Prior recaps can be found in here.
This week’s cold open is more plot-oriented than we normally get from that segment. BB stages suspense sequences as well as any show out there (or movie this side of No Country For Old Men), so this is tense stuff, even though we pretty much know that neither Walt nor Jesse is going to shoot the other before the opening credits of the 5th to last episode. The pullback down the hallway after Walt storms into the bedroom, leading to a heart-dropping second where you’re just sure Jesse is going to step into frame, is a particularly nice touch.
But I like the sequence after the credits even better, as Walt tries to pull a Mr. Wolf routine to clean up the mess before Skyler comes home. For you fans of metaphor (and I know how much you kids these days love the metaphors), the carpet is soaked through with stinky gasoline. And no matter how much he offers to pay the cleaners (like Skyler last week, he can’t seem to give his dirty money away), they tell him that until he pulls up the carpet and replaces the flooring entirely, “this is as good as it gets.” “This” being a version of the house that looks like the old, comfortable place where the Whites felt safe, but with the stench of Walt’s misdeeds wafting up from the foundations.
The sequence is also fun for giving us Walt in a mode that we’ve seen less of as he’s ascended further into evil mastermind status. Watching him wordlessly work through a problem, adding details and texture to the lie he’s spinning out, is great fun, and allows Cranston to channel a little bit of Malcom in the Middle’s Hal through Walter White, in the way he furtively shuffles from one place to place, mind racing but unable to break into a full run. Donna Bowman at the AVClub calls it his “bullshit walk”; me, I can’t help hearing Dr. Zoidberg’s scuttling sound played really low under it.
I generally complain about only getting a single Saul scene in a given week, but this one was good enough that it seems churlish to do so. His lamentation about his dojo membership and droll “what you have to understand, is deep down he really loves me” explanation of his Jesse scars would probably have been enough on its own. But our favorite sleaze, much like his least favorite client, truly seems to believe that there is a magical combination and order of phrasing that will bring his audience around to his point of view, no matter how offensive they find the content of his message. Belize didn’t do the trick, and Old Yeller didn’t pass muster either, so I guess he and Bill Burr will be burning the midnight oil brainstorming new metaphors.
Skyler has even less patience for metaphor than Walt, insisting that The One Who Knocks live up to his protestations that all of his crimes have been to protect the family, now that her predictions have come true and danger has literally kicked in their door. Their extended conversation will probably only fuel the fires of the Skyler-haters out there, since they’re not interested in viewing things through her perspective, but the logic at work is quite simple. She knows Walt has killed before, and doesn’t understand why he would balk at doing so again after such a direct attack. After all, “What’s one more?”
We know, of course, that this one is not like the rest. Walt can’t put any conviction behind the assertion that Jesse has never killed anyone, but neither can he explain that when he did, it was to save his mentor’s life. Is it that he can’t admit that Heisenberg The Great And Terrible needed saving by a junkie, or that he doesn’t want to acknowledge that Jesse has stained his soul on his behalf? He protests that the reason he won’t kill the kid is basic decency, because he’s a human being. But he’s careful to avoid acknowledging that he’s a person that Walt owes his life (and a great deal more) to. Would Skyler understand that better? I think so. Would she care? Not so sure.
Hank doesn’t much care about Jesse’s well-being either, but he’s no less interested in the threat he represents to the Whites than his sister-in-law. It’s telling of how fast things are moving toward their end that we do not even see the scene where he brings Gomez into the loop. One of the most remarkable things about BB is how it has not sprawled out into an ensemble piece as it goes. This is the natural development of a TV show as it gets on in years; it is hard to mine 60+ hours of content out of a single character, no matter how well developed. BB, though, has at any given point had about 5-6 important characters, and has never run out of new ways to challenge, compromise and illuminate its protagonist, such that it still does not have time to pretend Gomez needs a spotlight.
Because the focus, as it should be, is on Hank and Jesse, and how their mutual desires to “burn Walt to the ground” do and do not align. Hank sees in Jesse a tool that he can use to strike back at Walt, really the only way to thoroughly discredit the confession tape. Even after listening to Jesse’s tale of woe, he doesn’t feel much sympathy, viewing his wounds as largely self-inflicted. He’s willing to roll the dice with Jesse’s life, on the (pretty reasonable) assumption that Walt is not going to murder him in a town square in broad daylight. This may raise our hackles, as he’s gambling with the life of a character we feel very protective of, but it’s not such a huge step for the character as it may feel. Cops risk the safety of informants every time they use one, but in this situation its only really notable for how they are coloring outside of official DEA lines. And Hank does have better reasons for going rogue than your average Vic Mackey figure, so I’m not ready to write him off as pure villain just yet.
Heck, things are so bad that even his wife is contemplating murder this week, in even greater detail than her sister, no less. The fact that she’s researching untraceable poisons raises some interesting questions about how she and the ricin will come into play in the next couple weeks. That can’t be a pure red herring, can it? In any case, Betsy Brandt continues to be awesome in even the briefest scenes. Her quick assessment of the Jesse situation (“Will this hurt Walt?” Good, I’ll make lasagna”) shows her in a polar opposite place from her sister; while Skyler will dispiritedly go along with any harebrained scheme of Walt’s if it seems like it might keep the family a little safer, Marie will jump behind any action that has a chance to hurt the Whites.
The wild card in all this, of course, is Jesse. He wants to hurt Mr. White as bad as anyone, but he’s also done being a pawn in the schemes of older, balder men. His plan to hit Heisenberg “where he really lives” has to relate to the meth empire, right? Jesse’s whole beef is based on Walt’s willingness to collaterally damage innocents, so I can’t imagine he’d really hurt the kids, and besides he seems content to bring Hank along for the ride.
It’s going to be bumpy ride, in any case, if that last phone call is any indication. We’re only 3 episodes away from The Bearded Future (© Chud message boards, 2013), by my estimation, and I’m thinking that bodies are going to start dropping sooner rather than later. Next Sunday can’t come fast enough.
Murders – Emilio, Krazy 8, Jane, two of Gus’s dealers, Gale Boetticher, Gustavo Fring, Tyrus, Hector “Tio” Salamanca, two other Fring goons, 14 year-old arachnophile Drew Sharp, Mike Ehrmantraut, Dennis the Laundry Manager, Dan the lawyer, 8 more of Mike’s guys
Collateral Damage – One innocent janitor loses his job and goes to jail on a bullshit marijuana charge. Hank had to kill a guy, even if he was an insane, degenerate piece of filth who deserved to die, giving him fairly severe PTSD. Combo was killed dealing for Walt. Jane’s father’s life is utterly ruined. 167 passengers on two planes are dead. Skyler is forced to become an accessory after the fact (or take down her son, sister and brother-in-law with Walt). 3 broken Pontiac Aztek windshields. Jesse’s RV is destroyed. On their mission to kill Heisenberg, the Cousins kill 9 illegal immigrants and their coyote, an old woman with a handicap-accessible van, a grocery-shopping bystander, an Indian woman and the Reservation sheriff that investigates. Also they shoot Hank multiple times, forcing him through a long, painful physical therapy process. Andrea’s kid brother is murdered by Gus’s dealers due to trouble Jesse and Walt stirred up. Jesse murders Gale, crushing him with guilt and destroying his hard-fought sobriety. Gus murders Victor to send a message to Walt and Jesse. Three Honduran workers get deported (or maybe worse). Walt purposefully wrecks a car, straining an already-injured Hank’s neck in an unspecified fashion. Ted Beneke breaks his neck fleeing from Heisenpire goons. Brock is poisoned and nearly dies. Tio blows himself up, but no one’s weeping for that vicious old fucker. The staff of an industrial laundry is out of their jobs. Dozens (hundreds?) of criminal prosecutions are compromised when the guys wreck the APD evidence locker. Hank’s boss gets pushed out of his job for his failure to apprehend Fring or Heisenberg. Herr Schuler, Chau and a low rent hitman get offed as Lydia scrambles to cover up Madrigal’s connection to Fring’s drug empire in the wake of his death. Walt manipulates Jesse into breaking up with Andrea. Mike’s lawyer is arrested, depriving his favorite banker of sweets. Hank has that last great pleasure of a middle-aged man, a quiet, leisurely excretion, ruined by one of histories greatest monsters. Walt’s tutelage of Todd and enabling of Lydia lead to their murder of Declan and a half dozen of his guys. Jesse beats Saul for his role in Brock’s poisoning. Walt’s living room carpet and car upholstery are ruined via soaking in gasoline.
Heisenberg Certainty Principle – “You think I came all this way to let something as silly as lung cancer bring me down? Not a chance.” It’s the emphasis on “me” that is the key here.
Best Lie – Walt’s long story about spraying gas on himself is not his best performance, as his little, supposedly “naturalistic” flourishes about the “nozzle, the metal thing, the thing you squeeze?” and how “I suppose, in my naivete…” come out sounding so phony and rehearsed that even Flynn can’t help but notice. Luckily, the manipulative he laid on his son last week laid the foundation for an offensive rebound of a lie, as Jr. assumes he’s trying to hide how weak the recurrent cancer has made him, rather than his criminal co-conspirator attempting to burn their home to the ground.
Official Walter Jr. Breakfast Count: 15. But when he avails himself of hotel room service off screen, I think we all know he got the pancakes, time of night be damned.
We Are Done, Professionally – Walt tries to talk Jesse back to his side (again), but a serendipitously-placed bald guy denies him his chance to incriminate himself by doing so, and Jesse remains committed to burning Mr. White to the ground.
It’s The Little Things – “I never should’ve let my dojo membership run out.” Badger’s ongoing sci-fi fandom. Hank has the Deadwood DVD set on his shelf. Vacuum cam! The return of the tighty whities. The perfect casting of Marie’s therapist, who appears to be Gary Cole’s little brother, the guitar next to his chair, and little wince he gives after trying to ask Marie about the parking situation at work. “Were you spying on me?”/”Yes, and I feel just awful about it too,” – Anna Gunn is not the most gifted comedienne to ever grace the silver screen, but her deadpan is one of the few laugh out loud moments in the character’s history. How Walt has to pause for the ever-polite Todd to get his pleasantries out before getting down to business.