The Comics Bulletin All-Stars continue our team review of one the best shows on TV, AMC’s instant classic Breaking Bad.
This week, Walt worries that Gus might still have it in for him, so he starts planning a new alliance. Skyler tries to persuade Walt to buy into a new business opportunity in order to protect their family.
Breaking Bad airs Sunday nights at 10PM EST on AMC, the home of just about every great show you might want to watch.
Oh, and be warned that there are SPOILERS below.
Jason Sacks: Of course, while everyone else on the show is breaking bad in their own way, the story’s main focus is on Walter, who really seems to be in the shit this time. Gus continually seems three or four steps ahead of Walt – “You’ll never see him again” was a chilling line, and didn’t it send chills up your spine when Walt’s phone rang when he tried to get to Gus’s house? And then the confrontation in the bar between Mike and Walt – well, no spoilers, but how the hell will Walt get through this latest shit that he stirred up?
Nick Hanover: That attempt by Walt to get Mike to betray Gus was so careless. That scene may in fact be my only major qualm with this episode. I know Walt has a tendency to go off plan and not think things all the way through, but considering how well he can plan things and how aware of end games he is, it just struck me as poor character development to have him so carelessly confront Mike and lay his cards out on the table. Unless Mike comes around soon, I don’t see how that move won’t blow up in Walt’s face; why the hell would you let your nemesis know you’re going to try to get in a room with him so you can kill him? Or maybe there’s some kind of subterfuge going on. I hope there is.
Jamil Scalese: I also noticed Walt seems to be, again, waist deep in ca-ca-poo. Just as in Season 1 Walt is trying to evade death, but this time it’s a lot less passive than cancer. “Thirty-Eight Snub” offered two very memorable Walter White moments for me: the first was his practice session with his newly bought gun. The mechanical movements and cold clicks of the gun slammed home the realization that our hero was very serious about bringing the fight to Gus, a frightening prospect now that we know the chicken man is anything but. The second significant scene was that interrupted walk to Gus’s house. Possibly one of the tensest moments yet — and tensity is a staple of the series.
Have to agree with you on the carelessness, Nick. For one I was a little confused on how Walt found Mike. Did he follow him? Does he know where the guy likes to drink? The move was surely out of desperation, so it remains believable, but it’s hard to imagine the talk with Mike not playing huge a role somewhere down the road. Admittedly, I’m not quite sure Mike is totally opposed to the idea of offing Gus, but he might be just as scared as Walt is, just half as stupid.
Jason: I thought the Jesse storyline was really interesting this time too. He’s clearly trying to escape all the chaos in his life through partying, but I love how the show seems to make a point that Jessie’s heart isn’t in the partying life. His worries are clearly weighing on him, and those worries are forcing Jesse to fall back into bad habits. We’ve seen in the past that Jesse’s a sensitive man, and the two deaths from last week’s episode are definitely weighing on him. Of course, we could see that from the last scene in this week’s episode.
Nick: Jesse might be the most doomed character on Breaking Bad, perhaps even more so than Walt. Walt has basically been given a certain kind of freedom as a result of his death sentence and his problems have arisen from the fact that his death hasn’t come as soon as he expected it to, which is part of why he continues to throw himself into more dangerous scenarios. But Jesse is doomed in a more torturous, long term manner.
Jesse is discovering that he has no control whatsoever over his life, that no matter what he thinks his life should be he is irrevocably tied to danger and death. He’s watched people around him die horrible deaths and he’s been the cause of his fair share of death now too. He’s simply not wired to handle that kind of stress, he has no way of dealing with it. Where Walt can use his pending mortality as a safety net that puts everything else in perspective, Jesse has the opposite problem, of realizing that he continues to live despite the fact that he has led better people to their deaths. As much as Jesse is chaotic himself, he’s more a magnet for chaos, a black hole that inexplicably draws so much destruction towards it.
To that effect, I think this season is going to find Jesse not necessarily embracing that nature but trying to take control of it by being an active force of chaos rather than an inactive one.
Jamil: I thought Badger and Skinny Pete’s tweeked out rant about zombie video games was a nod to the current psychological state of Jesse. The guy is just not functioning like a normal human being right now. You are right about Jesse being seemingly doomed. Even in moments where he tries to do right, like shooting Gale to save Walt or poisoning hamburgers to avenge the death of a friend, he’s wayward and the whole situation ends up exploding in his face. I would not be surprised if Andrea does use the money Jesse gave her to buy an ass-load of meth just because everything he has touched has turned to crap.
The irony in this episode is the juxtaposition of Jesse trying to recover from the traumatic experience of shooting someone point blank in the face and Walt preparing himself to do it again. With all Jesse’s problems I am reminded of his proclamation from early Season 3 that his role is the “bad guy” and since the beginning of this season he’s seemed to embrace that even harder.
Jason: I’m curious where the storyline of Skyler buying the car wash is heading. It was interesting that the car wash owner – another very cool supporting character, by the way – rejected Syler’s offer so angrily despite the chance he had to make a whole lot of money. Has Walter burned that bridge as hotly as it seems? If so, is he beginning to really sow the seeds of his own destruction? Walter is definitely bringing a whole roster of people who hate him, and we see that hatred in the way that Skyler is rejected. I like how Skyer is slowly getting more and more hard on the outside as the series goes on. Her businesslike style was very cool.
Nick: Honestly, I think Skyler has always been this way, she just hid it before because she thought her role was to be more subservient. Considering the way Breaking Bad deals with the way characters are forced to reflect on their true nature, Skyler’s development has been as freedom based as Walt’s, but perhaps in a more hopeful manner. Now that Walt has removed the burden of innocence for Skyler– and whatever was left was finished off by her affair and book cooking– she can act out in the way she’s always wanted to. I hope this won’t see the show going down the Weeds route of making Skyler an explicit criminal herself, but I think the fact that Walt essentially has two bosses now, Gus and Skyler, will provide some interesting friction.
Jamil: Sky’s turn from major antagonist/obstacle to accomplice has been one of
the ballsiest, fascinating moves in the course of the show. The same traits that made me hate her and her overbearing, emasculating behavior toward Walt are now the reasons I root for her to get more on the board the meth wagon. It’s been said before, this show is magical in the way it turns left when you think it’s going right; I would have bet the farm that once Skylar found out about Walt’s illegal activities the show would be done and over with no more interesting plot points.
Jason: I’m still trying to figure out what the hell to make of the storyline with Hank and the minerals. Where the hell is he getting the money to buy the rocks, and where is all this leading? This is clearly the most baffling storyline in the show.
Nick: You mean other than the natural parallels to the “crystals” Walt is obsessed with? There’s also the concept of those minerals as symbols of endurance and patience. But really I think it’s just a crystal meth metaphor, especially since Hank’s favorite mineral at the moment is corundum, the mineral that sapphire comes from. It can’t be a coincidence that he’s obsessing over blue crystal.
Jamil: The rocks are definitely an in house allegory to the blue meth, but I think they’re also just a bunch of rocks. Some people have speculated the D.E.A. agent will use what he’s learning from the minerals to eventually bust his brother-in-law (and let’s face it, Hank is going to be the one to get Walt, the writers literally crippled him to derail this narrative path. Last time he did any work on the Heisenberg case he was knocking on the R.V. door while Walt was standing inside). I’m not in that camp, I think it’s simply a device to put a wedge between Marie and her husband.
Jamil: After last week’s shocking murder of Victor at the hands of Gus we find Walt arming himself at the open of this episode. The gun salesmen, who apparently is named Lawson, continued Breaking Bad‘s theme of having awesome minor characters that are almost more interesting than the main ones.
Jason: I don’t know how they keep doing it, but you’re right. Lawson has a fantastic, grizzled and weathered presence about him that immediately feels compelling and completely fills the TV screen. He really legitimately seems like a man who has been through a lot of hell in his life, whose whole life is a world of bad men and petty criminals planning on doing bad things. I liked how he seemed legitimately surprised and almost happy to work with a man as reasonable as Walter as opposed to his usual sorts of criminals.
Nick: Breaking Bad has been in a lot of ways about people like this, who find themselves in these kinds of situations despite the fact that they are essentially good people. Or are, at the least, average people. The intent of the show has been to humanize crime, to show that sometimes people are driven to do things they know are bad in order to make ends meet, or because no matter how hard they try to escape they just keep getting pulled right back in.