The fact that this week’s episode presented us with the same pre-game warning as the season premiere – “This program contains intense violence which may be unsuitable for some viewers. Viewer discretion is advised.” – should’ve served as a tip-off for just about everyone that there was no way we’d make it to the closing credits without getting some sort of “holy shit” moment, but, holy shit, what a moment. Hell, even without the violence, this was an intense episode all around.
We begin the proceedings with a flashback to Episode 3.8, which took place in the wake of the Cousins’ attack on Hank. What we didn’t see at the time, however, was Gus’s visit to see the Cousins’ uncle, Hector “Tio” Salamanca, and tell him of their fate, saying, “This is what comes of blood for blood, Hector.” And then we get a shot of the viscous red substance in question, floating through a swimming pool. If you’re like me, you were already thinking, “Oh, this is gonna be good,” and if so, then surely you weren’t disappointed by episode’s end.
Hey, what do you know? “Breaking Bad” finally takes time to acknowledge that Walt is still being treated for cancer. This scene really underlined how much he’s changed since his initial diagnosis, however. So Walt’s living his life as if he’s in charge, huh? Yeah, he talks big, instantly dismissing the fears and concerns of the poor bastard who’s sharing the waiting area with him, but the second we see him back in his usual environment, he looks completely lost and mostly hopeless…which is, at least momentarily, a look he shares with Gus when the latter gets a phone call to pop ’round the ABQ police department. With Walt, though, I have to wonder if he got a report on a cancer that he wasn’t expected. But we’ll get back to that.
Not being a video game aficionado, I actually had to Google “Rage” to see if it was a real game or something that was created for the show, because it seemed like it could go either way. Indeed, it is a real game, and I have to suspect that there are a lot of people over at id Software giddy at its use within an episode of “Breaking Bad.” I also wonder if, in fact, they’ll manage to find a way to slip a facsimile of Gale Boetticher into some future sequel, given how Jesse found himself seeing Gale’s face as he shot at his onscreen targets. “Mission failed. Restart?” Jesse’s answer is a resounding yes. This bodes poorly, methinks…
Yep, Junior’s new car is going back, as was only inevitable once Skyler stepped into the situation, but just because she’s being sensible about the financial goings-on within the White house doesn’t mean that Walt has to like it. The combination of having to pay an $800 restocking fee for the vehicle and his general annoyance at Skyler telling him not to “tangle” with anyone leaves him so pissed off that he decides to take it for a rapid-fire test drive before returning it, but when he manages to fuck up the car in the middle of a goddamned parking lot, he decides to blow the vehicle to kingdom come. A hysterical scene, to be sure, but with some seriously dark undertones: he’s quite literally got money to burn at this point, and he doesn’t care how wasteful he is with his material possessions.
Fortunately, after a quick trip to Saul Goodman’s office, any major charges against Walt for his big bang have been whittled down to “misdemeanor trash burning, but we see a particularly nasty side of Walt at this point, snapping at Saul, “Just tell me it’s done.” Walt remains convinced that Gus wants him dead, even though Jesse’s told Saul that Gus needs him too much to kill him. Saul refuses to help hook Walt up with a hit man, however, explaining that A) anyone he knows also knows Mike, and B) hiring anyone he doesn’t know is risking someone who might not get the job done, and when it comes to Gus, “just winging that guy is not gonna ameliorate your situation. Not by a damned sight.” Saul’s recommendation: talk to Jesse, who’s the only other person besides Mike who’s actually been around Gus recently.
It’s deja vu all over again as we start this week’s episode once more in the back of a Los Pollos Hermanos van. Just because Mike took down the last dudes who tried to hijack a shipment, don’t think that’s scared off the cartel: they’ve gotten smarter, gassing out Gus’s guys and taking what they came for. The container of meth-laded chicken batter makes a return appearance later in the episode. First, though, it’s time to pop back in and see how our man Walt is doing after his drunken escapades at the end of last week’s episode.
After Walt’s wine-fueled eruption at dinner the night before, Skyler’s reflecting on Walt’s “I love you” message on the answering machine and realizing that the words were uttered more out of fear than anything else. He’s got a well-deserved hangover and claims limited recall on the previous evening’s goings-on, but she’s not going to let that stop her from getting some answers about the whole Gale situation. Moreover, she wonders if perhaps his outburst to Hank might not be some sort of subconscious cry for help. The mere idea that she sees him as unable to handle the situation infuriates him. “I am not in danger, Skyler,” he growls. “I am the danger.”
After he takes a quick shower to relax and, apparently, shave his head, Walt finds emerges to find Skyler gone, so he decides to head over to the car wash to take care of the final transition of ownership. The discussion between Walt and Bogdan felt a little heavy-handed, what with the unabashed parallel between being a boss at the car wash and being a boss in the meth operation (or, for that matter, in his own marriage), but the scene was worth it for two things: the nasty little comment by Bogdan to Walt about how “if you can’t be tough, you can always call your wife,” and the way Walt got his revenge by playing the hard-ass and not only refusing to let Bogdan keep the first dollar he ever earned from the car wash but, indeed, spitefully using it to buy a coke. That sucked…yet it was kind of awesome, too.
This week’s adventures of Walt and the gang kicked off like they were trying to emulate a classic “Starsky and Hutch” episode. I mean, seriously, all it was missing was the classic Lalo Schifrin theme song, and even then…well, maybe it’s just my imagination, but damned if it didn’t sound like they were trying to offer a little bit of a Schifrin vibe with the music that was playing behind Walt as he made his frantic phone call to Saul and the slightly less frantic follow-up to Skyler.
The beats were still rockin’ when we came back, but once Walt parked and popped into Los Pollos Hermanos, it was time to ratchet up the tension. Is Gus there? Is he watching Walt on the surveillance cameras? Is he going to try and slip out of his office, into his car, and away from harm? Or is Gus going to stay safely ensconced in the back of the restaurant and send a bunch of hired goons (hired goons?) to whack Walt? We don’t find out the score right away, thanks to the ear-damaged yet ever sarcastic Mike calling up and confirming Jesse’s safety…well, more or less, anyway. It’s a hilariously frustrating conversation for Walt, and it doesn’t really offer us much more in the way of clarification than the last moments of last week. Yes, Jesse’s with Mike, but where are they going? The lack of answers coupled with the additional news that he’s going to have to cook a batch of meth without his usual assistant finally sends Walt over the edge and behind the counter, only to learn that – well, what do you know? – Gus’s right-hand woman was telling the truth all along: he really wasn’t back there. Still, give Walt credit for having the cajones to bust back there and find out for himself.
So, seriously, what the hell is Mike going to do with Jesse? When we last left Jesse, he didn’t seem to care. Now, though, he’s a little more interested, which seems to bemuse Mike a bit. I’d be surprised if any of us really thought that the drive was going to end with Mike popping Jesse – I mean, Vince Gilligan might not be afraid to blow his viewers’ minds, but he’s not going to take out one of the show’s main characters a mere five episodes into this new season – but I did start theorizing what the situation might be, and after their first stop, I found myself wondering, “Is it possible that Mike’s seeing a bit of himself in Jesse?” It hadn’t occurred to me prior to when Mike started digging up the booty, but at the moment he told him how many more stops they had to make, I thought, “Maybe he’s working his way up to telling Jesse, ‘Look, I’ve killed people, too, and it never gets any easier.’” Jesse, however, just looked confused…and I’m sure I looked the same way when Mike blew my theory out of the water a few scenes later.
Tonight’s episode opened with a major shoot-‘em-up sequence, offering further proof that what other gunmen need a hail of gunfire to accomplish, Mike only requires one or two well-placed bullets. What can you say? Dude’s a badass, and now being in possession of a slightly damaged right ear doesn’t change that one bit. The only question left by this scene was, who was doing the shooting? Or am I already supposed to know that?
It’s 3:01 AM, and Skyler’s having a restless night’s sleep. Why? Is it because her mind is filled with ideas on how to take advantage of this new business situation in which she’s found herself? No, it’s because she’s so concerned about the web of lies that she’s involved in spinning and wants to be damned sure she can cover her ass at every turn. Take, for instance, the story she told Marie about how Walt made all of these ill-begotten gains through gambling: time to back that up with making Walt attend Gamblers Anonymous meetings and display a mastery of Blackjack. Unfortunately, in addition to his consistent refusal to concede that he’s wrong about anything ever, Walt seems to be getting a trifle annoyed with Skyler’s continual attempts to maintain the reigns of command…though in fairness, it’s hard to imagine anyone not getting annoyed with Skyler, giving how anal she’s being about following the incredible in-depth script she’s composed for the impending fake admission to Hank about Walt’s gambling and the buying of the car wash. Great scene in principle, but it went on so long, with Skyler getting so increasingly specific with her plan, that it’s hard to imagine anyone making it to the end without thinking at least once, “There’s no way everything’s going to go according to plan.” And it didn’t…though it wasn’t because of the script. (Again, a classic case of “Breaking Bad” zigging when any other show would’ve zagged.)