Breaking Bad Season 5 Episode 7 Recap

One of my favorite debates is whether or not Breaking Bad or Mad Men is the superior television series.  I’ve always argued for the latter because while Breaking Bad might be a better show in terms of the form and execution, the content being delved into on Mad Men has always been, in my opinion, far more important. Whereas Breaking Bad always seemed to just be one of my favorite ways to spend an hour, Mad Men was busy deconstructing the myth that America used to be a better place in the 1950s or proving why the revolutions of the 1960s were so necessary for the social fabric of our country.  Last night was the first time I ever felt Breaking Bad might be trying to make a statement about the United States of America. 

Stick with me on this. 

For whatever reason, our country and our pop culture in the US is obsessed with the folklore of organized crime.  Almost all of the stories tap into the idea of the American dream and the criminal achieving the own version of it by rising to be the overlord of some type of criminal empire.  Tony Soprano, Vito Corleone, Tony Montana…all were in search of the idea that it means something to be somebody in this country and that anyone can achieve wealth and success if only they put in the effort.  And you know what, audiences loved it.  All of these men are still worshipped, despite their many character flaws.  It’s not surprising given the lavish and glorious fashion in which they were presented.

So last night I had this idea as I watched the latest episode “Say My Name.”  Is it in any way possible that Vince Gilligan’s is submitting a five season criticism of the American dream?  Furthermore, is he making it a point to show Americans just how ugly a man would really have to become in order to run an organized crime outfit?  Whereas the predecessors sort of gave a romantic quality to these dons, I think it’s time we start considering the possibility that Gilligan is lashing out at the very culture that helped create Walter White.

The last thing I want to say about all that is that when discussing Mad Men against Breaking Bad I often brought up what I call the Oliver Stone problem.  Stone famously directed the movie Wall Street back in 1987 with the hope that personifying greed in Gordon Gecko would inspire a generation to clean up our financial system.  In fact it had the opposite effect and actually inspired a generation to try to imitate Gecko’s greedy ways.  I feel Mad Men has a similar crisis on its hands in that many of its biggest fans enjoy the show because they actually desire the world presented by the show, totally going against the point of the show in the first place.

Well, the Oliver Stone problem might just have touched a nerve with Gilligan.  Scarface, you might remember, was written by Stone.  Like Wall Street, it has inspired a generation of wannabe Tony Montanas.  To this day the character is glorified in song and art.  It’s like Vince Gilligan just finally had enough of all the romanticism about criminals and decided to show us what it’s really like to be that delusional.  And last night’s episode was the perfect example.  Onto the recap…

“Say My Name” opens up with Walt asking the Phoenix meth king Declan to do just that while debating the terms of a proposed business deal.  One of the themes of any great crime boss is that a name must mean something.  It has to ring out in the streets and command fear and respect.  You can’t help but love the irony that in Walt’s case it’s not even his real name (lending more credibility to my theory that Gilligan is blowing up the romantic qualities of organized crime–there will be no sympathy or love for Walter White when it is all said and done).

We then find out Walt’s hiding place for the methylamine.  He left it in the freaking car wash and heads over with Jesse to remove it.  Skyler, looking troubled as ever attempts to ask Walt questions about it.  Walt quickly dismisses her in dickish, alpha dog fashion showing the crazy levels his ego is reaching.

My personal favorite scene of the episode then unfolds as Walt and Jesse finally have their falling out.  Jesse makes it clear that he wants out and Walt foolishly believes he can manipulate him into staying again.  He then launches into a tirade when Jesse proves to be impervious to his assault.  Walt tries every possible manipulation on him and Jesse dismisses them all, his wide eyes an indicator of just how open he is to the monster in front of him.

It turns out Mike uses a different lawyer than Saul to distribute the money to the famous nine members of “the list.”  The man heads into a bank where he deposits predetermined amounts of cash into safety deposit boxes while leaving the majority of the cash to Mike’s granddaughter.  This will turn out to be problematic.  The scene is followed by Walt doing a new cook with Landry instead of Jesse after the break up.  One can’t help but feel this will end up being problematic as well, what with Landry taking a novel’s worth of notes and all.

Mike’s world then gets blown to pieces.  First the DEA busts his lawyer friend for shelling out the dirty cash.  The lawyer then agrees to flip on him.  And finally, the cops show up at the park in an attempt to arrest Mike.  He’s forced to make an extremely painful decision in that he must leave his granddaughter behind without ever having said goodbye.  It’s a cruel fate but in the moral world of Breaking Bad it makes sense.  Mike did horrible things.  Mike must pay the consequences.  Action. Reaction.  Breaking Bad.

The final sequence has been a bit of contention among television critics.  Many believe that Mike relenting and allowing Walt to bring him his getaway bag was simply too unrealistic, given how flawless Mike has always been in his execution.  It’s understandable that it came off as a bit unbelievable that Mike would make two mistakes in two weeks with regards to Walt, most especially because he loathes him so badly.  This week’s mistake costs him his life.

When Walt shows up an argument of course ensues and Walt absolutely blows his gasket.  He catches Mike off guard and helplessly strapped into the front seat of his car and shoots him with his own gun, a shot which proves to be fatal.  Ever the minimalist, Mike tells Walt to shut the f— up when he tries to apologize for how things turned out.  The episode leaves us with a gorgeous shot of Mike falling over next to a flowing river.  RIP to one the best characters in the show’s history.

The bodies are stacking up though, and as of yet Walt hasn’t paid the consequences.

Best Quote(s):

1. “Shut the f— up, and let me die in peace.” -Mike to Walt (after the latter shoots him)

2. “Say my name.” -Walt to Declan (in proving his alpha dog-ness over his rival druglord)

Best Scenes(s):

1. Walt and Jesse’s breakup

2. Mike’s death

3. The opening meeting between Walt and Declan

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Breaking Bad Season 5 Episode 6 Recap

In what has been an awesome season thus far, even by Breaking Bad standards, it’s hard not to feel disappointment with “Buyout,” the sixth and latest episode.  It had nothing to do with the acting and more to do with the fact that it felt like the show was trying to push too much into a single episode.  Because the first eight part mini-season culminates in just two weeks, it seemed like Vince Gilligan and company wanted to rush through some issues so that we can get to a climax soon.  I’m not complaining.  I personally can’t wait for a showdown or an ultra lavish purchase to take place, but for a show like Breaking Bad that is usually so methodical with the details, it didn’t feel right.

The episode opens with the crew cleaning up the mess brought about by Landry in last week’s “Dead Freight.”  Without a single word being uttered, the crew disposes of the dirt bike and dead boy.  The cleaning solution of choice is hydrofluoric acid which the guys are more than familiar with.  It’s a sad look at just how far into hell these souls have gone.  The whole process is mechanical.  They know exactly what to do and exactly how to go about it in the fastest way possible.  There is no wasted effort in the whole sequence.  Walt and Jesse have come a long way since that first acid bath incident.  While well executed, this is the kind of event that used to have an impact for several episodes, whereas now it only takes an opening sequence.

The DEA is then watching Mike watching his daughter play at a local park. The two agents are taking the whole event way too seriously and easily fall for Mike’s prank of leaving a note under the trash can.  The agents go into a frenzy believing he’s just made a drop of the product.  In reality Mike delivers a simple note. A simple four letter word is involved.  It’s all pretty hilarious.  It reveals two key things though.  The DEA is getting zealous in their pursuit of Mike but also that Mike is extremely aware of this fact.

At their latest cook, Walt and Jesse kick back after completing another batch.  Because Jesse still has a soul, he flips over to the local news where they are discussing the missing boy.  Walt launches into yet another monologue where he convinces Jesse that they’re not really monsters and yet again Jesse seems to buy it.  I have to admit even I am impressed with Walt’s acting abilities these days.  Unfortunately for him, he blows the whole charade by immediately delivering a whistling concerto just moments after consoling Jesse.  It’s very clear that Walt doesn’t much care for anything but dominating the drug business anymore.  Jesse may finally be opening up to that possibility after catching him doing his best seven dwarfs impression.

And then things got really, really rushed.  Mike and Jesse arrive early to the weekly meeting of the partners and when Walt gets there they tell him they’re retiring.  They have a buyer in Arizona who will pay $15 million for their methylamine.  This is the kind of decision that usually would take episodes and episodes to build up but here it happens matter-of-factly in a couple of seconds.  Walt isn’t pleased but tells them they can do what they want but he will push on with his third of the stolen chemicals.

Mike later has Saul pull off what might be his last funny stunt of the series.  While there is no doubt that we all love the crooked lawyer, there might not be a place for his relief and humor in Walt’s personal vision of hell.  Saul provides Mike with a 24-hour window to avoid tails by actually filing a restraining order against the DEA on behalf of his client.  It’s then when we meet the meth king of Phoenix, named Declan.  He proves to be wise in making it very clear that he isn’t just buying the methylamine, he’s buying to have Heisenberg’s blue off the streets.  One condition is made though: it’s all the methylamine or no deal.

The best extended scene of this particular episode takes place when Jesse goes over to Walt’s house to try to convince him to take the buyout.  As is mentioned many times in the last weeks, the lighting (or: lack of) at the house is beyond ridiculous at this point and is becoming so blatant that it’s worth exploring.  Breaking Bad might have made it very clear that they intend to create a suburban New Mexico version of Scarface, but the lighting at the house is a very clear tribute to a very different organized crime drama.  I’m of course talking about The Godfather trilogy.  Take a moment and watch this brief interview clip where the cinematographer Gordon Willis explains his use of lighting in the movies:

Further research reveals that the lighting is clear nod to the darkness of the characters. Michael and Vito in particular are almost always shot in dark settings when discussing matters of the family business. And thus the inspiration for the White household’s lack of interior lighting.  You may remember in the movies that Michael was once a dapper war hero full of optimism about life and marriage with Kay.  He originally made a point of saying he would never join his father’s business.  He eventually turned to the dark side though just like Walt.  And hell, why not even throw in a Scarface reference while they’re at it by having Walt sinking deep into his chair and a glass of Whiskey while explaining himself.  It’s very reminiscent of a coked out Tony Montana sitting behind his desk as everything crumbles around him.

Jesse is shocked when Skyler then returns home and Walt refuses to allow him to leave without eating dinner.  There are so many ulterior meanings going on at the dinner scene, it’s hard to keep track.  First you have Jesse standing in as a surrogate son.  Next you have Walt and Skyler seated on opposite ends of the table, clearly at odds with one another.  And on and on it goes.  Jesse, helpless in the uncomfortable silence of the married couple, attempts to mumble his way through the experience before Skyler ends the dinner by putting Walt in his place and retiring with her wine.  Only after her departure does Walt reveal to Jesse that he really has nothing left besides the meth empire.  His wife hates him and willingly admits she is waiting for cancer to come back and kill him.

Armed with the knowledge that his potential future business is about to be cut by two-thirds, Walt attempts a heist of the methylamine from partnership HQ.  Mike of course is way too smart for such a misguided attempt and catches him in the act.  He then forces him to sit there all night and uses an industrial tie to chain Walt to the radiator while he steps out to take care of something.  Walt then shows his most animalistic side in a daring escape.  He uses an electrical cord to melt the tie, severely burning and scarring (!) the flesh on his wrist in the process.  He seems unfazed by it all though and proceeds to steal the goods.

The episode culminates with Mike having to be convinced not to kill Walt upon discovery of the theft.  Walt makes a daring promise to him and Jesse that: “everybody wins.”  It’s hard not to believe that “everybody loses” when dealing with something as cancerous as Walt though. The next episode should be outstanding now that the rest of these plot points were dealt with, but it definitely came at a cost to this episode.

Best Quote(s):

1. “Is a meth empire really something to be that proud of?” -Jesse to Walt (in trying to convince Walt to take the buyout)

2. “Jesse, you asked me if I was in the meth business or the money business. Neither. I’m in the empire business.” – Walt to Jesse (in explaining his rational for refusing the buyout)

3. “My wife is waiting for me to die. This business is all I have left now … And you want to take it away from me.” -Walt to Jesse (telling the truth)

Best Scene(s):

1. The dinner

2. Walt’s escape from the industrial tie

3. The evidence disposal in the beginning sequence

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Breaking Bad Season 5 Episode 5 Recap

One of the more fascinating developments in recent years with regard to television shows is the rise of genre fiction. By this I mean shows that are dedicated to a very specific type of story that appeals to a very specific type of consumer. The Walking Dead (zombies), Hell On Wheels (western), and Game Of Thrones (fantasy) are all perfect examples of this. Whereas in the past a channel never would have given these types of stories the time of day, much less a fully funded television program, shows like these are among the most popular on cable now. Who knew that appealing to the tastes of the audience and creating original stories would be so successful? Apparently not everyone. I’m pretty sure five cop dramas were just green-lighted for pilots in the time it took to right this sentence. This is me face palming myself.

I bring this up because Breaking Bad delved into a bit of genre fiction of its own last night in “Dead Freight,” choosing to go with the heist story, a sort of sub-genre of action films. It was wildly entertaining and tense throughout, even before Landry Clarke went back to his old murderous habits.

The episode opens with a previously unknown child riding his dirt bike through the New Mexico desert. He pulls over when he discovers a tarantula and immediately picks it up and marvels at it. As the audience braces for the inevitable poisonous bite, the boy reveals a glass jar in his coat pocket which he uses to trap the spider as a new pet. Crisis seemingly averted with said deadly creature now locked away in hiding.

Walt then shows up at Hank’s office to go over the extended sleepover plans for his children. Using acting skills that Bryan Cranston would be proud of, Walt reveals to Hank that Skyler no longer loves him and thinks he’s a bad influence on the children. He breaks down in tears and Hank, caught up in the awkwardness of the subject matter, demands to go get coffee for them both. While Hank steps out, a suddenly emotionless Walt places a bug on his computer as well as planting a listening device inside a picture frame.

My guess is that this is a clever bit of foreshadowing. It likely hints back to the season opener when the magnet scheme, while destroying the computer, actually caused them more problems by breaking Gus’ picture frame that revealed the foreign bank accounts. Could a picture frame spell disaster yet again?

The partnership of White, Pinkman, and Ehrmantraut then gets together for their weekly meeting, this time bringing a hostage in Lydia. Mike announces to her that she will complete a phone call to the DEA to find the source of the bugs she “discovered” last week. Hank isn’t sure but promises to look into it at which point Mike announces that it’s time for Lydia to die. She is saved only by the recently planted listening device which reveals that a sloppy DEA agent planted them in a rush. Lydia survives yet again and in a bargain for her continued safety promises to reveal an ocean of methylamine.

The episode returns to the White house which is still in desperate need of a visit from an electrician. The lighting has all but disappeared. Skyler and Walt engage in their latest back-and-forth regarding the state of their marriage and family and a sort of truce is reached. The kids will stay at Hank and Marie’s and Skyler will continue as Walt’s accomplice in laundering the money. And oh by the way Skyler, did Walt mention he was planning a train heist? He did? Good.

Because god damn if we don’t talk about the great train robbery of 2012.

Lydia tells the three guys that while getting barrels of their favorite ingredient is now out of the question, she can reveal a whole train car carrying the stuff. Wouldn’t you know it but the train just so happens to go through a dead area near Albuquerque which leaves them pretty much impervious to police involvement and external communication. Huge action movie plot assumptions aside, the heist scene was one of the more enjoyable scenes on television all year.

Mike advises the guys that their best course of action is to kill the two railroad employees that will be driving the train and in the biggest shocker of the season, Walt doesn’t challenge him on it. Jesse, ever the pacifist, urges them to pull off the robbery sans murder, coming up with his second brilliant “plan” of the season. The guys will create a diversion that forces the train to stop, at which time they’ll pump out the methylmine and pump in water, so as not to screw with the weight of the car. It seems they’ve thought of everything!

Like any good action fan knows though, it’s impossible to account for every variable involved with a good old-fashioned robbery. In this case, who knew another driver might want to use the public roadways that the crew used to clog the railroad crossing? And furthermore, who knew he’d be driving a Texas-sized pickup truck (super high lift and bumper guard included!) that could push the work truck out of the way? Well, everything can’t go smoothly. There is no such thing as the perfect robbery.

While the audience sweats out the good Samaritan and the eventual re-starting of the train, Walt refuses to quit pumping until he meets his quota. The gauge of their pump is cut in between shots of the massive locomotive coming to life. He pushes it to its absolute limit, forcing Landry (real name in this episode is Todd, apologies for the continued Friday Night Lights references) to jump off a moving vehicle and Jesse to wait it out laying flat on the tracks.

Celebration time! They pulled it off and no one even noticed their thievery! Right? Right? Right…

Wrong.

Poor spider-wielding dirt bike kid rides up to say hi. Landry pulls out a pistol. Jesse screams. Landry kills dirt bike kid, the latest victim of the poisonous cancer of Walter White.

The ending was shocking and completely unexpected. It was hard not to feel some sort of joy for our villains after they pulled off the heist successfully. That’s the point of every heist flick after all. Despite knowing that what the characters are doing is wrong, there’s some sort of awesome thrill in watching a complex plan get executed flawlessly. Vince Gilligan then immediately flipped this emotion on its head with the shocking death of the child. Cut to credits. Wow.

The powerful ending unleashes yet another series of problems for the guys to deal with. What to do with the body? What to do with Landry? Can Jesse hold together his emotions or is he about to go on a binge Chris Farley would be proud of? They all can’t continue to run from the consequences of their actions. Science and nature demand equal and opposite reactions.

Best Quote(s):

1. “No one, other than us, can ever know this robbery went down.” – Jesse to Landry, I mean Todd (not knowing just how zealously Todd would follow the order)

2. “Robbing a train” -Walt to Skyler (replying to her sarcastic inquiry into what he’s been doing lately)

3. YEAH BITCH! -Jesse (his latest celebratory chant, this time after they pull off the robbery)

4. “There are two kinds of heist. Those where the guys get away with it and those who leave witnesses.” -Mike to Jesse and Walt (while they plan the train robbery)

Best Scene(s):

1. The train heist

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Breaking Bad Season 5 Episode 4 Recap

Immediately prior to Breaking Bad‘s coming on TV last night, AMC was showing Goodfellas.  I found this fitting because 1) Walter White is building his own resume in the conversation for best gangster ever depicted in television/film and 2) because the movie ends with the main character Henry Hill becoming self-aware of the audience and addressing them in a monologue.  This device, called meta reference, is clever and unique and it’s basically akin to a wrestler breaking down the fabled “fourth wall.”  Watch it here, in case you’ve forgotten it or somehow have yet to see the movie:

I bring this up because I can’t remember a show ever having characters that seem so self aware of the audience. The list of meta references in Breaking Bad is piling up a startling rate right now, so much so that I can’t help but feel that Vince Gilligan and company are developing a new genre of television fiction that will become increasingly popular in years to come.  This of course was first experimented with by the cast and crew of ABC’s Lost which used the internet and message boards as a way to shape (and sometimes, salvage) the direction of the show. Breaking Bad is perfecting the art.

How else to explain the show’s insistence on visiting familiar settings in this show like Walt Jr. only being involved in breakfast scenes, or the show clearly admitting it knows why people were critical of Skyler’s character, or Walt’s laughably invincible SUV?  And that’s just in this episode.  This meta referencing is worthy of an entire discussion all together (which I might just have to tackle later this week), but onto the episode itself…

“Fifty-One” opens with Walt and Walt Jr. again picking up his Pontiac Aztek from the mechanic after the latest round of repairs.  Upon finding his infamous black Heisenberg hat in the backseat, Walt promptly sells the thing for fifty bucks in a show of arrogance only then outdone by his purchase of not one but two new muscle cars, including a replica of the orange Dodge Challenger that was purchased once before for Jr. and later fire bombed.  The whole sideshow leaves the men morphing into pigs and mom without a parking spot for her humble wagon.  It’s worth noting that the black hat is a staple of Walt’s wardrobe now rather than something he dons as a disguise.  Transformation complete.

The pig metaphor is then thrown directly into the viewer’s face at breakfast when Skyler fails to shape the bacon into a “51” on Walt’s plate, a tradition from back at Walt’s 50th birthday in an earlier season.  It’s again referenced in the teaser from the beginning of this season in which Walt shapes them into a “52” on his plate at Denny’s. The depiction of men as pigs is reinforced when the two White men treat Skyler like a servant and force her to make the bacon shape herself while they watch on and smirk.  Skyler somehow is able to get the last laugh though when she steals a larger piece of bacon off Jr.’s plate to complete the “1” on Walt’s plate.  So many meanings, such a good scene.

The continued revisiting of scenes like the White family breakfast is never more apparent than this one and is used to show just how polluted the family is now.  What was once the symbol of safety and health for the Whites is now extremely ugly and uncomfortable.

Meanwhile, Hank is on such a role since returning to the DEA that he is awarded a promotion as the head of the Albuquerque field office.  The scene shows the remarkable maturity of Hank’s character since the cocky agent we first met at the beginning of season one.  It’s a parallel to Carver on The Wire in which both characters start to realize that their arrogant first instincts aren’t always right and that the best approach usually involves taking in as much information as possible to come to reasoned conclusions. Good on Hank.  Given the logical nature of  Breaking Bad as a series, it seems more and more that it will be him who first outs Walt as a drug lord.

What happened next will likely be one of the “I-should-have-seen-the-signs” moments for Hank after Walt’s empire lays in ruin.  Skyler organizes a get together to celebrate Walt’s birthday, if it can even be called celebrating, with Hank and Marie as the only invited guests.  As the four sit on the back patio discussing how much their lives have changed over the past year, a memorable scenes develops. 

Walt launches into a disgusting monologue about his life over the past year in which those who are unaware (Hank and Marie) think he’s talking about overcoming cancer while those who are aware (Walt, Skyler, and the audience) know he’s actually referencing his rise to drug lord.  Skyler can’t take it and seemingly tries to drown herself in the back pool.  It’s beautifully shot so that Walt’s back is facing Skyler as it all unfolds and he’s 100% unaware of the damage going on behind him.  Blatant metaphor number 485 of the episode. 

Whether this plunge was meant to signify a cry for help or a symbolic attempt at washing away sins doesn’t really matter.  The haunting shot of Skyler floating in the water refusing to save herself will not be forgotten.

Business must go on though.  Mike and Lydia are forced intro improvising after the DEA picks up another one of the 11 members of their former crew.  Lydia is so distraught over the state of affairs in her life that she can’t even wear matching shoes to work.  She then hatches a plan to try to get out of the game.  When Jesse arrives to secure the latest barrel of methylene, Lydia plants a fake tracking device on the barrel and points it out to Jesse.  Mike quickly sniffs out the BS move at a meeting of the partners at which it is decided that business goes on, no matter what the cost.  Whether this references Lydia surviving a Mike assassination attempt yet again or facing death soon remains to be seen.

The episode will best be remembered though for the confrontation between Walt and Skyler after the pool incident.  In that spat, Skyler reveals that she will no longer let their children into the house while Walt is still there.  She demonstrates an awareness that she is beyond saving but that she will do whatever it takes to keep her children out of the mess.  Walt attempts to mock her failed logic by using his superior brain power, and only then is he made aware of her real plan.  She’s going to wait out his inevitable death from cancer.  It was probably the best-ever scene for Skyler in the series history and very reminiscent of the scene in Godfather II where Kay reveals to Michael Corleone that she had an abortion to prevent him from continuing to spread his evil seed on the earth. Powerful, to say the least. 

Although she seems to be right that the cancer will return, it no longer seems that she’ll be the one to bring down the empire.  Her mental state is too unstable and the bacon trick seems to reveal that she won’t be around for Walt’s 52nd birthday.

Walt clearly is the personification of cancer at this point.  He pollutes, uses, destroys, and disposes of every person he comes in contact with, so much so that the only logical conclusion is death.  Unlike more minor forms, there is no chemotherapy or radiation treatment to temper the cancer that is Walter White though.

And finally, I’d be remiss if I didn’t point out the show’s incredible amount of references towards famous mob scenes in television and film.  Whether this was a great conspiracy (AMC ran a “Mob Week” theme the past seven days) or a grand coincidence is unknown as of now.  However, it was hard not to recall that famous scene with Kay and Michael from Godfather II I already mentioned.  Additionally, the pink Cadillac scene from Goodfellas (the muscle cars in this episode), the plethora of Scarface nods, and even the fade to black at the end of this episode which obviously seems to be a reference to the notorious ending of Sopranos.

Like the ticking on Walt’s new watch from Jesse, everything is coming to an end, and I’ll be damned if it doesn’t happen like the explosion of a bomb as Mike predicted.

Best Scene(s): 1. The confrontation between Walt and Skyler

2. The pool scene

Best Quote(s): 1. “For the cancer to come back.” -Skyler to Walt (revealing what she’s waiting for and her plan to defeat Walt and save their children)

2. “He changed his mind about me, Skyler. And so will you.” -Walt to Skyler (explaining the watch gift he received from Jesse, not realizing he can’t control Skyler’s mind like he does Jesse’s)

3. “But then someone, or something, would come through for me.” -Walt to Hank and Marie (in the double meaning scene at the pool)

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Breaking Bad Season 5 Episode 3 Recap

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