August 30, 2012 by Susan Miller
We gather together today, to say goodbye to a dear friend. Mike Ehrmantraut warmed our hearts as a gruff, grumbling, Ensure-guzzling hitman. He was an efficient Grandpa, throwing tails and using balloons and pig toys to distract his victims. We cheered when he punched Walt, and were worried when he took Jesse on a joyride. His death is almost as tragic as Omar’s, foiled by the most unlikely drug villain in Albuquerque. He should have been smarter, but his time was up. As Hank wisely predicted, even pros slip up eventually. Walt got him again, and our Breaking Bad world seems uncontrolled without him.
1. Will Skylar and Jesse team up to defeat Walt?
Susan: I really think so. Skylar had that great scene in “Fifty-One” where she told Walt that she wouldn’t live in a house where killing was written off as “shit happens.” Then, two episodes later, Landry/Todd tried to make peace with Jesse by brushing off the death as “shit happens.” I’m still pretty high on the show’s writing, even in the wake of questionable plot manipulations, and I think these repeated phrases are important. Mike and Jesse both made a point of telling Walt that what was happening now was on him – another nice repeated phrase that I found important. Jesse and Skylar both want out. Now I’m just waiting for them to find the ricin in the wall and hatch a plan.
Steven: There is that nice moment when Walt and Jesse are retrieving the methylamine. (Jesse: Vamonos. Skylar: I wish.) That moment made me think that there’s a distinct possibility of them joining forces. But do we have time for that to all come together in a measly 9 episodes? I don’t know.
2. What does Walt think about his new partner?
Susan: I think he sees him as a sucker. Walt established in this episode, and all season long, really, that he has no problems making the dishonorable choice. Walt convinced Jesse to go along with the methylamine plan, got Jesse to convince Mike not to kill him, and then refused to pay him his share. No way Walt pays Landry/Todd. He was probably gearing up for a fight about it, but now he’ll use him even more than Jesse. Walt probably should have been more concerned about Landry/Todd writing down the recipe to his classic coke. As Stringer taught us, you don’t take notes on a criminal conspiracy. The real problem, I think, is that Landry/Todd appears to be a bit of a psychopath. He had no problem killing the kid, and would probably have no problem killing Walt or anyone else who got in his way. Oh God. What if he just straight up shoots Hank? There’s a definite precedent, and he would have no idea about his relationship to Walt…
Oh, and my apologies for being wrong last week. Landry/Todd is the new Jesse, not Walt. At least for now.
Steven: Walt sees Todd as a motivated new employee. Todd isn’t a genius, but he does have work ethic. After all, he was willing to shoot a kid in the chest because he took his job so seriously.
3. Will Landry/Todd’s oft-mentioned Uncle get to laundry guy before the DEA can flip him?
Susan: I wonder how much the laundry guy knows. He could probably give enough details for a sketch, and he should be able to identify their cars. I doubt he knows their actual names, though. I bet he gives enough for a sketch and then gets killed by the Uncle. So maybe from the sketch, Hank will figure it out, but then the guy gets killed so he can’t testify or do a line-up and… no case.
Steven: I kind of feel like this will turn out to be another ironic moment, where the laundry guy will have just told the DEA everything and then get murdered needlessly. Walt will have another person killed for no purpose.
4. Will Hank ever find out?
Steven: If he does, I think it will come right at the end. Second-to-last episode or last episode. There has just been too much time and too many opportunities for this to be a good plot arc. At this point, it has to be a reveal, a moment of clarity, where Hank finally sees the whole picture and Walt goes walking off, first with a limp, but then his foot straightens out and his hand moves easily at his side. Maybe Walt will have just come in for a cup of coffee. Maybe Hank will drop his own cup to the floor, sending ceramic bits and coffee splattering everywhere. Or maybe Walt will just have a box delivered to ASAC Schrader. Hank: “What’s in the box, Walt? What’s in the box?!” Well, that one got away from me.
Susan: The DEA part of this show is so problematic. We’re supposed to believe that Gomez catches the lawyer that quickly? How often could they be tailing him to have that much information on his bank visits? He can’t be visiting the bank more than once a month, right? Also, why didn’t Hank come up with this brilliant idea before now? It’s still interesting that Hank’s boss is so keen to get him to drop Fring already and focus on other cases. Maybe he’s just as curious about Alvin B. Gutierrez’ roofing hammer as I am.
Oh, and yes. Hank will absolutely find out. Fearless prediction? It will happen in the next episode.
5. Now who do you think the machine gun is for?
Susan: Declan. This distribution plan is just not going to work. Are they going to sell in Walt’s territory too? Are they supposed to sell for a certain amount that they agreed upon? I have no idea how meth distribution works in that type of system, but it seems like Walt is pretty far out of the loop and could get ripped off very easily. Also, are Declan and his crew in charge of muscle as well? It’s not like Mike just managed the money. He managed a whole host of problems that Walt knew nothing about. How’s he supposed to get his materials? Is Walt handling payments to the Vamonos guys? What about vetting the people they work with? Ugh. It’s not going to work. Declan should just start stockpiling Walt’s product, use the 15 million to pay him while he’s gathering, kill him, and then cut the regular product with the real blue. These are meth heads. It really doesn’t need to be classic coke.
The other option is Landry/Todd. If he sells his recipe to Declan, Walt could have a serious problem with his young partner.
Steven: Very possibly for Jesse. This entire season they’ve been foreshadowing the showdown between Jesse and Walter. How many times have they physically fought, broken up their partnership, and disagreed on essential points? Enough. I think in the last eight episodes, we are finally going to the thus far hinted at climax between these two characters, and I also think that only one of them is going to make it out alive by the last episode. I will reiterate what I’ve said before, Jesse walks off at the end and never turns back. (By process of elimination, I have decided that this is a better prediction than my original: “Mike or Jesse will be the only character to make it out alive by the end. I see one of the two of them boarding a bus out of Albuquerque with nothing but a duffel bag full of money and never looking back.”)
6. How long will Declan be satisfied with 35%?
Steven: Not long. Not long at all. Declan is another possibility for the machine gun Walt picks up in the cold open of episode one. I see Declan planning a heist of some sort or taking a hostage, some way so that he can get Walt to cook for him and take a bigger chunk of the pie. That’s what drug dealers are all about, right? We already know he cares more about the methylamine than the quality of the meth, but this is the only way he can currently get it. Eventually, Declan will figure out a way to have his cake and eat it too. I have no doubt about it. I do wonder who will get killed over it, though. Maybe the dude with the crazy, three-stooges-esque hair cut?
Susan: See #5. Declan needs to get Landry/Todd’s notes, stat. Declan will not provide the support that Mike would have in this situation, and so everything that is about to rain down on Walt is just that – on Walt. He’s killed his last safety net and he has no idea. He’s just worried about the names.
It was a nice touch to have the lawyer call him and get Mike to give up his location. It played very similar to the scene in Madrigal where Chow called Mike to get him to come over. Mike’s spidey sense was tingling then, but he lost his touch as this season wore on. Just another example of Walt infecting and destroying everyone he’s around.
I love Mike, but I still prefer this version. Sorry your life had to end with such amateurs, old buddy.
The scene where Jesse finally quits is just a master class in manipulation. Every tack that Walt tries is something specific and pointed and relevant to the show’s history. He mentions the go-carts because Jesse invited Walt to ride go-carts in Season 4. He mentions that Jesse has no one in his life, but leaves out the fact that he subtly convinced Jesse to get rid of Andrea and Brock. When he talks about all the people they’ve killed, he singles out Gale, the only one Jesse has killed. It is endlessly cruel and you’re never quite sure that Jesse will get gone and stay gone until the commercial break closes the scene.
The walls are closing in on Walt, but they’re still moving very slowly. For all of the planning and talking and repositioning, this was an extremely tense episode. Mike’s death was pretty quiet, but enormously affecting, due in large part to the acting and writing in the episode’s biggest scenes. The plotting this season has been unrealistic, but they do right by the characters.
The first scene with the lawyer and bank lady is just a perfect example of the show’s style. The small talk, the music, the camera angles, the casting – perfection.
We’ve got one episode left this year. Will Hank find out? Will Skylar make a move? Will Walt Jr. eat more breakfast? Will Walt skip town? Will the roofing hammer return? Anything can happen. Hopefully something will. Check back Monday (yes, Monday!) for all the answers and more.