Sunday, September 2, 2012

TV Review Catch-Up: Breaking Bad 5x06: "Buyout" & 5x07: "Say My Name"

Many apologies for the belated reviews all across the board. The transition to Los Angeles living, interning and classes has been an amazingly busy one, but I've managed to take notes on all the shows I regularly cover for days like today when I can do some catch-up.

Episode 5x06, "Buyout", began with Walt, Jesse, Todd and Mike cleaning up the mess made at the train heist: the murder of the Boy Who Biked with Spider Jar. They stripped down his bike into easy-to-dissolve parts, but still, the framework of the bike seemed too big to fit in one of the vats. This whole operation is getting too big for them to handle.

Todd seems to be handling it all pretty well, lighting up a cigarette in front of Jesse (obviously a touchy visual stimulus for Jesse after a child is murder given his lingering guilt over Brock) and noting "shit happens". Jesse has never dealt well with death, as we saw last year in his struggle to come to terms with himself after shooting Gale. For Todd to show no grief really hammers home the point that Jesse doesn't belong in the meth business. It also will make Jesse's murder of Walt (if and when that happens) all the more satisfying, because, hopefully, he will show little remorse or guilt.

Todd's rationalization for what he did was a good one- he wasn't killing any old innocent child, he was stopping a witness with a speedy getaway vehicle and saving all of their asses. It was him or us, Todd reminds them, and he chose the dark side.

Mike, Walt and Jesse debated Todd's fate. Walt boils it down to three options: the first is to fire him and pay him to keep quiet, something Walt already doesn't want to deal with given all of Mike's guys, the second is to kill him.

Walt (and Mike) subscribe to the third: Keep Todd and Carry On. Mike threatens that if Todd ever brings a gun to a meeting again, he'll shove it up his ass sideways. Todd leaves, and notices he has the jarred tarantula in his car. Could this be a Chekov's Spider, and the beast will have an impact in the finale by killing someone? Or is it a metaphor, for some caged/controlled monster (Todd? Someone Else?) that may find a way out to cause some harm?

The DEA are still tailing Mike, and watch him while he takes his granddaughter to the park. He leaves a note under the trash can to rile them up, but it's a big "F U" directed right to them. He listens to Hank's bugged conversations about him- Hank says even the pros make mistakes and slip up. Unfortunately for Mike, by this time his fate is already sealed.

Marie tells Skyler that sometimes she just wants to strangle teenagers, contributing to my theory Marie will be strangled/suffocated and turned purple like her "color". Sky confides that she doesn't think the kids are safe and nearly brings herself to confess Walt's crimes when Marie attributes her guilt to her tryst with Ted. Marie tries to make Skyler feel better by admitting she, too, thought Ted was cute, but Skyler is too shocked at Walt's play to listen. I think I even detected some respect in her shock.

The news reports that police have expanded the search for missing 14-year-old Drew, and Jesse is still disturbed by the whole thing. Walt tries comforting him and reminds him there's nothing they can do now (not helpful) and soon they'll be able to run the business their way so nothing bad ever happens again (not realistic). To rub salt in the wound, Jesse hears Todd whistling as he works. Everybody else acts as though nothing is going on, but Jesse can't deal with the guilt of losing this kid he never even knew.

The Big Three hold a meeting where Mike tells Walt he's out on account of the increased police surveillance he's had to put up with and the potential for it to ruin things. Walter is okay with this and nominates Jesse to take over distribution, but Jesse resigns as well.

Walt can't believe his ears. They just risked their lives and took an innocent child's to get all that methylamine and now they're quitting? Mike corrects him and says they're leaving meth, not methylamine. They found someone who they could sell it to for $5 million each, or Walt could keep his share and do with it what he pleases.

Pennies on the dollar, Walt bemoans. Jesse asks him if they're in the meth business or the money business, and it's a valid question: to anyone else, $5,000,000 is a lot of money. To Walt, it just represents weakness.

Mike and Jesse go through with their end and offer up their 2/3 share to the buyer, whose sole interest is to get the "blue stuff" off of the market. Without the full 1,000 gallons, there's no deal. So, Jesse heads to Walter to convince him to join the buyout. $737,000, he reminds him, was all Walt ever wanted out of this meth business, so $5,000,000 is a huge profit. To Walt, however, it's nothing.

We then are treated to a revealing look into Walter White's motivations: He abandoned Grey Matter, the company he formed when he was in grad school, in a buyout to the other two partners for $5,000. Now, the company is worth $2.16 billion (with a b), and he checks it every week. He lives in constant disappointment over the choices he made as a dumb, young kid and won't let Jesse make the same mistake, nor will he ever settle for less than he thinks he deserves. Unfortunately for Walt, his ego is too high to ever stop. He's not in the meth business OR the money business: he's in the empire business.

But, as Jesse asks, is a meth empire really something to be proud of?

Just then Skyler arrives home, and Walt orders for Jesse and Skyler to come together for one big awkward-as-hell dinner. Jesse tries in vain to compliment her cooking, then goes off on a rant about frozen food and how it never lives up to the advertising (thinly veiled Mad Men criticism?).

Skyler makes a point to mention Walt's usage of the affair and leaves. Walt "confides" in Jesse- his wife is waiting for him to die. He kicked his kids out of the house. He has nothing, except the business.

I personally needed this confession from Walt. It was getting more and more unrealistic that he keep pursuing an obviously doomed dream of "having it all" without any concrete motivation. Now we know the number Walt will be comfortable stopping at: $2.16 billion. With a b.

Walt rushes to get his methylamine, but Mike is already waiting and ties Walt to the radiator. Walt must MacGuyver himself out of the situation- can he reach the coffee pot? Nope. Can he pick the lock with the wires of the cord he bites off? No good. He goes to the extreme and puts the wire ends together, causing a current on his wrist that burns him but severs the tie.

Mike left to visit the DEA with Saul and secure a restraining order against them, long enough for him to get his priorities in order. The plan works, giving him 24 hours to "get out".

He returns to Walt and finds the methylamine all gone. He puts the gun to Walt's head, but Jesse tells him Walt has a plan to get everyone their money and let Walt keep going. As Walt says, "Everyone Wins." At this point, Walt can't see past his own self-interest. One will win, for sure, whether its his one empire or the one big, bad DEA.

Episode Grade: A-
Episode MVP: Bryan Cranston
Original Airdate: 08/19/2012

Episode 5x07, "Say My Name"

Everything Mike said to Walt was the truth. He had a good thing going with Gus, had he just kept his mouth shut and produced quality product. They could have continued on cooking together for years to come. But his ego was too high, as was his insecurity to be in charge (which we can trace back to Grey Matter now, apparently). Walt is no longer a man of rational thought; he is no man of science. He suffers from delusions of grandeur and cannot handle anyone knocking him down a peg. Therefore, Mike had to go. If Walt can't just quit and walk away and be happy, neither can anyone else. He's the captain of the ship, and he's steering everyone right into the storm with a smile on his face.

He started off the episode with an epic negotiation, likening his product to the Yankees and Coca Cola. He forced the rival drug dealer to say his name: "Heisenberg". (Can someone please edit together a super-cut of Breaking Bad footage in the tune of Destiny's Child's "Say My Name"? Eternal gratitude awaits, and a free bottle of Coca Cola.)

A deal is struck: The suppliers get Mike's share of the profits, while Mike gets the $5 million finders fee. And New Mexico's meth heads don't have to go without their proverbial Coke.

Mike provides some parting thoughts as he plans his exit: the legacy costs will come out of his pocket, and Walt still has to remove the DEA bug. He promises once he's out, he's out, and Jesse tries to make the same claim. Mike scoffs him off and warns "just take care of yourself, kid." I think the whole audience really wanted to see Mike ride off into the sunset a happy, free man. At least the kids watching at home can realize no matter how charming and bad-ass you are, Walter White will kill you like a petulant coward.

Mike's downfall came from his lawyer Daniel assigned to hand out money to keep former Fring associates from talking. Hank and Steve keenly realized they could get him to talk easier than Mike or anyone actually guilty of anything. That's part of Walt's problem- the empire business is a tough one to handle with so few allies and connections. One does not simply become the greatest drug lord overnight.

Walt and Jesse shared some harsh words this week: Walt pressured Jesse to stay cooking, asking him how soon it would be before he gets bored of his go-karts and video games and starts using again. Jesse calls him out on his insensitivity to the death of the Tarantula boy, but Walt says they've all done things just as terrible, and they're both going to hell no matter what comes next.

Jesse wants out and to walk away, so Walt calls the bluff: go ahead and walk, and leave your $5 million in blood money behind. Jesse walks.

Hank is getting a lot of flack at his big wig meeting for focusing so heavily on the Fring photos, playing favorites and letting it distract from his most basic duties. The Mike budget, he is told, is now 0.

Walt begins cooking with Todd, showing him the ropes and such. Todd makes some mistakes, but takes tons of notes and really applies himself to the cause without any drama. He even refrains from accepting any money for his work until he gets the cook right. What a class act! Killing kids isn't all bad.

While Walt removes his bug he overhears Hank's plot to get Daniel to squeal worked and Mike is in trouble. He calls Mike, who is at the park with Kaylee, and warns of the cops approaching. We see Mike truly nervous for what I think is the first time in the series. And if he's nervous, shit is about to go down for real.

Saul makes a good point to Walt in between his bashing of Daniel the lawyer: Mike may flip, or the 9 guys who stop getting paid may flip, too. Either way, Walt is screwed.

Mike asks to have his bag brought to him. Jesse volunteers, but Mike doesn't want Jesse to get in any trouble. I remember last season all the bonding they did and how close they really got- Jesse really should have been the one to see him off! Not "off" like Walt did, mind you. But Walt volunteered, since Jesse is "out".

Walt meets Mike to hand off the bag and he and asks for the names of the 9 men. Mike denies him and just wants to leave, so Walt lets him go with a "You're welcome." Walt, of course, thinks he saved Mike's ass by calling him and giving him the fair warning to get away. Mike contends he wouldn't have needed any saving had Walt not killed Gus.

So Mike tells Walt off and runs to his car, but failed too late to check the bag. The gun was missing, and Walt shoots through the window into Mike's chest. Walt chases him into the bushes, where Mike sits serenely by the water, losing blood.

Walt, frazzled and genuinely sorry, does a bad job of comforting Mike, who tells him to shut the f*** up so he can die in peace.

And he does. Not in the epic, face-melting explosion fashion of his boss. He just slumps and dies.

Tonight is the last episode before season 6, so here are 6 BOLD PREDICTIONS FOR THE FINALE & FINAL SEASON

1. Jesse finds out about Mike, Jane, and/or Brock.

2. Skyler calls the cops/Hank on Walt.

3. Todd's tarantula comes into play.

4. Danger comes to Hank/Marie's and Walter Jr. & Holly are casulties.

5. Walt's cancer returns.

6. Marie is strangled.

Sorry for the delay, a more thoughtful/less recappy analysis of the finale will come tomorrow! Until then, I'm out.

Episode Grade: A-
Episode MVP: Jonathan Banks
Original Airdate: 8/26/2012

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