The format for Breaking Bad is simple: Give the fans a smash-mouth, action-packed episode with lots of explosions…then, dial it back a tad with an episode that explains some of the rising action and the depth, which builds the characters and their respective stories.
Episode two of this, the fifth season of Breaking Bad, was just the latter of the two. It didn’t have the intensity or fireworks of the season premiere, but it certainly had its moments.
The episode kicked off with a shot of a man, who appeared to be a high level corporate executive, sitting at a table, watching a demonstration from a team of scientists who are pitching several new sauces, presumably to be used for dipping chicken.
The executive looks about as disinterested as a person who is eating chicken nuggets can look, and he clearly has some deeper issues on his mind.
This new introduction to the show, who we later find out is a man named Mr. Schuler, is some kind of bigwig for a German company called Madrigal Elektromotoren.
But don’t get used to Mr. Schuler, because he’s gone before are even properly introduced. (And I felt like I was just getting to know him!)
It becomes evident that the police are after Mr. Schuler, and they want to talk to him about Gus Fring. At this point, we don’t know what they’re connection is, but it’s definitely implied that they were business associates of some type.
Just as we start to make the connection, Schuler opts for the easy out, grabs a defibrillator that just so happens to hanging on the wall, heads into the nearest men’s restroom and kills himself by using the device to short circuit his heart.
(Sidenote: If you’re smarter than me or just some kind of medical nerd, don’t correct me. It’s annoying. No one likes a know-it-all. He short circuited his heart. M’Kay?)
After we’ve had a moment to recover from the unsettling footage of Schuler plunging headfirst into the bathroom floor with his shirt off, into the abyss of wherever insignificant TV characters go when they die, we’re shown a scene involving Walt creating what seems to be a re-creation of the ricin cigarette that he gave Jesse in Season 4.
The scene appears to show us that Walt had the actual and real ricin cigarette all along, which means Jesse is in the clear, and his girlfriend’s son Brock’s poisoning was not his fault.
But he has to convince Jesse of this, so that he’ll be willing to move on and get back to business.
Walt heads over to Jesse’s crib, where the two of them tear the house apart, looking for the cigarette. They turn the whole place upside down, before Jesse, upon Walt’s suggestion, opens up his Roomba vacuum robot (Am I the only one creeped out by these things?), where he just so happens to find what he believes to be the original ricin cigarette.
We know it’s not. Walt knows it’s not. Jesse doesn’t know it’s not, and that’s all that matters.
Jesse has one of his signature breakdowns, where he cries, realizing that he almost killed Walt unjustifiably, and then seems to have a moment where he finally is able to absolve himself from the guilt he’s been feeling since last season.
It’s touching. No, seriously. It was literally touching. Walt gives Jesse a shoulder rub and forgives him. Bromance back on. Life is good.
With a re-focused and guilt-free Jesse back in his back pocket, Walt decides to head over, with his partner, to Hitman Mike’s house, where they make the pitch to involve him in their re-immersion into the meth cooking and distribution business.
Mike isn’t interested, and he makes a second plea to Jesse to get away from Walt, because he believes he’s “trouble.”
Walt receives the rejection fairly well, shakes Mike’s hand and the meeting is adjourned.
The heat gets tuned up a notch, when the police visit with what appears to be the board members of the aforementioned Madrigal Elektromotoren, which, we’re now made to believe was some kind of “front” for Gus’s Pollo Hermanos’ drug business. We still don’t know the exact connection, but we know it’s there.
Walt’s brother-in-law, Hank Schrader, is there, right smack-dab in the middle of things, as he still feels as though he hasn’t gotten to the bottom of things.
After the meeting, Hank and his partner, Gomez, have a meeting with their boss. In the meeting, it becomes apparent that their boss is either going to be retiring or being forced out, over the department’s embarrassment from not listening to Hank’s initial suspicions regarding Gus Fring.
Hank’s soon-too-be former boss laments the fact that he had Gus over to his house, for the 4th of July, to have a cookout with his family. He is torn up over the fact that he was totally fooled by Gus, and that he was someone altogether different than who he thought he was.
The camera conspicuously pans to Hank and the parallel is clear. Walt has been under Hank’s nose this whole time. He’s Heisenberg, but Hank can’t see it. Not yet, anyway.
In the next scene, we cut to a diner where Hitman Mike is having a lunch rendezvous with a woman we recognize from the earlier board room scene. She works for Madrigal and apparently has some connection with Mike (and had a connection to Gus).
She’s nervous and shook up about the police coming to visit. She goes on to not so subtly suggest that Mike come out of retirement and murder all 11 of the men who were aware of whatever criminal activity was going on between Madrigal and Gus.
Mike blows her off, tells her to calm down and leaves.
Back to the White household, where the entire family is having a nice family breakfast, everyone that is except Skyler.
Skyler couldn’t be troubled to come to breakfast, because she was busy wallowing in despair, and by despair, I mean her bed.
She seems to have drifted into some kind of depression, which oddly reminds me of Tony Soprano in Season 1, Episode 12 of The Sopranos, where Tony self-medicates and refuses to get out of bed.
I just gotta pause here and level with you. I’m really hating the direction they’re writing Skyler’s character. I love the show, but Skyler needs to shape up.
Hitman Mike is called into the police station to be questioned by Hank and Gomez, regarding his affiliation with Gus and Pollos Hermanos.
For most of the interview, Mike is able to remain completely deadpan (which, behind killing people is the thing he’s second best at) and not cop to any of the accusations they’re making.
He seems to be in the clear and off scott-free, until Hank hits him with a comment, on his way out the door, that clearly bothers him to the core, even though he does his best not to show it.
Hank lets Mike know that they’ve uncovered a link between him and an off-shore bank account in the name of his granddaughter. The bank account has over two million dollars in it.
Walt and Jesse go to meet with Saul Goodman to discuss plans to get back into the cooking business. They’re looking for Saul to help out with finding them a good and discreet location where they can brew up their new batches of “blue ice.”
Saul continues to show resistance, making a bad analogy about “winning the lottery” that clearly just pisses Walt off and dissuades him not in the slightest.
He makes it clear that they are moving on, regardless, and that Saul is going to be helping them.
While in the middle of playing “Hungry Hippos” with his granddaughter, Mike gets a mysterious phone call from one of the 11 men on the list, a Mr. Chow, who tells Mike he’s scared and needs to meet in person.
Chow only makes the call at the behest of an assassin who has a silenced pistol pointed at his head the whole time, leading us to believe two things:
1) Hope you didn’t fall in love with Mr. Chow, because he’s this was a cameo performance.
2) Mike is being lured into some kind of a setup.
Mike wraps of his game of “Hippos” and heads over to Chow’s place, where the assassin lies in wait to kill him. Unfortunately for him, Mike gets the jump on him by distracting him with one of his granddaughter’s toys (a battery operated, moving pig) on the front door, while Mike sneaks in the back.
Before he kills him, Mike finds out from the gunman that he was hired by the mysterious Madrigal babe (respectfully) who Mike met earlier in the diner.
He politely asks him if he’s ready, shoots him several times, then moves on.
Mike heads over to the woman’s house, where he plans to tie up the loose ends. What ensues is a way-too-long debate between he and the woman about where he’s going to shoot her, if he’s going to hide her body, and other things that potential murder victims should never get to have a say in.
Ultimately, Mike seems to show a soft spot. Possibly, because of the woman’s young daughter. Possibly, because he now needs money (since the Feds are in the process of seizing the two million dollars he had stored away for his granddaughter).
Regardless of the reason, Mike decides to spare her (at least it appears he does), and then asks if she’s able to get a hold of any methylamine, which is the ingredient Walt and Jesse need to get back into the cooking business.
Mike calls Walt to tell him he’s had a change of heart and wants in. In my favorite “Walt moment of the episode,” Walt coolly responds, “Good” and then hangs up the phone.
It was short and sweet, but it’s another glimpse into the evolution Walt is undergoing as he changes into an icy villain, detached from the emotion of the bad things he feels he has to do.
To further cement this, Walt heads to bed with the still depressed Skyler, where he creepily kisses her all over her neck and back, while he explains to her that the bad things they’ve done were all for a good reason.
**Note: No Jesse Pinkman “quote of the week.” Jesse was somewhat absent from this episode. No worries. He’s sure to make up for it next week with some nugget of wisdom.**
Are you as irritated with Skyler as I am? Is Walt truly becoming an evil mastermind?