I know I know, once again I’m a week late with a tv premiere review. But, busy week and all that. As for the premiere, only two words can describe it: Fucking. Epic. I think it’s safe to say at this point that the show can officially change it’s name from present tense to past tense, because Walter White isn’t breaking bad anymore, he’s fully gone off the deep end. I usually like to go through scenes in chronological order, but this first part was so good I have to go with it first.
I Forgive You
I feel like if you could combine the threatening power of MIchael Corleone and the emotional awkwardness of Voldemort, this would be the result. Skyler comes home, acting as cold to him as usual towards Walter, and Walter just takes it…until the end of the episode, when he moseys on over to their bedroom and confronts Skyler about the Ted issue. Skyler’s first words are reassurance that Ted won’t talk, which goes completely ignored by Walter as he slowly walks up to her and slides his hand slowly up her arm; an action that walks a fine line between affection and a threat. He then so very awkwardly embraces her in a hug, much like the hug that Voldemort gave Draco, and whisper-growls “I forgive you.” You hear that and some some level you have to know he’s not even talking about the money anymore; he’s talking about Skyler’s affair with Ted. Walter says he forgives her but between their facial expressions and the coldness of the hug, there’s no way of avoiding the feeling that this is a pure threat (in the style of Michael Corleone’s “you broke my heart” kiss of death) that terrible things will happen if anything like this happens again. What a scene to end the episode on, pure brilliance.
This technique has always been my favorite part of the show; show a future event right up front to foreshadow impending doom, then go back and show how we got to that point. I love this, simply because I’ve always found the questions of why and how more interesting than what, and this type of foreshadowing gives us a taste of the what, but more importantly, makes us hunger for the why and the how. The scene starts with a scruffy haired, unshaved schlub walking into a small town diner, and it took me a good 30 seconds to realize it’s Walter. I was really not used to seeing him with so much hair on his head, and with such an unkept beard. He plays with his food, trades for something in the bathroom, and finds a huge machine gun in the trunk of his new car. Oh, and leaves a $100 tip after getting his birthday meal for free. There is no way you can watch this scene and not feel that the end is near. throwing money away and purchasing guns that are bigger than you is not usually a sign of good times ahead, and that’s how they have strengthened my craving for the why and the how. Why is he arming himself with a gun that bag? How did he get to this point? Yes, you obviously want to go back and find out what happened, but that’s just the tasty, crispy skin, the delicious meat is in the why and how.
The Mike Situation
There’s nothing like a desert stand off to showcase the status of character relationships. We’ve had Gus and Walt a couple times, Tucco and Walt, and a handful of others, and each is more brilliant than the last. Mike learns Gus is dead and speeds his way towards Walt, whilst Walt and Jesse race to meet him. They meet and Mike is ready to obliterate Walt. Though one has to wonder if Mike is mad because he actually cared about Gus, or because Gus was the only line of protection Mike had from south of the border mobs. If we remember from last season, when Gus went to war with the cartel, they were willing to shoot and kill everyone, except for Gus. One has to wonder who was protecting Gus, why he was protecting Gus, and what this means now that Gus is gone. Suffice it to say, Mike ends up joining Walt and Jesse, under protest, in an effort to destroy any possible laptop evidence that the cops may have confiscated. There seem to be only two things that currently protect Walt from Mike’s wrath: 1. Walt figuring out how to get out of a jam with science, and 2. Mike might, MIGHT, care about Jesse more than he hates Walt. The latter may not be protection anymore if and when Jesse finds out that Walt had the kid poisoned.
Junkyards and Magnets
When there is a problem to solve, who better to go to than the wise old man with all the answers? Well, in the spirit of Breaking Bad, we don’t get a wise old man, we get Old Joe: the guy who runs the junkyard. Old Joe won’t help you plan a heist or teach valuable lessons about life, but if you need to get a car running a huge magnet working, Joe’s your guy. And so, with some hilarious help from Joe (“What about that stuff you young guys wear at the end of your pricks? Speak now or forever sing soprano. What’s up with that by the way? Why would anyone want to put a metal ring at the end of their prick?”) the gang gets its magnet, and its car, and wreck and evidence room. Though we don’t know if the evidence was actually destroyed. But now it seems, they may have done more damage than good, as some note was found in a photo frame that originally went unnoticed. More problems for the gang are now on their way.
The last scene to talk about is Walt’s first confrontation with Saul after everything went down. Walt is mad about Ted getting Walt’s money. Saul tries his best defend his and Skyler’s actions, reminding Walt that Skyler was his client too; he acted “ethically.” Walt doesn’t buy it, “You’re not Clarence Darrow, Saul. You’re a two-bit, bus bench lawyer.” Saul replies that Clarence Darrow ever had a client like Walt ask him to do something like this, and pulls out the ricin cig. Everyone’s suspicion’s now come to a close. We saw Walt throw away his Lilly of the Valley, and now we see the ricin cig. We now know that both men have crossed a moral line and poisoned a kid, and only Saul seems to show any regret about it, even if the regret wasn’t for moral reasons. Saul tries to end their relationship, but Walt isn’t having it and finally delivers the line we’ve been waiting for since the commercials started, “we’re done when I say we’re done.” This leads me to two thoughts. The first thought is that this might be one of the most empty threats in this show. First, Saul has more lowlife connections than anyone could ever need, not to mention a huge behemoth of a man working as his security guy/henchman. Walt on the other hand, has eliminated all his criminal connections and his only remaining allies are Jesse and Mike, the latter of whom would happily kill Walt if given the chance. So as awesome as the line was, we have to remember that Saul is not Skyler, Skyler may not be able to defend herself from Walt if he did something, but Saul has to have more than a few favors he could call in if the situation ever came to that. My second thought was, I wish I could say the same thing to the show-runners. With this being the last season, and being cut in half so I have to wait a full year for the last 8 episodes, how I wish I could threaten them into showing the season straight through, and making another season for next year. And how even more empty my threat would be compared to Walt’s, alas.
Fuck I love this show. In my Weeds review I mentioned how downhill that show has gone since season 3, due to increasingly poor writing and equally, increasingly ridiculous plot lines. This premier of Breaking Bad, only now highlights how superior of a show it actually is. After this show ends, I will only have one regret, that I can’t go back and watch the show again as if it was for the first time.