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Posts Tagged ‘Skyler’

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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This entire season has been about Walt consolidating his power and taking control of his “empire.” In this episode, Walt finally attains the kind of autonomy he could never have dreamed of. With Mike out of the picture (another victim of the tub and acid trick) and Jesse still in retirement, Walt is the only vote left. Walt has the absolute power to order the simultaneous hit of Mike’s 9 guys (plus the flipping lawyer) and he has the power to decide whether to take Lydia up on her Czech Republic offer or to put the ricin in her coffee. Walt’s two decisions result in two of the most visually stunning montages that this show has ever depicted. The prison killings and the global expansion of the Heisenberg empire were both juxtaposed onto light-hearted music (with “Crystal Blue Persuasion” being the quintessential meth-cooking song that I expect show creator Vince Gilligan has been saving up for a long time). Both demonstrated how efficient Walt could be while working on his own. However, hidden within the montage of the crystal going out and the money rolling in was a shot of Walt in an MRI machine. No matter how effectively Walt can control his empire, he can’t control the cancer.

Of course, the real surprise about Walt’s success is how little happiness it brings him. He’s got more money than he’s ever dreamed, more success, more adulation (of course, this adulation is limited to drug dealers, so maybe it’s not enough anymore), and more security, but he still doesn’t have his family. Post-montage, Marie reveals it’s been 3 months since the kids came to live with them, Skyler seems happier now, and so maybe it’s time for the kids to come home. In response, Skyler takes Walt to a storage unit where she’s hiding the giant mound of un-launderable money. It’s coming in so quickly that she’s stopped counting it. Now she just piles it up, keeps it dry, and sprays it so the silver fish don’t wreck it. It’s more than they can spend in 10 lifetimes, she tells Walt. When will it be enough?

Jesse asked Walt the same question a couple of episodes ago, reminding him that when he started, he only wanted to make $737 000. At that point, Walt wouldn’t listen but now, for some reason, he apparently does. Perhaps the cancer forced his hand. Perhaps, as suggested here, now that he’s the boss and things are running smoothly, he’s bored. It’s not fun anymore, and what’s the point in making a ton of money if you’re not having fun and if you don’t even have a family to go home to? For whatever reason, Walt comes home and tells Skyler he’s out. I don’t think that Declan or the Czech buyers would just let their supply leave with no replacement, so I suspect that Todd is remaining on as sole cook, keeping Heisenberg’s pure blue meth on the streets as part of Walt’s legacy. He might have gotten out, but the empire he built lives on. Maybe. We’ll have to wait for next season to find out for sure.

One thing that is certain is that nothing is ever as clean-cut as it seems. Jesse got out before Walt did, and he spends his days getting high and falling asleep on his couch with a lit cigarette between his fingers. Walt goes to visit him and Jesse senses danger lurking below the surface. He gets his gun and opens the door with fear and caution. What does Walt want with him now? It turns out, Walt just wants to reminisce. They talk about their old days in the RV, back when they were a team, figuring things out as they went. Jesse asks why they kept that junky RV after they had enough money to buy a new one, and Walt replies, “intertia.” It’s perhaps an explanation about why it took him so long to get out. Sometimes it’s just easier to keep doing what you’re doing than to try to figure out how to stop. As the awkward exchange fades away, Walt tells Jesse that he left him something on the porch. Still unconvinced of Walt’s innocent intentions, Jesse approaches the bags with trepidation. He clearly worries that he’ll get blown up like Gus, but instead he finds the $5 million that he’s owed. He throws the gun across the room and puts his head in his hands. Jesse may have gotten out, but the shadow of Walt and the horrors they committed together still hangs over Jesse. He may have gotten out, but he isn’t free.

The same shadow lurks on the penultimate scene around the pool, where the Whites and the Schraders make small talk while Walt Jr. pushes Holly around the pool. There’s nothing to suggest that this is anything other than the idyllic family afternoon that it appears to be, but getting out can’t be as easy as Walt made it seem. It turns out, though, that the danger wasn’t coming from the outside but was, like Walt’s cancer, originating from within. Hank uses Walt’s bathroom and stumbles upon the copy of Leaves of Grass that Gale gave to him. Seeing the inscription to his “other favorite W.W.”, Hank immediately flashes back to an earlier conversation, where he found a similar inscription in Gale’s notebooks and pondered with Walt over who that could be referring to. Back then, Walt was able to brush it off with a joking “you got me,” but this time, the look on Hank’s face says it all. All of the inconsistencies in Walt’s behaviour over the past year are coming into sharp focus as Hank sits on the toilet in Walt’s master bathroom. We have to wait for next season to find out exactly what he does with this newfound realization.

I don’t know why I bother making predictions, because this show is so good at twisting everything around, but here goes. Hank might now know that Walt is Heisenberg, but there isn’t one shred of evidence to prove it. The book might connect him to Gale, but I don’t know that it would be admissible in court and it certainly doesn’t prove that they were cooking meth together. Still, like other criminals before him, Walt made one small fatal mistake. He was so concerned with the big picture – with orchestrating the killing of witnesses, with disposing of bodies, with establishing international drug rings, with finding the perfect hiding space for the ever-present vial of ricin – that he overlooked the innocuous book. I’m also not entirely convinced that Walt even know that inscription was in there – the pages seem stuck together and it’s possible he never read it. Also, the book moved from a pride of place on his nightstand to the back of his toilet under some magazines. The Walt who brought that book from the condo to his home was at the height of his pride and his arrogance. That Walt kept the book as a trophy. A little reminder of the man who got in the way of him and his rightful place as the only genius meth cook in town. The new Walt, who has enough money and who just wants to spend time with his family, might have forgotten all about it. He might no longer see it as a trophy but as just an old book that he got in another lifetime. Whatever the reason it was kept, the fact is that Hank knows that the monster he’s been chasing has been under his nose this whole time.

I’m not totally convinced that Hank immediately arrests Walt. First, theres the aforementioned lack of evidence. Second, Hank’s boss got fired for not realizing Gus’ involvement, it’s impossible to imagine that Hank wouldn’t get the same treatment once it comes out that his brother-in-law is Heisenberg. Third, Hank and Marie have directly benefitted from Walt’s drug money, since Walt paid for Hank’s physical therapy. Would people really believe that no one else knew what was going on? Fourth, will Hank be willing to blow up his entire family and put both Walt and Skyler (his money launderer) behind bars for good?

All of these questions (and about a million more) will have to wait until next season, which might as well be an eternity away. One thing’s for sure, while this season was about Walt’s rise to power, next season will be about his spectacular fall. The question is, how many people will he take down with him?

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I had company all weekend and was only able to watch Sunday’s episode late last night. I can certainly say that it was well worth the wait!

First, we have Skyler finally snapping out of her trance-like depression and attempting to take action against her increasingly intolerable husband. The cars were the first nudge, I think. Walt, at the sight of his Heisenberg hat in the indestructible Aztek, decides he’s done with the reliable, safe car (which will certainly outlive him) and leases fancy sports cars for himself and Walt, Jr. While previously Skyler was able to force Walt to return this flashy impracticality, now she is impotent, forced to listen to Walt and his son compare horsepower. Junior might still think his dad is a dork who drives like a geezer, but he’s certainly cooler than his wet-blanket mom. As if that wasn’t sign enough, Walt confirms that he’s started cooking again by plunking down a few stacks of bills in front of her in the bathroom. Skyler can no longer bear the thought of her kids being in this environment, being open to Walt’s corruption, so she begins to tentatively see if Walt will let the kids out of his grasp. She suggests boarding school for Junior, which Walt brushes off, but then Skyler makes a mistake when she reveals that her reasoning is to get the kids out of the home environment. There’s nothing wrong with the environment, Walt insists. Life is good, he murmurs as he kisses her neck, and she can participate in this good life by throwing him a birthday party complete with chocolate cake.

The next day, Walt skips out on the cook cleanup early (will this sloppiness come back to haunt him if it becomes a habit?) and heads home to what he expects to be his huge birthday party. Instead, Skyler is defiantly microwaving some food, waiting for only Hank and Marie to arrive. However, there will be chocolate cake, as requested. After dinner, by the pool, Junior takes off to cruise around in his new car, and the adults make awkward small talk. As Walt begins to construct his version of the past year, placing Skyler in the role as his caregiver and champion, Skyler wanders from the table to the edge of the glowing blue pool. Soon, she’s literally sinking, walking forward into the glowing waters like Ophelia or Virginia Woolf. She goes under and the voices stop, if only for a moment. The visuals of this scene were stunning – Skyler’s skirt floating around her, the blank stare in her eyes under the cold water, and Walt grabbing her, forcing her to return to the world she abhors.

At first, it seems that it might have been a legitimate suicide attempt (or, at least as legitimate as it can get with three people standing right there), and Hank and Marie offer to help Walt find counselling for her. Walt thinks he’s won again, with Skyler’s stunt just another aspect to his role as the victim. First she cheats on her cancer-stricken husband, and then she tries to commit suicide? Walt can hardly believe her stupidity and his luck. But then, Marie suggest that they take the kids for a few days to give them space, and Walt realizes he may have underestimated his wife. Walt lets her win this small battle, sending Holly home with Hank and Marie, but the confrontation in the bedroom amounts to the first open declaration of war between the two of them.

Skyler finally finds her voice, refusing to pretend to be asleep, refusing to swallow any of Walt’s platitudes about doing things for the good of the family. She tells him that she might be compromised, but she will not have her children living in the house where murders and drug dealing are considered par for the course. Walt puts on his Heisenberg face and presses her for her plan. He has an answer for everything she can come up with. If she hurts herself, he’ll have her committed. If she says he hurts her, he’ll make sure the police (and Walt, Jr.) find out about Ted and her role in his finances. He forces her to admit that she doesn’t have a plan, she’s not like him with an answer for everything, until finally she realizes that she only has one play. The only thing she can do is wait. For what, asks Heisenberg the Immortal. Skyler tells him innocently, coldly, and matter-of-factly, “for the cancer to come back.” Finally, there’s something that Walt doesn’t have an answer to. The look on his face shows that perhaps he forgot. He’s so deep into this that he doesn’t remember why he started in the first place. He might be able to take down Gus, but he can’t stop himself from being destroyed from within. Skyler may not have a long-term solution, but every day the kids are away is a day closer to the day when Walt is gone forever. In the end, I saw her chain smoking as her way of encouraging the cancer. She might not be able to concoct poison like Walt the chemist, but she’s not afraid to use what’s at her disposal. (And still, the vial of ricin sits ominously behind the socket in the bedroom. Could Walt be starting to think of using it on the enemy within his own home? At what point will Skyler become too much of a liability for Heisenberg?)

Meanwhile, Mike is again putting out fires all over the place. He’s probably watching Madrigal (or at least Lydia), as he calls to warn her that the DEA are about to arrive. She gives up her guy in the warehouse but, as Hank notes, no one is talking. Lydia reveals herself to be just as panicky in this episode, screaming into a pillow, and wearing mismatched shoes (which Hank notices but doesn’t comment on until later). Mike sends “a new guy” to pick up the precursor, and Lydia quizzes Jesse until she’s convinced he isn’t an undercover cop. She notices the tracking device on the bottom of the container and convinces Jesse to leave empty handed. Back at Vamanos Pests, Mike realizes that Lydia must have planted the device to make them think that she was being watched and force them to look elsewhere. Mike announces that she’s dead, lamenting the fact that he didn’t do it earlier (“That’s what I get for being sexist”) but Jesse, apparently the new moral compass of this operation, insists that it’s a voting thing. Since Lydia’s death would lead to a “ramping down” of operations, Walt apparently votes for her to continue to live, but it’s clear that next week will involve a change in Lydia’s participation.

As Walt leaves, Jesse runs up to him and gives him his birthday present – a Rolex. I’m not sure what to make of the symbolism of the watch. Walt shows it off to Skyler as an indication of changed opinions – not so long ago, Jesse pointed a gun at his face and threatened to kill him, now he’s giving him a birthday present. Did Jesse mean it as a gesture of apology? As a symbol of their renewed solidarity? Did he just want to get him something nice for his birthday? Now that Jesse’s alone again, he doesn’t have much else to spend his money on, and buying a watch for his surrogate father seems like as good of an option as any. What about the ominous way the episode ended, with the ticking of the second hand? Does this just mean that Walt’s time is slowly running out? The DEA is getting steadily (if slowly) closer, and, as Skyler reminded him, the cancer is lying dormant inside of him, waiting to strike at any moment. Or was it a callback to Mike’s characterization of Walt as a ticking time bomb? Or, could it be something far more concrete – we haven’t seen much of Jesse in these past episodes, how much do we really know about what he’s thinking. Could he have placed a GPS or a listening device in the watch? I don’t think he’s working for the DEA, but he had a good relationship with Mike, and after that Icarus conversation, it’s not impossible that Jesse could have begun to see the benefit of having as much information about Walt as possible.

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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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FINALLY. Breaking Bad is back.

In my quest to get my fix before the show actually aired, I read/watched all the interviews with the cast that I could find. In some (like this one), it was revealed that the season premiere would be decidedly non-violent. Even though I was prepared, it did seem kind of odd in juxtaposition with last season’s finale. This episode was more hilarious than scary, but that’s just part of the brilliance of Breaking Bad. It can take you from the edge of your seat to laughing out loud in a matter of minutes. Magnets, bitches!

I’ll admit, the flash-forward opener initially threw me for a loop. In it, Walt has a full head of hair, makes a “52” out of bacon over his Denny’s breakfast, carries a New Hampshire drivers’ license, and buys a car with a large gun in it from his gun guy in the bathroom. I think he’s still in Albuquerque, and he’s definitely still sick, but that’s about it. The entire series has only covered about 1 year, and since Walt was 50 when the series started, this is a fairly significant flash-forward. Unless this season is going to proceed at a rapid pace, I expect that this scene is foreshadowing season 6. I can’t wait to find out how Walt got here.

Back in present time, Walt, Jesse, and Mike are left picking up the pieces from Gus’ death. Walt seems to be ready for a celebratory drink (after hiding the bomb-making supplies and the Lily of the Valley in the back of the Aztec – did he actually dispose of them or are they still waiting there to be discovered?), but then he remembers the video cameras. I thoroughly enjoyed the scene where Walt and Mike were discussing how to get at/blow up Gus’ computer where the videos were stored while an out-of-focus and in the background Jesse repeatedly suggested “what about, like, a magnet?” And the scene in the junkyard where Joe asks Jesse why anyone would want to pierce their prick was also hilarious. Jesse’s victory cry of “Yeah, Magnets! Bitches!” after the magnet-computer test worked called back to the first season and Jesse’s suggestion that a good metal to conduct electricity would be “wire”. After gaining some power last season, Jesse is once again relegated to the young, subordinate role. He might have stopped Mike from killing Walt (temporarily), but after that, he was back to being the annoying child in the background that the grownups ignore while they talk about important grownup things.

Still, it’s clear that Jesse knows how dangerous Walt is. He didn’t listen to Mike’s advice to take the money and run (of course, Mike didn’t listen to his own advice either), but pretty soon Jesse’s going to have to make a decision about just how much further he’s willing to go. As they were racing away from the evidence locker, Walt’s statement that the truck-magnet left behind is untraceable “Because I said so” is the perfect thesis for this season. Walt might never stop believing that what he says goes, but Jesse’s look at Mike after he said it revealed that Jesse recognizes the absurdity of that statement. The question is whether or not he will get out in time.

Meanwhile, back at the figurative ranch, Ted Beneke is alive! Who saw that one coming? I figured his corpse would be back to haunt Skyler, but not his sentient-and-supported-by-metal-rods body. Ted is now clearly afraid of Skyler and promises her that he won’t ever say anything to anyone. When Skyler relays this message to Walt, he responds in perhaps the most terrifying way possible, by pulling her into an uncomfortable hug and whispering “I forgive you.” At this point, Skyler knows that she’s dealing with a cold-blooded murderer, so one can only imagine that Walt’s forgiveness doesn’t mean too much. I expect she also realizes that Walt’s forgiveness likely doesn’t extend to Ted Beneke. Walt has a lot on his plate right now, so I don’t think he’ll kill him right away, but I also don’t expect poor old Ted to make it too many more episodes before “accidentally” ingesting some Lily of the Valley or smoking a ricin cigarette.

Speaking of the ricin cigarette, I can’t believe that Huell actually did pickpocket Jesse. It just goes to show the attention to detail and forward thinking involved that make this show amazing. And, while its recipient might not be Ted Beneke, you just know that that ricin cigarette is going to come up again at some point. If not Ted, perhaps Hank? Walt Jr.’s insistence on turning Hank into a hero following Gus’s explosive demise isn’t helping Hank’s chances at survival, I’ll tell you that much.

Overall, it seems like this episode was the eye of the hurricane – a momentary lapse in the destruction before the winds pick up again and the violence begins anew. I can’t imagine what the upcoming season will hold, but I expect Hurricane Walt to leave nothing untouched.

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