Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Breaking Bad Season 5, Episode 7: “Say My Name”

Poor Mike. Mike knew something like this could happen; he could see it coming in the second episode of the season, when he referred to Walt as a ticking time bomb whom he wanted to be far away from when he exploded. Unfortunately, he doesn’t seem to realize that Walt’s fuse is best lit by a wounded pride. Or perhaps he realizes it, but thinks that he’s impervious to the blast if there are no cops around. Twice this episode, Walt expects Mike to thank him when the two are about to part ways: once for getting Mike his $5 million at the start of the episode, and then again at the end, for tipping Mike off that he is about to be arrested and for retrieving Mike’s “go” bag. In the first instance, Walt’s request for Mike’s thanks is somewhat insincere: both of them know there will be no love lost, and Walt is still high off of his impressive negotiation with Declan (more on that scene below). Mike simply stares at Walt with his mackerel eyes and reiterates the need for Walt to remove the bug from Hank’s office, and Walt smugly nods his head and walks away. At the end of the episode, however, things play out differently.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Breaking Bad Season 5, Episode 6: “Buyout”

“When it comes down to it, are we in the meth business, or the money business?” Jesse asks Walt midway through this episode. It’s an apt question, one that points to a larger issue the show has dealt with from time to time: what is Walter White’s motivation to cook meth? On the surface, the answer to this question seems to keep changing: he wants to make enough money to pay for his cancer treatments; he wants to make enough money to provide for his family; he wants to cook because he takes pleasure in the excellence he brings to the craft; in Gus Fring’s steady employ, he’s able to make more money than he’s ever dreamed possible; he enjoys being Heisenberg too much to let go of it, and so on. However, as we’ve gotten to know Walt over the years, the answer is actually much more consistent: Walter White is a prideful man, and both his failures in his previous life and successes in this current one have stoked the fires of his pride into megalomania.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Breaking Bad Season 5, Episode 5: “Dead Freight”

“Yes, I have children, so what? You think because we’re both parents that I won’t let my partner do what’s necessary?” Walt asks this of Lydia near the middle of the episode, when Lydia is trying - once again - to talk her way out of being murdered by Mike. Lydia wants Walt to swear that she won’t be killed after she divulges how they can steal an “ocean” of methylamine, and tries to prey on Walt’s sympathies as a parent. Little do we realize how prophetic these words will be at the episode’s end, when Walt stands by and watches, to his horror, as a partner shoots dead a little boy, doing what’s “necessary,” for the episode’s thrilling heist to come off without a hitch.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Breaking Bad Season 5, Episode 4: “Fifty-One”

When this episode began with Walt picking up his Aztek from the mechanic, I thought to myself that show runner Vince Gilligan likes that car just as much as Benny the mechanic does, considering all of the paces it has been through over the seasons. I also recalled Gilligan once stating in an interview that there’s a very specific reason Walt drives an Aztek and not some other car. When Walt finds his Heisenberg hat in the backseat, and decides to sell the car to Benny the mechanic for a pittance, this episode finally delivers that reason. The Aztec is a relic of Walt’s former life as a downtrodden chemistry teacher. It’s an ugly but practical car, one well-suited for a humble family man. This is not at all who Walt is anymore, and seeing the Heisenberg hat sitting in the passenger seat makes the contrast very salient for him. The Aztek is no longer fit for the person he is now (or the person he thinks he is), so he sells it for next to nothing, and leases a flashy car in its place, one more appropriate for Heisenberg. And then, in one of the funnier montage sequences the show has done, he also decides to re-up Walt Jr.’s Challenger, which Skyler had previously nixed. Walt was beholden to his wife’s wishes, but Heisenberg is not so easily cowed.