Martin Deer reviews the latest episode of Breaking Bad (spoilers within)….
Yet another outstanding episode this week, much less frantic than the last episode but one which expanded on several threads and opened things up immensely. First, let’s give credit to first time director Sam Catlin, who did an outstanding job with this episode. Catlin has written a number of episodes, including this one, but this was his directorial debut – for anything. The opening scenes were beautifully constructed, and after the explosive end to last week’s episode in which Jesse, with the new found knowledge of the extent of Walt’s evil acts, soaked the White household in gasoline, the slow start to this episode could have fallen flat, yet Catlin directs the opening scene with Walt investigating his house with all the tension the moment deserved. Walt’s anxiousness at finding Jesse in the house and what might escalate to Walt having to use his gun is palpable. Things are spiraling out of control for him as each episode goes by.
It was nice to get some confirmation this episode that indeed, Walt does care for Jesse, and he was genuinely acting in his best interests in past episodes. Of course, with what developed later we know Walt will go to whatever lengths he must to protect his interests, but at least Jesse’s safety was a priority for him as long as it could be. Even when his wife is suggesting murder. Let’s talk Skyler: she is clearly Team White, and one has to question why? Of course, she is unaware of some of the more despicable acts her husband has committed and it is natural for her to want to protect her family, but everything they are doing leads me to wonder why she is selling her soul for him. A lot has been said about Skyler, and Anna Gunn has recently written about the hate that the character has received and if it was because she was a “strong female character”, i.e. all her haters are sexists. Which isn’t true. Smoking whilst pregnant and having an affair are solid reasons for not liking her character – but mainly it was the way Vince Gilligan positioned her as an antagonist to newly cancer diagnosed Walt in season one; the blame lies squarely on how her character has been written and positioned against Walt in that first season as Gilligan built sympathy for Walt. Just as Skyler was beginning to really stand out as a stronger character this season, Gilligan positions the character firmly in our cross-hairs once again by having her boldly suggest that Walt should kill Jesse. Jesse is the character we are all rooting for right now, he’s the one we want a happy ending for, and here Skyler coldly suggests to Walt, “what’s one more?”. She is of course completely unaware of who her husband really is and why Jesse would go so far as to torch their home. and it would be extremely surprising if she were not to eventually find out and side with Team Schraman (Jesse and Hank’s new shipper name, I’m copyrighting it). There’s redemption for the character to do the right thing available, we have to hope it is taken.
A character that is really coming in to their own this season and standing up for what THEY believe in is Marie, played excellently by Betsy Brandt. Marie is not only supporting her husband in his legal pursuit of Walt but she is also aggressively spurring him on to do something about the situation, she has no time for holding back; she want’s justice NOW. As well as that she also has ideas of her own -even if just for the indulgence rather than literally carrying them out. Or will she? If you spend six hours online looking up untraceable poisonous chemicals you must have some intent within to carry the deed out, and as each episode arrives we are greeted with yet another character who is potentially being positioned as the downfall of Walt. Could Marie kill Walt?
But what possible reason would Marie have to actually kill Walt and actually become THAT person; a murderer? Well, what about Hank’s imprisonment or death? A revenge motive. With Hank and Jesse teaming up to bring Walt down, Hank is bringing himself in to the dirty side of this business, and early in the episode when Hank is setting up the camera to record, Jesse’s statement, Catlin positions the camera through the back of a chair as it looks on at Hank. The jail bars imagery cannot be ignored. Will Hank be imprisoned for potential future actions he and Jesse take against Walt?
Let us finally move on to Jesse: who expected Team Schraman? It was a possibility, but when Jesse finally agreed to help Hank it was a shock. Jesse is doing the right thing here, he’s not a rat, he just wants justice, he wants Walt stopped. And who can blame him? Credit again to Aaron Paul’s performance, and it cannot be understated how good he is. The closing moments of the episode when we see how Walt’s house didn’t get burnt to a crisp, Paul is sensational. The heartbreak that this character is experiencing is so raw, so viciously conveyed by Paul. Truly wonderful acting. There’s a big worry here though, and that is that Jesse had his chance to take down Walt cleanly, with the police and to be safe. And he blew it. And we know that his reasons for walking away were unwarranted, Walt had come alone. Come the series finale, this might be the moment that both we and Jesse look back on with regret, as it all could have ended so much differently. With Walt now calling in Todd’s uncle for a “job”, Jesse might just not make this out alive himself. But we have to hope he does, right?