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.
When the fly showed up in the lab, my first thought was, “Okay, maybe this is a hallucination, caused by Walt’s state of mind. Maybe there really is no fly.” But, no, it turned out that there was one…although, honestly, I still remained unconvinced until Jesse really got caught up in the chase. In fact, even after Jesse whapped Walt with the so-called “fly saber,” I had a suspicion that he hadn’t really seen the fly, that he was just pretending to have seen it in order to have an excuse to nail Walt upside the head.
Walt was the one with the real obsession with the fly, though, venturing all over the lab, up and down the stairs, and even onto the railing of the catwalk in order to try and kill the wretched beast. My God, when he leaned just a liiiiiiiittle too far and fell off the railing, even as I was saying, “Oh, shit,” I was laughing my ass off. (I wouldn’t have wanted to be the stunt man who had to perform that maneuver.) Having the fly land on him as he lay momentarily immobile on the floor seemed like something straight out of a cartoon, but, hey, funny’s funny.
Cut to Jesse, who’s in his car, having a Jane flashback inspired by seeing one of her lipstick-encrusted cigarette butts. When he gets inside, he realizes that, in addition to staying at the lab all night, Walt has actually stayed awake all night…and, as a result, he’s ’bout batshit crazy, rambling on about the contamination of the lab. I loved Jesse’s annoyance at Walt blowing the situation out of proportion (not to mention his attempt to describe the symptoms of the Ebola virus), followed by his assessment of why Walt might be acting the way he is, asking, “Have you, uh, tried some of our product?” It’s a testament to the level of Walt’s obsession with the fly that he was tentatively even willing to let that product go to waste in order to kill the creature.
I don’t feel like we really need to discuss every single thing about this episode, since a full recap would really just be a whole lot of back and forth between Walt and Jesse. Basically, what we had here was the big opportunity for Jesse to understand Walt a little more and Walt to understand Jesse a little more. Walt revealed that a lot of what’s weighing on him at this point is that, basically, he’s lived too long: his whole plan was built on the fact that he wouldn’t be around to have to deal with the repercussions of his reprehensible actions. Now, not only does he have to deal with them, but he’s in a position that he has to keep doing them.
Jesse, through his long story about his grandma, shows that he’s still concerned about Walt’s well-being. It seemed at first that Walt had totally missed the point of the story – that perhaps his cancer might’ve spread to his brain – but, no, he acknowledged that, at last report, his cancer was still in remission. (It was about time that point was clarified again, since the disease has barely been discussed this season.) As Walt told the story about how he encountered Jane’s dad, I thought sure it was going to be a discussion about the connection to the crash, then I was deeply concerned that he was tired enough that he might decide that he needed to tell Jesse about his connection to Jane’s death. Wow, they really racked up the tension on that, didn’t they? Between wondering what Walt was going to say and whether or not he was going to fall asleep and let go of the ladder, I was on the edge of my seat…but, then, I already mentioned that earlier, didn’t I?
In the closing moments of the episode, Walt acknowledges that he suspected that Jesse was behind the missing half-pound and clarifies that he can’t protect him. Jesse denies it, of course, which clearly annoys Walt, but I feel like Jesse might’ve learned enough in this episode to have changed his mind at least a little bit about stepping out on Walt. We’ll see, though.
By the way, does anyone have any thoughts on the final shot of the fly on the smoke alarm light…? I’m never any good at figuring out what these things are supposed to symbolize.