend about it, and I bet they would have congratulated him. But Todd chose to leave out that detail, and I think that says a lot about what he takes away from that experience. To Todd, if you just don’t see (such as in the case of Lydia) or talk about things, they don’t exist and it never happened.
I think in many ways, one can draw parallels between Todd and Jesse. Both served as Walt’s protégés, but Todd is clearly in an entirely different class. His phone conversation to Walt’s answer machine was very reminiscent of the early days when Jesse was afraid of telling Walt about his mishaps. But again, note his non-reaction to the senseless killing of an innocent when he retells the story to his uncle. By contrast, Jesse fell to pieces when he had to kill Gale, and he had far more reason to do so than Todd did in that moment.
Anyway, I think it’s clear that even Todd doesn’t think everything is completely ok in the shake-up of ‘management’ as he called it; the fact that he calls Walter betrays his concern. Something is definitely brewing in the world of methamphetamines at the moment.
Hank vs Jesse
I loved the insight into Jesse’s state of mind as he sat looking stony-faced at the two jock interrogators and their futile efforts to coax some words out of their prisoner. The dizzy whirling overlay really made me think about Jesse’s situation and how traumatised he must be. When Hank walks in and it all snaps back to clarity though, it’s like being jolted back to reality. Hank’s rather pathetic attempts to get Jesse to talk only highlights how desperate Hank is.
Whenever I see a minor character feature heavily in a scene, I always wonder, “Is this their last scene? Is this their swansong?” and so far this series, whenever that has happened, I think those scenes have been brilliant. Trust Walt Jnr. to break that trend. I don’t think this is his last scene, simply because it would be such a terrible swansong to go out to. Walt Jnr. is one of those woefully underdeveloped characters, although at least he’s marginally more involved than his younger sister Holly.
In this scene with Walter, that really showed. I think it was meant to be a scene to make us sympathetic to Walt Jnr and his situation, and the awful reality that he’s about to face. It was supposed to show us how trusting he is in his father and his undying devotion to his family. But honestly, I think I preferred rebellious Flynn who hated his parents for destroying his family and sulked around in Marie and Hank’s house for several episodes. The Walt Jnr. we saw in this episode just didn’t hit the emotional tones for me, and instead, came off as a rather cheesy performance. It felt odd and out of place in such a high-energy show.
How about that guacamole?
Did you notice how Skyler and Walt are once again, dressed in beige/light colours? By contrast, the Shraders are in dark purple and black (Marie in black for a change!). The tension at that table is unbelievably high and I love how they showed the waiter read that immediately.
But my god, Marie. I laughed when she mentioned Skyler’s affair, of course that’s the bit she’s concerned about. Also, jesus Marie, you can’t just tell people to kill themselves! Shocking stuff really, think of the children you’re so intent on kidnapping! I hope that wasn’t foreshadowing anything. That would be such a lame ending.
Then the confession tape. This had to be the peak of the episode. Absolutely brilliantly pitched. The cleverness of it was just astounding. This is what Breaking Bad excels in, the sort of very dark comedy that has always underwritten the show. The way it was set up to seem like a legitimate confession, a complete mirror of that initial confession tape that Walter did about a year ago out in the desert in his tighty whities. It even starts in the same way, the same introduction, and of course, Skyler’s uncertain “Are you sure you want to do this?” is very much in character for something like that.
Then to watch it play out in Hank and Marie’s house and it to turn out to be the cleverest ploy and threat that this show has seen. Who could have seen that coming? And Skyler’s complicity in it! My word, the Whites are looking like a better bet every day, you know, if it weren’t for the fact that Walter is a Machiavellian villain.
In terms of actual threatening power though, I think it serves its purpose as a legitimate device to stop Hank from telling the DEA. Like I said in my last blog about Breaking Bad, the show is much better and more entertaining if Hank goes all lone wolf. This is the final nail in the coffin, as he says, the final one that is going to drive him to take down Walt all by himself. I sincerely doubt that this threat will actually dissuade Hank from pursuing Heisenberg. It might stop Marie constantly trying to steal the kids, but I’m sure the Shraders will just find more underhanded ways to try to undermine the Whites and to bring Walter in.
Out in the desert, you might mistake Walter’s good natured advice to Jesse as genuine fatherly advice – a throwback to the days where they got stuck out in the desert for a weekend and had to MacGuyver a solution. But of course, those days are long past, and Jesse, like us, have grown weary of Walter’s obvious façade. When Jesse shouts at Walter to just tell him the truth, tell him that it’s all about him, it was a small moment of vindication for not only Jesse, but us as viewers. Then that hug happens, and watching Walter’s face, I can’t feel anything but disgust in him as he tries to work him under his control once again. In retrospect, that hug was Walter’s downfall. His inability to admit the truth to Jesse and his constant cover ups are what causes the next reaction from Jesse.
Then we of course come to Jesse’s big revelatory moment. Breaking Bad did an amazing job of this last half-season with Hank on the toilet, but I think for pure seat-edge gripping attention, Jesse’s revelation tops that. His epiphany as he frantically pats himself down, stares at the crumpled cigarette box, and then runs off to assault Saul, is all so perfectly paced, so wonderfully real and visceral. Breaking Bad has such a fantastic way of showcasing the inner turmoils of our characters, particularly in scenes with little to no dialogue; through Aaron Paul’s acting chops, we as viewers immediately realise what’s happening and what he’s thinking.
Seeing Saul on the ground, dripping in blood, so vulnerable and so downtrodden, it was almost tragic. It’s a big change from the previous time Saul was held at gunpoint by Jesse (last time, Saul recognises Jesse and Walt from his cough and immediately starts talking business). Jesse isn’t a desperate man here, as he usually is when he holds a gun at someone. No, he’s taken full control of the situation. He’s now stepped into the light, he knows about Brock, the ricin, Walter’s manipulation, and he lashes out the symbol of Walt’s normal life: his family home.
The target is an interesting choice, but one that makes perfect sense. Walter’s house is his ultimate façade. His neighbours think of him as a poor, cancer-stricken Chemistry teacher; it’s in this house that Walt Jnr. thinks his dad’s a hero; it’s this house that Skyler so desperately tries to hold onto and keep her children in. In the last season, the house is often seen in near or complete darkness with characters flickering in and out of the shadows. With it now, presumably, about to burn to the ground, Walter has nowhere left to hide as his façade turns to ash.
So thank god, Jesse didn’t get written off the show with a ride to Alaska. I never had any doubts that he would turn around and renege on this criminal witness protection programme deal. But still, doesn’t that bode ominously for him? He said it himself in the desert: either he has to leave, or Walt has to kill him. Yeah, things are not looking good for Jesse.
*I’ve been noticing how often Walter is seen hidden in the shadows or partially in the dark. In the scene with his son, he’s mostly shrouded in darkness. When talking to Skyler in her office, he’s almost completely hidden in the dark (and Skyler is half in darkness…will she go two-faced and inform on Walt?). It certainly makes him look very ominous, particularly because in these scenes, he’s usually just portraying the sensitive, caring Walter White, as opposed to his alter-ego Heisenberg. I’m sure it’s intentional. I think it shows how Walter White is shrinking away and hiding in the darkness, whereas his scenes as Heisenberg are all laid out bare, in the light and open. The fire in the oncoming episode is sure to expose that.
*Can I just mention this beautiful, striking shot of the scenery around Jesse? All those standing stones, like the whole weight of it is all on Jesse’s shoulders. Breaking Bad really does do cinematography well.
*On a much lighter note, Hello Kitty phone! A shining moment of comedy before it all goes down.