I’m going to go out on a limb and say that, no matter what happens in the season finale, this week’s installment of “Breaking Bad” will still go down as the best episode of Season 3. With that said, we’ve got plenty to discuss, but let’s start things off with a song, shall we?
I don’t know about you, but, personally, I’m never going to be able to hear The Association’s “Windy” in the same way again. Here we go with another example of what I referenced last week, paying off longtime viewers by revisiting a long-dormant storyline. We haven’t seen Wendy since the early days of Season 2, but she’s back and, as we (and Jesse) can clearly see, business is still booming for this industrious young lady.
Despite Jesse’s assurances to Walt that Wendy had the necessary emotional stamina to help him with his plan, I knew she was acting way too hesitant about assisting him for things to go smoothly. Frankly, given the ominous green light in her room and the way she was gazing longingly at the blue meth, I figured we were looking at the very real possibility of an O.D. before her part in the proceedings ever came to pass. That’s not what happened, of course…but, then, given the way she shambled off after her dismissal, who knows what her eventual fate will be?
(Actually, it’s probably kinda like Lucy Lawless’s comment on “The Simpsons,” where, whenever you notice a continuity error on “Xena: Warrior Princess,” the explanation is that a wizard did it…except that anytime a character on “Breaking Bad” vanishes and is never seen again, you can presume that they either O.D.’ed on meth or were killed by a dealer. I mean, c’mon, if you do the stats, the law of averages speaks for itself on this matter.)
It was nice that Walt, Jr. got a chance behind the wheel, and it was even nicer that they kept it real and directly addressed how his medical condition would affect his driving. While Walt and son were bonding, however, Skyler was online, doing her research on money laundering so that she’d be properly prepared to pounce on Walt the second he arrived. That was a great scene, with the back-and-forth between them, each certain that the next words out of their mouths would give them the upper hand in the discussion, and even though Walt seemed to be bowing to her superior position, he ended triumphantly. (“…and THAT is how we’ll sell your little fiction!”)
There were a lot of intense discussions this week, with the one between Walt and Skyler quickly followed by one between Walt and Jesse. This one, however, took place over the course of a couple of cold ones. (“No, seriously, get a beer with me.”) Looks like my concerns were correct: the dealers were some of Gus’s boys. Not that Jesse gives a rat’s ass about the possible end result of taking them out, since he’s angry about the situation on at least two levels, but Walt tries to talk some sense into him, anyway. (“Murder is not part of your 12-step program!”) Walt was making some pretty harsh statements, most notably underlining the fact that if Jesse had really been interested in revenge, he would’ve done something about the dealers weeks ago instead of just getting doped up, but surely he knew that his arguments were falling on deaf ears.
Jesse’s record for making rational decisions isn’t exactly unblemished, however, so not only was there never any way he was going to change his mind, but, frankly, I can’t believe Walt ever really expected Jesse to show up for the meeting at Saul’s office, either. Not that I’m really complaining: any scene with Saul is a good scene, and this one was no exception, thanks to his clarification to Walt about wearing orange jumpsuits and picking up trash along the highway (“That’s jail”) and his musing on the chancy bathrooms at Springer. What I found most enjoyable about the scene, though, was the way Bryan Cranston so effectively captured the feeling that Walt was just kinda spitballing ideas, with no real idea what to do about the situation.
Hey, Mike’s back! “This isn’t a phone talk, Walter,” he says, walking into the White house, and after a casual comment about his granddaughter, he cuts to the chase and drops the bombshell that he’s not going to help with this “moronic” plan of Walt’s. “You’ve got a good thing going here. We all do. Do you want to risk it all on one junkie?” he asks. Mike’s monologue was downright chilling (nice Bo Svenson reference), and it’s no wonder it served as enough of a wake-up call for Walt that he made the decision to tell Gus about the situation.
When Mike and Victor picked up Jesse, I knew that a serious-ass meeting was going to go down, but they were walking so slowly toward the building that I was half-suspecting Jesse to try and make a run for it. When he stepped inside, it was like the meth manufacturers’ equivalent of an intervention. Once again, Giancarlo Esposito turned in a performance that made me want to run to Netflix and rent everything in his back catalog (I’d forgotten until recently that he was in both “Taps” and “Bob Roberts”), with such fierce intensity that he has now surpassed both of the cousins the race for Most Threatening Person in Season 3. “This goes no further: it will be settled right here, right now.” Jesse was so seething mad that you could see he was going to do whatever was asked of him in the room, then leave and do whatever the fuck he wanted, Gus be damned, but I wasn’t entirely sure that he was going to be able to shake the hands of the dealers. That had to have been harder for him than staying off meth. I found it fascinating the way Gus took in the information about the fact that the dealers had used a boy to do their dirty work. Did he know about Tomas before Jesse said something about him? I don’t think he did, and he certainly didn’t like it when he found out. “Jesse, your actions affect other people,” said Walt, during the ride back from the meeting. “Sometimes, compromises have to be made, for the best of reasons.” Little did we know that Walt would be the one making the compromise.
Let’s take a quick sidebar to address Hank’s story. I laughed out loud when Walt, Jr. beat Hank and Marie, leading the latter to ask if he’d been playing cards with his dad, and I patted myself on the back when Walt, Jr. tackled the comparison between his condition and Uncle Hank’s head-on. I don’t know how long Hank’s bills are going to be able to be paid by Skyler and Walt if Marie’s going to keep changing the subject as badly as she did tonight, but I do know this: the scene which ultimately led to Hank’s departure from the hospital may have been the biggest laugh in the history of “Breaking Bad.” Tell me if you think I’m wrong…but I really don’t think I am. Marie gave him the best of all possible medicines (“If I can get the groundhog to see his shadow…”), and within a few tugs, Hank…or, at least, Li’l Hank…proved that he’s not completely hopeless.
Okay, let’s move on to the remainder of the episode, where the shit hits the fan. I was shocked, if not entirely surprised, when the dealers extracted their revenge on poor Tomas (my God, how creepy was the shot of him standing outside the bedroom?*), but I think we all knew at that moment that Jesse was going to take them down. Did I expect him to fall off the wagon? I did not. It makes sense – I’m sure he felt as though it was the only thing that would give him the strength to commit murder – but it was still sad to see him succumb to his addiction once more. Also, for whatever false confidence it may have instilled in him, it left me convinced that he was going to get his ass shot. But before we could see Albuquerque turn into Dodge City, Walt drove in, blew my mind, and uttered one word: “RUN.” Best “holy shit” moment of the season? I vote “yes.”
In closing, I should probably make an admission: I’ve already seen the season finale, so I actually know for a fact that this week’s episode is the best episode of Season 3. Don’t worry, though. The finale’s still pretty damned good. It’s just that…well, look, I’d love to explain myself, but since I don’t want the publicity department at AMC to send their hired goons to my house to rough me up, you’ll just have to wait ’til next week for me to clarify why I feel that way. See you then!
* As I’ve been assured in the comments, much as I considered as I wrote this, the figure outside the room was Brock, not Tomas, but that doesn’t necessarily make the shot any less disconcerting. It just makes it disconcerting on a different level.