Fans of Breaking Bad are aware that the show’s famous pitch line is that they’re going to take Mr. Chips and turn him into Scarface. It’s with avid curiosity then that many have started to look for references that Walter White is in fact turning into Tony Montana. While season five’s premier “Live Free Or Die” gave a subtle reference with a future Walt purchasing a massive machine gun reminiscent of Montana’s, episode three decided to be completely blatant. Skyler White is awakened from an afternoon nap by machine gun fire from Scarface’s most famous scene, playing a slight meta trick on the viewer. She heads into the living room to find her family watching the film. While walking away Skyler hears Walt tell Walter Jr. that, “everyone dies in this movie.” It’s likely the most cringe-inducing foreshadowing in the series history.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t tell you how it got there though. This is Breaking Bad, afterall. Every element that’s responsible for “getting there” must be explained.
“Hazard Pay” begins with a lawyer going to visit one of his clients in prison. Immediately it becomes apparent that he’s brought Mike with him, telling the guard that it’s his own personal paralegal. They’re brought into a room while Mike discusses his business plan with the inmate. The lawyer intentionally tunes out the conversation with an iPod. Mike ensures the man that old promises will be kept. Keep that in mind.
The episode heads back to the White household which at this point may as well be renamed to the Black household given the poisonous relationship of the married couple. The set crew is making a very intentional attempt to give the house less lighting, an obvious tell that the happiness of the house has packed it’s bag and skipped town, something the Whites should have done a long time ago.
Skyler finds Walt moving his things back into the house, without her consent, and she realizes how helpless she is to stop the monster of a man that used to be her husband.
Moving back to business, Walt, Jesse, Mike and Saul set out to find a new place in which they can conceal their operation. It’s a classic scene in which each of the characters is free to exhibit their personality quirks. Saul cracks bad jokes about how uncomfortable he is. Mike speaks little but is keenly aware of his surroundings. Walt lets everyone know how smart he is by dismissing each of the potential cook sites with the precision of a master scientist. And Jesse proves that he’s way more intelligent than anyone in the operation gives him credit for, while hilariously swiping a free tortilla.
Walt eventually hatches what seems right now to be a brilliant plan whereby the new trio will cook at houses that are being treated for pest control. Logistics are coordinated and later they’re introduced to the pest controllers which just so happen to include Landry from Friday Night Lights. As if I needed another reason to love this show. It seems Landry dropped out of Rice and is now working as a member of the pest crew that fronts for a burglary operation. Matt Saracen’s grandma would be so disappointed.
After a successful cook, Walt and Jesse sit down for what can only be described as a father-son talk in which the former advises the latter on relationships. Although his advice to Jesse is true and based on experience, it’s so very clear that Walt is toying with his young accomplice again, implying that he needs to get out of the only healthy relationship he’s ever had. It’s also an eerily similar shot to a scene earlier in the episode when Walt is forced to share a couch with Andrea’s son Brock that he poisoned last season.
Back to Skyler now. Mrs. White is quite simply caving under the stress of their new life. At a lunch with her sister, she has a complete mental breakdown in which she breaks the New Mexico state record for most times saying “shut up” in succession. While she does bear some responsibility at this point, it’s hard not to feel for Skyler. Many a critic has pointed out that one of the most satisfying endings for the show would be if it was her who ends Walt’s reign of terror by turning state’s witness, rather than the equally expected shootout death. A radical decision like a suicide can’t be ruled out either.
It’s after all of this that the most tense scene takes place. The fruits of doing business aren’t as plentiful as Walter White originally calculated. Everyone in the supply chain must be compensated, only there’s bunches more people this go around, given that none of the trio have a fast food chain to cover their distribution network. Mike also reveals to his partners that he’ll be compensating the infamous 11 who had their nest eggs seized by the US government last week. And thus begins the first of what will surely be many stare downs between the two gigantic egos of White, Pinkman, and Ehrmantraut LLP. Jesse is so broken by the two father figures fighting that he offers to cover all the costs himself.
While the gesture does soften the mood, Walt is clearly pissed that Jesse didn’t take his side. He ends the episode comparing the now deceased Victor to Icarus of Greek mythology fame. The intention of this parable is as of yet unclear and no one can really agree what it means. There seems to be only two potential meanings though. The first is that Walt is trying to plant a seed inside Jesse that Mike will need to go, somewhere down the line. The other possibility is that Walt is pretty much telling Jesse to never cross him in public again, less he also go the way of Victor (which, if you need reminding, was to have Gus Fring slit his throat).
Walt’s ego is so bruised by the betrayal that he doesn’t even notice Jesse attempting to talk out his emotions after breaking up with Andrea, based on Walt’s advice on the couch. Seems like this was a huge miscalculation by Walt, which will surely have severe repercussions down the road.
A rather tame episode that was all about setting up what is to come. The viewer by now trusts Gilligan with what he’s doing, but as a whole “Hazard Pay” can only be described as a time filler.
Best Quote(s): 1. “I think everyone dies in this movie.” -Walt to Walt Jr. (while watching Scarface, a possible reference to the White family’s future)
2. “Shut up, Shut Up, SHUT UP….” -Skyler to Marie (while having a nervous breakdown)
3. “Yes, he handles the business. And I handle him.” – Walt to Saul (about his new partnership with Mike and also as a potential foreshadowing)
4. “Just because you shot Jesse James, don’t make you Jesse James.” -Mike to Walt (and yes I realize I mistakenly included this last week, my apologies)
Best Scene(s): 1. Skyler’s panic attack
2. Walt’s couch scene with Jesse
3. The distribution of the cash to the three partners