August 15, 2012 by Susan Miller
All aboard, you junkies! This week Vince and company treated themselves to a good old fashioned train robbery, abandoning plot, character, and plausibility in the process. But they seemed to understand every single rule they were breaking because they ended the episode with a wallop of a sucker punch that left me sleepless for most of Sunday night. There’s not much to the first 58 minutes of the episode, but the last minute has (hopefully) set the stage for the final 11 episodes in this maddening series.
1. Did you see it coming?
Susan: I didn’t and I feel bad about it. There were so many clues! The train whistle at the end of the cold open. The talk between Lydia and Walt about swearing on their children’s lives. Mike’s ominous warning about witnesses. The instructions to Landry/Todd about the necessity of keeping this between them. Jesse’s insistence on stopping the killing. Skylar’s insistence that the children weren’t safe around Walt. She’s right of course. Walt has no idea when and where the collateral damage will happen. But we should know by now that there will always be some. No plan has been without it, and yet I still didn’t connect the dots until the kid had a bullet in him. This is what I truly love about the show. I spend so much time speculating and predicting and then, when something really is about to happen, I’m too busy looking the other way. It’s not like Vince tries to hide it – he puts it in the first minute of the episode – but by that point my mind is already racing in the wrong direction. It makes me feel like Walt. So anxious for the adventure, the big boom and trouble and collapse that I miss all the signs pointing to the immediate danger. Vince! You got me again.
Steven: Now I do! Re-watching this episode is like re-watching Fight Club; I keep smacking my head and muttering, “Oh!” First we have the cold open with the boy too young to drive riding his dirt bike around the desert and collecting tarantulas (i.e. inviting danger). Then we have Mike almost kill Lydia and hatch a plan to go grab the rest of the methylamine, thinking he knows exactly what the DEA will do next and therefore what they should do next. Next Lydia wants Walt to swear on the lives of his children. Also, Lydia calls the area where they’ll pull off the heist a “dead zone.” Mike tells Walt: “You want to do this heist even if it means killing a couple of innocent men.” They stress to Todd the importance of nobody else finding out about the heist. “Nobody. Got it?” The final clue comes when Skylar asks Walt, “Out burying bodies?” because of the dirt on his hands. With that, all of the pieces were set into place. Now, the question is. Did I see it coming?
I did have a thought at the back of my head that this kid represented a variable they hadn’t figured in. As far as I got, however, was to feel very nervous about the heist, knowing that they hadn’t considered everything yet. When it happens I was shocked but not surprised. That is, I was upset emotionally but it all made perfect sense logically.
The one and only time I watched The House of Sand and Fog, I never made it past a certain scene. I watched the tension grow and grow, everybody making the worst decisions possible, until this one scene, at which point I couldn’t handle what was about to happen. I could see other audience members stopping in the same way here. I, however, will push through.
2. Did the train robbery break the barrier of suspension of disbelief?
Steven: Honestly? A little bit. The complexity of the heist and the blind courageousness of the characters feels author, not character, driven. That being said, I love all three of the Oceans movies.
Susan: It does seem highly convenient that Walt and Jesse are able to pull off this train robbery so quickly. In Skylar’s one scene this week, she mentions that it’s only been 2 days since Walt’s birthday. The timeline on this show can be maddening. Not only that, but the train stops exactly where they want it to stop. They have exactly enough time to finish. They all get out safely. The engineers are none the wiser. And then – boom – the kid with the worst luck in the world meets the man with the most luck in the world – and the balance of power is shifted forever. Kids are a frequent bargaining chip on this show, from Andrea’s brother Tomas to Andrea’s son Brock, to Lydia’s daughter to Mike’s grand daughter to Walt Jr. and Holly and on and on and on. The killing of this kid, this innocent blood shed because of terrible bad luck is sure to tip the karmic Gods against the Heisenberg empire once and for all. We saw the cracks last week. This is the watershed moment, the point of no return, the moment when nothing goes right ever again.
3. Does Todd/Landry make it through the next episode?
Susan: I’m so bummed. Maybe that’s why it was so heartbreaking for me to see Todd/Landry shoot the dirtbike spider kid. I just got him back and now – poof! – he’s gone again? After 5 lines and a bullet? I don’t know how they’ll keep him around, but then again, I don’t know how they’ve kept Jesse around for this long. The last time I felt like this about a character was Damian Lewis on Homeland and I really didn’t like what they decided to do with him. I’m sure it’s time to cut ties, and if they don’t, it will probably harm the overall story. If we get any sort of backstory on Todd/Landry in the cold open or in the beginning of the next episode, he’s a goner. I’ll be sad either way. I wish Mike would have shot him. Or Walt. Sigh.
Steven: I have no earthly idea. I feel like he should in order to increase the tension, which this show is all about. They didn’t resolve the Gus Fring problem until there was no other way to write an episode with him still alive, so I think that Todd is safe for now. Very possibly, he’ll just be another name on Lydia’s list of whom to keep quiet. Incidentally, I’m starting to think I know why Walt will need that machine gun. Actually, I have a pretty good idea of a LIST full of reasons.
4. Will Jesse finally get out now? Will Walt let him?
Steven: I hope so! Jesse is an interesting character to me in that he’s been involved in cooking meth for the entire show and long before — unlike Walt. Yet he keeps finding out new things about the trade he’s in. These kids who are harmed, the families that are destroyed, the overdoses — they all smack him across the face as if completely new knowledge. Whereas Walt knew exactly the kind of world he was getting into. This, though, doesn’t strike me as unbelievable. Talk to an active addict about the damage he’s causing by using and you’ll get a sarcastic laugh. He might say, “I’m just having fun” or “winding down” or what have you. Never mind the innocent people harmed down in Colombia or Mexico, the laws broken and mules whose lives were endangered or lost bringing it across the border, the physical, emotional and mental damage he’s causing himself, or the amount he’s harming his family and close friends who have to watch him sink into addiction and quite possibly die prematurely from it. No, the average addict is full of denial, dishonesty and selfishness about his own condition. Like the addict who just wants to use, Jesse just wants to cook. He doesn’t want to see kids get killed, his girlfriend asphyxiate on her own vomit, and he certainly doesn’t want to have to kill Gale or anybody else. I want this episode to be Jesse’s bottom just like I wanted Bubble’s trip to the mental ward to be his, but what I want for the characters and what the show gives me have not always lined up. Have they ever lined up? Not really. Also, I don’t see Walt letting him out. They are all too enmeshed at this point.
Susan: When I think of Breaking Bad, the first image that comes to mind is Jesse. It’s not Walt. It’s not guns or meth or filtered horizons or Azteks or axes or Hank or Gus or Badger or Gale or solo eyeballs or Saul or the Rumba or Jane or any of the other amazing things I love about this show. It’s Jesse. Plain and simple. I don’t think Jesse can get out, and I think that’s supposed to be the worst collateral damage of the show. Sure this innocent kid got shot, point blank, without hesitation. Sure, a whole plane of people went down and Walt has completely corroded his soul and rained down unhappiness on everyone and thing he touches. But it’s Jesse’s soul that is the major tragedy of Breaking Bad. This train robbery was his plan, and he soaked up the attention from Walt and Landry/Todd. He was even the one to reiterate to him the importance of keeping it between them. So no. I don’t think Walt will let him out. I think Jesse will continue to accept himself as the bad guy and slowly but surely let his life and soul and spirit be crushed because he picked the worst possible father figure in the universe. Isn’t is strange how much better Mike seems than Walt? Mike kills people for a living. Quickly, efficiently. And yet we root for Jesse to turn to Mike instead of Walt. Heartbreaking.
5. Is Flynn (Junior) finally going to start doing some investigating of his own?
Steven: He does finally seem angry enough to try a little detective work on his own. Plus Skylar and Walt are refusing to tell him what the problem is. If he is anything like a real person at this point, he’ll be full of anger and curiosity, the combination of the two can lead to great obsessive investigations. I do wonder how he’ll go about it, though. Will he start tailing, plant a bug, sneak into the house and hide somewhere? It would be interesting to see him playing a bumbling detective. Although I do feel a bit like he’ll come across the vital information by mistake. And then there’s the sneak peek from next week where Skylar seems to be on the verge of spilling everything to Marie. So maybe Flinn won’t need to discover anything.
Susan: I sure hope so. Isn’t the kid at all curious? After all this time and all the crazy behavior he’s witnessed, you would think he would start taking a little bit of action by now. If not that, at least talk to Hank about what’s been going on so they can investigate it together. He’s already helped with the Fring investigation last season and started this one idolizing Hank for his amazing police work. Put it together already!
6. What happens when Mike can’t pay his guys off?
Steven: Here is yet another loose end that could get them all put in prison. YET-ANOTHER… But really: Walt is going to kill everybody.
Susan: Oh geez. I have no idea. They keep teasing this and I don’t really get why. So one of them tells Hank. That’s how he’s going to find out? How anti-climactic. You know what loose end really bothers me? Andrea. Jesse and Andrea break up off screen, then he talks about it for half a second, and then we never see her or Brock again. Seriously? They had kind of a big role to play in getting us to the current situation. You would think they’d give her more of a goodbye than that.
Best line: “Give me a break. You guys were going to murder me. I thought you were professionals.” – Lydia Rodart-Quail
Runner-up: “Everyone sounds like Meryl Streep with a gun to their head.” – Mike
Next week – Mike says goodbye. Again. And Jesse gets mad about using kids. Again. And Skylar cries and looks like she’s about to confess. Again. So maybe something totally different will happen! We’ll be here regardless, waiting for Gus/Gale/Badger/Jane/Saul to return. I miss Saul.