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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-???


Episode 11 - Mandala

28 February 2013

Credit AMC

Synopsis: Combo is killed after setting up shop in another dealer's territory. Jesse is upset and turns to drugs. Jane joins him and soon escalates things to heroin. Saul tells Walt to get out of the dealing game and sell his product to a local distributor who keeps a low profile. Walt goes to meet him but no one shows up. He then hears that the man doesn't want to business with Walt. So Walt returns to the Chicken restaurant where the meeting was to be held and talks to the manager.

The Good: Yet another strong episode as Walt steps back into the drug business and essentially chooses it over the birth of his daughter.

The details were excellent as usual. Walt's push to find new territory (207), which seemed reckless then, turns out to be a bad mistake and Combo is shot dead by a child. The opening sequence was misdirection tinged with real darkness. The young boy seems initially like he may be a victim of the impending battle between the men eyeballing Combo. Instead the boy is carrying out their murder for them. The tragedy hits Jesse hard and understandably Skinny Pete drops out of the game.

Saul offers the magic solution, of some unknown business man who will deal in meth the way Walt has only been able to dream of. Walt refuses to take no for an answer (after the initial rejection) and his second meeting with Gus was immensely watchable. Here's a man who, like Walt, looks like a middle class law abiding citizen but behind closed doors is in the drug business. Gus identifies Jesse as the weak link in Walt's operation and in this episode he is accurate, as Jesse collapses deeply into his habit. However his initial statement was even more accurate when he told Walt "You are not a cautious man." Clearly Gus has been doing this a long time while Walt's cancer pushed him into the deal with Tuco and the more recent expansion without the knowledge or resources to really succeed.

Walt is determined to succeed though and his perseverance wins him a second chance. The break in at Jesse's house was breathless and dramatic. It was a fine performance from Walt who isn't often called upon to show this level of physical urgency. With his phone ringing the drama reaches its peak when he has to pause and frowningly choose a deal he can't refuse over witnessing his daughter's birth. Obviously we know how crucial this deal is to everything, including paying for an operation which might entirely remove the cancer. However it's clear that this isn't just a case of bad timing. Walt is choosing his new profession over his family. As with last week's closing realisation, this is characterisation of the highest order.

We also got a revealing line when Gus asked why Walt worked with Jesse and Walt responded "Because he does what I say." He also adds that he can trust him but his first answer is clearly equally important to Walt.

Jesse's retreat into drug use at the death of Combo fit what we've learnt about him so far. Unlike Walt, he hurts at the pain he causes others and in Combo's case he feels deep guilt over his friends' death. Naturally he turns to his usual method of release and sadly Jane decides to join him. Although Jesse is an addict, he seems to manage his habit fairly well. Jane clearly got in much deeper once and has no immediate reason to join him. Her use means something different to his and it's nothing good.

Skyler's Marilyn impression revealed another side of her, one she seems happy to show Ted. Then she encounters the fraud he has been perpetuating to keep his company alive. Although she wants to wash her hands of it, she turns up to work the next day, presumably to help him cover his tracks. It's a fascinating choice which was largely overshadowed by her labour.

The Bad: Nothing as such but a few Unknowns to mention.

The Unknown: Like Marie's shoplifting, Ted's fraud prompts questions about Skyler's attitude to criminality amongst those she is close to. In Marie's case she was pretty outraged and implied that had it gone further she might have cut her sister off completely. In Ted's case there is an apparently altruistic reason for his crime. Is the thought of all those families who depend on Beneke Fabricators (a terrific double entendre for Skyler's screen saver to blink back at her) what swayed her to stay? Or is it her affection for Ted? We await more details and are left to wonder what her reaction will be when she finds out what Walt has been up to.  

It was odd to see Walt agree to a two hundred thousand dollar operation. Skyler still thinks that they are paying for his medical bills right? So how does she think they are going to afford that?

We don't know enough about Jane to fully accept her fall off the wagon. Clearly she knew what Jesse's business was a long time ago and perhaps her attraction to him was what pushed her to let him live next door. It's possible that her sobriety was only thinly held and she let Jesse into her life as a way (conscious or otherwise) of keeping drugs within her reach. I'm speculating though and their joint heroin use feels more convenient than most Breaking Bad subplots. I don't know how to feel about Jesse's out of body experience once the injection goes in. The upbeat music communicated his disappearance into induced happiness but clashed with my feeling that this was a terrible moment for him. Perhaps that was the point.

Gus the owner of Chicken Restaurants is a convenient figure to have appeared so quickly. He is exactly what Walt and Jesse need at this moment so it can't help but feel easy to throw him into the mix with no introduction.

Best Moment: Walt's desperation to get into Jesse's house and get the meth out was tremendously performed by Bryan Cranston. The hard slap he gives the unconscious Jesse was pretty shocking. His mission needed to be that intense to demonstrate why he was about to miss the birth.

The Bottom Line: Yet another excellent episode. Walt's lack of caution claims two more victims as Combo and Jane are caught in his wake. Jesse is the one left to mourn as Walt sacrifices another part of his family for the sake of his new passion.



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  • My B bad colection is missing a couple sides from t end of a two. But I have this one. And even for t sodes I can't rewatch now, I look forward to your casts. Making these posts, even as short as they are, are a but of a pain as I am doing them on my phone.

    My two fab bits are Jessies out of body ex and Walts convo w Gus. I love Gus . And I loved this intro.

    Posted by babrock, 27/02/2013 10:21pm (8 years ago)

  • So thrilled to have found your podcast and that you are doing a re-watch! I discovered Breaking Bad only a month or so ago, watched the whole thing, and then went in search of a podcast to tide me over until the new episodes air. Also: love your scoring system.

    The terrified look on the little kid's face when he shot Combo was simply heartbreaking. I think the show's use of children in various circumstances being affected by this world of drug use is very interesting and effective. Of all the kids who are affected throughout the series, this one breaks my heart the most.

    My favorite bit of acting in this episode was Aaron Paul's little breath of dispair when he wants to take Jane to the museum and she reaches for the pipe.

    I love the whole Ted storyline and how Breaking Bad expores various bad deeds and the justifications and reactions that people have to them. I found it interesting that Skyler turned up at work the next day in light of how judgemental she was about her sister's relatively petty crimes...but this shows us her ability to see shades of grey in situations, which makes her acceptance of Walt's actions later in the series more plausible.

    I also really like that Saul characterizes Gus as "skittish like a deer" and then we actually meet Gus and he is the opposite - a completely collected and still presence.

    I found it hard to believe that Walt could figure out who Gus was so easily, and also that Gus would admit who he was when he had already decided not to work with Walt. That scene just seemed contrived to me, and took me out of the story a bit, as did the part with Skyler going into labor in an instant and having the baby within the hour. Hollywood always does this, and it's just not how babies are usually born. It always drives me a little crazy.

    Last, two little moments that cracked me up: 1) The ashtray Jesse was using in Saul's office was the scales of justice and 2) Skinny Pete's description of Combo's funeral: It was, like....eMOtional.

    Viewer score: 65 / 100

    Posted by Katherine, 27/02/2013 4:08pm (8 years ago)

  • This might just be the most consequential episode of the series. So much is put into motion in this episode. However, at the time, we are not aware of just how important this framework will turn out to be.
    The murder of Combo directly impacts events all the way through the end of season 4 (and beyond that point indirectly…) this plot point alone rivals any episode teaser in terms of story shaping import.
    Walt persisting to make contact with Gus despite being rejected is certainly a fateful choice. Interesting how Walt has the keen sense of who “the cautious man” might be but not the common sense to avoid this path in a big picture sense.
    I disagree that Gus appears conveniently. Saul functions as the gateway to much of the story from here on out and he is clearly connected to Mike or one of Mike’s associates.
    Gus is the perfect foil for Walt. Both intelligent men that might have thrived on the right side of the law had their lives worked out differently. They need each other on paper - the perfect meth cook and the perfect distributor. It’s only when ego and loyalties (aka reality) ensues that the perfect match turns out to be the combustible meltdown that captivates us for two seasons.
    Best Line:
    Jesse: “Combo is Dead”
    Walt: “Which one is he?”
    This shows Walt’s callus nature and how he views not only Jesse dealer friends but in a way that comment was indicative of how Walt looks down on Jesse as less than an equal.
    Best Moment:
    Gus and Walt engage in conversation for the first time and when Gus finally reveals who he truly is after some token denials – the scene is electric. If only Gus had maintained his initial stance that Walt has poor judgment – how different things would be for all involved.

    Viewer score: 73 / 100

    Posted by Brent, 24/02/2013 7:37am (8 years ago)

  • I agree that the timing of Gus's introduction seems a little too convenient but this was the advantage of adding Saul to the story since his character could provide these connections to Walt. My favourite moment this episode was certainly the scene where Walt and Gus come face to face for the first time. I was also interested in the way Walt justified his partnership with Jesse to Gus. I do think Walt sees the decency in Jesse and knows he could trust Jesse to give his share of their money to his family. However it is a dark truth of their relationship that Walt likes having control over Jesse and he isn't willing to give up that control, not even if Gus disapproves of Walt working with a reckless junkie.

    Another of your posters was predicting that Jesse will be the one character who will escape and live free in the end. I have to disagree. This episode is a painful reminder of how self-destructive Jesse is and how he sadly misses every opportunity to better himself. It's so sad that a few minutes before Jane relapses she is suggesting that Jesse come along with her to an NA meeting. Jane could've been a good influence in Jesse's life. She might have helped him to get clean and get a legitimate job, then maybe Jesse would be the sort of boy Jane might consider introducing to her father. They had a chance and they threw it away.

    Thanks for your kind words on my writing. I only discovered Breaking Bad last year so this rewatch is giving me the chance to reflect on the series which I originally marathoned in just two weeks.

    Viewer score: 71 / 100

    Posted by Kelly, 21/02/2013 8:53pm (8 years ago)

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