Breaking Bad is all about forward momentum, and I'm loving every minute of it.
One thing I've always respected about the Breaking Bad writers is that they know their endgame. They see the goal and they write toward it. There's no wheel-spinning. Every single minute -- every single second -- of every single episode is full of meaning and tension. When it seems like nothing is happening (like when Gus Fring changes his clothes in"Box Cutter"), that's when you feel this the most. Because it's in those little moments, like when Jesse's spinning on a merry-go-round or when Walt is removing his clothes for a shower, that the writers milk every little bit of tension from the scene, and make every single breath and movement mean something. Each character has a goal, each character has something at stake.
Other shows could learn a lot from the Breaking Bad writers. Game of Thrones had nine episodes to build up to the Red Wedding last season, but the writers didn't seem to realize that until they had already spent about twenty precious minutes talking about Podrick Payne's sexual prowess. The Walking Dead writers think that "tension = walkers," and they do a good job of staging zombie raids, but when they put two of their strongest characters in a room together (Sheriff Rick and the Governor) the tension deflates like a pinpricked balloon.
Last night's episode of Breaking Bad was a master class in Making Shit Mean Something.
Nothing is ever forgotten on this show. The first scene of the first episode of the season was all about Walt retrieving the ever-present ricin vial. Hank caught Walt because of the Leaves of Grass book Gale had gifted him. This episode started with an old man finding Jesse's bundles of money (and, ultimately, Jesse) outside his house. Nothing is ever forgotten. Everything comes back at some point. We are in the hands of some master web-weavers, here. Maybe I should start calling the writing team the "Breaking Bad Spiders."
So, let's start with the guy who found Jesse's money. This scene could've played out a couple ways. The guy could've taken the money and run, or he could've called 911 on the catatonic Jesse. This guy, one of the few morally upstanding people in the ABQ, does the latter, and we wind up with Jesse in the DEA's office, talking (or, rather, not talking) to some of his old antagonists.
Hank, who is now back at work after Marie tells him that he needs to get his Heisenberg shit on the record before the DEA figures it out for itself and fingers Hank as an accomplice, is about to spill all his beans in a big meeting with Steve and Ramey and hopefully Awesome Mustache Guy, when he finds out that Jesse is currently in custody. Hank knows, he feels, that Jesse is the one who can prove his case against Walt, and as he's about to step into the room to talk to Jesse, the credits roll and suddenly we're knee-deep into the boring pile of dung that is Low Winter Sun.
We are only two episodes into this eight-episode season, and already Hank is about to confront Jesse. On a lesser show, this shit wouldn't happen until the penultimate episode or later. But on Breaking Bad, the writers are confident enough in their endgame that they can drop all kinds of bombshells (Hank telling Skyler! Marie confronting Skyler! Walt passing out! Landry killing a whole bunch of folks!) in Episode Two because they know that all of this is just the beginning. There's a lot of story left to tell, and they're going to do it justice. No fluff, bitches.
I'm going to go with bullet points for the rest of this because it's Monday morning. You get it.
- So, Lydia heading over to check out the dysfunctional meth lab. She's becoming the new Gus Fring and Landry's becoming the new Mike. Discuss.
- Also, did anyone else long to hear Whitney Houston singing "I Will Always Love You" while Landry helped Lydia traverse the sea of dead bodies?
- And more also, Lydia needs more appropriate shoes for dealing with drug cooks in the desert.
- Prediction: Landry will start cooking again, and the meth still won't be good enough. So Lydia, Landry, and Uncle Jack kidnap Skyler in order to get Walt back into the kitchen. That's what the gun in the Season 5 premiere is all about.
- And Jesse will strike a deal with Hank, but will have to infiltrate Lydia's cartel, going undercover. He will, at some point, kill Landry.
- That scene with Hank and Skyler at the diner was intense. Hank was playing the role of cop/salesman and Skyler was not buying what he was selling. I look forward to seeing what happens to their relationship (as well as Skyler's relationship with Marie) once the full extent of what Skyler knew and when finally gets out.
- I love that Walt, at least outwardly, still has a code to live by, even if it's total bullshit. He won't kill Hank because Hank is "family," but I think it's more that Walt won't kill Hank because he loves the game too much. Heisenberg doesn't want to win that way. Also, he can keep telling himself that he amassed all of those millions of Heisenberg dollars in order to care for his children, but at some point the whole endeavor became more about his ego than about Junior and Holly.
- I'm glad Walt passed out in the bathroom once the adrenaline wore off because I had a hard time accepting that a person dying of cancer would have enough strength to dig a massive hole, fill it with barrels of money, and then fill up the hole again. For a moment it did have me wondering if the whole "cancer's back" story was more Heisenberg bullshit.
- "Lone Wolf McQuade" is a great, random reference from Marie. I'm assuming Marie had a thing for Chuck Norris back in grade school/high school.
- Did you see mustache DEA worker last night? Why have we not seen more of him? When will we see him again? Will he have a big role in the eventual Breaking Bad spinoff, fingers crossed?
- I'm hoping that Hank's upcoming chitchat with Jesse will signal an end to the era of "Aaron Paul Acts Catatonic." This whole schtick is getting tired. Can Jesse be proactive and human again, please?
- What would you have done with one of Jesse's bundles of money?
- Will the final scene of this show be Holly and Junior, twenty years later, digging up Walt's money in the desert?
What did you think of the episode? Can you breathe yet?
Related Post: Breaking Bad Premiere Recap, "Blood Money"
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