Breaking Bad 3.13 – Where In The World Is Jesse Pinkman?

Has any season of television seemed to go by quite as fast as this run of “Breaking Bad” did?

You hear critics throw around phrases like “the best show on television” so often that it barely seems to mean anything anymore, so in addition to making that particular declaration of “Breaking Bad,” I feel like I should offer a bit more, in order to give it some extra heft. Now, obviously, I’m a TV critic, so I watch television day in and day out. Indeed, to borrow a phrase from one of my peers, TV feeds my family. (Hi, Bill!) But while that’s a far cry from being a hardship when you love the small screen as much as I do, I’ll be the first to admit that I’ve watched so much television that it takes a hell of a lot to lead me from saying “I like this show” to “I fucking love this show.” “Breaking Bad,” however, has done that, by taking the time to intricately build the characterizations of its major players, developing plots which never seem to stop unfolding, and – perhaps most impressively – zigging when I think they’re going to zag and unabashedly defying me whenever I say, “Oh, no, they wouldn’t dare do that!”

Man, I haven’t even finished writing about the Season 3 finale, and already I’m longing for Season 4…

We start tonight’s episode with…an empty house? That’s right: it’s a flashback to when Walt and Skyler were first buying their house. Okay, to be honest, this wasn’t a surprise for Jamey or I, since we were there when they were filming the season finale. In fact, there’s a portion of this scene that we’ve seen and you haven’t yet, with Walt and Skyler wrapping up their walk-through of the place and stepping outside, then hopping into their convertible and driving away into what they perceive to be a perfect future. Presumably, this will turn up on the Season 3 DVD, but what we all got to see was more than enough to show that, once upon a time, the Whites were not only happy but in a position to see the world as their oyster. (“Why be cautious? We’ve got nowhere to go but up!”) Hell, back then, they were even talking about having a third kid, something that probably isn’t going to happen anytime soon, based on the current state of their marriage.

Cut to the present, with the disconcerting sight of the windshield and front bumper of Walt’s car showing the residual effects of the previous night’s events. There’s no sign of Jesse as Walt looks across the horizon, watching the headlights of a car roll ever closer, but if he’s suffering from any nervousness, the return of the Heisenberg hat seems to be displacing it. Mike gets in several great lines, including his version of “assurances” and a momentary musing on how words can be “so open to interpretation” (I love the way you can hear the smirk in Jonathan Banks’ delivery), but Walt scores a point when Mike suggests that he get his car fixed: “Let’s see how this goes first.”

Gus is not a happy man…and, really, who can blame him? This scene was, as has become par for the course with any scene featuring Giancarlo Esposito, thoroughly gripping, but it was as much so because of the lack of certainty surrounding the actions of both characters. We thought we knew Walt pretty well, but after that move last week, when he mowed down and shot down the dealers, it’s clear that we’re dealing with Heisenberg now, which means that anything can happen. Like the scene last week with Walt and Skyler, this is a back and forth full of constant oneupsmanship.

Walt: I’m quite well.
Gus: Clearly, you are not.

Gus: Are you asking me if I ordered the murder of a child?
Walt: I would never ask you that.

I find it fascinating that Walt’s life has taken this turn where, after years of suffering through the public school system, he’s had to start making meth to find himself back in a career where he’s on something approximating even intellectual footing with his co-workers.

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Breaking Bad 3.12 – No More Half-Measures, Walter

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.

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Breaking Bad 3.11 – I Don’t Understand How The Last Card Is Played (But Somehow The Vital Connection Is Made)

I said this on Facebook this morning after watching my screener of this week’s episode, and I’m saying it again now for all of the readers of this blog: not only is “Breaking Bad” the best show on AMC (which is a hell of an accomplishment, given how much I enjoy “Mad Men”), but it is now officially my favorite show on television, period. Not even having to blog it every week can kill my love for it…and that’s saying something. Watching this week’s episode, though, really served as a turning point for me. I’m someone who, when faced with a plot development which involves a ridiculous amount of coincidence, often finds himself whispering under his breath, “Oh, give me a break…” Tonight’s episode effectively tied new characters from this season into events from last season in a way that, on another show, might have left me feeling the same way. Instead, I was left in awe.

Let us begin, however, at the beginning, with a flashback that allowed Krysten Ritter to return from the dead and play Jane once again. That Jesse was left less than impressed by a trip to an art gallery is hardly surprising, but being reintroduced to Jane after so long served to remind me of a question that occurred to me a few times last season: why is a girl as deep as this involved with a tool like Jesse? Her rap about how “sometimes you get fixated on something and you might not even get why” struck me as a suspiciously on-the-nose callback to Walt’s obsession with the fly, but I could watch Ritter recite from the phone book, so I have no real complaints about that. Besides, if nothing else, the scene provided us with the origin of the lipstick-encrusted cigarette in the car’s ashtray.

Hank didn’t have a huge amount of screen time this week, but his brief appearances in the episode nonetheless served to underline how much he’s struggling with his recovery…and by “struggling,” I mean that he’s kind of stuck between a rock and a hard place: he refuses to leave the hospital until he can do so on his own two feet, but he’s barely willing to participate in the physical therapy that’s being provided. I loved his back and forth with Marie on the matter of pain (“Pain is weakness leaving your body.” “Pain is my foot in your ass, Marie!”), but it shows the depths of his anger about his situation that he should be giving shit to Walt, Jr., a kid who has to use his own crutches to walk out of the room. Gee, you don’t suppose his nephew’s condition serves as a constant reminder about his own physical limitations, do you? Nahhhhhhh…

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Breaking Bad 3.10 – Lord of the Flies

I don’t know if it’s by intent or happenstance that tonight’s episode of “Breaking Bad” is arguably the first installment of the season that isn’t necessarily a must-see, but I guarantee that a lot of viewers will be watching it tomorrow on TiVo and thinking, “Okay, I definitely made the right decision to watch the ‘Lost’ finale last night.”

Let me clarify that statement a bit: I didn’t think it was a bad episode. I mean, I laughed out loud at one point, I was on the edge of my seat during another portion, and there was even a full-fledged “oh, shit” moment in the midst of the goings-on. (Granted, it took place at approximately the same point when I laughed out loud, but it still counts.) Indeed, for fans who’ve been waiting to see some semblance of the old Walt & Jesse dynamic, it was a gift, since they were virtually the only people in the episode. But if I’m to be perfectly honest, there was nothing crucial that went down during the course of the proceedings that couldn’t have been covered quite handily within a few seconds of film in the “Previously on ‘Breaking Bad'” bit at the beginning of next week. Plus, if I’m to be honest, I think everybody at AMC is getting ready for the “Lost” finale, too: it’s 4:30 PM EST on Sunday afternoon as I write this, and they still haven’t posted any photos from tonight’s episode on the press site!

Oh, well, let’s just go ahead and get to it, shall we?

I’m not entirely sure why I was so creeped out by the opening of this week’s “Breaking Bad,” but, holy mother of God, not only was I twitching, but I actually started to get a little queasy. It wasn’t like you saw anything other than the close-up of the fly, but hearing Skyler play “Mockingbird” over the shot…I immediately thought, “Oh, shit, the baby’s dead.” And, surely, that’s what we were meant to think, along with the inevitable uncertainty about whether or not they’d really take things down such a dark path. That’s the thing about “Breaking Bad”: no matter what they throw at you…and lord knows they’ve thrown us a lot…the show follows a creative direction that’s so unlike any series on television that you still constantly find yourself thinking, “Yeah, but they wouldn’t really do that, would they?” And in this case, they didn’t. Still, you’d think by now I’d realize that there’s nothing Vince Gilligan won’t do.

Once Walt got up and at ’em after a long night of fitful sleep, it was off to work he went, diving headlong into what I can only presume was the meth lab equivalent of spring cleaning. Jesse, of course, spent most of the time bitching and moaning…until, that is, Walt’s anal accounting discovered a discrepancy in the amount they’d been yielding. You could see the sweat building on Jesse’s brow as he attempt to throw out any and all possible explanations for the situation…evaporation, condensation, even spillage…at which point I think we probably all knew definitively that there’d be no possible way for him to get away with pulling the wool over Walt’s eyes for the long haul.

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Breaking Bad 3.9 – What’s The Point In Being An Outlaw When You’ve Got Responsibilities?

Who wants chicken? I know *I* did after watching the awesome commercial that opened tonight’s episode, but…did anyone else happen to read the tiny credit that ran across the bottom of the screen toward the beginning of the ad? “Los Pollos Hermanos, Inc. is a registered trademark of Madrigal Electromotive.” I don’t think we’ve ever heard anything about this parent company before, but I’m suddenly beginning to wonder if this means that we’re going to see Walt working his way even higher up the chain of command in this operation. One thing’s for certain: he and Jesse are making up for lost time with their production. I loved the cut from the chicken in the commercial to the meth in the lab, and seeing them put the baggies into the contains of batter made me realize what a well-oiled machine Gus has going for him. Indeed, for one brief moment, I allowed myself to think, “Walt and Jesse are finally back on track and proving once again that, when they actually roll up their sleeves and get down to business, they’re capable of big things.”

It didn’t last, of course.

Chalk it up to being drug-free, but Jesse’s been more than a little schizo lately. Last week, I referred to him as being “about as loud, obnoxious, and useless as any human being can be,” but this week, in addition to working perfectly alongside Walt, he’s suddenly talking about how he’s been checking the numbers and has now decided that the deal they have with Gus is, in his words, “bullshit.” Walt seems astonished by this change in attitude (“You’re now a millionaire, and you’re complaining…?”) and can’t even be bothered to discuss the matter with Jesse, who asks outright, mostly to himself, “What’s more important than money?” Not therapy, apparently. He’s continuing to attend his meetings, which is something, I suppose, and they clearly still serve as opportunity for him to get a few things out of his system, as evidenced by blending of a fictional job at a laundromat with shards of reality (“My boss is a dick, the owner a super-dick”) and his highly illuminating story about the wooden box. But after he made the very foolish decision to step out into his own dealership and allowed Badger and Skinny hijack the therapy session in order to promote the return of the blue meth to the area…? That’s a brand new low.

That reminds me: was anyone else having “Superman III” / “Office Space” flashbacks tonight? Jesse’s clearly planning to skim the excess meth from Walt’s haphazardly measured containers, which immediately brought to mind Richard Pryor’s character’s plan to skim half-cents off the paychecks at Webscoe Industries. And what was the name of that character?

Gus.

We’re through the looking glass here, people…

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