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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 9 - Kafkaesque

13 June 2013

Credit AMC

Synopsis: Jesse is angry to be taking so little from Gus’ lucrative operation. He is equally bemused by Saul’s offer to help him buy a Nail Salon to launder his money. He is so determined to be the bad guy that he brings Skinny Pete and Badger to his Twelve Step group to sell meth. Walt meets with Gus to show that he understands what happened with Hank and ask what happens at the end of their three month agreement. At the hospital Marie is increasingly frustrated by the rehabilitation options that Hank’s healthcare can offer. So Skyler offers to pay explaining that Walt made his money gambling.

The Good: The Jesse story is unfolding in an unexpected way. It really seems like the loss of Jane and perhaps what happened with her father has worked its way deep inside him. His acceptance of the role of “Bad Guy” seems to lead him to push buttons around him. He is not content with his million dollar contract with Gus, nor the idea of safely laundering money. His desire to steal from Gus and sell it to his recovery group is both diabolical and surely a cry for help. The risks of getting caught or causing more damage are so high that it seems like Jesse is determined to lash out at the world until he finds whatever it is he’s looking for.

His rebellion may have more mundane causes too. When he dealt drugs before he was a rebel and had no responsibilities or taxes. Now he is just an employee like everyone else. The money is nice but maybe what really attracted him to the lifestyle was just being an outlaw. Aaron Paul delivers monologues very nicely and his box story was entertaining and resounded with familiar character beats.

Meanwhile Walt continues to act like he and Gus are equals when they clearly aren’t. Last episode he claimed Hank was a better man than him but this episode he compares himself to Gus. His arrogant approval of Gus’ plan to remove the Cousins and Cartel from his territory was almost laughable. We can see from the production line of Chicken product which Gus uses to spread his meth around that he is operating on a level way out of Walt’s league.

I wasn’t sure what to make of Walt’s literal tail spin out on the highway. His negotiation with Gus netted him a boat load more cash but it also committed him to cooking for the foreseeable future. I’m not sure what combination of exhilaration or fear led him to lose control while driving but I wonder if he is asking himself whether Gus will ever let him stop? Why would he when his business is so crazily profitable? He certainly seemed intimidated by Gus at first and perhaps he is thinking about the death which nearly knocked for Hank coming for him some day.

Back at the hospital it was good to see Hank in vaguely good humour and some justice comes his way when Walt’s money is used to pay for the rehab which Marie demands for him. Skyler’s carefully constructed lie, replacing gambling for cooking, was cleverly done. It shows us that Walt and Skyler do have more in common than it might have appeared at times. Once again she seems determined to make the best of a bad situation now that she’s in deep. His reactions were terrific as he sat in shock, responded to Marie’s judgment before at last being able to take credit for all his work with the hilarious comment “I did very well.” Poor Ted Beneke is left confused by Skyler’s sudden breakup but she is all in with her family now. 

The Bad: Nothing in particular.

The Unknown: I found it interesting to look at my old Blog review of this episode. I noted some things that I now take for granted:  Again the wide shots of conversations (Skyler-Ted in the house, Walt-Gus in the office) are so different to most TV shows. On a practical level they show you a whole room and the absence of cameras in it adding to the sense of reality. I also love the money laundering idea. One of the best things about Breaking Bad is how the drug trade is broken down and the viewer gets to see how it goes unnoticed in society. Those details are what build a sense that this is a real world we are watching and that adds so much to the emotional investment of viewers, even if they don't consciously think about it.

Best Moment: Jesse attempting to sell drugs to his Twelve Step group is really vile. It’s such a dark thing to do that it goes beyond rebellion to something malevolent. It seems out of character for Jesse to want to go here, hence my assumption that he is crying out for something else.

The Bottom Line: Another good episode as Walt and Jesse both acclimatise themselves to their uncomfortable new reality as employees.



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  • Bravo, Kelly. Your last paragraph especially captures my thoughts on this episode, exactly.

    Skyler is trying to write her own narrative. She does this again on Ted's behalf, to cover his breaking bad.

    Viewer score: 68 / 100

    Posted by Yogabon, 13/06/2013 1:55am (7 years ago)

  • I haven't had a whole lot to say about the last couple episodes---the period in between One Minute and Fly is a little bit dry (and that's okay; it can't be storms of bullets constantly). But Kafkaesque featured two wonderful monologues, from Jesse and Skyler respectively, that are such bravura showcases of writing and acting that I just have to comment on them briefly. In an episode that might have otherwise scored under 65 for me for its general lack of progression on any major points, these two speeches kept me riveted to the screen. Skyler's complex lie/truth/performance especially takes me back to the glory days of season 1 and 2, because the whole thing again shows how enmeshed Walt's family is in all of this. And as Skyler said, she learned from the best, manipulating both Walt and Marie here by taking advantage of what each knows and doesn't know. And while Jesse's box story may matter less in the long run of the show, it certainly is a great character moment from him, and looking forward it seems like an (unintentional, I assume) structural foreshadowing of the brutal "problem dog" speech.

    Viewer score: 67 / 100

    Posted by dfault, 11/06/2013 6:10pm (7 years ago)

  • 65 seems fitting for Kafkaesque"--nothing extraordinary, just a usual high-quality Breaking Bad production...
    This episode definitely shows what Skyler is capable of pulling off when she doesn't simply butt heads with Walt; geez is she good at using the truth in a manipulative way! Makes me wonder if the "happy ending" we were teased with in "Gliding Over All" was really Walt and Skyler reconnecting--maybe they just have more in common than meets the eye.
    Another thought that keeps popping into my head as we rewatch season 3 is, do we ever really find out what is Gus' motivation to be a drug kingpin? We know why he took revenge on the Mexican cartel, but why do all of his own empire building? I suppose in the end it doesn't matter that we weren't told, but I always have wondered.

    Viewer score: 65 / 100

    Posted by Matt E., 11/06/2013 2:44pm (7 years ago)

  • I found I See You and Kafkaesque to be solid episodes but not so memorable. This isn`t a bad thing, though, where Breaking Bad is concerned because the beauty lies in the contrast between the slower episodes and the crazy ones (Face Off, One Minute). I don`t think the fast ones would have anywhere near as much impact if every episode was like One Minute. The slower episodes provide the foundations for the fast ones.

    I liked seeing Walt having to sit through Gus talking to Marie and family pretending to act normal when really he was anxious about what Gus was going to say about Hank being in the DEA. Cranston always nails scenes where Walt has to pretend he isn`t involved in the drug world. I thought it was very consistent to Gus`character hiding in plain sight that he would bring food to the DEA agents, talk to Marie and talk to Walt out in the open around the DEA agents about their business. Also liked the introduction of `Walt`s gambling`and Jesse`s rehab group plan.

    I agree with Ben that it was not lame when Jesse repeated Kafkaesque after hearing it. He also does this in an episode with Jane when she tells him DBAA (don`t be an a##hole) and he repeats it to Badger. I guess because Jesse is a very impressionable character that they can get away with this technique here.

    Viewer score: 65 / 100

    Posted by Kay, 10/06/2013 6:38pm (7 years ago)

  • Great episode, this was another episode that made good use of the entire case, especially Saul and the rehab group.

    This might be the only episode of an television show that takes the "character hears a vocabulary word and uses it later on" idea and not make me hate it.

    Viewer score: 70 / 100

    Posted by Ben F., 06/06/2013 1:01am (7 years ago)

  • I think the moment when Walt questions Gus about his role in the shootout between Hank and the Cousins is a really pivotal scene. Walt is realizing what a masterful chess player Gus is and that he is just one of Gus's many pawns. A member of Walt's family was almost killed and he could do nothing to stop it. Gus orchestrated the whole thing and Walt never saw it coming. This is what makes Gus scarier than Tuco to Walt. Gus might just be smarter than him. He is certainly way beyond Walt's control. My take on Walt's tailspin on the highway is that Walt was getting that fear of death back in his system. Ever since his cancer diagnosis, it's Walt's awareness of his own mortality that has woken him up; making him stronger and more determined than he's ever been in his life. Walt is energizing himself for a fight, knowing now that Gus is someone he'll eventually have to defeat and it's not going to be at all easy.

    As for Jesse, I'm not sure I'd call him selling meth to his NA group a "cry for help". To me it seemed more like Jesse looking for punishment. Jesse does have a strong sense of morality. As a kid, Jesse drew pictures of himself as different superheroes, so Jesse resigning himself to a bad guy role in life seems very self-loathing and fatalistic. Jesse knows he has fallen from grace and I think he believes that as a bad guy he will get what he deserves. Stealing from the superlab is the first hint that Jesse has a deep-seated death wish. Perhaps part of Jesse is still crying out for comfort, but since Jesse was so isolated and rejected at the start of S3 I don't think he believes that anyone will care to help him.

    Lastly, the Skyler gambling cover story was a brilliant development. I remember in S1 they established that Skyler was a bit of a failed writer just as Walt felt like a failure in his chemistry career. Walt was finally able to use his unappreciated talents and it seems like Skyler is getting to put her own unsung talent for storytelling to good use too. All they had to do was break the law to fulfill their vocations.

    Viewer score: 72 / 100

    Posted by Kelly, 05/06/2013 10:18pm (7 years ago)

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