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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 5 - Breakage

22 October 2013

Credit AMC

Synopsis: Walt’s medical bills pile up and Jesse finds a new apartment. To pay for all of this they cook a new batch and Jesse recruits his friends to deal for him. Skinny Pete gets robbed by two addicts and Walt suggests that Jesse “handle” the situation. Meanwhile Hank receives a promotion before suffering post-traumatic stress from his encounter with Tuco.

The Good: After two episodes of recovery Walt and Jesse get back to cooking. The story of how they had to become their own distributors was well told.

They have no desire to find another Tuco or Crazy Eight and so Jesse falls back on his friends. I liked the way Jesse was able to handle two negotiations successfully (Badger’s cousin and then Jane the landlady) and was suddenly filled with enough confidence to take on “Walt.” It also fit the story well that Jesse was now insisting on doing things his way after Walt pushed him into meeting with Tuco against his wishes. Jesse had a good episode all round. He was able to play Jane in two ways; pushing for sympathy with one hand while holding a big pile of cash in the other. With Combo, Skinny Pete and Badger he showed his maturation from street salesman to management as he outlined his plans and expectations. He was able to run the operation successfully for a few days and would clearly have been happy to absorb his losses within his share. However in Walt he has somehow sought out another father figure. He moans to Jane about how he wasn’t able to match his parents expectations and Walt too refuses to congratulate Jesse and instead finds fault with his live-and-let-live attitude to how Skinny Pete was robbed.

The robbery was neatly handled on the back of another excellent montage. We see Jesse and his crew finding creative ways to sell the meth and collect payment before Skinny Pete gets lured into a trap by two addicts who look worse than Wendy did. It’s an entirely understandable scenario in the absence of a Tuco figure to scare people. Walt’s attitude was quite surprising (see The Unknown) but certainly raises the tension between the two men over how to run their business.

The fallout from the events of “Grilled” have been portrayed superbly. A couple of weeks after Hank blew Tuco away he has begun to feel haunted by the memory of what he went through. He recalls the events in front of Merkert and soon after in the elevator he temporarily loses control as he is gripped with tension. He takes a day off work to try and recover his nerve and in a neat sequence bottles some homebrew which later begin exploding, setting off his frayed nerves again.

Post-traumatic stress is not something many TV action or police figures suffer from. It would take away from their ability to do it again when the story required it of them. On Breaking Bad though the writers have made another wise choice in showing us the ripples spreading out from Walt’s actions and dragging his family down.

The teaser sequence showed two men, presumably, crossing the border from Mexico into America (when they come across Tuco’s grille). As with the montage of Albuquerque’s drug users it was a nice bit of world building.

The Skyler-Marie tension seems to finally be put to bed when Skyler demands an apology. As she knows exactly what’s going on with Marie (she doesn’t with Walt), she is able to bring her full moral indignation to bear on her sister and normalise their relationship. It’s been an interesting parallel with Walt because Marie has now been forgiven for her crimes. However it seems doubtful that he would get the same treatment.

The Bad: Nothing as such but...

The Unknown: so far I would say Breaking Bad has been exceptionally good at taking its characters from decision A to consequence B. At each stage of the story I have been able to fully understand and believe in everything that has happened. However here for the first time I felt like I was taking a leap. Walt tells Jesse that he sees only one option for them and that’s for Jesse to sell their product himself. Jesse suggests that they bring in other people to help them and Walt says he doesn’t like that idea. He thinks it would be risky and half-jokes at the idea that Jesse might become like Tuco and beat up his friends if they disrespect him. Yet when Jesse succeeds Walt jumps all over him for allowing Skinny Pete to get mugged. He actually hands Jesse a gun and encourages him to “handle” the situation. Even if he isn’t suggesting murder he has gone from not wanting anyone else to be involved in selling his meth to pushing Jesse into threatening people in one episode.

The change in him is sudden and feels abrupt. I have no problem imagining how Walt could have arrived at this conclusion.
- He may genuinely feel that Jesse must imitate Tuco’s methods if they are to stay safe.
- The continuing intransigence of Skyler may have made him more stubborn in insisting things are done his way.
- Seeing Walter Jr fawn over Hank the hero and hearing a description of Tuco as a cockroach may have influenced his hardnosed decision.
- A desire to push back against Jesse’s assertiveness and slap him down as the junior partner again.

All of those in combination could well explain Walt’s decision. As I say, in no way do I find this development implausible or think that it made for bad television.

But most show’s begin to decline when moments like this add up. When writers stop taking you neatly from A to B a viewer, consciously or otherwise, begins to become more aware of the manipulations at work. Clearly I am meant to have an emotional reaction to Walt laying down the gun and telling Jesse he wants him to handle the situation. But the reaction I have is to question why Walt feels this way. I shouldn’t be doing that, I should know or have a good idea. As I listed above, I have several good ideas but I think this moment is worth noting. Not many shows can sustain excellence and it’s possible that this is the first crack in the edifice.

Best Moment: In a literal but very nicely constructed moment Walt meets with Dr Delcavoli to discuss the first stage of chemotherapy. After talking about the medical side for a while Dr Delcavoli asks about Walt’s mental state since his episode and Walt assures him that everything is fine. The Doctor then asks “how are you two holding up” and the shot jumps wide to show us an empty chair next to Walt where Skyler should be. She isn’t there as Walt says “Fine...”

The Bottom Line: This was another solid episode but without the same unifying storyline that the last two have benefited from. As he isn’t a main character Hank’s story had to share the spotlight with Walt and Jesse’s which meant it didn’t get the same depth as their responses to “Grilled.” Walt’s sudden determination to behave like Tuco was also an odd moment which didn’t flow naturally from the rest of the episode.

('DiggThis)

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  • Great maturation of Jesse. He is the man at the moment. Keeps his word; gets his life together; successfully challenges Walt. Walt is losing control of his wife, son, and "business." Skyler is shutting him out all the more. Love the touch of his indignation of her smoking -- following upon his criticism of her poor mothering of Walt Jr. He is grasping for some way to reassert himself. Everything seems more and more phoney about him. And he is getting greedy. Jesse understands "breakage"; Walt does not. I think he pushes Jesse to "handle" the situation primarily for two reasons: 1) he wants ALL the money -- no breakage for him and 2) he wants to try to control Jesse -- he desperately needs to control something. I was sad to see Jesse capitulate. That is the harder sell for me.

    Viewer score: 90 / 100

    Posted by avidkayaker50, 22/10/2013 4:00am (6 years ago)

  • First, and only (I believe) time Jesse calls Walt "Walt". They're on even ground for the first time in the series. This is significant as all other times Walter is "Mr. White"

    Viewer score: 70 / 100

    Posted by Mike Brown, 08/01/2013 12:58am (7 years ago)

  • My interpretation of Walt handing Jesse the gun at the end of the episode was that Walt was slapping down Jesse's assertiveness. Walt was clearly unsettled by Jesse calling him by his first name and taking charge of their distribution. Walt doesn't like to give up control; it's a purely spiteful move, not a smart one. It becomes clear in ep 2x7 that Walt didn't expect Jesse to go through with his mission of terrorizing the Spooges.

    Viewer score: 73 / 100

    Posted by Kelly, 06/01/2013 7:15pm (7 years ago)

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