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Breaking Bad

Breaking Bad is a drama about Walter White, a chemistry professor who is diagnosed with lung cancer. He enlists the help of his former student Jesse Pinkman to manufacture and sell methamphetamine. AMC 2008-???

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Episode 3 - Bit by a Dead Bee

20 October 2013

Credit AMC

Synopsis: Walt and Jesse walk out of the desert and head home. Walt strips off in a convenience store and pretends that he can’t remember the last two days. Jesse clears the cooking equipment out of his house and pays Wendy to say he spent three days with her. Hank is welcomed home as a conquering hero and interrogates Jesse. Walt tells the hospital psychiatrist a version of the truth to be allowed out of hospital but has to break out and rush home when he remembers the nappy box with the gun and money in it.

The Good: I really liked this. I don’t blame those who would say this was dull. It was after all forty five minutes of fallout. There were no new dramatic developments, no apparent developments of any kind. In an era when many TV viewers are used to the 24 pace of storytelling it might well seem boring to spend so long establishing how Walt and Jesse explain away their abduction. But for me, someone sick of the shortcuts and implausible silliness of other shows undermining my enjoyment, this was wonderful. Patient, focussed and full of little moments giving us the chance to see how this experience has changed the characters.

Change is the key here. It may only be glacial but every experience in our lives changes us and Breaking Bad gives us the time here to appreciate all the ramifications and imagine how everyone feels inside. Jesse is becoming increasingly stressed by this experience. Drug dealing was supposed to be an easy life for him but this is a worse stress than a data entry job would ever have led to. You get a real sense of Jesse being trapped. He has no money and no skills. He has become handcuffed to Walt’s way of doing things and you wonder if he is ready to get out after dealing with Tuco and then Hank’s interrogation.

Walt on the other hand doesn’t seem stressed at all. No one is interrogating him and those that do buy his lies. He seems increasingly comfortable with weaving webs of lies around the staff at the hospital and his family. There seemed like a moment, as he spied on Skyler and Junior through the door, where perhaps he was feeling guilty for what he’s put them through. But he not only appears stiffened in his resolve by his survival but keen to get back to cooking. He doesn’t seem to be too shaken by his near death or relocation. Although again we get a brief shudder when he sees Tuco’s grill lovingly encased for Hank’s weird pleasure.

Speaking of Hank, he also seems energised by his experience with Tuco. He goes hard at Jesse in the interrogation and is back in his office trying to put the pieces together to make a case out of the mysterious blue meth and deaths. Walter Jr seems a lot more concerned for his Dad’s welfare, clearly scared by the idea that his father might disappear again. The real sense of consequence though comes from Skyler’s reaction to the whole affair. She knows that Walt was behaving strangely before he vanished. It’s not just the mysterious telephone call that is bothering her; it’s the inappropriate attempt at sex and the long absences (201). She is sure that he was lying to her then and now darkly suspects that he knows more about his disappearance than he is letting on. I’ve said it before but Skyler’s suspicion of Walt is one of the great decisions any drama show has ever made. Far too many TV wives have become irritating appendages to their partners on male-written shows. Skyler behaves like an actual wife would. How could Walt pull the wool over the eyes of the person who sees him every day and would instantly pick up on his abnormal behaviour? Their cold sleeping arrangements contrasted nicely to the passion they shared back in the pilot when Walt returned from his first unexplained trip.

The episode was filled with lovely little moments. Walt standing naked in the super market wondering perhaps briefly if this was all worth it. Jesse filled with a new intensity yelling at Badger or sincerely thanking Wendy for lying for him. It was a terrific episode for Aaron Paul who acted his heart out in the scenes with Hank as he stuck grimly to his lies before being filled with panic at Tio’s arrival. Again Tio was brilliant, staring hateful daggers at Jesse, before soiling himself to show Hank what he thinks of the police. Jesse being forced to give up sixty seven thousand dollars was another excellent moment as Hank attempted to goad him into admitting that it was his money they were playing with. Walt’s lies to his psychiatrist were pretty fun as he plays bad husband and father but then admits to all the motivations which led him to break bad in the first place. The entire sequence where Walt raced home after remembering the box full of incriminating evidence was good too. Again the writers gave us time to see Walt staring at his own “Missing” poster at the bus stop and contemplate the sheer lengths he is going to to hide his crimes. I loved the choice to have Walt drop the dressing gown and make a joke about how he was found. Skyler laughs because it is a fun gag but under the surface she knows there is something wrong here. Would he really be joking if it had been real?

The Bad: Nothing definitely bad.

The Unknown: The one moment I would question was how Walt abruptly ended his phone call with Jesse. Jesse is surprised to hear that Walt still wants to cook and Walt simply asks “What’s changed?” before hanging up. Only on TV shows do people hang up without saying goodbye and Walt did nothing to address Jesse’s concerns about being broke.

Walt stared at the painting in the hospital several times. It showed a family waving goodbye to their father as he rowed out into the sea. I wonder how Walt was interpreting that one?

Best Moment: Despite a number of very fine scenes, I will say the best moment was the final two minutes. It’s so rare to see a portrayal of a married couple like this. Skyler was genuinely happy to see Walt safe but she can’t let go of the fact that he is keeping secrets from her. Walt thinks that he has fooled everyone and life can go back to normal. However it’s clear from her cold shoulder that he has damaged the very marriage that he is cooking meth to provide for.

The Bottom Line: You won’t find this episode on anyone’s list of best Breaking Bad episodes but I thought it was fantastic. It was the perfect complement to “Grilled”, showing the calm after the storm and how life will never be the same again even if everyone buys the lies that Walt and Jesse tell.

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Comments

  • Questions: why did Jesse want to give a "plausible reason" to the police"? I don't get the plan. Why didn't Jess keep some of the money back for himself? Did he think he was not going to be caught by the police? Observation: How wrenching it was that Jesse was about to turn away but couldn't find a way home.

    Viewer score: 85 / 100

    Posted by avidkayaker50, 19/10/2013 4:12pm (6 years ago)

  • I also like'd Skylar's reactions during this series of episodes. There are a lot of Skylar haters out there based on these episodes, but I believe it is because we have become used to the ignorant spouse a' la Carmela Soprano. Skylar's reaction is exactly what you would expect from an 18 or so year marriage. And when she confronts Walt with the second cell phone question, you could almost see him squirm. As for the unknown, I am unsure what the physhiatrist would submit as his diagnosis. Walt clearly confesses that there was no mental reason for his dissapearance, but I don't know whether ethical priviledge rules would condone false diagnosis. It doesn't ruin my viewing experience, but stood out to me nonetheless. Perhaps a fellow podcast listener with knowledge of such rules could educate us.

    Viewer score: 75 / 100

    Posted by Mike Brown, 08/01/2013 12:41am (7 years ago)

  • Hi Robin.

    You spoke about the meaning of this episodes title on your podcast. I've heard that the 'Bit by a Dead Bee' phrase means something you no longer considered to be a threat coming back to sting you. There's plenty of examples of characters getting 'bitten' by unconsidered threats. Jesse didn't expect Hector to be brought in as a witness and Walt didn't expect that his fugue state lie could lead to him being committed and unable to leave the hospital. Walt's second cell phone was another dead bee that came back to bite him after he had lied his way out of his disappearance and hidden the money and gun. You could even include Hank in this theme since his degrading treatment of Wendy came back to bite him when he least expected it.

    Viewer score: 74 / 100

    Posted by Kelly, 27/12/2012 3:13pm (7 years ago)

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