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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 - Madrigal

26 January 2013

Credit AMC

Synopsis: Walt plants a fake ricin cigarette in Jesse’s apartment and hides the real one. He convinces Jesse to continue cooking and asks Mike to join them as a partner. Over at Madrigal Electromotive headquarters a certain Herr Schuler commits suicide. His superiors travel out to New Mexico to tell the DEA that they are going to give their full cooperation. A woman named Lydia comes to see Mike and suggests that they kill eleven of their subordinates. Mike is then interviewed by Hank and Gomez who know how deeply he is involved.

The Good: Last episode I complained that the investigation into Gus’ criminal enterprise seemed to hinge only on one laptop. This week the writers came through in a big way to make it clear that isn’t the case.

I imagine some viewers may have found this episode confusing or felt like a lot of details came out of nowhere. Actually I was thoroughly impressed with the way most of what we saw here had been hinted at long ago. Hank laid out the connection between Pollos Hermanos and Madrigal Electromotive last season (407) and before that we learnt that Mike used to be a cop (312) and had a loyal group of men working for him (313) including Chow. It makes perfect sense that there would be dozens of people caught up in Gus’ wake and that they would now begin to turn on one another.

As the police in New Mexico and Germany begin turning the screw we get treated to one typically fun Breaking Bad scene after another. The opening sauce tasting was yet another inventive teaser to keep you guessing as to how Herr Schuler’s sullen silence connected back to Walt. Mike then meets the anxious Lydia in the diner to assert that this isn’t a bad movie where a murder spree will help protect anyone. Yet he knows that she is right and someone in his organisation may talk.

That led to the excellent Hank v Mike scene as two highly skilled men pitted their wits and knowledge against one another. Mike’s refusal to even raise an eyebrow as Hank revels in the intel he has quickly gathered was terrific. It was great to hear the logic of Gus’ organisation laid bare (just as it was in the original Hank-Madrigal scene in 407). Mike of course has a full job description and is officially licensed to do all the things he did for Gus. Gus himself left little to chance and hid some of his money in his employees’ names as insurance against them testifying in a future trial. Unfortunately for Mike the DEA have found all the money and locked it down. Now there is little to stop someone from rolling over and exposing the whole team.

Lydia ignores Mike’s advice and Chow winds up dead. Once more we get to see Mike’s creative skills at work as he uses his granddaughter’s pig toy to distract Chris and sneak up on him. I don’t often comment on the camera work on Breaking Bad but that shot deserves special mention. We see Chris’ eye up against the door’s spy hole as he tries to decipher what exactly the pig is. Then we hear a creak in the floorboards and hear Mike’s voice. Chris’ eye closes in disappointment and fear. A lovely example of conveying a predictable emotion in an unpredictable way.

Finally Mike goes to kill Lydia but can’t do it. Is it the thought of his own granddaughter that softens him? Or is it that he realises that the only way to stop more bloodshed is to seek out another Gus Fring? The writing neatly established that the key to defeating the police is money. If Gus’ former employees receive adequate compensation they will be happy to stay silent in front of any interrogation. So in a simple but believably executed twist Walt is declared the new Emperor and will take Gus’ place at the top.

I am of course a fan of logic and deeply admired the way this story wove what we already knew into the needs of the story. Walt stands in his kitchen smugly thinking he has once more forced someone to bow to his will. In reality Mike is holding his nose while using Walt as a human shield. I was pleased to see Mike (unlike last episode) make it clear that he thinks Walt is dangerous and unreliable. Despite his moral blankness you really sympathised with Mike in this predicament. He is a consummate professional and if only everyone would do as he does then they all might escape intact. Jonathan Banks has always done good work as Mike and he shone again here. Every grunt, twitch and sigh of frustration spoke to of a man who might well say “I’m too old for this sh*t.”

Elsewhere I liked the emotional state of the other characters better than in the season premiere. Seeing Walt tricking Jesse into finding the ricin cigarette was neat. I thought there was a nice juxtaposition in the moment where Jesse burst into tears at the thought of nearly killing Walt. We’ve not really seen Walt and Jesse hug or show the kind of overt affection that their father-son-like bond might have brought. Here we got as close as we ever have with Walt massaging Jesse’s shoulders and trying to comfort him. Yet in this moment of outward closeness Walt is actually far colder to Jesse than ever before. At this point he sees no problem in tricking Jesse into helping him cook more and doesn’t even suggest that Jesse might be better off getting out of the drug game.

Fortunately Saul does say something. Again I really appreciated someone pointing out what was absent last week. Walt and Jesse are hugely lucky to be alive and somebody should be suggesting that they cut their losses and realise their good fortune. I really liked the scene with Hank, Gomez and the departing Merkert. It makes sense that someone senior would be fired for allowing Gus to live under their noses for so long. He of course gives Hank yet another piece of the puzzle by pointing out how Gus was “right in front of me” the whole time.

The Bad: I still don’t like the lack of perspective from Jesse’s point of view. Last season he seemed so resigned to life as Gus’ employee that I assumed he would make a break for freedom now that he can. Instead he passively agrees to go back to cooking despite all the horrors he has witnessed. Perhaps an episode addressing his situation will come along soon but right now it’s a disappointing situation.

I enjoyed Skyler’s sleepy doldrums as she tries to come to terms with the moral vacuum she now lives in. However Walt’s final speech (as with last episodes closer) felt entirely too much like a Godfather rip-off as he uses “family” to justify the suffering of others.

The Unknown: Is there any more to Lydia than just being a Madrigal executive? Could she be Gus’ mistress or the mother of his child? Her acting veered toward over anxious but it did feed nicely into the drama of her later pleading. Her determination not to let her daughter think she had been abandoned was a worthy and desperate enough cry to plausibly shake Mike.

Best Moment: You’ve got to love it when a plan comes together. As Mike calls Walt the whole episode clicked into place.

The Bottom Line: The story of Walt slotting into Gus’ place was terrific. Although I don’t feel entirely happy with where Walt and Jesse are right now this episode definitely restored my confidence in the show’s command of its narrative.

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  • I appreciate that Lydia was quite accepting of her fate and I did speculate about her in "The Unknown" of this review.

    Posted by The TV Critic, 26/01/2013 4:44pm (7 years ago)

  • Fair enough, Robin.

    Finding the irrelevance in the cinematography, composition, music, etc on how you would rate this series is indeed a mystery to me . .good luck with that.

    I will listen to more of your casts on BB. I believe this series sets the bar pretty high for other "TV" shows. . .and Breaking Bad is in a class of its own.

    What does it tell you about the character of Lydia when she is pleading/negotiating for how she is going to die . .not if she's going die? Every other "TV' or movie scene in this scenario would be pleading for their life. She is an interesting character indeed . . :)


    Jim

    Posted by Jim A, 26/01/2013 4:25pm (7 years ago)

  • Jim you are splitting hairs. My description of Lydia pleading was merely that, a description. It makes no difference to my analysis or rating of this episode.

    As for low scores I think you need to spend some time looking around the site. Breaking Bad is consistently rated highly by my system.

    As for cinematography, composition, and music score - again if you look at what I write you will see that those things matter far less to me than they do to some. I would make the case that they are essentially irrelevant without logic, characterisation and emotion.

    Posted by The TV Critic, 26/01/2013 3:23pm (7 years ago)

  • I don't know why you rate Breaking Bad so low. I have only heard a few of your pod-casts and here are some comments for you. .

    In "Madrigal", you mention Lydia "pleading for her life" ..she never pleas for your life, she pleas on how she is going to die. These little details you miss alot in your casts.

    Just because you don't see the logic in certain plot points doesn't make it illogical.

    You barely mention the overall fantastic cinematography, composition, and music score in this series. . .movies at the theaters could only wish to achieve. This only should start your rating at least from the 80s.

    Jim A

    Viewer score: 90 / 100

    Posted by Jim A, 26/01/2013 2:24pm (7 years ago)

  • Just heard your podcast for the first time thanks to finding player.fm as an alternative to a busted iTunes that won't give me podcasts anymore. Nevermind all that, I really enjoyed your reviews (twofer) of these first two episodes. You make many excellent points and I appreciate your desire for logic and believability, as well as holding BB to a standard well above ordinary tv. I will be back again to listen to your podcasts. Plus your accent is cool. Thanks.

    Viewer score: 80 / 100

    Posted by Nono Ono, 27/07/2012 6:01am (7 years ago)

  • I don't know if I am missing something but the money motivation wasn't enough. I feel that all Mike's men, and Mike included should have had their money in safer havens. To have the govenment so easily bankrupt them all and put that up as their motivations either for killing each other (Chris) or getting back into the drug trade (Mike). At least Lydia's motivation was to protect her child but it'll be cool if she is the one that outsmarts Walt once she meets him.

    my pet theory is Walt Jr will break bad and this will give Sylar the back bone to stand up to Walt.

    Viewer score: 70 / 100

    Posted by Yogabon, 27/07/2012 1:21am (7 years ago)

  • In hindsight E1 now seems like it was a necessary reprieve to ease the audience back into the show's pervasive sense of tension and dread.

    I appreciate your point that the closing "family" line seemed a bit derivative, though it was in character, as Walt has always been an idealist about family; And the idea of "family" has had such a palpable presence throughout the series. Walt's obsession with staying in the house as a unit, Jesse's family abandoning him, and now Mike's own family obligations driving his decisions.

    Even Lydia was clearly motivated by family. And I agree Lydia seems to have some sort of deeper connection to Mike. I do have a gripe with her character, tho: Her disposition was inconsistent, going from an uptight bundle of nerves at the diner to one of peaceful resolve when she believed Mike was about to kill her. Anyway, I'll go with 70 for this one.

    Great reviews for both episodes, BTW.

    Viewer score: 70 / 100

    Posted by jeremy, 25/07/2012 11:06pm (7 years ago)

  • I thought this episode simply outstanding. It portends good things.
    Banks' performance is so good. I felt all his fatigue and weariness.
    Skylar's scenes with minimal dialogue are riveting. She is terrified of Walt and has no idea what to do. Gunn conveys this very well.

    Cheers
    Have fun with the Olympics.

    Viewer score: 90 / 100

    Posted by Ron, 23/07/2012 11:08pm (7 years ago)

  • Few words about episode 1 before my comments on episode 2: Apart from the engrossing cold-opening '52nd birthday' flash-forward and Hank in the burnt out meth-lab scenes, I thought it was disappointing as the first episode back after such a significant events as Gus's death. I expected more pandemonium and I feel like we might have been robbed of seeing the look on Hank's face as he receives the news about Gus's death at the nursing home and gets that sweet vindication in front of the other DEA agents in his home. Maybe we'll see it a flashback or deleted scene, but I really felt like that was something we should have seen. Aside from that I felt it was one of the most-boring and predictable water-treading premiers the show's done. The story is too far-along to so casually break the pace by sticking a tonally jarring season one/two-style Walt and Jesse 'improvising a slapdash but genius solution' caper in it where there's frankly enormous holes in the credibility of the plan in the real world.
    Also Robin I agree completely that is was way too soon for Walt to be physically intimidating Saul (having not 'earnt' it in the season yet - especially seeing how much Saul just stuck his neck out for him) and Jesse to revert back to his white-boy-gangster 'Yeah, BITCH, magnets, oh!' swag (considering what he just went through with Brock and the Albequerque police accusing him of poisoning a child.) was disconcerting to say the least. Perhaps if we'd seen a return to that type of behaviour AFTER the regret and contrition we saw from Jesse this episode might have been better.

    As for this episode, well the reason I am posting mainly is I feel like that was one of the best episodes of Breaking Bad I've seen in a long time.
    The genius of this particular episode and the main reason I feel it is one of Breaking Bad's finer moments in how the whole thing holds together thematically to tell us something about Walt's motivation without him even needing to be the primary focus of the episode. By showing us fresh examples in other character's lives about what people are prepared to do to provide for and protect their children was particularly made poignant by Walt's 'summing up' at the end, saying how harming other people is something you can learn to deal with. So this episode's ending, while visually very similar, was not quite an overkill of last week's 'Skyler is scared of Walt now' development but I'll be disappointed if they keep revisiting the scenario in different scenes between Skyler and Walt. It's too late in the day for us to waste time watching her umm and ahh over her involvement as a major story line this year.

    This was an example of how an injection of new, relevant characters in a narrative at just the right time can give a story a real shot in the arm, particularly after last week's relative hokum song and dance routine. Specifically; Lydia. We still don't quite know what her role was in the operation, though I'm guessing she was Gus's lawyer (or one of) and the connection to Peter Schuler at Madrigal in Germany. She could become one of the more interesting characters going forward as she draws a nice contrast between all of the other main, male lead actors (apart from Hank) – they all have young children in their lives they love, care and worry about the future of. We know that she cares the most about her daughter as Mike pointed his gun at her, and yet essentially she is capable of doing the same as both Gus and Walt in assuming that offing anyone involved might be the wisest course of action. Yes, she showed fear of being seen colluding with Mike which at first I mistook to mean she was afraid of him, but understood swiftly at the end that to her, Mike is just another loose end should be disposed of as easily as appealing to the next likeliest assassin-for-hire in her little black book (Chris) despite Mike's assurances that murder is not the answer because he trusts his men. She's not convinced though and clearly not leaving anything to chance but also may be resorting to this line of defence not out of habit but panic. I expect that now that she is going to sort the new source of methlymene for Walt, she'll want to meet the chemist.

    I have to admit that I was expecting a Mike-centric episode like this eventually, now that it seems the writers realise what an asset Jonathan Banks is to the show, and probably in a move not unlike the decision last season to give Gus a full-blown starring role (replete with story-relevant flashbacks and even the odd moment where we might have even sympathised with his reasons for being the man he is) they're making him a whole lot more important as a character and he's going to be sticking around for while yet. Though I doubt Banks could believably play himself at an earlier age than say 5 years or so into the past. Hector Salamanca was great but Giancarlo Esposito as Gus and Steven Bauer as Don Eladio didn't quite work as a 20 year earlier version of themselves. I really hope they don't do a Jack Shepherd with him and try to make out he's a newly recruited fresh-faced 19 year-old cop on the beat in Philadelphia when the actor playinf him is clearly 46.

    The revelations about his past via the (excellent) interrogation scene leads me to thinking that he was kicked off the force for perhaps something very similar indeed involving drugs considering how Philadelphia has the unfortunate reputation for having a drug problem, so it's believable that Mike is from a world where police corruption is more plausible in Breaking Bad's fictional world than if they'd chosen to reveal Mike as having come from a nicer place.

    My thoughts going forward for the rest of these 8 are that they're not going to have a new 'big bad' villain it will be Walt. That's why they got the Madrigal questioning scene out of the way by revealing it to be the work of just one 'bad egg' in Germany, now dead, without major consequence. It's a good point to come off the chain of end of level bosses that began with Crazy 8, progressed on to Tuco and (hopefully) ended with Gus. Now's Walt's time in those shoes and it's going to be really interesting seeing just how he chooses to deal with all the same problems that Gus had to. My gut tells me he is going to prove Mike right as being a 'ticking time-bomb' and that he may eventually turn out worse (see my theory below).

    Wisest person in the show at this point, and I never thought I would ever say it, but Saul. His words about the man who has won the lottery not buying a lottery ticket the next day were the perfect way of putting the notion to both Walt and Jesse that perhaps this is a good time to nip it in the bud; while they still feasibly could outside of another life or death situation.

    Once again, loving the site and your write-ups Robin, reading your thoughts on the episodes is part and parcel of my enjoyment of the show.

    I've put a theory of mine below if you or anyone might care to read I but warning: this is my own speculation about what's coming next and it's not a 'spoiler-theory' so to speak (there used to be a lot of these about during Lost). I need to say that I am not watching any of the sneak peak clips, trailers or reading spoilers for upcoming episodes. I treat the sanctity of coming to Breaking Bad clean as paramount to the enjoyment it because generally as a rule, I feel that the trailers to both Tv shows and films give too much away (I'm looking at YOU, Prometheus). I even feel strongly about skipping the 30 second recaps at the start of episode as they give too revealing a clue as to which plot strands will be revisited and developed in the episode. That's how wilfully ignorant I try to be when watching this. It's simply too good to spoil, especially in a post-Lost age when there's not really anything else quite as good on TV at the moment.
    If you do read spoilers and I happen to be along the right lines with the below or you reckon, given your own foreknowledge I'm touching on something that the trailer for next week's show gives arguably a reasonably good indication of happening, please don't call me up on it because these are 100% just me guessing and, if I'm totally honest, me stating what I'd like to see happen. If it makes anyone feel better about the acuracy of my prediction skills, know that throughout last year's finale I predicted Tyrus would have survived the wheelchair bomb and turn up on the roof shoot Jesse dead in front of Walt as the s4 cliff-hanger, so go figure.

    Basically, in order to make Marie relevant to the story again and not just be some filler character wasting our time being a klepto for no reason, she needs to die, and not in any old way - Walt is going to need to kill her. She will put two and two together somehow from something probably trivial such as a signature or something that in some serendipitous set of circumstance allow uniquely her to clock on as to who or what Walt truly is. Maybe she steals something from Walt and Skyler's house because she's curious and finds out too much. I predict that Walt will be there at the time, relaise she knows and will likely lure her out somewhere, or should the setting of her revelation be suitable, strangle her on the spot. This sort of upsetting and extreme event would serve dual purposes of revealing Walt as a hypocrite (considering his speech to Skyler about how harming others/murder is tolerable if it's in aid of your family), further his transformation into the psychopathic Heisenberg and it could just be the tragic but explosively intense motivation to really create tension and drama before the moment Hank discovers that not only was Walt his Heisenberg all along; he also was the reason Marie is dead. At the moment that seems like a tantalising and satisfying escalation and I'll be more than happy should any situation like this occur. In fact the idea that the writers might even confound our expectations by having Walt confess all to Hank because of his sense of pride and invincibility has gone that far. That would be a problem for me in a way though because, like you said last week about Walt's haphazard approach to the laptop problem felt a little reckless seeing as he so soberly got rid of everything else incriminating.

    Also there's got to be a scene eventually where Jesse realises that his little robot-hoover thing is physically incapable of sucking a cigarette intact through it's suction aperture thing.

    Viewer score: 74 / 100

    Posted by Josh Pryer, 23/07/2012 8:09pm (7 years ago)

  • I think the world already loves Mike, so an episode focussing on Mike was a nice change of pace.

    Once more the usage of hidden mythology proves to enhance the credibility of Gus' operation, and I thought the Madrigal developments were well written.

    Mike's decision to continue the meth operations was still a step too far for me to believe. While I had no problems with the logic of last episode, I will concede here that the Mike of previous seasons would want to have nothing to do with Walt and Jesse. The only reason I adhere to this is because the writers didn't quite sell Mike being in a desperate enough financial situation, on any other show this wouldn't be a problem, but I expected more from the writers of Breaking Bad.

    Had they pushed the ending scene one episode later, to allow for another Mike scene, or better yet cut out the ending scene with Walt and Skyler to make space for another scene then I probably would have bought it.

    On that note, I again wasn't a fan of the choice of ending scene. At first, I enjoyed the concept of Skyler behaving in a detached from reality manner given the status of Ted but I didn't believe one scene was enough to sell the story enough to tie in Walt giving his speech to Skyler at the end.

    Those two points aside (although admittedly important issues), I did enjoy pretty much everything else; Hank and Gomez with Mike, the diner scene, and also Jesse and Walt's cigarette hunt. Although I don't feel the first half of the episode really blended well with the back half, as the first half felt decidedly more "moving the plot along" by tying up loose ends".

    Probably the nicest touch was showing Walter Jr. with the baby, something we have not seen (at least I think).

    This wasn't Breaking Bad at its best, but ultimately Mike joining with Walt and Jesse was coming, and there was at least effort put into selling this development so I probably won't mind in the long run, but for now I can't give this episode as strong a reaction as I did to the premiere.

    Viewer score: 61 / 100

    Posted by Ben F., 23/07/2012 4:19am (7 years ago)

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