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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 4 - Fifty-One

10 August 2012

Credit AMC

Synopsis: Walt buys a new car and then throws one in for Walter Jr too. Hank is promoted to head of his department. He also visits Lydia’s office and arrests the warehouse worker who handled the methylamine for her. He and Marie then head to dinner at the White household to celebrate Walt’s birthday. Skyler pretends to attempt suicide and convinces Marie to take the children for a few days. She and Walt have a blazing row over the future of the family. Jesse heads out to help Lydia with the methylamine but it seems the police are monitoring them.  

The Good: This was one of the most fascinating episodes of Breaking Bad that I can remember. It focussed largely on Walter and Skyler’s marriage and the thought process each is working with on how to get the world to function the way they want it to. I imagine some viewers were turned off by the lack of progress in the drug story but I was very intrigued to see the way things played out.

Over the last few reviews I’ve complained about the lack of explanation for Skyler’s new state of mind. Once more the writers would have been right to tell me to just be patient as the answers came flooding out of Skyler when she finally stood up for herself and revealed to Walt all that she was thinking.

Understandably she is thinking of her innocent children and how to get them out of harm’s way. Clearly part of her numbness has been the realisation that she can never escape. If Walt is ever found out she will go down with him and it seems like she has been quietly absorbing that and shifting her attention to how to protect the next generation.

I really liked the details the writers used to explain this story. Walt begins the episode buying himself and Junior new cars, something which Skyler stopped him from doing last season (406) but no longer has the will to. She reminds Walt that only a short while ago he cackled hysterically about the whole family facing a death sentence (411) yet now claims they are perfectly safe. Walt attempts to brush this off by claiming that Gus Fring was the problem and yet she throws back in his face that he, is the one knocks (405).

Her “suicide attempt” in the pool initially seemed like a surreal cry for help. Instead it was the plan she concocted over dinner in an attempt to get her sister to be ready to take her children home with her. What followed was a very gripping scene. It wasn’t beautifully constructed in a way that TV shows can sometimes do. It was too literal for that. But in its own way it was mesmeric as Skyler broke and just admitted all her plans to Walt including her dearest fantasy: that his cancer return and take him away from her. If that wasn’t a frank enough revelation it came on the heels of Walt dropping the veneer of loving husband to ponder the idea that he might have Skyler committed if she tried to stop the children from coming home. The fact that Walt could go there, to such a cold hateful place, to drop the mask so completely as to reveal the vacuum his conscience has become was confirmation of Skyler’s worst fears. He really is a monster whose been so seduced by his successes that he lies effortlessly to Hank and Marie at dinner almost attributing his year of ups and downs to divine providence.

It was pretty dramatic stuff. Perhaps it was too overwrought and direct to feel like a real marriage in a way that would have made it a classic moment. But it was still powerful. It also led both to completely different places. Skyler saw the ugliness in Walt’s heart and is clearly resolute in her desire to get rid of him. While Walt sees only another obstacle to be overcome. He didn’t see her desperation as the warning sign it is and offer to go back to his apartment. Instead he sees his gift from Jesse as a sign that he can manipulate anyone to love him. That was pretty sad. In a way it affects me more to see Jesse’s affection for Walt so dismissed than it does to see the White marriage burning to ashes. Perhaps that’s because Skyler is the only one who sees Walt clearly now. I have nothing but fear for her now.

I enjoyed the scene where Marie couldn’t help but reveal Skyler’s affair to Hank. It was a very natural bit of dialogue between a couple. Hank’s promotion will be interesting to follow. In theory he should take his mind off the Fring case but I’m sure he will simply use his new position to focus greater resources on the search for Heizenberg. I loved the opening scenes with Walter Jr and the new cars. Walt no longer sees himself as the old reliable car but as the slick black beast he brings home. The music and editing were terrific to convey Walt’s hubris and Junior’s excitement.

The Bad: Nothing exactly.

The Unknown: The Lydia story was definitely the B plot and didn’t get much time to be subtle. Her addled state was a bit forced (the different shoes felt cliché) and Jesse’s defence of her seemed like something of a plot contrivance. At this stage it feels like she’s only been introduced in order to make something happen down the road. Maybe Mike should keep his plans to himself next time. 

An awful lot has happened in one year hasn’t it? It does seem strange that Walt could have changed so totally as a person in such a short space of time. It doesn’t bother me too much but such a specific timeline does halt the suspension of disbelief temporarily. You also have to question why Walt is so happy to lie in bed with a woman he so directly threatened. Is he not afraid she might kill him? Or go to the police? Wouldn’t life be simpler if he moved out and left her alone?

Best Moment: Walt telling Skyler he would have her committed if she stood in his way was such a horribly revealing moment.

The Bottom Line: An episode that needed to happen. I felt this fully brought Walt’s dark mindset into the light and explained Skyler’s new numb perspective on her situation. When the you know what hits the fan soon I will know exactly how these characters feel and that’s what leads to great drama.

('DiggThis)

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  • I am curious why Jesse Pinkman is not on Hank's crime network board. Hank knows that Jesse is connected somehow to the blue meth, even if he isn't sure how he fit in to Fring's network. Yes, Hank kind of messed up the pursuit of Jesse by attacking him, but that shouldn't disqualify Pinkman from being somewhere on that board.

    Viewer score: 71 / 100

    Posted by Mike Brown, 14/08/2012 1:00am (7 years ago)

  • Hey, @Josh!

    Concerning the German dialogue in the first Lydia scene and possible Easter Eggs: I think they're having a problem with the delivery of some of their products. One man suggets switching to a new software, although that would lead to some delays as well. Lydia then presents a solution (which involves some kind of bypass while the software is being updated), which everyone agrees on.

    ... or so I think. As with with the German scene in "Madrigal", the actors are of course speaking with an accent and the wording is a bit odd.

    Anyway, the only Easter Egg I can offer is that Lydia is shown to be competent at her job. Unless she just destroyed the entirety of Madrigal in her nervousness. ;-)

    Posted by Tim, 11/08/2012 11:50pm (7 years ago)

  • Regarding why Mike goes along with Walter and Jesse, recall that when Jesse comes out to give Mr. White his birthday present, he says "I liked your idea."

    Walter didn't just leave it with his Baron Harkonen like proclamation that the methylamine must flow. He clearly has some sort of plan that might have persuaded Mike. Recall that Mike does not yet know how much of a screw up the magnet plan was. And ultimately, it did work. So it's not insane that he'd be persuaded by a plan from Walter that answers his problems with Lydia while keeping the operation going. Mike was rather glib about shutting down. HE is the one who needs money now, not Walter and Jesse. Walter and Jesse both have enough cash to shutdown for a year or more.

    Viewer score: 70 / 100

    Posted by Jason from Natter Cast, 10/08/2012 2:02am (7 years ago)

  • Great cast. You were asking if it's reasonable for Skyler to be so physically fearful of Walt. I think so. My read is that Skyler has been in heavy denial throughout seasons 3 and 4. She wants, as you point out, to find some way to make "my husband is a meth cooker" work. And the way that worked is...there is no danger.

    Her denial began to break with the "I am the danger speech," was further damaged by the "Crawlspace cackle" (where you will recall her look of horror) and was finally broken by the murder of Gus.

    The bedroom fight is reminiscent of other moments of clarity on the show, like when Jesse was in the hospital and Walter offered to go partners again. Jesse refuses on the grounds that his entire life has turned to shit since hooking up with Mr. White. Jesse was right about that, but then he caved and agreed. Another such scene is the lawyer who told Skyler, in no uncertain terms, that she must leave Walt and she must not use any of his money.

    Skyler was prepared to live with a mild mannered criminal. She is not prepared to live with Scarface. And she realized over these four episodes (which do not encompass a lot of time) that her children are in danger. Any reasonable person would have gone straight to Hank after "Crawlspace," but Skyler has her own problems with hubris...it takes an awful lot for her to admit that a situation just won't work.

    But she's there now.

    - Jason at Natter Cast

    Viewer score: 70 / 100

    Posted by Jason from Natter Cast, 10/08/2012 1:41am (7 years ago)

  • Lots of love for this episode out there, but not from me (but I didn't care for the fly either). I've felt like the characters emotional states (WW and Skyler in particular) have accelerated way too quickly this season. I was just getting the reading from Skyler that she was prepared to take on the Bonnie role to Walt's Clyde and now she's concocted a half baked plan to have her children boarded with Hank and Marie because she loathes Walt so. I'd suggest that rather than put your cards on the table in a hopeless standoff with Walt Skyler would be better served by stuffing the kids in the car and running or turning states evidence with Hank. I'm sure she could skate on jail time given what she would have to offer.

    I was disappointed that the new lab-in-a-house scenario has already been reduced to routine and we just get a fleeting look see at closing time like they've done this drill a thousand times before. Entire seasons have been based on this process and now it's reduced to background noise.

    Finally the fact that "no half measures" Philly hardened Mike is going to subject himself to a vote on cleaning up the Lydia situation again seems wholly out of character. Wouldn't he have recognized the error of his ways on letting her live in the first place and take care of her on his own. Conversely, If I was Lydia I'd have skipped town already with daughter in tow.

    Hearing Gomey is the mole buzz on the interweb. What's your take on that scenario?

    Viewer score: 55 / 100

    Posted by dbates, 09/08/2012 12:38am (7 years ago)

  • I picked the same best moment on this episode. Which made it the best so far of the season.

    I was disappointed by the Lydia scenes. I was hoping she'd be much more shrewd or clever and perhaps emasculate the bad boys.

    Walt thinks he broke bad for his family's wellbeing and now can't see how he is their greatest danger.

    I hope Skyler finds a way to redeem herself or at least provide for the children in some way.

    I suspect the end will be very tragic, dark and sad - yet I cannot look away. I'm along for the ride.

    Viewer score: 76 / 100

    Posted by Yogabon, 08/08/2012 2:38am (7 years ago)

  • Best episode of this season. I agree with you that the bedroom battle was outstanding and even before that the tense birthday party was developed very well.
    Skylar is a strong foil and her story has been the most interesting for me this season.
    I enjoyed the Lydia scenes too. Did you notice the Gale sign in the window?
    But why would Mike relent again to Heisenberg? That seems a little off.
    Finally, I think the tension and the strain is going to break with dire results in the next episode.
    Ron from Vegas

    Viewer score: 85 / 100

    Posted by Ron, 07/08/2012 6:06am (7 years ago)

  • Also, I gave the episode an 80 which to me translated to a solid B. As often as I read your blog, I still don't quite get how you score. :-)

    Posted by Aaron , 07/08/2012 2:04am (7 years ago)

  • So the scene that opened this series takes place exactly one year after this most recent episode? I assumed that was the point of the bacon scene.

    Agreed that this was another fantastic episode that just kept ratcheting up the tension.

    It's kind of heartbreaking how kind Jesse is to Walt sometimes. I really have a feeling that this series is going to end with Walt selling Jessie out, and it's already making me angry.


    Viewer score: 80 / 100

    Posted by Aaron , 07/08/2012 2:04am (7 years ago)

  • Another very good episode, though I suspect this one won't hold up quite so well on a re-watch. It's an episode that's needed to fill us in on what everyone's thinking and feeling to set us up for what any and all of them do next episode.

    I like how they acknowledge the audience somewhat in the dinner party scene and in how it feels much longer than just a year since Walt's diagnosis. Also I thought the mention of 'Marie's Talking Pillow' was at first a comedic line because I thought it was in reference to some bizarre filler storyline for her character we were never shown where she imagined her pillow was telling her things (even more so when Hank mentioned her shrink). It was only until afterwards and checking on-line that I remembered the episode where Marie suggested they sat around the couches with a cushion to discuss how they're all feeling.

    I'm fearing for Skylar now if she doesn't change her mind and intentions about Walt. Especially after those blunt but effective visual clues like the blood coming down from Walt's shaved head and the ticking of the watch on the night stand. Both of these menacing images came after Walt spoke to Skylar, so I am more inclined to think that any sequential link is there for her character more than any other. What if Walt, eventually, uses the ricin on her? She told him she wanted him to die and remove his children from his life and the 'wrong environment', and we all know what happened to the last person who threatened to take away his children. I think it might be in the realms of possibility that Skylar could tragically succumb to an 'overdose' or 'random heart' attack soon. One that Walt could easily blame on her depression and/or the stresses of her depression. I mean - he wouldn't have to do much work to sell the idea of her suicide to Hank and Marie and everyone else - after all they saw her wade in to that pool and they're convinced it's still because of Beneke, and that Walt's the victim here.
    Were Walt to do this it would be furthering his Heisenberg behaviour in a big way; turning his enemy's actions against themselves without them even realising it, while betraying his entire justification for his original decision to cook meth on/just after his 50th birthday. The fact that he found the pork pie hat in his car says something - it's all about the vanity of power for Walt now. However Walt would still have to lie in detail to Walter Jr. to explain everything, find another way to launder the money and wouldn't have the time to cook meth if he's changing Holly's nappies all day and night. Then again we are in the final straight so anything could happen.

    One last thing - does anyone know what was being said in that conversation in German in Lydia's first scene? Could there be little clues/easter eggs in there?

    Viewer score: 63 / 100

    Posted by Josh, 06/08/2012 5:07pm (7 years ago)

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