The Moth Chase

Elevating the Art of Procrastanalysis – Academics wasting time on pop culture

It’s always darkest before the dawn.

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“It’s always darkest before the dawn.” Hank says this to Walt in an attempt to console him about his marriage with Skyler. But, if you read it as a foreshadowing about what is coming, this episode takes a quick turn towards the darkness. It gets damn dark. Todd has shown initiative to help out the operation. He sought to impress Walt by telling him about the nanny-cam in the house they are about to cook in. And in an attempt to impress Walt and Jesse with quick thinking about keeping the heist a secret, Todd decides to shoot the little boy who sees the end of the heist. I wonder how Walt and Mike are going to react to this terrible situation. Obviously, Jesse is going to take it very hard given his past of children being hurt by the meth business (even if he believes that Brock was actually a mistake, he still sat with a young boy in a meth head’s house when his head got crushed by an ATM machine, and he knew a little boy that Gus had murdered). We also know that Walt is willing to hurt (maybe not condoning murder, but willing to poison) children. So, he presumably will not be as torn up about this. I’m not sure how Mike will take it. His relationship with his granddaughter might be something that keeps him from being able to write this off as collateral damage.

I don’t really have much to say about the end of the episode except that it was wonderfully executed. I knew that something had to happen with the little boy because so much of the end of the episode was happening in the desert, but I really did not see that coming. One brilliant thing that happened in the cold open with the little kid is that you can hear the train in the background right after he packs up his tarantula.

In general about this episode, I thought this was a wonderful heist episode. It had all the tension of a good heist movie with only a little bit of suspension of disbelief needed. (Jesse does measure how far away the bridge is before they get the notes on the manifest from Lydia. They shouldn’t have known how far down the train the specific car would be until she called.) Also, it was great that Lydia did most of the explaining about the details of the heist because it fits with her character much more than any of The Albuquerque 3. I thought it played out like an awesome version of an Ocean’s movie, but with a terribly dark ending.

I’m George Clooney.

I’m Brad Pitt!

As for the rest of the episode, there were some good moments that were overshadowed by the heist.

– Skyler is feeling much more empowered to confront Walt (as well as smoke it up in the house still). Walt looked furious as she discussed her new strategy to work with him from a purely business standpoint.

– Walt planting the bug in Hank’s office was awesome. Walt thought to himself: Why don’t I also manipulate Hank into being on my side in the future Walt v Skyler war? That should be an easy way to get him out of the room.

It’s like killing two birds with one meth rock.

– Walt also had one of his great turns of phrase and character when talking to Lydia: “You’re a smart business women. You understand the concept of leverage. You have none.”

I will now eat your soul with my stare.

– I also love that Bill Burr has become a recurring character. He is awesome.

– I really want to know more about the poor BMX expert/super spider spying kid. I wonder if we will learn anything about him from the inevitable news story about a kid going missing. However, I guess a BMXing spider hunter might just get chalked up as lost in the vast desert (My parents wouldn’t let me go past the stop sign a block away from our house on my stupid man-powered bike; why is this kid out here?).

I’m sorry that my thoughts are kind of all over the place on this post. I guess I’m still reeling from the way the episode ended.

I can’t wait to hear what you thought about it.

Bryan Reklis

—-

Dear Bryan Reklis,

I thought this was a magnificent episode, beautifully structured and paced. It was nice to see the ABQ 3 (as you dubbed them) in full-throttle action, even if there were details that were less than realistic (how did Jesse and Todd learn the mechanics of train hardware and perform so smoothly under pressure?). We’ve had a lot of big themes of power and violence and moral choices, and this episode carried them all through on a train ride of suspense, drama, and even, as you note in your comparison with the Oceans movies, good-time fun. There is something so damn enjoyable about watching people pull off the difficult-to-impossible, even if the job is morally problematic to begin with.

Of course, Walt isn’t George Clooney: instead of charm he possesses uncanny manipulative powers; instead of smooth and suave, he is calculating and controlling. And Danny Ocean certainly isn’t going to sanction child murder, which (I’m right there with you) I think Walt is most likely to do.

The whole episode played with this idea of child protection, and one could argue the series as a whole uses the presence of children as a moral compass. Walt continues to insist that his children are as safe as they have ever been, while conducting business that literally harms or kills children off for profit, protection, or emotional manipulation (and this is without mentioning the children who suffer because of meth use – like the little boy Jesse interacts with in season 2). Of course, Skyler’s plan to leave the children with Hank and Marie indefinitely is no real solution. Not only is there no reason to think they would be out of harm’s way (if someone wants to hurt Walt through his kids, surely they can drive across town just as easily), but it won’t take long before the in-laws start to wonder why two functioning adults have abandoned their children. And Walt, Jr., excuse me, Flynn, is clearly going to keep asking questions too.

The death of this particular little boy, though, is going to hit closer to work than home. I don’t know for sure how Walt will respond, or Mike for that matter, but I am confident Jesse is going to freak out. Given his occasional looks of surprise and fear at the extent of Walt’s turn, I wonder if Walt is going to have something to fear from Jesse after all. It was obviously no accident that Jesse mentions Jesse James after Mike mocks Walt for thinking he is the new king pin. This episode should leave us wondering if Walt really is a new Jesse James. But didn’t James get killed by a member of his own crew? We’ve already wondering if Skyler will be a threat and with child-killing as a new business casualty, Jesse might be a contender for the role of Robert Ford.

I have absolutely no doubt that Walt is going to reprise his conversation with Lydia about her plan to take out Mike’s men. He hates the idea of paying Gus’ debts to begin with, and he has hinted not so obliquely to Jesse that Mike might be flying too close to the sun. Maybe he’ll hire Todd to finish what Lydia’s man couldn’t manage?

They’ll just blame China,

Kathryn

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