(In which I re-watch and discuss, with SPOILERS aplenty, the first four and a half seasons of Breaking Bad, one or two or three episodes at a time, leading up to the final half of season five beginning August 11, then continue with write-ups of the last eight episodes as they air. If you’ve never seen the show, you are 1) crazy!, 2) advised to start watching it immediately, and 3) not to read these discussions until you’ve completed step 2)
Jesse is the tragic figure in Breaking Bad. Used by everyone, never exactly sure what’s going on, he just wants to be loved, but does anybody truly care for him? Walt does, on some level (though he’s destroying Jesse just the same), but Walt never tires of telling Jesse what a failure he is. Gus, on the other hand? Gus has decided to make a big play. First step: make Jesse feel needed.
Walt is smarter than Jesse. He sees what’s happening, but is powerless to stop it. For Walt, these three episodes are all about having no power, no ability to affect events, no way to show people his value. He has nothing at all. He raves and rants to everyone, and nobody cares.
Episode 5 opens with Walt mid-panic attack, driving like a maniac, convinced Jesse has been abducted and is dead and that he’s next. He raves at Saul to make sure Skyler gets all his money, then leaves a message for Skyler saying he’s thinking about her and loves her.
Walt screeches to a halt in the Pollos parking lot. Gun in his pocket, he demands to see Gus. Walt sits at a table. Sees the cameras watching him. The customers eyeing him. Maybe not the best place to shoot Gus after all. Then Mike calls. Tells Walt that Jesse’s with him today. “Go cook, Walt.” Walt marches into the back office—and Gus isn’t even there.
Mike drives Jesse into the desert. Even apathetic Jesse becomes concerned. Is Mike going to shoot him? Turns out no. Mike is driving around all day picking up money hidden in dead drops. He won’t talk to Jesse. “Am I your guy now?” asks Jesse, pestering Mike without end. Finally Mike talks. “You are not the guy. I had a guy. Now I don’t.” Yep, Victor’s a bit dead. Mike says it’s not his call to have Jesse around. Jesse asks for a gun. No way. That night, at the last drop, Mike collecting the money in a warehouse, a car pulls up, and a guy with a shotgun approaches. Jesse smashes Mike’s car into theirs and peels out, picks up Mike later. He’s a hero.
Hank chats with Tim, the cop, about Gale, says of him, “It’s like Scarface had sex with Mr. Rogers.” Gale is Heisenberg according to Hank. And that’s that. He’s no longer interested in it. On top of that, he doesn’t think Jesse could be the shooter.
Walt and Skyler buy the car wash. Skyler tells Walt there can be no more lies between them. Good luck with, Skyler. Then she plays the “I love you” phone message. And jumps Walt. After the screwing, she suggests Walt move back in. He doesn’t answer.
Cooking alone, Walt flips out, yells at the camera about needing his partner. So Gus sends—Tyrus. Tiny moves in the chess match, yes, but Walt is on the losing side of every one.
Eventually Jesse turns up at the lab again. Walt wants to know what the hell has been going on. Jesse is blasé about it. He’s been helping Mike. Protecting him. Jesse is confident for once. Walt is helpless and confused.
Mike and Gus meet, and we learn the robbery Jesse thwarted was set up by Gus. Mike says it went exactly according to plan. Gus says no more about what he’s up to.
Dinner at Hank and Marie’s. Walt drinks too much wine. Hank talks about what a genius Gale, i.e. Heisenberg, is, and Walt looks ready to burst from suppressed rage and helplessness. He drunkenly–and smugly–dismisses Gale, saying he’s nothing more than a student copying the work of a genius. Walt says Heisenberg is still out there. Nice going, Walt. His ego once again gets the best of him.
Next morning, hung over, Walt endures Skyler’s worrying and insistence that if they’re in any danger, they must go to the police. “I am the danger,” says Walt. It’s a bit of an over the top scene for him. Sometimes Cranston plays Walt with almost too much blind rage. One would think the guy would be a little better at hiding his emotions. But then again, that’s the character. He takes a shower and comes out ready to apologize, but Skyler is gone.
We’ve jumped ahead into episode 6, which opens with another cartel attack on a Pollos truck. This time the assailants re-route the truck’s exhaust into the trailer, killing the two guards within. Good thing Mike wasn’t along for this ride. They take only one bag of blue meth.
Which bag, Mike tells Jesse outside a derelict house, is in the hands of a couple of meth heads. Mike plans to wait until they come out. But Jesse knows meth heads. He brings a shovel to the yard and digs a hole. One of the meth heads comes out and asks what’s doing. “Digging.” The meth head is intrigued. And lends Jesse a hand. Comedy! Breaking Bad does black humor as well as it does insane tension.
Jesse wanders into the house and disarms the other meth head. Scrawled on the Pollos bucket: “Ready to talk?” A message from the cartel.
Mike wants to hit back hard. Gus says the war is to remain cold. He wants a meeting set up.
Walt gets the carwash keys from Bogdan, who blathers on about how the boss has to be tough. He tries to take his framed one dollar bill with him, but Walt says no. Walt smashes the glass and uses the dollar in the Coke machine, which Coke he drinks, alone in his carwash. A lovely cinematic moment showing Walt’s ownership of the place where once he was treated like dirt.
Walt has an argument with Junior over his gambling. Junior says it’s an addiction, a disease, and that Walt should be treated as a sick man. Poor Walt. Even his son sees him as powerless. Walt angrily says that it’s a matter of choices he has willingly made. Then, to make up for his outburst, Walt buys Junior a bad-ass Dodge Challenger, just to prove how in-charge he his.
Outside the lab, Walt takes Jesse aside to again ask what’s going on. Jesse says he gets that he’s being babysat by Mike, but still, he’s useful. Walt thinks he understands. And he does! Gus faked the robbery. “It’s all about me!” cries Walt. What an asshole. Jesse storms off. Of course the thing is, it is all about Walt.
Cleaning the lab, Jesse is once again called away for his other work. Walt fumes, stuck on cleaning duty all by himself. So he goes upstairs and in halting Spanish convinces three of the Honduran laundry ladies to clean up for him for big bucks. Down in the lab Walt smiles at the cameras.
Afterwards, Tyrus shows up and leads the ladies away. They’re being sent back to Honduras. It’s not their fault, says Walt, it’s mine, tell Gus that. “He knows,” says Tyrus.
Jesse waits outside a diner in which Gus and Mike talk. Gus comes out and Jesse asks, “Why me?” Gus answers, “I like to think I see things in people.” The perfect thing to tell him. Surely no one has ever said they saw anything in Jesse. Gus is making Jesse feel needed.
Skyler drives out to Four Corners, stands on the monument and tosses a coin. It lands in Colorado. She tosses it again. Colorado. Thinks it over, and slides the coin back into New Mexico.
At home she sees Junior’s new car. Walt rants about how everything he does he does to protect the family. Skyler points out the obvious: the car fucks up their story. Walt, being a complete prick, says with faux sadness that Junior will likely blame her if they return the car. She knows. But, she says, “Someone has to protect this family from the man who protects this family.” Zing!
How does Walt fight back agains that? In episode 7, instead of taking the car back, he brings it out to an abandoned parking lot and does donuts until the car hangs up on the concrete. Then he sticks the papers in the gas tank, lights them on fire, and sits back to watch it blow up. As Saul tells him later, at a cost of $52,000 for clean-up and to keep the matter silent.
Walt suggests hiring a hit-man to off Gus. Bad idea, says Saul. Who can you trust to do that? How about Jesse?
Jesse, meanwhile, plays Rage, shooting zombies one after the other as flashbacks of Gale’s death cloud his vision. Walt comes over to convince Jesse he’s being used. Oh, how very insulting it must be for Gus to act as though Jesse’s too dumb to see how he’s being played. Jesse interrupts the sales pitch. “I’ll do it,” he says, before Walt even asks. Later, Walt cooks up a batch of ricin. Jesse slips the ricin capsule into a cigarette, to use on Gus when the opportunity arises.
This hurts to watch. Poor, poor Jesse. He is nothing but a pawn in the game between Gus and Walt, each of them playing Jesse off the other, trying to gain or maintain Jesse’s loyalty. Jesse is barely holding it together.
The carwash is open and running, with Skyler in charge. Walt wheels in the first load of cash to be laundered: $274,000. That’s what he gets paid every two weeks. Skyler’s eyes bug out of her head. How’s she supposed to claim a carwash makes that kind of money? Walt doesn’t know. She said this end was her deal. If she wants out, she just has to say so. She says nothing. She’s in. Like everyone else in the show, Skyler is conflicted, yet ultimately drawn toward criminal behavior.
Gus has his meeting with the cartel. Mike has Jesse make coffee. Jesse fingers the ricin cigarette. Before he can decide what to do, Mike hands him a gun. Jesse puts away the ricin.
Only one man from the cartel shows up. Gus says his offer is a one-time payment of $50 million, followed by a total break, no further contact. The cartel man says Gus knows what they want, and that’s all they’ll take; this isn’t a negotiation.
Outside the chicken ranch office, as Gus watches the cartel SUV drive off, Jesse grips the gun—will he shoot Gus? No. He gets in a car with Mike. Jesse asks why Gus is using him. “One word,” says Mike, “Loyalty.” And adds that Jesse’s got it for the wrong guy.
Jesse returns to his group and tells a story of having had to kill a “problem dog,” a dog that wasn’t sick, that never bit anyone. The group leader talks of accepting who one is and what one’s done. But how is Jesse supposed to accept having killed a dog? If he can’t judge himself, who will? What’s to stop him from killing more dogs? A powerful scene here. The murder of Gale is eating him up. Even Gus is accepting of it, apparently. Jesse is having a major crisis of conscience.
Walt’s dismissal of Gale had one effect: Hank is back on the case. He goes to Pollos and chats with Gus, who refills his soda. Hank gets his fingerprints. Then he goes back to the office and lays it all out for Gomez and his boss. There’s a serial number written on the napkin, reference to an industrial air filter made by a German company, Madrigal Electromotive, which was shipped to Albuquerque and picked up by Gale. Hank called to ask who paid for it; an intern said there’s no record of anyone having paid for it. When Hank called back, a higher-up answered and stone-walled him. Madrigal is highly diversified. They also own Pollos. Why would a vegan like Gale have a Pollos napkin? Turns out Gus’s fingerprints were in his apartment. The plot thickens.
Walt is being tossed around by forces beyond his control. Jesse is too. They’ve created a kind of whirlwind that has engulfed themselves along with everyone else.
Previous in this series:
- Season 1, Episodes 1-3
- Season 1, Episodes 4 & 5
- Season 1, Episodes 6 & 7
- Season 2, Episodes 1 & 2
- Season 2, Episodes 3-5
- Season 2, Episodes 6 & 7
- Season 2, Episodes 8-10
- Season 2, Episodes 11-13
- Season 3, Episodes 1-4
- Season 3, Episodes 5-7
- Season 3, Episodes 8-10
- Season 3, Episodes 11-13
- Season 4, Episodes 1-4