Posts Tagged ‘breaking bad’
I contributed the Breaking Bad and Homeland entries to this list of TV’s ten most shocking deaths of 2012 for Rolling Stone. SPOILERS, SPOILERS, OH GOD THE SPOILERS FOR EVERYTHING obviously.
Over at Rolling Stone, I updated my list of Walter White’s worst moments — now including Season Five — in anticipation of tonight’s Breaking Bad half-season finale.
For my review of last night’s Breaking Bad, please visit Rolling Stone. I was, like, oddly unfazed by this one?
I interviewed Jesse Plemons, who currently plays Todd on Breaking Bad and previously played Landry on Friday Night Lights, for Rolling Stone. I thought this was an eye-opening one — Plemons said at least two things about Todd that I hadn’t considered before but which made the character click for me in a new way, while his observation that there seems to be a big new wave of people watching Friday Night Lights for the first time right now (which would include me, if I ever get around to watching the two discs I’ve had out from Netflix since god knows when) confirmed something I’d been noticing, too. I think what has happened is that people have now had the time watch their way through the big HBO and AMC dramas and are looking for what to watch next, and FNL is right at the top of that “what to watch next” list.
This week I interviewed Breaking Bad‘s Dean Norris for Rolling Stone. He plays Hank, a character I really love.
When we first met Hank, he came across as an obnoxious blowhard. In this episode, he’s moving into the boss’s office. It took me a while to see it, but Hank’s a good cop.
Yeah, he is. One of the tensions in the show has always been that I think he’s a good cop, Vince [Gilligan] thinks he’s a good cop, yet he obviously hasn’t caught on yet. There’s always this question: “Why doesn’t he know?” I think it’s because it would be ridiculous for him to ever suspect that any of these things led to [starts laughing] Walter White. That would be bad writing. But he’s found everything else out. He found Tuco, and he obviously was right about Gus Fring, which everyone else was wrong about. He’s getting there.
And last week I interviewed Laura Fraser, who plays the new character Lydia Rodarte-Quayle. She’s a pretty big new ingredient for the show to be adding this late in the cook, as it were, and I’m impressed by how well it’s working.
The audience had to hit the ground running with Lydia, too. We really had no chance to get to know her under normal circumstances, since right away she’s in such dire straits. That has to create a lot of pressure on you to win the audience over.
One relief was that I didn’t have to worry about making her likeable. She’s so clever and bright, and yet so odd. I liked her, but sometimes she can be such an asshole that she just makes me laugh to play her, even when I’m about to die. It’s a trip.
I can’t remember the last time I was this badly upset by a television show.
There’s been a backlash against Skyler, something she has in common with women characters on a variety of big dramas about men who tend to behave much worse than they do. Do you have a sense of why this happens? Does it faze you at all?
Some of it is still the double standard in our society – that it’s more acceptable for a man to be this antihero badass doing all these things that break the law or are really awful. People watching want to be Walt, or they identify with him. He doesn’t have to answer to anybody. He does what he wants. There’s a fantasy element to that, I think. I also think that in some ways, there’s kind of a sexism to it, honestly. Sometimes . . . [pauses] I’ve been told particularly, how do you say . . . non-flattering or just really vicious – you could use the word vitriolic – angry stuff about Skyler, or about other female characters on other shows. The hatred and the vitriol and the venom and the nastiness and the attacks are so personal sometimes that it feels like, “Oh gosh, OK, I get that you don’t like Skyler, you like Walt, you’re on his side, but it just feels different.” I don’t feel like that stuff would be written about a male character.
For my review of the season premiere of Breaking Bad, please visit Rolling Stone. I’m as happy with this as I’ve been with anything I wrote for RS; I got a chance to say some stuff about the show overall that I’d been thinking about for a while. Hope you dig it.
I’m excited to announce that I’ll be covering Breaking Bad for Rolling Stone this season. I’m starting out with a list of Walter White’s 10 Lowest Lows. I got to say a lot of stuff I wanted to say about the show in this thing, so I hope you dig it. The King is dead, all hail the King!
Here are links to all my Breaking Bad posts. I’ve added the special features I’ve written for Rolling Stone to the list chronologically, so that once you’ve read the preceding review post, it’s safe to read that feature as well. I hope you enjoy them!
* Season One
* Season Two, Episodes 1-3
* Season Two, Episodes 4-6
* Season Two, Episodes 7-12
* Season Two, Episode 13
* Season Three, Episodes 1-3
* Season Three, Episodes 4-7
* Season Three, Episodes 8-13
* Season Four, Episodes 1-6
* Season Four, Episodes 7-10
* Season Four, Episode 11
* Season Four, Episodes 12-13
* List: Walter White’s 10 Lowest Lows
* Season Five, Episode 1: “Live Free or Die”
* Season Five, Episode 2: “Madrigal”
* Season Five, Episode 3: “Hazard Pay”
* Q&A: Anna Gunn
* Season Five, Episode 4: “Fifty-One”
* Q&A: Laura Fraser
* Season Five, Episode 5: “Dead Freight”
* Q&A: Dean Norris
* Episode 6: “Buyout”
* Q&A: Jesse Plemons
* Episode 7: “Say My Name”
* I finished Season Four and am all caught up with the show. LOTS AND LOTS OF SPOILERS BELOW.
* All I know is I’m glad I never googled “Gus gif” for any reason prior to finishing this season. (I just want to note that that final episode was called “Face Off.” Rimshot!)
* I’ll admit it: When that drug dog (hilariously!) popped out of Steve Gomez’s partner’s SUV at the laundry when they went to check it out in deference to Hank’s hunch, I was positive he had ‘em. I didn’t count on Gus, Walt, and Jesse’s prideful fastidiousness, however. Then again, I also didn’t count on Hank’s after-the-fact deductive genius. Goddammit, the guy found probably the one tell-tale detail in all the photos Gomie took, the extra electricity running into the laundry. He had ‘em dead to rights! One day he’ll get his reward, I hope…though I suspect that the final season will be Walt vs. Hank to the death. That seems like the only way it can go.
* I wish the brief scene between Skyler and Hank when she was checking to see if he’d spotted anything unusual in Gomie’s photos wasn’t brief. Have those two ever been one on one before in the whole history of the show?
* Jesse’s race to get the information about ricin to Andrea in time to save Brock’s life was the most “gasping/squirming/covering my gaping mouth with my hand on the train”-worthy moment the show’s served up in a long time, and as I seem to always be saying, that’s saying something. Heartpounding.
* The whole bomb sequence with Walt and Gus in the hospital parking lot — heartpounding as well. Not that I wanted Walt to blow Gus up, mind you! Gus’s conversation with Jesse in the hospital chapel — expressing ignorance as to how Brock could have been poisoned, backing down and giving Jesse a full week off to deal with his young friend’s medical crisis — made it pretty clear to me that Gus wasn’t involved in Brock’s poisoning after all, though at that point I hadn’t sussed out who was. It just didn’t square with the man’s respectful and trusting treatment of Jesse all throughout their Mexican odyssey, either. So no, I didn’t want Walt to blow him up. But nor did I want him to spot Walt on the roof across the way, which a single telltale gleam from his glasses or binoculars or (I thought the poetry would be fitting here) his bald head would have ensured. In the end, you just can’t root for the death of your protagonist. Or, y’know, so I thought.
* Anyway. I sure enjoyed my little private eureka moment when I realized that if you can ring a bell, you can press a button on a detonator, too.
* I enjoyed the cameo from Peggy Olsen’s mom as well.
* And I enjoyed our brief glimpses of the old, funnier, in-over-his-head Walt — the Walt who’d look like he was about to threaten or even attack Saul’s put-upon receptionist, only to pause and finally say “…I’ll be right back.”
* But then Jesse said “Lilly of the Valley—it’s some kind of flower,” and I wrote, in all caps, just like this:
I’ve done some googling since finishing the season, and discovered that the plot Walt related to Jesse in the second-to-last episode, the (bogus, as we come to find out) idea that Gus poisoned Brock knowing Jesse would blame Walt and kill him for it, was poorly received by many in the audience. They thought that required way too many coincidences, way too many instances of things going exactly the one way they had to go for it all to work, for a man like Gus to feel comfortable relying on. And of course, they were right. (This guy in particular, who figured out what was going on even before the finale made it clear, which is pretty amazing.) This wasn’t some master plan by Walt, it was a last-ditch plan by Walt. Like stripping naked in a supermarket, it was the only thing he could think of that could possibly save his hide. And it was so crazy it just might work. And it did! The horrible, horrible man won.
* I call him horrible despite my belief that however it was that he administered the poison to Brock, he did so in a way he knew would ultimately not kill him. It’s still horrible to inflict suffering on a child, and his family, whose suffering and fear is just as real as Walt and his family’s.
* But mostly, I call him horrible because I now realize why he spat Gus’s offer of clemency back in his face in the desert. Walt himself may not have even truly realized it. Perhaps not until he cracked in that crawlspace, letting forth an insane man’s peals of laughter, did Walt himself realize it. He has to protect his family, yes. But he has to win while doing it. Walter White has to be the smartest guy in the room at all times. Even more than wanting to remove the threat Gus posed to himself and his family (and Jesse — I do think he still would prefer Jesse not be killed, or he’d have killed him when they destroyed the lab) once and for all, I think it was wanting to beat Gus that drove Walt to do what he did. Not for Jesse, not for his family, but for him. That makes Walt worse than Gus. Gus’s hatred of the cartel and his desire to defeat them was born from the love he felt for his friend that they killed. Walt’s desire to kill Gus, to put himself and everyone he nominally cares about in harm’s way if that was the only way to do it, was born from Walt’s love for himself. That’s what makes him so easy to hate, now.
* More google treasure: Creator Vince Gilligan says part of the impetus behind doing Breaking Bad was doing a show where the protagonist slowly became the antagonist. Explains a lot. (That link comes via this Chuck Klosterman/Grantland piece, and you probably have feelings about that sort of thing, but note that Klosterman also sums up the ultimate limitation of The Wire (a show of politics rather than philosophy) as well as anyone I’ve ever read.)
* So what happens next season? Walt and Jesse have no real antagonist at the moment. Oh, I’m sure they can stumble their way into a new one in pretty short order — the whole history of the show, from the pilot onward, is the story of Walt and Jesse making life-or-death enemies at the drop of a hat. But the deaths of Gus, Tyrus, Hector Salamanca, and the entire leadership class of the cartel leave a massive, massive vacuum. I assume Gus’s mysterious past as some kind of untouchable big shot in Chile will play a role. I assume Mike will play a role. The great critic Matthew Zoller Seitz (whose reviews of shows like these I look forward to reading after I finish a series almost as much as I look forward to the actual act of finishing the series) points out that the mysterious German conglomerate that bankrolled the laundry and the air filtration system (I couldn’t help but notice some kind of HVAC was involved in the “guy who can disappear you and your family” service Saul tried to connect Walt with) will likely play a role, too. Seitz also notes that there’s a laptop full of surveillance footage sitting in Gus’s office at Los Pollos Hermanos, just waiting to be decrypted. We’re not done hearing about the death of Ted Beneke either, I’m sure. Saul and his goons could crack about that, or about their involvement in Walt’s poisoning of Brock. As I said, I think Hank will be the Final Boss. And in the end, there’s Walt vs. Jesse, which is just another way of saying Walt vs. Walt.
* I had to write about this one right away. I had to.
* Yep, I’m still genuinely touched by Jesse’s newfound affection for Mike, and vice versa. I’m a sucker for people getting along, what can I say.
* And once again, Gus trusts Jesse enough to walk with him for six miles in the middle of nowhere while in a wounded state. That the show didn’t even bother showing us their long stroll together, the way they’ve done with Walt and Jesse in the past, tells us we can trust that trust.
* Tyrus has both the name and the sinister dandy look of an ’80s urban-apocalypse villain. “Does the laundry have to be dirty?” “…nope.” Nice to see a flash of personality from him, too.
* Sic semper Ted Beneke. It’s funny — I thought the little bit of business of Ted tripping over his rug on the way to answer the door earlier in the episode was accidental, that the actor then improvised and the moment was kept in by the filmmakers. Nope! Running away from a sloppy career-criminal abduction/assassination attempt and killing yourself in the process is Breaking Bad at its most Coen/Lynch, which is saying something.
* I’ve read enough Digby to know that tasers are less an law-enforcement alternative to lethal force and more a law-enforcement alternative to using no force, or more specifically to taking any guff. So I was quite pleased to see Tyrus’s use of a cattle prod on Walt — not a taser, but functionally indistinguishable from one in its narrative impact — not played for laughs in the slightest. That looked fucking awful. And he kept on using it even after Walt was down. This was about punishment.
* Christ, what a gorgeous shot composition, of Walt on his knees with a black bag over his head as Tyrus and company stand guard while Gus drives up. Watching the sun come in and out of clouds, their shadows on the desert…just lovely. Getting back into the mythic-weird territory of the plane crash.
* That desert scene was astounding in that just when you think you’ve plumbed the depths of your own disbelief and disgust where Walt is concerned, he takes you even further. He was out. He was free. Gus gave him a chance to leave the business with his life, and by doing so, he couldn’t help but show Walt that he couldn’t kill him. Walt figured this out, figured out that whatever their problems with one another, Jesse was still preventing Gus from killing him, and likely always would. He could have walked away. And what does he do? He proves himself incapable of not being a dick. He gets in Gus’s face, confronting the man with his own impotence. And thus he ensure that Gus will remain his enemy rather than washing his hands of him, that he’ll work on Jesse’s defenses until Jesse consents to Walt’s murder, that Walt’s family — his children; his baby — are now in the line of fire. He just couldn’t not be a terrible, angry person. And he paid for it.
* The final sequence of this episode…I mean…gosh. Frightening in how soul-curdling it was. Dave Porter’s score returns to pulsing, dissonant, Texas Chain Saw-indebted industrial, as Walt’s supine position in the cobweb-infested, dirty crawlspace, and his mad cackle, make that particular filmic comparison even harder for me to shake. When he first started laughing, I thought he’d figured something out, something that Skyler giving Ted their money enabled him to do that would help them out of their situation. But when I realized that he’d simply…lost it…god damn it. The look of mounting horror, real horror, on Skyler’s face as she looks down on what her husband has become, and realizes what it means? Her woozy walk down the hall as Marie reveals her life is in danger as well over the answering machine? The floating camera tracking upwards from Walt’s ruined face? My goodness. My goodness gracious.
I’ve now seen Season Four episodes 7-10. Close to the end now. SPOILER WARNING
* Ha, remember back in Season Three when I said how much less intimate the show was, and how big the players had gotten? Little did I know! Straight-up Godfather/Scarface-level shit now, from “and Stephen Bauer” in the opening credits on down.
* Which is a development worthy of some study, I think, beyond just “wow, big things popping for the former Gang That Couldn’t Shoot Straight.” But to get there requires some preamble…
* Okay, so during these episodes — even in the first couple of them, when Gus was still largely at the margins, still the invisible man behind the cameras, and when Jesse’s position as Mike’s shadow still seemed much more like a combined act of charity and insurance policy — I realized that all of the major protagonists and antagonists on the show, i.e. the people whose actions truly drive the plot, were quite simply a lot of fun to watch at this point. I found myself really hating that these guys were at odds, that for any one of them to come out on top, one or more of the others would have to go down.
* Let’s start with, for lack of a better term, the good guys. Walt may have been largely coasting on sympathies earned over the past three and a half seasons, but I still didn’t want to see him get busted or killed. (I mean, even putting those sympathies aside, there’s a pleasure to “how’s he gonna get out of this one?”, you know? The Houdini act is fun to watch. Jesse only gets more sympathetic and more charismatic as the show progresses. And Hank is a cross between Sherlock Holmes and (to quote another actor on the show in another movie he was in) that guy from The Incredible Hulk — his detective work gets sharper and sharper, and his panache in presenting it to Gomie and Merket was an absolute joy, plus he’s very kind to both Marie and Walt now.
* Meanwhile, on the cold-blooded killer side of the ledger, Mike remains one of the most enjoyable characters on TV in terms of just watching the guy scowl and listening to him talk. And as I said, he’s deadly competent, and competence is compelling. This also applies to Gus, which the show makes crystal clear when they have him walk head-on into a hail of sniper bullets, and which reaches its apotheosis during that fateful pool party at Don Eladio’s. I mean, the second the Don took a drink and toasted all his men too, I started laughing out loud. “Hahahaha, he just poisoned all these assholes!”
* But in addition to making these guys scary badasses, the show’s also taking this time to humanize them, believe it or not. It’s become apparent by now that Mike’s growing trust in, even respect for, Jesse isn’t just an act. For one thing he saved his life at a time when it would have been quite easy to let him die without Walter really being able to blame him or Gus. But more than that, he seems happy for Jesse when Jesse proves his mettle. His smile down in that Mexican factory when Jesse told off the imperious chemist genuinely made me happy, goddammit!
* Even Gus gets his shades of grey now. We see signs of fear several times: He’s obviously rattled by his conference with Hank and friends; he’s flustered by the cartel’s refusal to actually negotiate; and most importantly, he was terrified during his initial meeting with Don Eladio in that majestically awful flashback sequence, and completely devastated — this was quite apparent even in a brief flashback dedicated to the death of a character we’d never met — by the murder of his friend and partner, the other Chicken Brother. I felt terrible for Gus. For Gus! Suddenly I felt like, okay, now I understand.
* And he too saves Jesse’s life when letting him die would have come at no cost, by sparing him from the poisoned liquor at Don Eladio’s house. His trust and respect for Jesse appears genuine as well. And I’d have to imagine that for both him and Mike, Jesse saving their lives (I think — haven’t seen the next episode yet) in Don Eladio’s driveway will only deepen their connection with him, and ours with them.
* Over in Walt-land, after Jesse beats him up, Walt Jr. comes over and finds his father wounded and doped up on painkillers. What followed would be under normal circumstances the kind of thing that would have me crying, sobs and tears and everything, on the train. A grown man weeping over his failures to his son, saying “I made a mistake, I had it coming, it’s all my fault, I’m sorry”? That stuff usually just murders me, murders me, man. But here? I spent the whole time thinking Walt was faking it.
* In short, I think it’s no coincidence that the show chose to beef up and round out the roles for its murderous antagonist characters at the exact same time that it reduced our sympathy for Walt to an all-time low ebb by making him almost completely unlikeable. Normally, to paraphrase Walt himself, in a contest between Walt and Gus, Walt would win every time. Now? With Skyler and the kids financially secure, with a legally lucrative future ahead of them, with Jesse in tight with the bigwigs and able to cook brilliantly on his own, with Walt bringing nothing but misery to everyone he touches and really not caring or even noticing that this is the case, we’re left to wonder if we’d honestly find it so terrible if he ended up in one of those barrels. He didn’t just damage or destroy his relationships with his family, Jesse, and his employers. He damaged his relationship with me.
* And as I said earlier, this bears some study. Competence is compelling, and with their daring in-the-lion’s-den decapitation of the cartel, Gus and Mike (and Jesse) have become, as best we can tell, arguably the most competent criminals in western North America. By contrast, Walt is a wash. Previously the show had offered us no alternative to his and Jesse’s gut-churning series of failures and disasters, narrowly averted or not. Now we have Michael Corleone or Tony Montana if we want them. And on the level of entertainment, we do want them, of course. I don’t want to see Gus and Mike get busted or killed now, not at all. And I want Jesse to keep his cool and stick with them. And after the finales of Season Two and Season Three, after we witnessed the moral consequences of behavior made possible by Gus and Mike, I’m not sure how I feel about how I feel. No, I’m not sure at all.
* Anyway. How good does Jere Burns look with a mustache, huh?
* Speaking of, Jesse’s brutally confrontational monologue in the support group was Aaron Paul’s finest hour. It mirrored Jesse’s primal scream at Walt for ruining his life while in the hospital after Hank beat him, but this time he was screaming at himself. The filmmakers hit us hard by conjuring imagery of crimes we find the hardest to forgive in fiction — killing children, killing animals. That’s how Jesse thinks of himself. No wonder I want Gus and Mike to grant him a new lease on life, poor kid.
* I was happy to see Steve Gomez return. Underutilized character, underutilized actor, I think.
* Man this is a clever, cheeky show. They cold-open an episode with blood in an unidentified manmade body of water, then make sure we hear, and hear about, but never actually see, Andrea’s “nice birdbath” at the new place Jesse’s helping to pay for for her and her son Brock. It’s the Season Two burnmarks-and-bodies swimming-pool fakeout in miniature, but no less effective for that.
* Saul’s good with kids. I like that.
* I’m sure I’ve said this before, but just like The Sopranos, this show gets funnier as it gets darker. Hank and Walt’s whole conversation in the Los Pollos Hermanos parking lot, as Walt is forced to feign surprise when Hank reveals his suspicion that Gus Fring is a drug dealer, and is then cajoled into bugging Gus’s car, while he and we alike watch Mike pull up a few spots away and watch them, was just about the funniest thing the show’s ever done. It was like Curb Your Enthusiasm: Crystal Edition.
* I liked the handsome young cartel representative. Thoughtful, unpredictable casting there. Too bad we won’t be seeing more of him!
* Let’s throw in a whole bunch of gorgeous time-lapse sunset/sunrise shots, because why not.
* As much as I enjoyed the Skyler/Ted Beneke side storyline and her cleavage-based attempt to resolve it, I couldn’t help but feel that maybe there are a few too many improvisatory geniuses in the White/Schrader family? Marie, Skyler, and Walt have all now proven to be able to spin bullshit into gold at the drop of a hat, and Hank’s no slouch in the storytelling department either, though he hasn’t deployed those talents in quite that way. For once I’d like to see one of these folks just blow it.
* I don’t see good things in Ted Beneke’s future, by the way. I suspect Skyler’s headed for her Walt/Jane, Jesse/Gale moment.
* I’ll leave you with a conspiracy theory. Now that we know Gus’s backstory, specifically the roles of the cartel and its representatives Juan and Old Man Salamanca in that backstory, doesn’t it seem possible that pretty much everything Gus has done — setting up the lab, hiring Walt, saving him from Juan and the angry Salamancas, siccing the brothers on Hank and then tipping Hank off about it, having Mike kill the surviving brother in the hospital, having the federales kill Juan, cutting off the cartel’s access to the States, using Walt to fill the vacuum with his own meth supply, drawing the cartel into a cold war with occasional flare-ups, backing off the plan to kill Walt and Jesse, keeping them both alive and cooking, building up Jesse’s confidence, presenting Jesse to the cartel as a peace offering, and then of course what we saw during the visit to Mexico — was all a plan for revenge? I mean, even agreeing to work with the man who caused the death of Tuco Salamanca to begin with, you know? Did the legendary businessman structure his entire business plan around something very, very personal? “This is where blood for blood gets us,” he tells Hector Salamanca in his nursing home, and at first you think it’s a reprimand. But what if it’s a master plan, hiding in plain sight?
I’m about halfway into Season Four — just finished episode six. SPOILERS, SPOILERS EVERYWHERE
* We start with silence. In the entire excruciating sequence in the season premiere during which we wait to learn the fate of Walter and Jesse from Gus — the entire episode, in other words — Jesse doesn’t say a single word to anyone until his (the writers’) cheeky Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade “What’s that?” “Ark of the Covenant.” “Are you sure?” “Pretty sure.” homage when Mike asks him if the acid they’re using will successfully dissolve Victor’s body: “Trust us.” Gus, of course, is silent as well, until he instructs the hapless pair to get back to work. Mike’s largely mute, too. This is a show that trusts its audience to know what to do with itself when no one’s talking, and there aren’t a lot of shows like that, same as, I dunno, Jaime and Gilbert Hernandez trust their audience to be able to follow comics in which locations and time frames can change dramatically in the space of a panel, with no obvious cues to hold your hand. I like that.
* Sad to say, Gale’s demise was spoiled for me by overenthusiastic mourners on Tumblr a few months back (although I didn’t know the specifics or the time frame for sure, so I thought there was every possibility Jesse let him off with a warning shot). And if you can believe it, Victor’s death was spoiled for me, too, by the goddamn Breaking Bad wiki page for a Season Three episode that I looked up a while back to help jog my memory as to what exactly happened in it — I caught some reference in the “trivia” section to “Gus’s new lead enforcer Tyrus,” and thought “Oh, terrific, so that means something happened to the ‘old’ lead enforcer then, great, just great.” And by the end of the interminable lab sequence I knew that Gus was gonna turn that box cutter on his right hand man. So kudos, I suppose, to the show for still making it awful to watch despite my foreknowledge: As he thrashed his head back and forth while being cradled in Gus’s arms, covered in blood as his mouth opened and closed in a vain attempt to draw another breath, he looked like my newborn daughter, fresh from an emergency c-section, trying and failing to breathe before the nurses and doctors put her on a ventilator. How’s that for some heavy shit?
* This chunk of episodes feel a bit like a waiting game to me, frankly — a certain amount of time needs to go by before the show can really cry havoc and let slip the dogs of Walt following his and Jesse’s audible on Gale. Maybe that’s why I mostly remember a succession of little touches and moments: Walt replacing his bloodied clothes with a Kenny Rogers t-shirt, because in the words of Jerry Seinfeld, “Well, he is the Gambler…” A cameo from Jim “Ellsworth” Beaver, sounding for all the world like a resident of Deadwood plopped into the present day as an underground gun salesman. Marie revealing her improvisatory genius with lines like “Between his pension and the income I bring in from hand modeling…” Fever Ray on the soundtrack. Jesse getting handsomer and handsomer. The painfully recognizable plight of Marie as she attempts to care for someone who’s completely emotionally unable to appreciate or return that care. Skyler’s weight gain, and Walt Junior’s weight loss. The urban and rural decay of Mike’s dead-drop locations. The flourescent-lit hell of Bogdan’s car wash. The guy in a dress shirt, tie, and tighty whiteys crashing on Jesse’s floor. Wonderful details one and all.
* So it turns out I have a competence-fantasy soft spot after all, and Mike lives right in the middle of it. What a wonderfully world-weary ruthlessly efficient killing machine he is, and how bummed I was to see him all out of sorts following Victor’s murder (the way he turned his gun instinctively in Gus and Victor’s direction as it went down was a beautiful touch on the actor’s part — it wasn’t in any way clear whether it was meant to be trained on Gus or Victor, because I think Mike wasn’t sure either). I was glad to see he got his mojo back during the attempt to hijack his truck, and I was even gladder to see him and Gus conspire to heal Jesse’s heart. Awww. I love the lovable old murderer, and the discomfort I feel when he’s uncomfortable makes me a lot more sympathetic to everyone who just wants Don Draper or Wolverine or Tony Soprano to stay on top of the world at all times.
* Hank is impossible to like for much of the proceedings here, but his fellow cops are still coming to him for advice. He really is a good cop, and as the show progresses he’s stealthily being built into the cops from The Wire — the rival protagonist to the charismatic lawbreakers. You’re never quite sure who you’re rooting for.
* Hell, even Walt seems unsure. His drunken assertion that Heisenberg’s still out there is a leeeeeetle close to an idiot plot, yet it’s also an unconsciously altruistic act on Hank’s behalf. The guy needs his white whale, and for whatever reason — ego, stupidity, a desire to get caught — Walt gave that back to him.
* “Since when do vegans eat fried chicken?” Good question, Hank!
* I’m always pleased to see characters catch on to schemes you’d expect to drive the plot for some time. Jesse wised up real quick to the fact that he’s now Mike’s right-hand man because Gus wants him babysat. And Walt got even wiser nearly as fast, correctly deducing that the attempted stick-up was a way to let Jesse play the hero. Of course, being Walt, he put this in precisely the worst possible way, and Jesse reacted with scorn. Mister “I AM THE DANGER, I AM THE ONE WHO KNOCKS” needs to revisit his Dale Carnegie.