This week on Breaking Bad… Everything. Changed.
Walter White, now as close to a full-on villain as we’ve seen him, committed his most despicable act yet. His reckless egoism and bloodthirsty hunger for power raised the stakes and endangered his own life, as well as Jesse’s (not to mention, unbeknownst to them, the lives of the entire White/ Schrader clan). As Jesse became increasingly dead-eyed and workmanlike in the face of his life of crime, Walt’s grim megalomania threatened to bubble over with horrifying results.
Skyler, meanwhile, grows even more distant from her husband. She avoids him around the couple’s small ranch-style home and goes rigid with horror when he makes physical contact. Walt, who demonstrates an inability to empathize with his wife that borders on autism, mistakes her physical and emotional distance for a sense of awe at his masculine caretakery. In a perverse Dorian Grey style inverse relationship, the more abject terror or fury Skyler feels at the very thought of Walt, the more easily her husband bonds with their somehow still oblivious son, Walter Jr. Oh yeah, they still have a baby. Because that’s going to turn out fine.
Elsewhere, Walt’s business and personal lives continue to converge. Hank, despite making the occasional casually racist quip at his partner, continues to hound the man he knows only as Heisenberg. Even though Hank’s hunches and leads almost always turn out to be fruitful, his coworkers and superiors try to dissuade him from following his latest line of reasoning. A combination of Hank’s tireless sleuthing and Walt’s hubris bring the brothers in law closer than ever to a face-to-face showdown. As Hank draws near to his target, Marie, his wife, maintains her delicate balance between unwaveringly supportive and unbearably shrill.
As Walt’s brutal pragmatism plumbs new moral depths, Jesse continues to locate himself cozily in the show’s moral center. He seeks stability in his relationships with older men and emotionally guarded women. Jesse’s mastery over the science of cooking Albuquerque’s most valuable blue export (in higher demand than turquoise jewelry from nearby Santa Fe) grows stronger with each passing week. His people skills continue to blossom as well. During business hours, at least, he tries to rein in his outbursts of, “Yo!” and, “Bitch!” Though Jesse continues to seek Walter’s approval, it seems only a matter of time before the duo’s younger partner sees
through his mentor’s mind games and comes into his own.
Possibly the show’s steadiest presence, Mike Ehrmantraut plods along on his path of quiet, methodical violence. While nearly every other character (with the possible exception of Hank) slowly loses his or her bearings, Mike continues to take care of business. His comfort with violence would unnerve the viewer, except that it stands in contrast against Jesse’s squeamishness and Walt’s gaudy alpha-male posturing (which always brings to mind Lou from The Simpsons begging Chief Wiggum, “Can I hold the gun sideways? It looks so cool!”). Mike’s even keel codifies the action for the viewer. Acts of violence are to be performed calmly and for professional reasons only. No recklessness, no revenge, and of course, no half measures.
Though most of the principle players conduct their business within the Albuquerque city limits, the fallout from their nuclear implosion of the south-west’s drug hierarchy spreads further and further. El Paso. Juarez. Germany. The sky. Soon we’ll probably see one of the NASA scientists monitoring the Mars rover snort some blue meth to stay awake. We’d probably get a black and white flash-forward in the cold open. On a screen at NASA headquarters, the rover crawls across the red planet’s surface. We hear a rumble. Static fills the screen. Then darkness. Did Walt and Jesse’s meth cause Mars to explode? As Kevin Garnett might say: “Anything’s possible!”
In other ABQ activity:
- Skinny Pete and Badger prove helpful and bumbling by turns.
- Something bad happens to a woman Jesse loves.
- Walt Jr. says some dumb teenager thing (like calling a Mustang a “‘Stang”).
- Skyler smokes and/ or glares.
- Saul Goodman puts up a feeble protest before doing something super shady.
- Walt brings up the fact that he’s “doing everything for the family.”
- The viewer will almost forget Walt has cancer. And didn’t he, like, used to teach science? Why does no one bring that up?
- Hank reminds everyone of Archie Bunker with a gun license.
Basically, every bad possible thing will be foreshadowed and then come to fruition. The experience of watching this week’s episode of Breaking Bad is like listening to Bruce Springsteen’s “Atlantic City” with your eyes for a full hour. There’s a chicken man. And someone’s always getting ready for a fight. People are coming from out of state. Most importantly, though, everything dies. That’s a fact.
Also, there’s breakfast.
Next week on Breaking Bad… this again.