Monday, July 30, 2012

Breaking Bad: Hazard Play

So far this season, 'Breaking Bad's been all about dealing with the aftermath of last season's finale. After the caper of the first episode and last week's recruitment of Mike into Walt's team, this week we get an episode that seems to have finally established the new normal for the show. As a three-way-partnership Walt, Jesse and Mike strike a new balance of operations (Walt cooks, Mike does the business) and use the help of Saul Goodman to find a new place to cook. They settle with 'Vamonos Pest', a pest control company, and they use the fumigation tent to cook when nobody's at a client's house. 

Everything seems to be going back to normal and it seems like Walt couldn't be more satisfied with himself, except he really shouldn't. As I started watching the episode, I couldn't help but feel too that everything was falling into place as Walt found a new effective operation to run, but we then got three moments that made it very clear things aren't going nearly as well as Walt thinks they are. 

First we get to see Walt sit side by side with Brock on Jesse's couch acting as if he had nothing to do with Brock's poisoning. Jesse seems to be doing very well living with Andrea and Brock, but Walt uses Jesse's trust on him one more time to make him dump Andrea. Does he do it because he fears Brock will speak up or because Andrea will put Jesse in another situation where he is a hazard to the operation? We don't really know, but we know Jesse is still ignorant to Walt's manipulation. 

Then we have Skyler. Her scene at the car-wash with Marie is incredibly telling in which we realize how damages he's become since she decided to join Walt in his operation. Walt tells Marie it must be because of what happened with Ted Beneke since they had an affair. And based on the scene where he is watching 'Scarface' with Walter Jr. and his baby daughter, I think he does, to a large extent, think that is the reason for her sudden depression, no realizing how afraid Skyler is of him and how badly she regrets having joined forces with a husband that looks more and more like a murderer. 

And finally, there is the one person who isn't too afraid or oblivious to confront Walt: Mike tells Walt he will only participate if he gets to run the business side of the operation by himself. Walt then says to Saul about the deal: "He runs the operation, I run him". And when Mike starts making cuts on Walt and Jesse's share to give to his many employees, Walt tries to run him. The way he does it, it is clear Walt is more sure of himself than ever, but the way he treats Mike is not exactly an intelligent thing to do. Mike tells Walt: "Just because you killed Jesse James, it don't make you Jesse James." 

And he is right. Walt may be as careful as ever in the way he runs his cooking and money laundering, but he is too proud of his achievements to treat the people around him with the same level of care. His relationship with Jesse is hanging by a thin thread of ignorance and his relationship with Skyler is worst than ever. The thread of other Gus Fring is gone, but there is another thread as dangerous to Walt coming from within.

Also: It's great to see Skinny Pete and Badger at the music store. Especially Pete doing some kick-ass keyboard playing. 

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