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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 2 - Grilled

4 July 2013

Credit AMC

Synopsis: Tuco takes Walt and Jesse out to his place in the country where his disabled uncle Tio lives. He tells them that his operation was hit by the DEA and he suspects Gonzo may have tipped them off. He wants to take them to Mexico to cook in a Super Lab. They attempt to poison him with the ricin but Tio sabotages them. His warnings (with the use of a bell) lead Tuco to try and kill Jesse but they manage to shoot him in the stomach and leave him for dead. Meanwhile Skyler begins the search for Walt and Hank takes time off work to help. He follows Jesse’s car out to Tuco’s place and finds a wounded Tuco standing by Jesse’s car.

The Good: The final ten or twelve minutes of this were up there with the best tension-based television I have ever seen. From the moment that Walt poisons the tacos to when Hank puts a bullet in Tuco’s head there was a mesmeric quality to the action as the logic of the situation played out in a wonderfully suspense-filled manner.  

Of course the logic pleased me. Jesse and Walt do discuss rushing Tuco but are well aware of the likely success of that plan (aided by more Tuco violence and erratic behaviour). So the only recourse they have is the ricin and they need to act fast. Having tested Tio’s awareness by clicking in front of his face Walt thinks they are safe to tamper with the tacos. Instead Tio becomes one of the great plot contrivances. He can only communicate by ringing his bell and so is able to warn Tuco about the danger in front of him but can’t be specific. It was a terrific idea and Tio’s portrayal of his dribbling frustration was tremendous.

So Tuco begins to ask questions and realises that he’s being played even as Walt and Jesse desperately try to cover their tracks. The facial acting of all four men was excellent as the tension of the situation was given minute after minute to play out. Once Tuco found the right questions he dragged Jesse outside and beat him down with the sharp viciousness that we’ve become all too familiar with in the last four episodes. Although not before banging his gun on the floor like he was an animal hunting a weaker species. I really thought Jesse was about to die in the moment when he hit the desert floor and Tuco readied his rifle. Instead Jesse and Walt act together to distract, disarm and shoot him and yet the action isn’t over.

Again the show’s deliberate sense of logic was exceptional. Skyler might have assumed that the phone company had made a mistake if she had heard that they had no record of the call Walt received just before he left her. However Hank’s police-trained brain went straight to the obvious explanation: he must have a second cell phone. Without that assumption Marie wouldn’t have been able to push her pet theory and lead Hank to investigate Jesse. With all of that sensible storytelling behind him Hank arrived at the best and worst moment. A bloody Tuco begins firing on him and Hank manages to put him down, again using his training, to make sure he gets in a fatal hit. It was a conclusion that was all the more dramatic for its lack of flare or daredevil heroics.  

Hank showed us the more professional, competent side of himself throughout the episode. Despite his sexist, racist comments he is clearly liked at work and rallies his team and makes them excited to search for Tuco even though he believes that the search is futile. It was a nice moment showing us his understanding of leadership and motivation. His weakness is Marie of course who blabs everything he confided to her about his suspicions but it does lead him to Jesse. The front he put up to talk to Mrs Pinkman showed us that he can be polite and eloquent when he wants to be. The way he handled an awkward interrogation was impressive and showed his commitment to his family.

Skyler showed the same of course as did Walter Jr. The hatchet was buried for long enough to allow Marie to join in with the postering and flyering of the local area.

The buildup of the tension at Tuco’s place was very strong too of course. Tuco has sensible reasons for putting Jesse and Walt in the trunk but to them it seems like a death sentence. He is perfectly happy to bully them though. That’s his style. The way he giggled at finding a condom in Jesse’s wallet was demeaning and he clearly isn’t worried about their reaction to the news that they are being forcibly relocated. The chilli powder comment from Jesse, which stops Tuco from snorting the ricin, could easily have been a silly plot swerve. However I felt like it neatly captured Jesse’s salesman routine and saw his confidence flip to hubris as he began to feel he had his victim in the palm of his hand. Another benefit of Tio’s silent, sullen frame was the contrast it offered with the hyperactive, wired out of his mind Tuco who raged around the house like a bull. I liked that as Jesse and Walt desperately searched for solutions Jesse was willing to throw cancer-victim Walt under the bus to save himself. From a selfish point of view it made perfect sense to him.

The Bad:  As I complained in “Crazy Handful of Nothin’” the opening scene could easily have given away much of what was to come. It didn’t actually bother me the first time I saw this but to show Jesse’s car with all the bullet casings seems unnecessarily specific and these flashforwards almost feel like a crutch rather than an aid to the story.

The Unknown: I suppose the ricin wasn’t the best option for Walt and Jesse in the sense that it might take days for Tuco to die and his cousins are arriving in hours. However they have no other option and it looks like Walt spikes the Taco pretty heavily.

Best Moment: The whole last ten minutes was epic television but the moment when Jesse was being beaten down had me gripped as strongly as any other moment of danger has the first time I saw it.

The Bottom Line: This was the episode when I knew Breaking Bad was something special. It might sound odd given how good the show has been so far. But looking back, I needed to see that there could be real consequences on this show. Of course Krazy Eight’s death was a big deal but one of the problems with “Crazy Handful of Nothin’” is that Walt managed to overcome a seemingly intractable foe. Under the surface I worried that the show might not be capable of producing that kind of sustained drama. I was wrong and this episode blew me away.

It’s hard to compare Breaking Bad to show’s that dabble in science fiction and so can create hugely dramatic tension in ways that wouldn’t be plausible in the “real” world. It’s hard to think of another show set under normal circumstances that generated the kind of intensity and emotional engagement that this did for twelve breathtaking minutes. A first class achievement.

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  • This may be the very best episode of the show. Without a doubt, Tuco is the best viallain the show has created. I don't care about "realism for the sake of it, but Tuco actually feels like a real person, which made him very frightening. Gus, IDK he feels way to clowny and over the top for me to really have a lot of reaction to. He's a cool guy, but he just doesn't fit in the show at all. And I don't particulary like Mike too much either. I read originally Tuco was supposed to be around longer, but due to some scheduling issues or something with Raymond Cruz, they had to write him off, which is a shame. Two great things would have come from Tuco sticking around for as long as the writers intended.

    1) We get a lot more Tuco. Of all the memorable and great scenes Tuco did in just 4 episodes, think of how much more we could have in however long they had him planned.

    2) We wouldn't have Gus. Like I said, he's cool, but he just doesn't fit into the show.

    To me, after season 2, the show kind of tanked. I still like it, but it just isn't nearly as good.

    Viewer score: 100 / 100

    Posted by richard, 04/07/2013 1:01am (4 years ago)

  • This is the first episode i watched back in 2009i and I fell in love with the series then. The tension is constant, exciting, and unforgiving. You can actually believe that these things could happen, which is why I believe this is the greatest drama on TV today.

    Viewer score: 80 / 100

    Posted by Mike Brown, 08/01/2013 12:34am (4 years ago)

  • Rewatching made the scenes in Tio's house even more tense because I now knew that Tio could undestand Walt and Jesse's conversation.

    Great to see the cop talents of Hank shine. One can only hope he brightens up enough to figure out how to handle his discovery of Heisenberg's identity in these final episodes.

    Viewer score: 88 / 100

    Posted by Yogabon, 17/12/2012 1:55pm (4 years ago)

  • Ok so I've watched this episode too recently for me to want to do a rewatch so my opinion on the Salamanca's might change on a rewatch (if i ever do one) but they have always been my least favorite characters on the show. They aren't bad (the worst Breaking Bad characters are still amazing characters) and this episode is incredibly tense and amazing, but they aren't interesting. At this point in the series it makes sense for Jesse and Walt to go up against people like the Salamanca's who are just deranged, but Breaking Bad can do antagonists a lot better. Gus Fring and Mike were given a lot more screentime than Tuco but I felt something for them and that made them not only threatening but interesting. Tuco is just a crazy old meth head and while that has been weaved logically into the story it is also mighty convenient that anything can happen with Tuco because you know he's crazy. As opposed to Gus where anything could have happened because Gus was mysterious not because Gus was deranged. It is also really hard to take Hector seriously for long stretches because there are only so many facial expressions one actor can make of disgust.

    Is this an amazing episode? Yes. Are the Salamanca's very threatening and the source of some fabulous tension? Yes. I just don't think the Salamanca's (Tuco, Hector and especially the Cousins) hold up to other characters in Breaking Bad.

    Viewer score: 84 / 100

    Posted by Derek, 16/12/2012 9:34pm (4 years ago)

  • I’m pleased to see this episode receive a high grading. I’ll go even higher because ‘Grilled’ would easily make it into my Top 5 Breaking Bad episodes. The prolonged Tarantino-style tension was so perfectly excruciating and the intense violent climax left me breathless. Everything that went in between Walt and Jesse’s hostage ordeal was satisfying too. I was very touched by Skyler’s devotion to her husband as she canvassed the town with ‘Missing’ posters. I also loved Marie’s little conspiracy theory about Walt being a strung out pot addict which actually puts Hank on the right trail. This episode was definitely the most admirable portrayal of Hank we had been given so far and I also appreciated the logical way he went about his search. I hope we’ll see Hank reflecting on his Tuco standoff in the final episodes and finally realising the true reason behind Walt’s disappearance.

    Personally I thought the death throes of the bouncing red car made for a superbly disturbing cold open and one that didn’t spoil the ending in my view. I think it was actually a clever mislead. In the teaser we can see a glimpse of a body lying behind the car wheels but we can’t tell who that body belongs to. As it was Jesse’s car that was ridden with bullet holes it seemed like a foreshadowing that Jesse would gunned down, especially as Tuco kept threatening to shoot Jesse throughout the episode. I’ve heard it said in interviews that Gilligan’s original S1 plan was for Jesse to be killed off in episode nine before it was decided that Aaron Paul was too good an actor to dispose of. If that’s true then I love that the writers instead had Jesse on the verge of death only for the character to fight for his life and prevail. In the early episodes it did seem like Jesse could just be Walt’s hapless expendable sidekick; a pawn who would be “out of the game early” as they say on The Wire. The writers allowing Jesse to be the one who defeats Tuco (through sheer desperation to survive) showed that Jesse had more grit and determination than we may have previously given him credit for. It was also a great moment of nobility for Walt when he stepped in to shield Jesse from Tuco’s first attempt to murder him. Walt and Jesse may be unrepentant meth cooks, but these flashes of courage and humanity are enough to keep me rooting for them or at least not wish them to suffer such a cruel end that a psychotic thug like Tuco would dish out.

    Lastly I also have to praise the masterful use of Uncle Hector and his bell of doom. Not since Tony’s Soprano’s mother have I seen such a horrifying frail elderly villain on TV. Kudos to Mark Margolis for conveying so much with an entirely wordless performance.

    Viewer score: 92 / 100

    Posted by Kelly, 15/12/2012 4:08pm (4 years ago)

  • Great review, completely agree.

    For me, the moment Tio rings his bell at the dinner table was what blew my mind.

    Personally, I didn't mind the flashforward, although that might have been because I was more focused on the car than the bullets.

    This whole season of Jesse and Walt is just pure gold.

    Viewer score: 80 / 100

    Posted by Ben F., 13/12/2012 2:43am (4 years ago)

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