24 August 2012

Episode 6: Buyout

These sure are some excellent green beans, Mrs. White.
[Coletta Factor:Breaking Bad-current]
As exciting as the heist was, as shocking as its aftermath, it all seemed like so much table-setting. There needed to be a dramatic event to throw a monkey wrench into the boys' operation. We've seen children threatened and even murdered before on this show, and it's a relatively easy way to go super-dark and serious. I guess it just seems like a rehash for me; it would have been much more interesting to see a major character go into the clearing at the end of the path. (Listen up, Vince Gilligan: you need to kill someone off before the end of these 8. Shit has gotten as real as it can get without it.) 

Having said that, the cold open of this episode was, to quote the Bald Move guys, "one of the most effective...in television history." Dave Porter's somber score is the only thing we hear as Mike, Walt, and Todd carefully disassemble the boy's dirtbike, dropping all the pieces into one of those translucent white barrels so handy for disposing bodies. The bike is a substitute for the boy, and it feels just as chilling and somber, more so even then if it were the boy's body we saw them placing into the barrel. Thankfully we are spared that sight. Jesse sucker-punches Todd, opening credits. 

Lot of good moments in this one. Mike is listening to the bug in Hank's office as they discuss his throwing of 3 DEA tails. Hank tells Gomie that sooner or later Mike will slip up, and they'll be watching. It's kind of a trite line, but the way Jonathan Banks plays Mike's reaction to it is brilliant. He knows; Mike knows Hank is right, that Mike will eventually make a mistake. Mike knows his career as a criminal is over, and you can see mixed in his eyes relief, sadness, contentment, closure. Mike also gets a funny line later on when he tells Walter they will be spending the night sitting up together at the office "like it's my birthday."

In the absence of a Walt we can identify with, Mike has started to fill that role for me. He's an ex-cop who broke bad himself somewhere along the line, and I'm sure someone who'd been on the business end of his gun would tell you he was soulless, (dead mackerel eyes, anyone?) but Mike has a heart. He's not corrupted by power or greed. He does his job, and damn well, too. Everyone we've seen him kill has been in the game and therefore fair game. (And most of them came north looking for trouble, which they found.) He has a granddaughter; he buys her balloons and plays Hungry Hungry Hippos with her. He's funny, too, and as much as I want him to have a happy retirement, he's got Walter White, the famous Heisenberg, to deal with before he can ride off into the sunset. 

If Walt and Mike are 2 points of a right triangle, Jesse is at the right angle. equidistant from each of the older men. Jesse's had a hard life, and as he pointed out from his hospital bed after Hank whooped his ass, he's lost everything since hooking up with Walt. Walt has used, abused, and manipulated Jesse even as Jesse has matured into a responsible, sober young man. Walt's breaking bad has caused a Newtonian opposite direction break for Jesse. I like Jesse and I feel for him, and I want him to get out of the game and move far away from the ABQ, but he's got to make it through at least one more of Heisenberg's machinations before he can ride off into the sunset. 

Another good moment: the Marie-Skyler scene. First, that is the 2nd cutest baby in the world. I think Marie may break bad herself and abscond with the little cherub. But Skyler was gonna tell!! Skyler was all ready to confess everything to Marie, which would have been game over. Good thing Marie had to open her mouth about the affair, giving Skyler a chance to play off the Ted thing as the only thing wrong with the marriage. 

Another note to Vince Gilligan: Gomie needs Hank around. Hank is such a good cop that he makes Gomie look good, but Gomie as the lead on a team looks almost as bad as Barney Fife or that deputy from the Dukes of Hazzard. Gomie sees his subject make a dead drop and wonders aloud if someone is going to pick it up. "Geez, that could take hours, and I want to go to Applebee's. Lemme run over there real quick and check it out." Stupid. If Hank's out of the field, Walt can just go crazy, because the DEA is not going to catch him. 

Gray Matter. We learned in this episode a little more of the backstory, and again I was reminded of Lost, how the past so closely mirrors the present, how one's choices are made in large part based on one's experiences of regret, bitterness, joy and happiness. On Lost, Michael's rocky history as a mostly-absent-but-not-by-choice father meant predetermined that he would betray everyone for just three minutes more with his son. Here, Walt took a $5K buyout 30 years ago from a company that is now worth billions, and as much as we are not really clear on the history, it seems Walt blames Gretchen in particular for some heartbreak or another. Gilligan, on the insider podcast, said this calls into question for him whether Walt is breaking bad now or if Walt always had a darkness in his heart over this perceived slight. (Great thing about Vince Gilligan: he wants you to argue about people's characters and motivations; he freely admits that he has his own interpretation of the story he tells, and that his take on it is not necessarily canon.)  Either way, the Gray Matter buyout  turned Walt into a George Bailey-type sympathetic loser, someone who dreamed big but was never able to pull the trigger.

What else? Walt used science to get out of a tight spot. Great effects on the burning hand by KNB, the same house that does the zombies for Walking Dead.

Oh yeah! How could I forget? The dinner scene. Probably the seminal example of how Breaking Bad does comedy. Walt recklessly invites Jesse to his house. As Jesse is making his pitch to dissolve the business, Skyler comes home, and Walt decides to punish them both by inviting Jesse to stay for dinner. At the table, Skyler is well interested in her wine, Walt is silent with that smug look on his face, and Jesse, trying to be the most poilte dinner guest ever, fills the awkward silence with a monologue about false advertising and frozen lasagna. It's exquisitely painful and funny as hell at the same time. This is the first time we've seen Jesse and Skyler together since season 1, and I have to wonder how much Skyler put together during the dinner. Can she guess that Jesse is Walt's partner? Does she think Jesse is a customer? Also, keeping Jesse away from the house in the beginning was smart, as he didn't want Skyler to find out, and it's colossally arrogant and stupid to have him over now that Hank knows Jesse is involved with the blue meth. It's looking as if, like so many powerful men in the world's history and literature, Walt's hubris will be his downfall.

The pieces are set. Jesse and Mike both want out, but Walt can't do it alone. He's got some kind of plan that will probably involve him double-crossing the Phoenix crew, and with Gilligan's semi-spoilery remark that episode 7 would be a doozy, I am amped for next week's episode, entitled "Say My Name." (Interestingly enough, this episode was originally titled "Everybody Wins," but this and 1 or 2 others were changed within the last week or so.)

Quick Hits:

  • I was able to get my hands on an advance DVD copy of the Avengers and can safely say that it still holds up as a fantastic superhero flick, now that all the hype has worn off. (Temporarily, anyway, until end of next month when everybody, myself included, will buy the film.)
  • Our dog is doing much better now. She's eating again, and we couldn't be more relieved. She seriously has more lives than a cat. Every time I think she's ready to call it a day, she bounces right back. Someday she won't, but I'm enjoying today.
  • "Legitimate rape?" "Shut that whole thing down?" Get a fucking clue already.

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