Breaking Bad recap: Fifty-One

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August 9, 2012 by Susan Miller

Walt Jr. had to sacrifice his bacon for this tradition.  It's the tipping point we've all been waiting for...

Walt Jr. had to sacrifice his bacon for this tradition. It’s the tipping point we’ve all been waiting for…

Well folks, we’re halfway through the 8 episodes of Breaking Bad we get this year.  Are you happy?  Sad?  Nervous?  Frustrated?  Exhausted?  I’m a little bit of all of these after an episode that turned out to be strangely quiet.  Walt celebrated 51 by replacing the Aztek with two very attractive lease deals, Lydia forgot to check the mirror before she left for work and screamed into a pillow, Skylar went for an inappropriate swim, Hank got promoted and Mike decided to stop being sexist and start getting real.  Why did any of this happen?  I don’t think we’ll understand that until the dust clears in September.  We’ll speculate anyway.

1. What exactly was that episode all about?

Susan: I was really upset when I watched this episode the first time.  On first viewing, it seemed like such a step back for the show.  In feeling and scope, it felt like one of those weird diversions for character development like “Peekaboo” or “Fly” or any of the times they gave Marie that weird go-nowhere klepto storyline.  After watching it a second time, I feel a lot better about it.  I think Breaking Bad might be one of those shows that is telling a story that the majority of the audience really doesn’t care about.  We all love the science tricks and the surprises and the dark humor and the noose tightening around Walt and Jesse.  But those are just the tricks.  This show is really about families, about brotherhood, about a marriage and children and what you do and how you do it and how that affects the people closest to you.  It’s starting to feel a little bit like Lost to me in that sense.  Sure, faith and forgiveness and all that, but what about the ANSWERS?  The scenes between Walt and Skylar are really strong, but honestly, I want to get back to the cooking.

Steven: The shifting of control. In this episode Walter does what he wants (moves back in and buys the two cars, which is the ultimate stand, replete with manly engine revving and justifying without really wanting approval), Hank is promoted to ASAC, Lydia fakes police tracking out of desperation, and Skylar walks into the pool, also out of desperation.

To me, this shows what has to happen when the normal order is disrupted: people adjust. All around people are losing their control, and they aren’t liking it.

2. Have we reached the peak of Walt’s success?

Steven: I think so. What took Gustavo Fring years to develop — a chicken delivery system capable of moving the product all over the American southwest — a thriving business capable of laundering his enormous profits, and innumerable supply contacts, Walt has tried to replicate over the course of one year. ONE YEAR! If I were Walt, I would’ve already had 27 nervous breakdowns just trying to manage the logistics of the business side, let alone killing, what, three different drug runners? Walt’s limiting factor is, as it always has been, his own mortality. The ticking time-bomb of a watch that Jesse gives Walt for his birthday, reminds us of what we saw in the opening of episode one: that Walt is not in the clear from cancer. Now he’s cooking in random people’s houses, hoping all of the nanny-cams are disabled, and hoping that nobody forgets their diabetes medicine and is willing to risk coming back inside. We now know that Walt is willing to do anything to keep the meth running, but does he have the intelligence, the strength, or the time to actually execute any of it?

Susan: If this episode does anything in terms of plot, I think it does show us Walt at the pinnacle of his success.  And it’s pretty damn depressing.  In the first half of the episode, we see Walt ditch the reliable Aztek for a mid-life crisis car and then buy Walt Jr. the famous Challenger from last season.  The scene where he decides to get rid of the Aztek is telling, I think.  Walt seems most annoyed by the fact that the Aztek could go for another 200,000 miles.  He doesn’t want anything that reliable.  He wants change, excitement, risk, forward progress.  Gus was always characterized as being overly cautious, only working with stable, reliable people.  And he drove a Volvo station wagon.  Walt has no desire for caution, as evidenced in nearly every decision he’s made this season.  But by the end of the episode, the cracks are starting to appear. The Heisenberg hat has a thread loose.  He cuts his head shaving.  His wife is chain smoking in the living room, willing his lung cancer to come back and get him out of her house forever.  And then the episode closes on that watch, tick, tick, ticking to the inevitable boom.  There’s a lot of talk about Walt’s “magic” in this episode.  My guess is that he’s run out, just in time for the great methylamine heist next week.

3. How mad are you about Hank’s promotion?

Susan: So ticked!  I hope something better comes from this.  Otherwise it feels too contrived to move Hank just because he’s too close to figuring out Walt’s secret.  The man noticed that Lydia was wearing two different shoes.  The suspension of disbelief about his Walt blindness is getting a little hard to handle.  There have always been murmurs about Gus or Mike having a mole in the DEA.  If that’s the case, and this is a way of keeping Hank away from the operation, then I’m okay with it. Another thought from that scene is that Hank mentioned that they were assembling a surveillance team for Mike.  Finally!  I hope that will play in to the “Walt gets a new car” storyline, because otherwise I don’t really know why that’s needed.

Steven: Eh. I don’t believe for a second that he’s actually going to give up his “day-to-days, including Fring.” It feels a bit to me like the turn in the romantic comedy when the ex-girlfriend shows up, or the boy has to move across the country; it’s a temporary obstacle to the inevitability of Hank discovering the truth — “White is Heisenberg. Heisenberg is White!” — and then goes running off to spit copiously and shower… Too obscure? Okay, I’ll get back to Breaking Bad.

4. Will Skylar kill Walt?

Steven: I believe it’s a definite possibility. The bedroom scene is terrifying. It’s actually more aggressive, I think, than the scene at Jesse’s house where Walt and Jesse beat the crap out of each other. Walt keeps asking Skylar what her plan is and then proceeds to poke holes through each plan. The reason they won’t work is because she hasn’t arrived to the ultimate solution, which is to take Walt out of the picture entirely. Skylar has already cast her lot with Walt, and claims that she only cares for her children’s safety. So, either she’s going to turn her and Walt in, throwing herself at the mercy of the courts, or she’s going to kill Walt and make it look like an accident so that she can stay with her children. She admits that she’s waiting for Walt to die, so the next logical leap is an active role rather than a passive one.

Another prediction: maybe it will be Jesse who does Walt in. Supporting points: during the Lydia conversation, Jesse votes to not have her killed. The reason? He doesn’t want any more blood on his hands. In the same conversation, Walt says he is willing to do anything to keep the business going. Again, if Jesse really wants to achieve his goal, he can’t just keep voting against Walt and hoping nobody dies; he’ll have to act.

This all, of course, contradicts my previous prediction that Walt will defeat all of his enemies but cancer will get him in the end, like the real Heisenberg.

Susan: I don’t think she has it in her.  She’ll just keep smoking and hoping.  I’m actually wondering if Walt Jr. might play a bigger role in all this.  He has a really strong relationship with Hank, and now that he’s staying with Hank and Marie, that will reinforce it.  I don’t think Walt Jr. will kill Walt, but I think he might be the one to blow the case open for Hank.

5. Is somebody going to flip and tell Hank?

Steven: They have to, right? From a plot-perspective, the only reason to keep Hank in the dark this long and to have Hank be this close to the family, is for someone to clue him in. He’s missed all of the obvious moment-of-realization on-ramps, so I feel like they’re just waiting for the vehicle of that realization to be one of the other characters. But who? Skylar has her motivations. As do Jesse and Lydia. A real twist, though I’m not holding my breath, would be for Mike to turn Walter in. I guess this episode just makes me ask more questions. Looking back at this one year (four seasons), an impossible amount has happened. And looking ahead at next week’s methylamine heist, it seems like an impossible amount can still happen. I’m kind of exhausted at the prospect of one more year passing over the course of a paltry twelve episodes…

Susan: Again, I think this is Walt Jr.’s reason for existing (other than eating breakfast).  I kind of wonder about Skylar too, after we saw how good Marie held up under Hank’s questioning.  Poor Marie.  She gets played by everyone.

6. Did Skylar walk into the pool on purpose/ as part of a plan?

Steven: Just like with Walt, I’m not sure when she’s thinking and when she’s just shooting from the hip. She freely admits to Walt that she hasn’t figured out a plan yet. Why so lazy, Skylar? Have you cooked the books for an ongoing business, coerced someone into selling their car wash, struggled to launder millions of dollars in drug money, had a baby, confronted your sister about her shoplifting, seen your brother-in-law lose the ability to walk, your husband develop and beat cancer, had an affair, and inadvertently caused your male-mistress to fall into a coma THIS YEAR? No, that would be an insane amount to happen to a person in ONE YEAR! Okay, okay, I guess I can give her another episode or two to figure out how to deal with Walt. But no more than that!

Susan: I can’t decide if the random weird shot of their bedroom door by the pool was heavy handed foreshadowing, or a sign that Skylar had a plan all along.  From the way she plays that scene, it seems like she’s just reacting.  Walt is giving that nauseating speech about surviving cancer and how everyone helped him time and time again. He could just as easily be talking about his meth business, and Skylar is the only one who knows it.  When he directs his thanks to her, it’s too much for her to take.  She has to shut him up, and she tried yelling last week.  Her plan works, but she knows it’s a thin one.  The only thing she can do now is wait.  Slightly off-topic – Anna Gunn is so much better at being an angry wife than a scared one.  Let’s see more of that.

Best line:

This was a great episode for Marie, so I’m giving her the best line of the week.
Walt: Did you know that a year ago tomorrow was the day I got my diagnosis?
Marie:  Really?  It seems longer.

Next week – a heist!  And Landry/Todd is involved!  And Lydia meets Walt!  And… it looks like the show is completely different yet again.  Sheesh, Vince.  This reboot is taking forever.

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