Breaking Bad 5.05: Dead Freight

SPOILER WARNING: This post will appear every Monday following a new episode of “Breaking Bad.” It is intended to be read after seeing the show’s latest installment as a source of recap and analysis. As such, all aspects and events that have occurred up to and including the episode discussed are fair game. 

The Cold Open

The cold open for “Dead Freight,” the latest episode of “Breaking Bad,” was a strange one at first glance. It showed a young boy riding a dirt bike through the desert before stopping to scoop a tarantula into a glass jar. Then bam! All of a sudden, well, that was it. At first glance. It was a surprising and seemingly dull way to begin an episode that had been the subject of a great deal of hype, including Aaron Paul (who plays Jesse) tweeting that “On tonight’s episode of Breaking Bad shit gets crazy.”

Of course, by now we all know that “dull” opening set up the first real “whoa” moment of the show’s fifth and final season, but we’ll get to that later. For now, let’s consider that just before cutting to the title sequence, a train whistle could be heard in the background, foreshadowing the arrival of the episode’s all-important locomotive. Not to mention that the scene included point of view shots of the dirt bike’s handlebars, later echoed by similar shots of the oncoming train just prior to the robbery (like the one seen above). That’s just damn good directing. And how crazy is it that “Breaking Bad” has so warped my mind that as soon as I saw that innocent child I was positive he would die or be the victim of some horrible fate? I know I’m not alone in that.

Say What You Will Mike, Walt (and Jesse) Might Just be Jesse James

When the commercial break ended, the first scene of the episode showed Walt strolling into DEA headquarters, ostensibly to discuss his marital troubles with Hank. Of course, the truth is that the man we knew as Walter White (you know, this guy) is all but dead. The criminal mastermind Heisenberg is now occupying his body, and it was he who took a page out of Gus Fring’s playbook by walking into the office of the very man hell-bent on finding him out.

Mike may not be giving Heisenberg enough credit. Walt knew that if he shed a few fake tears, Hank would duck out to avoid the perceived awkwardness of a man displaying outward emotion. As soon as he’s out of the room, Walt’s pushing wires into Hank’s computer. Then, in another moment of foreshadowing, he’s still struggling to plant a bug behind a photograph as Hank’s walking through the doorway, completing the task just in time to make it look as if he’s studying the picture—a symbol of Hank’s “perfect” marriage—and yearning for better days with his own wife. Heisenberg is a man who refuses to let the unforeseen hiccups of reality disturb his perfectly thought out plans, whether that means planting the bug in the nick of time or refusing to stop the train robbery before he gets exactly the 1,000 gallons he set out to obtain. Ah yes, the 1,000 gallons of methylamine, that whole train robbery thing, let’s talk about that.

We’ve heard the name Jesse James thrown around more than a few times this season. So when our favorite meth-making trio make the decision to rob a train, it’s almost expected. Almost. I mean, of course that’s what Heisenberg would do. After all, he fancies himself quite the criminal mastermind. He’s Don Vito, Jesse James, and a Nobel-level chemist all wrapped into one. He’s invincible, or so he thinks. Last week, he made it clear that nothing would stop the train that is their production and distribution of methamphetamine, and this week, we found out that meant not even literally stopping a train.

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Let’s begin the buzz for Breaking Bad’s fifth season, shall we?

Now that “Breaking Bad” is back in production for its final 16 episodes – which, if you haven’t heard, are going doled out in two parts – it’s time to start ramping up for the series’ return to the airwaves later this summer. As such, AMC is rolling out Q&A’s with some of the cast members. First up is someone Bullz-Eye’s never actually spoken with before: stand-up comedian Lavell Crawford, who plays Saul Goodman’s bodyguard, Huell:

Q: What was it like to go from being a stand-up comic to a tough guy on “Breaking Bad”?

A: I loved it, it was a great opportunity to be on a hot show. There were a lot of directors and they wanted to shoot so many angles — like the scene where I had to take a dump? They made me do seven different takes! They were like, “Do a little more, act like it came out a little more.” I was, like, “Jesus Christ, I’m about to crap on myself!”

Q: What did you think when you showed up on set to find that you were actually one of two comedians playing Saul Goodman’s henchmen?

A: When I walked in and saw Bill Burr (Kuby), I thought it was hilarious. We’ve worked together as comedians, so he laughed and I laughed too. It was so funny that we were playing these guys that were going to scare the hell out of Ted.

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The Light from the TV Shows: Chatting with Natalie Zea about “Justified” (with a little bit of “Dirty Sexy” talk, too)

FX’s “Justified” continues to be one of the best series on television, with a lot of the credit for its success rightfully being attributed to Elmore Leonard’s original source material and the love and respect series creator Graham Yost and his writers have for Leonard’s work. Lest we forget just how important the cast is to the success of the series, however, I wanted to make sure that I took advantage of the opportunity to chat with at least one of the actors from the ensemble after they wrapped the “Justified” panel at the January TCA tour. As there’s such a wealth of talent to choose from, I’m sure you’ll believe me if I assure you that it was complete coincidence that I just happened to end up talking to the most gorgeous one of the bunch.

Okay, so maybe it wasn’t entirely coincidental. Look, I’ve been smitten with Natalie Zea since she first crossed my radar as part of the cast of ABC’s “Dirty Sexy Money,” and I had the chance to talk to her in a perfectly legitimate capacity. So sue me.

Also, just so it’s out there, I should probably also mention that I sound like a complete doofus a couple of times, responding to her responses by simply saying, “Really?” I’m not usually like that, but, hey, this is what happens when you’re blindsided by a beautiful woman…

Bullz-Eye: So what was it like when the cast gathered back together for the first table read of Season Three?

Natalie Zea: We, uh, don’t do table reads. [Laughs.]

BE: [Surprised.] Really?

NZ: Regretfully. I think they’re very handy. I think it’s that Graham (Yost) is not a fan of table reads. I’m not sure why. So, yeah, you kind of get thrown back into it on the first day. My first scene of Season Three was a love scene. And it’s, like, “Oh, hello, haven’t seen you in six months! How are you doing? Great! Let’s get into bed!” [Laughs.] And then, y’know, after the first 15 minutes, it’s like I never left.

BE: There’s at least a slightly different dynamic with your character this season, owing to her pregnancy, but you indicated during the panel that you’re not planning to play her a whole lot differently.

NZ: No, I’m not. Also, in regards to the pregnancy, what I realized but didn’t say is… We’re not really talking about the pregnancy as much as we are the baby. So I think probably Winona’s pregnancy is going quite well. [Laughs.] She’s having a really easy time of it. Which I like. I think…y’know, if there are concerns with viewers – and I think there would be, given the nature of this show – that it’s going to turn into this, like, “Baby? Pregnancy? I want ice cream and pickles! My feet hurt!” [Laughs.] It’s not happening. The pregnancy almost never gets addressed. But the issues…the outcome and the issues regarding the outcome, those are discussed. Because it’s life. And you have to discuss it.

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Breaking Bad 4.13 – Lily of the Valley

In last week’s blog, I wrote of Walt sitting poolside, “We see a man who’s spinning both his firearm and his wheels, waiting to figure out how little future he has left. When the pistol spins toward one of the potted plants, however, it’s clear that Walt has gotten an idea.” If only I’d recognized that plant as a Lily of the Valley, I could’ve been a hero among my peers. Damn my insufficient knowledge of botany! Damn it all to hell!

Ahem.

When we first see Walt this evening, he’s making a mad dash through the parking garage to remove the bomb from the underside of Gus’s car, which he promptly carries into the hospital and up to the waiting area. It’s an unabashedly slapstick moment when the magnet on the bomb sticks to the elevator door, followed by a hilarious back-and-forth between Walt and Jesse about the decision to bring the bomb with him (“What, was I supposed to leave it on his car?”), but things get serious immediately thereafter, with the ABQ police showing up and requesting an audience with Jesse about his statement. As the boys with badges walk away with Mr. Pinkman, Walt looks positively pale. Is it just from being in close proximity to the cops?

The conversation between Jesse and his new friends is predictably tense. “We’re just talking.” “So if I get tired of talking, I can get up and leave?” Sure, that’s how it always works. Jesse’s being seriously grilled over the fact that he offered up a very specific poison as what was causing Brock’s illness. His explanation? “I musta seen it on ‘House’ or something.” Awesome. Time to call Saul, but there’s so much shredding going on that his secretary can’t hear the phone when he calls…or when Walt calls, for that matter, as we discover when he busts through the bottom pane of the front door in a desperate effort to find Saul. It’s an unexpectedly hilarious scene between Walt and H.T. (as Saul dubbed her last week), particularly when Walt is initially completely oblivious to the fact that the $20K pricetag for the repairs ain’t nothing to do with repairs. Okay, so it was a little slapstick-y when Walt left the office the same way he came in, but that didn’t keep me from laughing, anyway.

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Breaking Bad 4.12 – No More Prolonging the Inevitable

To call last week’s episode of “Breaking Bad” intense is to undercut the utterly traumatizing effect it had on the show’s regular viewership. This week attempts to start off with a similar level of tension, showing a pair of vehicles pulling up outside the White house without immediately identifying them. Within seconds, however, we confirm that what we’re witnessing is the arrival of the DEA agents who’ve come to put Walt, Skyler, and Walt Jr. into protective custody.

Wait, scratch that: Walt’s not going.

“All that matters is that the rest of you are safe,” Walt tells Skyler. “And that’s why I’m not going with you. I’m the real target.” Ever the naïve one, she can’t quite grasp that being under the watchful eye of the DEA isn’t enough to keep everyone protected, but Walt knows better, just as he knows that he and his family are only being included in the DEA’s protective of Hank because Marie has demanded it.

“There’s got to be another way,” sobs Skyler.

“There isn’t,” Walt says, matter-of-factly. “There was. But now there isn’t.”

And so Walt steps outside and calls Hank, playing his brother-in-law like a fiddle with the suggestion that Marie has a history of overreacting, and assures him that somebody’s got to keep the car wash up and running. Hank isn’t thrilled, but he doesn’t sound suspicious, even when Walt’s voice cracks with emotion as he tells him to keep his head down. The look on Walt’s face as he says goodbye to his infant daughter is heartbreaking, if only because we know that, in his mind, he believes this could well be the last time he ever sees her…but, y’know, you can’t really blame the guy for thinking that, can ya?

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