I’m in the empire business.
Starting at the beginning, I love how Breaking Bad is never willing to gloss over the details of the aftermath. I think a lot of shows would have said, “And then, they got rid of the evidence.” Instead we got to see a beautifully haunting and detailed deconstruction of the motor bike. The scene was full of details like slicing the hand grips off of the handle bars and sawing the wheels in half to fit them in the barrel. And the haunting sound design of only non-diegetic music floating around was really wonderful. Did you think that Walt actually showed some real remorse during the cold open? I thought there were moments when his face looked like he actually was bothered by what had happened. Then in the next scene we get to hear how he has already rationalized himself into believing that Todd probably did the right thing. Walt has really toned his rationalization reflex muscles.
I thought it was really nice to see Walt openly admit that things have gone poorly in regards of his family, to Jesse. Walt has realized that he has probably lost Skyler forever. And by the way, Skyler is really losing it. When she tried to get comfort from Marie, Walt is already a step ahead of her by having told Marie about the affair with Ted. Marie only makes things worse by trying to help Skyler with lines like, “I understand your temptation” and “Doesn’t it feel good to get it off your chest?” This causes to shut Skyler down emotionally. Back to Walt, instead of trying to straighten things out with Skyler by quitting the business and moving ahead in life, he decides to declare that he is in “the empire business.” Walt really explains his motivations for entrenching himself further into his mania. He doesn’t feel like he has anything else to live for. This was all surrounded by an amazingly awkward dinner between Walt, Jesse, and Skyler. Jesse fights so hard to keep the tension down with awesome lines like, “Good work on your shopping then cause these are choice.” Jesse’s comedic monologue about frozen dinners is something Walt should maybe listen to. The idea that Walt is striving for may just end up being covered in scabby cheese when you actually get it.
Mike’s kidnapping of Walt was pretty fun. Mike’s idea of a sleepover is fantastic, “You and I are going to spend the night in my office, like it’s my birthday.”
It is always fun to see Walt in a new situation that he has to solve. Apparently, any basic cord that you plug into an outlet can be turned into an awesome little electric knife, you know, because science. After Walt has Macgyvered his way out of his zip-tie and gotten rid of the methylamine, he has a plan. A plan where “everybody wins.” I feel like the plan must be a little more complicated than just a buyout of Mike and Jesse’s shares of the methylamine because that seemed like a very simple idea. I am interested to see where we go from here. Is this Phoenix group going to be who Walt is fighting in a year? Are Mike and Jesse really going to break-up The Meth Brothers? Lots of questions and only two weeks to answer them (before next year).
I eat a lot of frozen food,
This felt like an episode to fill the gap between last week’s perfect heist and the last two weeks of season 5, part 1. I loved the cliffhanger ending, but very little was advanced in the plot, though a lot of big moves were set up for whatever is coming. Though it was a great episode to learn more about our characters: their motivations, desires, fears, and special skills. As in:
–Walt: he is motivated by regret and wounded pride. I agree that there is also an edge of desperation, but I don’t really think he is staying in the business because it is all he has left. He uses this to try and guilt Jesse into sticking with him. His story about Grey Matter, however, felt very true. Once upon a time the more mild-mannered Walt had his pride wounded or his feelings hurt (I am guessing the big mysterious reason he left Grey Matter was because of love gone bad with Gretchen, who ended up with Elliot) and he left the business he helped found. Every single week (for how long? His whole life?) he has been checking the value of the company, which currently sits at $2.16 billion (with a B). We’ve known since season 1 that whatever happened with Gretchen and Elliot has been a huge part of shaping the Walt we first knew: diffident, broken, but secretly proud as a mule and sick of being emasculated by richer, stronger, more successful men when he knows, deep inside, that he is better than them all. Walt has given this part of himself free reign and it might be all that is left of him now. He mentions selling his children’s birthright for pennies, and he uses their absence to play on Jesse’s heart strings, but he barely seems to think of them and certainly not to think of their best interests. Walt is going to build his empire to rival the science kingdom he once helped create, despite the fact that Jesse is right that there is not much to be proud of in that. If what Walt desires is an empire to put all his personal demons to rest (and really, those demons just seem to feed off his steady diet of power, pride and greed, so I’m not so hopeful there), what does he fear? Not a damn thing, it would seem. Special skills: science can do anything! Side note: I agree, Walt did look distraught in the opening scene, which was absolutely haunting. It was a nice reminder that he has not lost all touch with his humanity. He might justify the killing later, but he still finds it disturbing to dissolve a human body the same way you dismantle a bike.
–Jesse: his motivations and desires are the same: he wants peace, an end to the violence that has plagued these two since they started. At every turn Walt has promised that the violence is over – they just need to get their feet under them, to become self-sufficient, to be their own bosses, etc. and then they can call the shots. Jesse knows better. He is not as smart as Mr. White, but even after all this time, Walt still doesn’t understand the business they are in. Walt imagines that all he has to do is cook as much meth as 1000 gallons of methylamine will produce and he’ll be done. Who will sell it, buy it, protect his market, watch the cops, keep the competitors at bay? These are not questions Walt asks. But Jesse knows better. And the death of children just isn’t worth it. What does Jesse fear? Well besides the obvious of his own death and more violence, I would say that Jesse is starting to fear Mr. White. The look he gives the plastic wall as Walt whistles while he works mirrored the look he gave after Walt’s speech about understanding Fringe’s violent methods: who is this person? I don’t think Jesse’s voiced it to himself, but I think he will still prove to be one of Walt’s biggest threats. Special skills: moral reasoning and a human soul.
–Skyler: she didn’t get a lot of screen time this week, but her scene with Marie was heartbreaking. She is motivated by her desire to keep her kids safe, but she doesn’t really know what that means or how to achieve it. I agree completely: she is slipping off the deep end. I think they are doing fascinating things with the idea of her character – what does it mean to feel trapped in moral choices you can’t get out of? how does one extricate yourself from evil? I do have to wonder, given the intensity of her feelings, when the prospect of turning Walt in will seem plausible? With a good lawyer and a full confession she could probably get some kind of plea bargain and at least she could make real arrangements for Walt Jr. and Holly to be raised in her absence (and really, couldn’t one imagine a scenario when her time behind bars would be very minimal??). But she obviously fears the humiliation and devastation this path would produce more than she fears Walt. For now. Special skills: drinking and smoking.
–Mike: I think Mike just wants to retire on a nice beach somewhere and play Hungry, Hungry Hippos. He desires money, peace, and to shoot Walter White in the head. Unlike Walt, Mike knows there are very good things to fear in this world: overeager DEA agents, rival meth gangs from Phoenix, even one’s own business partners. Special skills: too numerous to name, but revealed this week – losing a police tail (though 2 points off the Special Skills category for underestimating Walt in the lock-up scenario).
–Todd: I have no idea what motivates Todd, but he really creeped me out with that tarantula. Saving a souvenir from his child-murder made him seem far less cool and potentially very crazy. Desires/fears: to be determined. Special Skills: remorseless killing. Plus some prison hook-ups via his uncle.