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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 3 - Hazard Pay

21 August 2012

Credit AMC

Synopsis: Mike visits his various men in prison and assures them that their hazard pay remains in place. Saul then takes Mike, Walt and Jesse around various potential cook sites. Walt sees the best option as being to cook in houses undergoing fumigation. Marie comes to see Skyler and amidst her babbling Skyler snaps and yells at her to shut up repeatedly. Walt counsels Jesse over whether he can share his work life with Andrea and then tells Marie about Skyler’s affair with Ted Beneke.

The Good: I really enjoyed the final scene. It was far more sinister and well thought out than either of the previous episodes closing moments. In those scenes we were presented with the sight of Walter as a mafia-style boss who Skyler was forced to lie beside despite being terrified of what he had become. That threat may be palpable to her but to me as a viewer it felt like the producers using imagery that hadn’t quite been earned yet. Here though, in front of us, we could see the mob mentality growing inside Walt’s mind.

He assumed that having killed Gus he could now seamlessly step into his shoes. As Mike patiently explains though, Walt has none of Gus’ infrastructure in place and so has to watch the undignified sight of “his” money being handed out to men he doesn’t know. This is not what Walt dreamed of. Clearly he now wants the world to bow at his feet. You could see the joy on his face when Mike told the fumigation crew that the only words they should speak to him were “Yes sir” and “No sir.” With Mike getting his way, Walt doesn’t see the logic of the hazard pay. Instead he sees the unspoken logic behind Gus slitting Victor’s throat (401) in the super lab. Now Walt has visions of presumably killing Mike just to send a message to all his men about who is really in charge. Instead of Skyler it’s Jesse who stares blinkingly at this new reality and begins to question what the hell is going on in Walt’s head. I really felt Walt’s delusion this time and could see the emotional expectation which might lead him toward that kind of insane thinking.

The rest of the episode was another expert bit of puzzle piece gathering. I was amused by Mike’s lawyer enjoying some mp3 time as Mike makes sure that none of his men will tell the police what they know. Saul’s tour of potential cook sites had its fun moments as did the return of Badger and Skinny Pete. The decision to cook in fumigated houses seemed entirely appropriate. Its genius is in its simplicity and inviolability. Yet at the same time it is a ludicrously risky choice both because of its proximity to witnesses and the potential for evidence being left behind. Walter White wouldn’t have it any other way though would he? He won’t be inconvenienced by driving too far away and will thoroughly enjoy thumbing his nose at authority in such an eye catching way. The use of a tented house as a cook site also continued Breaking Bad’s fine tradition of turning everyday items into the dark tools of the drug trade. Nothing is safe from high school labs to fried chicken restaurants to box cutters to roadie cases.

Another Breaking Bad tradition is the conscientious use of daily procedure to make the narrative seem more realistic. So the episode paused while Mike signed in at the prison and was let through one electronically controlled door after another. We got to see Mike lecturing the fumigation workers on their new procedure and watch a nervous home owner sign the documents which essentially turned his home into a meth lab. Finally we got to see Mike stack all those dollars up before slowly diminishing each stack along with Walt’s ego. I love the detail work which went into explaining why the new drivers were being paid so much. Last season we got several important scenes focussing on Pollos Hermanos trucks (404, 406) being attacked and again the writers make sure that those details pay off in some way.

Walt coming face to face with Brock was one of three scenes where we got to see how lying has become second nature to him. It was almost comical to see Walt sell Skyler down the river by revealing to Marie the details of her affair with Ted Beneke. It made Walt look like a sympathetic cuckold to his sister-in-law. How could Skyler do that to her poor cancer ravaged, gambling addict husband? The scene with Jesse was more nuanced. Of course Walt largely just wants Andrea and Brock as far out of mind as possible. However his words of warning about sharing your criminal life with a loved one may have had a tinge of genuine concern for Jesse. Either way when Jesse announced that they had broken up it made the previous scene, where he had sat silently with his little family unit, seem a lot sadder.

I thought the best Jesse moment all season came when he offered to pay Mike’s hazard money out of his cut. “Just take it” he says as his two “Dads” bicker over the cash. That lack of interest in his own financial gain seemed a lot more like the detached figure who was coming to terms with his own actions last season. That desire to keep the peace is of course a complete contrast to Walt’s suggestion that Mike might become a casualty in his own drive for respect and power. Clearly Jesse will be caught in the middle of whatever conflict is coming.

I thought Skyler’s breakdown scene was tremendous. Marie can seem a little silly at times but she was the right foil to push Skyler’s nerves over the edge. It seemed to fit so perfectly that she would just keep yelling “Shut up” until the anger on the surface would break and the tears could flow.

The Bad: Once more there was an absence of subtlety with the pop culture crime imagery. The use of Scarface was an obvious choice. But there was an almost Simpsons-like quality to the unnerving sight of Walter Jr asking his mother to join them in their den of iniquity as they sat laughing at violence and bloodshed.

Earlier in the episode there was a real television cliché when the third cook site was clearly no good for Walt’s purposes but of course this was the one which he announced was perfect (admittedly only referring to the tent gear). 

The Unknown: As I said above, I really liked seeing the moment when Jesse begins to doubt Walt’s mind. My problem with the previous two episodes has been that I didn’t get to see the same thing happen to Skyler. Walt claims that he was the one who blew up Gus Fring. But he already claimed that he was the man who knocks when news of Gale’s death came out. Why would Skyler suddenly see him in such a different light? I would have liked a clearer definition of how she saw him to get to this point where she trembles at the sight of him putting his underwear in her draws.

Best Moment: Skyler yelling “Shut up” was really emotionally engaging. Though the closing moment was probably more momentous for where the story is going.

The Bottom Line: This was a really strong episode, moving the main storyline along with typically clever use of detail, imagery and character knowledge.

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  • I enjoyed this one as much as episode 502, but had a few bones to pick. Like "dbates" said, where DID the money come from so quickly? The time line seemed to indicate that they got this huge pile of cash a day or two after the cook. So we're to believe the drivers or distributors fronted the money for product before it could possibly have all been sold?

    Walt complains that his share "is less than with Fring." Huh? Even after expenses reduced the piles to $137,000 apiece, that's got to be five times more than his pay for a day's cook for Gus. ($7.5 million a year divided by, I'm guessing, at least 250 work days, is "only" $30,000 per cook day). So yeah, their net is less than Gus's was, but $137,000 for a day's work is nothing to whine about.

    At first, I couldn't understand the point of Mike bringing "over a million dollars" to Walt and Jessie just to take most of it back. If Mike had forewarned them about costs, they wouldn't need such a graphic demonstration of the minus side, Walt could have done the math in his head. On second watch, though, I realized that Mike enjoyed teaching Walt a mean little math lesson, then rubbing his nose in the fact that he's not "Jesse James."

    Viewer score: 80 / 100

    Posted by Nono Ono, 02/08/2012 11:36am (7 years ago)

  • This episode was very methodical and logical, and that really appeals to me. First we have Mike, ever the cool head, seeing to "his guys" and making assurances that they will be made whole. In Madrigal it was clear that Mike had his change of heart about getting into business with Walt because of his concerns about keeping his guys paid and quiet. It's nice to see him following up on that. I don't know why I assumed that he would be paying them off entirely from his cut, but of course this is just another bone of contention between Mike and Walt.

    I thoroughly enjoyed the scenes with Saul and the "Three Amigos" looking at new places to cook. Of course after dismissing all of Saul's ideas Walt comes up with his own plan and won't take any dissent. Every scene with Walt has his all consuming arrogance and hubris playing a part, even in a small way like this.

    I'm interested to see how the new pest control business idea will affect things with Walt and Jesse. I'm especially interested in the character of Todd, who is played by Jesse Plemons from Friday Night Lights. It seems to me that there will be more to this character, and my mind instantly went to crackpot territory: could he be an undercover cop?

    I really missed Hank this episode and I'm eager to see how things are running at the DEA with Hank back on the job and Merkert out of the picture. The scene with Marie and Skyler, and subsequently Marie and Walt was excellent. I can't see where Skyler can go from here. She's already shut down and paralyzed, what more can she take? Walt placating Marie's concerns with a bit of self-serving truth was excellent. Walt in the past hasn't been a very good actor, but as is morality diminishes, he seems to have an easier time dishing up stories to move things how he wants them to go.

    My one downside is that I don't like how easily Jesse is being manipulated by Walt. Last episode it was believable and heart-wrenching when Walt was rubbing Jesse's shoulders and comforting him about the ricin cigarette. Jesse has a lot of pent up guilt about this entire enterprise, and we all know how much he craves validation and encouragement from his father figure Walt. This episode I thought Jesse was too quick to break up with Andrea after Walt's talk with him about being honest with her. I know Jesse's not suspicious of Walt, but to have him do exactly what Walt wants immediately, seems too weak for me. I do wonder though if Jesse is having any doubts after Walt's speech about Victor. We know Jesse is loyal to both Walt and Mike, the tension of when his loyalty will swing away from Walt is what I believe this final season is all about.

    Final thought, it was great to see Skinny Pete and Badger again, and who knew Skinny Pete was such a talented pianist?

    Viewer score: 68 / 100

    Posted by Kelly, 01/08/2012 1:58pm (7 years ago)

  • -loved the montage cook scene

    -I have a feeling someone will die as a result of "murder by fumigation"

    -The scene with Walt and Jesse watching the three stooges in the house transitions to Marie yelling to the car washer "you're going to leave streaks..." Is this foreshadowing W&J aren't covering up their tracks properly? That plus the mention of the nannycam is basically telling us that these cook sites aren't as secure as Walt thinks.

    And why The Three Stooges, of all shows? I doubt it's a reference to Walt, Jesse, and Mike, but it was clearly a calculated choice to use such an outdated old show.

    -This is a silly nitpick, but Walt and Walt Jr. kept asking Skyler to come join them to watch Scarface. They even tried to tempt her with what appeared to be a full bowl of popcorn. But they were watching the final scene of the movie! Sloppy!

    Those tortillas looked delicious and hot and fresh. I don't blame Jesse for snatching one off the belt.

    Viewer score: 73 / 100

    Posted by jeremy, 31/07/2012 5:45am (7 years ago)

  • I liked this episode much better than the first two.

    Maybe Skyler see's Ted's situation as somehow engineered by Walt or at least as being Walt's fault. Maybe she is regretting her choices and fears what standing by him is doing to her moral center.

    Allowing him to treat watching "Scarface" as a casual family movie night with both children looking on must've shook her again.

    I was glad to see Jesse's boys again partly because I feel this show is at it's best when it allows in some humor to balance out all the dark undertones.

    Viewer score: 74 / 100

    Posted by Yogabon, 31/07/2012 12:54am (7 years ago)

  • I think I might use a different metric to score than you do, so bear that in mind.
    I agree with my points in the post. One thing that I did not like was Mike playing a paralegal. That seemed too risky, especially considering how mad he becomes at not being allowed to leave the prison excatly when he wants. This would draw undue attention, would it not?
    I think now Walter White is officially dead and Heisenberg resides where Mr. White lived. The Scarface loudly announced that.
    The way that Heisenberg figures out how to cook again is really clever. Too notch. It seems real and authentic.
    Skylar contiunes to shine. We feel her terror. I like it.
    And poor Jesse. Will he ever discover just how badly he's been played by Heisenberg?
    Good podcast.
    Ron

    Viewer score: 80 / 100

    Posted by Ron, 30/07/2012 10:14pm (7 years ago)

  • "My problem with the previous two episodes has been that I didn’t get to see the same thing happen to Skyler. Walt claims that he was the one who blew up Gus Fring. But he already claimed that he was the man who knocks when news of Gale’s death came out. Why would Skyler suddenly see him in such a different light?"

    I believe the penny really dropped for Skyler upon her seeing Ted in hospital. She knows he is there as a direct result of Walt's (and her) actions. While Gale and Gus are more abstract characters for Skyler, Ted is the personification of the chickens beginning to come home to roost.
    She sees the metamorphisis in Walt and maybe is terrifiied by the thought of "breaking bad" like him, or being a casualty of his actions.

    (really enjoy your podcast, keep up good work - You really need to get round to watching the sopranos though, would really like to hear your thoughts on that great show. Along with the Wire the best thing ever on TV)

    Viewer score: 75 / 100

    Posted by Heisenberger, 30/07/2012 9:25pm (7 years ago)

  • I like the fumigation site solution, but exposing the lab process to the entire pest control team of low level crooks seems like more of a risk than Walt and Mike would take given their recent circumstances. I also found the jump from industrial sites with souped up electrical service to a residential scale environment where plugging in an air conditioner can conceivably blow a fuse (at least it does at my house) a bit problematic for a show steeped in science. Although Skinny Pete and Badger are great characters why bring them into the loop? Was Jessy too busy to swing by the music store? At the very least don't have them drop off the goods at the new HQ.

    Seeing Mike as a paralegal was amusing, but wouldn't he don a wig or fake glasses before trotting himself before the obvious prison surveillance cameras? Certainly Hank's watchful eye would somehow be trained on each of the Laundry 11. Their entire investigative strategy seems based on getting one of those characters to sing and with the boss having just been pink slipped the cops would be on high alert and crossing every procedural T.

    Wouldn't Mike's bold gambit to take that big chunk of money for his former crew have been a talking point before it came down to splitting the dough? The entire board meeting seemed a little over simplified and rushed in hindsight. How did all that cash appear? They went to great lengths to explain how Jessy fronted the lab start up money, but are we to believe that the drivers ran the first run for free? Furthermore, why do they need "trucks" to distribute relatively small bags of drugs anyway?

    Viewer score: 62 / 100

    Posted by dbates, 30/07/2012 7:18pm (7 years ago)

  • This was another solid building blocks episode, as we see the new structure of the business.

    I really liked the dynamic between the 4 business men, and the logistics of the money and the ensuing conflicts about the splitting of the profits were both logical and true to the characters.

    Best of all, we finally see Marie, Badger, and Skinny Pete worked into the proceedings just as I was getting worried that Breaking Bad was shifting all of its focus on Walt.

    It was also nice to see Jesse get a little attention, and Walt's manipulation of him was very sad but true to his character at this point.

    I've always loved working out how the episode title plays a role in the episode, and the bookending scenes were nicely connected by Hazard Pay.

    The only nitpick I have is that Skylar's break down seemed a little off, from both an acting and character standpoint. Any mental breakdown of that sort is probably going to come across as somewhat hokey I suppose though...

    Viewer score: 72 / 100

    Posted by Ben F., 30/07/2012 4:13am (7 years ago)

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