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Posts Tagged ‘Anna Gunn’

Breaking Bad - Courtesy AMC

Well, there you have it – everything is out in the open now. Hank and Walt’s epic showdown from last week was mirrored by an equally tense (but more tearful) faceoff between Marie and Skyler. The dawning sense of betrayal that came over Marie’s face as she realized that Skyler has known about Walt’s activities (to some extent) far longer than she (or Hank) had ever imagined was perfect and heartbreaking. When faced with it all laid out in front of her, Skyler could do nothing but cry and feebly apologize. When she was in it, she made the decisions that she had to in order to protect her family (from the man who protects their family) and she could compartmentalize things. But when Marie laid everything out for her, she was forced to look at the enormity of it all.

Or maybe she first realized the enormity of things when Hank called her, panicked, from the garage. Hank was quicker on the trigger than Walt (I loved hwo the shots were framed as a Wild West standoff as the garage door slowly closed) and he got Skyler on the phone first. As she walked into the diner, it was clear that Skyler felt like she was walking into a trap. And Hank was so focused on the end goal of nailing Walt that he completely misread the situation. He went into full cop mode, interrogating Skyler with the same tactics that he’d use to interrogate the average street drug dealer. But Hank failed to realize that Skyler might have been culpable in some of Walt’s crimes. He never stopped to consider that Skyler might be the one laundering the money and, as such, she might be a little reluctant to tell all the details of Walt’s crimes to a DEA agent, particularly one who insists that she did not need a lawyer. Hank’s strongarm tactics might work on average drug dealers, but Skyler is smarter than that. She needed time to think and formulate a plan, so she caused a scene and ran out, leaving Hank alone with his recorder.

Meanwhile, when he was unable to reach Skyler, Walt went straight to Saul. After immediately shutting down Saul’s suggestion that he simply send Hank to Belize (“I’ll send YOU to Belize” might be one of my favourite Breaking Bad lines ever), Walt went straight into damage control mode. Huell and Kuby went and brought him the money from the storage unit (after going full-on Scrooge McDuck, of course) and Walt took it to the site of his and Jesse’s original cook. Without the benefit of a team or big machinery like he had while he was burying barrels for the train heist, Walt spent all day digging by hand. After concealing the GPS co-ordinates as lottery ticket numbers, he immediately collapsed in front of Skyler in their master bathroom.

Awaking hours later on the cold bathroom floor (albeit with a pillow under his head and a blanket covering him), Walt was possibly at the lowest point he’d been since his moment of panic in the crawlspace. Dabbing his forehead tenderly, Skyler asks him if it’s true that the cancer is back. He confirms it and offers to give himself up, provided that she never speak of the money and keep it for Walt Jr. and Holly. However, the ever-pragmatic Skyler recognizes that this would never be possible. Hank tipped his hand to her during the interrogation – he didn’t have enough to get Walt on his own. He needed Skyler’s statement. For the time being, Skyler suggests, the best course of action would be to stay quiet. Never have the phrases “stay quiet” and “tread lightly” promised so much explosiveness in the weeks to come.

This explosiveness might come in the form of Jesse Pinkman. Like some kind of guilt-ridden drug-dealing Hansel, Jesse left a trail of thousands of dollars that led first a bewildered citizen and then the police right to him. Just as Hank was about to present his case to his boss without the solid proof he so badly needed, he found out that the one remaining living connection to Walt was in lockup at that very moment. We’ll have to wait until next week to find out if Jesse’s disillusion about Walt is enough to convince him to flip on Walt. Jesse may resent him and be consumed by guilt but will that be enough to overcome a lifetime’s worth of not talking to the police? Not to mention the fact that admitting everything would also send Jesse to jail for, at the very least, killing Gale. Will Hank be better at getting information out of him than he was at getting it out of Skyler?

Theory Time:

  • I don’t think Jesse will give Walt up. I think there’s too much history there, both between him and Walt and between him and Hank. As much as he hates Walt at this moment, I still think Jesse hates Hank more.
  • In the flash-forward, Walt is on the run with Skyler and maybe (probably?) the kids. That’s why his fake last name is Lambert (Skyler’s maiden name), not because he killed her. After seeing his refusal to even entertain the idea of killing Hank, I don’t think there’s any way he kills Skyler. She still might die, but not by Walt’s hand. If that’s the case, then I think he’s coming back to protect her/them somehow. The ricin and the machine gun must be to finish off whoever is still standing in their way.
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Well, after a long “mid-season” break (both for the show and for my blogging “career”), Breaking Bad is back with a vengeance.

Last night’s episode was pretty much perfect, as far as I’m concerned, from the continuation of the flash-foward from the season premiere, to the final showdown in Hank’s garage. It struck a perfect balance between slowly revealing Walt’s new post-Heisenberg life and then immediately destroying that false sense of security with Walt’s realization that Hank is onto him and their subsequent cards-on-the-table confrontation.

But before I get to that, we need to talk about Jesse. Poor Jesse never really had a heart for the whole breaking bad thing, did he? He’s a shell of himself, sitting in his depressingly empty house (except for his bitching sound system, of course), starting into the distance, numbing his pain with pot and inane Badger-Skinny Pete Star Trek fanfic. He took Walter’s sarcastic and manipulative comment about Jesse’s money being “blood money” to heart and as a consequence, the suitcases filled with $5 million eat away at his soul like a tumour eating away at his insides. He tries to have them surgically removed, telling Saul to give half to dirtbike kid’s family and the other half to Mike’s granddaughter, and he doesn’t care what kind of questions a random $2.5 million will raise. He just wants the poison out of his life so that he can start to try to heal.

Of course, Saul calls Walt for a second opinion and he immediately brings the money back to Jesse. In the conversation, Jesse reveals that he still has the ability to think critically, recognizing (as Lydia did last season) that Walt would not have killed Mike’s men if Mike was still around to do anything about it. No matter how much Walt insists that Mike is alive and perfectly capable of taking care of his own granddaughter, Jesse knows the truth. And he can also finally see beyond Walt’s blatant attempts at manipulation. “I need you to believe me,” Walt repeatedly asks, until Jesse finally gives in. “I believe you,” he says. “He’s alive.” But the tears swimming in his bloodshot eyes and the fact that he can’t even look at his former mentor when he says these words reveal the truth.

In the end, Jesse gets rid of the money the only way he can think of. Inspired by a homeless man who asks for some “spare change”, Jesse gives him a stack of bills and then drives off to the bad part of town, throwing money out of his window as he goes. With every toss, the emotion of the past year comes out until Jesse is driving with tears in his eyes and a mixture of sadness, grief, rage, and maybe just a little bit of relief on his face. I hope that this catharsis is what Jesse needs to regain some of his sharpness and clarity in the coming days and weeks. Something tells me he’s going to need it.

Meanwhile, Hank goes on an emotion-filled drive of his own, emerging from the bathroom with Leaves of Grass stowed in Marie’s bag and a sudden, visceral need to get out of the White house and away from Walt. He has an anxiety attack on the road, hitting a mailbox and getting sent to the hospital to rule out a heart attack. Once home, Hank immediately gets his old Gale Boetticher file and compares the handwriting to Walt’s book – it’s a perfect match. He spends the next week at home alone, getting the Gus Fring evidence boxes brought to his garage. I enjoyed watching Hank meticulously map out everything, make connections, and remember things in a different light. Hank is a good investigator but until now he was blinded to Walt’s true identity because of their family connections. Now he’s able to see the events of the past year or so in full clarity and it’s terrifying and enraging all at once.

Meanwhile, although Walt and Skyler seem to be largely back on the same page (they’re even dressing in complimentary cream colours), running the car wash (and maybe even planning for an empire of car washes), Walt can’t quite resist keeping some secrets. Sure, he tells Skyler who Lydia really was when she comes to the car wash to try and entice him back to hold a “training session” but he hasn’t told her that the cancer has returned. We see him receiving chemotherapy and jumping up from a family dinner to run and vomit in the toilet. It’s then that he makes the discovery that his copy of Leaves of Grass is missing. After a futile search of the bathroom and the area around the nightstand, Walt realizes the only explanation – Hank must have it, and his mysterious illness must be a direct result of his new discovery.

Walt’s suspicions are confirmed when he checks his car and finds a GPS device like the one he helped Hank place on Gus’ car another lifetime ago. The next day, he shows up at Hank’s house, his fake-nice-guy smile plastered on his face. In true Breaking Bad fashion, there is no dragging out of the cat-and-mouse game, though. Walt shows Hank the GPS, Hank shuts the garage door behind him, and it’s on. I cheered when Hank punched Walt right in his lying face. The anger and betrayal written on Hank’s face were matched by glimpses of Heisenberg behind Walt’s facade. Admitting no guilt, Walt asked what could be gained by prosecuting a man who’s dying of cancer and who would never see the inside of a jail cell as a result. I’m not sure if we’re supposed to believe Walt or if he’s just saying anything to try to get Hank to drop it. In the end, though, it’s clear that Walt will not go down without a fight. After Hank tells Walt that he doesn’t know him anymore, Walt replies, with the perfect mixture of aggression and regret, “If you don’t know who I am, maybe your best course of action is to tread lightly.” Bryan Cranston plays that moment to perfection. Here’s a man who’s killed more people than I care to count, but there’s something different about realizing that your relative, someone you’ve known for over twenty years, knows the truth. If it was anyone else, Heisenberg would have killed him and had Todd get the barrels ready. But because it’s Hank, it’s not that easy. There will be no way to get out of this cleanly. Both men are going to have to tread lightly and I can’t wait to see how it unfolds.

Of course, we already know to an extent what will happen. Thanks to the cold open, we know that within the year, everyone will know that Walt was Heisenberg. Their abandoned house had it spray painted on the inside, and Walt’s former neighbour reacted with terror when she saw him leaving the house after retrieving the ricin from behind the outlet. Armed with the ricin and a machine gun in the trunk, it’s clear that Walt has returned with only violence on his mind. The question is, who will be in his path?

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The question of this episode is: How can Walt be at once so brilliant and so blindingly short-sighted?

First, it’s Walt who has the ability to see the genius potential in Vamanos Pest as a front for setting up his meth labs.  It calls back to their original set up in the Crystal Ship, but its sophistication shows how far they’ve come in less than a year. The scene where Walt and Jesse cook in the empty house was perfection – it’s simple and poetic, just two partners and the chemistry. It’s a nice reprieve, as everything outside of the chemistry is becoming more and more complicated.

Mike picks up right where he left off last week, trying to ensure the continued loyalty and silence of “his guys.” Posing as a paralegal, he visits one of his guys in prison and tells him that, no matter what, he will continue to receive his hazard pay. Gus’ death was nothing more than a hiccup. He’s got a new thing going now and it’ll be business as usual. In his meetings with Walt, Jesse, and Saul, Mike makes it clear that he thinks he is the one who is running the show. He tells Walt and Jesse that they are in charge of the chemistry and he is in charge of the business. It’s a plan that plays on the strengths of each member of the team, but, of course, it’s also a plan that egotistical Walt can’t handle. Saul recognizes this and asks him if he’s okay with Mike’s plan. Walt replies, “He handles the business, I handle him.” It’s shocking that someone smart enough to see the potential in the pest control front can be so stupid as to think that there isn’t more to running a high-volume meth operation than having a couple of cooks. He thinks he’s the centre of everything, conveniently forgetting how expendable he was to Gus.

Indeed, the only person he’s focused on besides himself is Jesse. Expertly playing the part of a concerned father/partner, he asks Jesse about his relationship with Andrea and Brock. He plays on Jesse’s guilt, suggesting that he needs to come completely clean with her about everything (“Even Gale?” Jesse wonders) if he wants to have a real relationship. Secrets build barriers, Walt warns him. Earlier, when Andrea and Brock interrupted Jesse and Walt’s strategy session, Walt shared a meaningful (and subtly terrifying) glance with young “shy” Brock. I wasn’t sure what to make of it. Did Brock recognize him (we’re still not sure exactly how Brock came to ingest the Lily of the Valley)? Was Walt annoyed that he was still alive? Was Walt worried that his relationship with Jesse might not be centre stage if he gets further involved with Brock and Andrea? By the end of the episode, we find out that Walt’s manipulations worked – Jesse broke up with Andrea rather than admit the full extent of the things he’s done since getting involved with Walt. By now, though, Walt doesn’t care anymore. He’s done playing the father and is only concerned with one thing – money.

The Money (capital-M) becomes a problem for Walt in a brilliant scene where Mike stacks up the bills in three equal shares and then begins subtracting the expenses. As the piles become smaller and smaller, Walt becomes more and more agitated. This isn’t the way he envisioned being a king would be. He finally snaps when Mike begins to subtract the “hazard pay” from all three. Why should he have to pay Gus’ guys, Walt argues. He killed Gus, therefore they’re out of luck. Mike’s counter argument is simply, “it’s what you do.” I’m a little torn on this one. On the one hand, yes. It is what you do, and paying these guys to keep silent while they endure police pressure and even serve out prison sentences, will have a positive impact on Walt. If they start talking and Mike goes down, it’s only a matter of time before Walt goes down too. On the other hand, I’m not entirely sure it is fair for Jesse and Walt to be paying for Mike’s “guys.” Last week, when Mike spared Lydia and agreed to join Walt, I kind of thought the “hazard pay” was going to come out of his share alone. So, as surprised as I am to say this, I might actually agree with Walt that it’s a tad unfair. In any case, Walt ends up reluctantly allowing the purging of his funds to continue (after Jesse first offers to let them take it all out of his share), and walks out griping to Jesse that they’re making less per week than they were with Gus. Jesse is now the voice of reason, reminding him that the haul might be smaller, but it’s a bigger cut. He’s imploring him to calm down and look at the big picture, something Walt is becoming increasingly unable to do.

Meanwhile, outside of the meth world, Skyler is more and more on edge. Marie comes to the carwash and begins picking at every little thing, from the way the guys are washing the cars to Skyler’s reluctance to plan a 51st birthday party for Walt. In one of the only times I’ve ever been cheering for Skyler, she has a breakdown and yells at her meddling sister to SHUT UP already. Anna Gunn delivers her lines so forcefully and terrifyingly that it’s clearly about more than just Marie. Skyler desperately wishes for everyone to shut up, go away, and for her problems to just disappear. She retreats into her bedroom, into her depression, and into silence. The outburst follows her (mostly) silent acceptance of Walt’s return from the condo. She manages to ask him if he thinks moving back in is a good idea. He replies with a confident yes, and that’s that. After he breakdown, Walt comes home to find Skyler once again hibernating in the bedroom, and Marie in his living room, refusing to leave until she has an explanation about what has Skyler so on edge. In yet another brilliant display of manipulation, Walt gets his payback for Skyler’s gambling story. He tells Marie his version of the truth – Skyler’s upset because she was having an affair with Ted Beneke and he’s just had a terrible accident that left him paralyzed. Marie immediately backs off, presumably going home to puzzle over the new information that her sister isn’t who she thought she was.

Finally, there were two instances that heavily foreshadowed the violence to come. First, there was Walt watching Scarface with Walt Jr. and Holly, delighting in the killings, and laughing “everyone dies in this movie, don’t they?” Indeed they do, Walt. Additionally, for the first time this season, the final scene wasn’t between Walt and Skyler, but Walt and Jesse. Walt muses about Gus’ killing of Victor, wondering if it wasn’t so much to give him a warning as it was because Victor was Icarus, taking too many liberties and flying too close to sun. It’s clear that Walt is beginning to consider Mike to be more of a problem than he’s worth. He’s trying to take too much of Heisenberg’s power. Walt would be smart to not let his ego convince him to take out the one who’s keeping all the balls in the air, but, as is clear from this episode, Walt’s genius is undone by his own short-sightedness. He can’t see the dangers that are all around him.

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