Sunday, April 05, 2009

Breaking Bad, "Breakage": Bottled up tight

Spoilers for tonight's "Breaking Bad" coming up just as soon as I print the labels for my Sepin-brau microbrew line...
"We do things my way this time. Or I walk. You need me more than I need you... Walt." -Jesse
First thing's first: in case you missed the news earlier in the week, AMC has ordered a third season of "Breaking Bad," to premiere sometime in 2010. Between Bryan Cranston's Emmy win, the recent Peabody Award and the increased ratings this season, I think most of us assumed renewal was a foregone conclusion, but it's still nice to have one less worry hanging over my head...

...which is more than can be said for most of the characters in "Breakage." Walt has mounting medical bills and still can't get through to Skyler -- even after he thinks the cigarette pack gives hm leverage for a game of Moral Superiority -- and now he has to deal with Jesse astutely changing the dynamics of their partnership. Jesse seems to be doing well for himself, but now he has responsibilities: rent for the apartment, (and a landlady he wants to impress enough to have sex with, it seems), rent for the RV (and how many episodes before Clovis tries to sell the meth lab out from under him?), employees and, as Walt points out, a street rep to maintain. Skyler's miserable and alone and has to bully Marie into apologizing for the tiara incident. And Hank is having panic attacks about his killing of Tuco, and he can't tell anyone about it because of the macho culture of the DEA field office. Instead, he bottles up his feelings as tight as the caps on his DIY microbrews.

So the question is, which character will be the first to let their emotions burst out in dangerous fashion like the exploding bottles in Hank's garage?

Episodes like "Breakage" are important from a story standpoint -- the bigger Jesse's street operation gets, the closer the DEA's going to come to finding it, and/or to us finding out about the burnt teddy bear in Walt's pool -- but also for helping to deepen the supporting cast and make it clear just how many people Walt is hurting in his idiotic quest to die on his own terms. Jesse's been plunged deeper into the drug world than he was ever expecting to go, which will make it that much harder if he ever really tries to get out. Skyler's smoking -- and I loved that she had kept count of the "three and a half cigarettes" she had consumed -- while pregnant because Walt has her so stressed and isolated. And Hank only wound up in a position where he had to kill Tuco because Walt was missing, and involved with that psychopath to begin with.

This was another terrific episode, showcasing not only the supporting actors (Dean Norris in particular), but also the directing, production design, sound editing, etc. I loved the sequence of Walt sitting still in his chemo chair, his world all slowed down and tedious while everyone else moved at double speed (an effect echoed later on when we saw Jesse out collecting money from his guys), and all of the sound design involving liquids, whether the spot in the Rio Grande where the two Mexican illegals crossed and found Tuco's grill, or the chemo entering Walt's IV, or Hank bottling his beers. You don't usually think of fancy sound work on television, but for a show about chemistry, and the transformation of solids into liquids, inert liquids into volatile ones, etc., it's fitting, and pretty cool.

What did everyone else think?


renton said...

Great episode!

Who was the woman given the dedication at the end?

Anonymous said...

Yeah, I was wondering who that was?

Good news that the show will be back next year. I probably think we will only get two or three more seasons after this one. This show is definitely taking a slower pace a la The Wire, but it seems as if it is not affecting the ratings too much.
BTW The Peabody award has been completely diminished in my eyes since
they gave it to Entourage.

Robert Cervantes said...

A few things about this episode:

Is the teddy bear going to be the ultimate tease of the season?

Any reason why we see Walt back to slightly weasing and vomiting again? Withdraw or is the cancer still lingering?

I think Clovis will be happy as long as he keeps getting his cash. He seems more concern about this dough than anything else.

I'm so thinking that Jesse is setting himself up for major disaster. The clowns/friends he hired seems to be really unexperience in the game. They do not seem fearsome at all. And one of them will rat if worse comes to worse. Jesse should have started out with maybe one dude, not three.

I wonder what made Skyler stop smoking mid cigerette.

Great analysis Alan on the false sense of leverage Walt thought he had on his wife.

When guns and violence gets involved, this is when the drug trade really misses its mark. And that's when things get complicated. This whole operation will go straight down hill because of it. You think any of Jesse's henchmen know a thing or two about disposing a body or cleaning up a mess?

Are we going to see some of Hank's brew (in non-alcholic form of course) in the AMC shop? Maybe as a soda pop?

Was Tuco the first time Hank had to fire his weapon? He seems like an amateur about the whole thing. I know he got shot as, but he wasn't hit. There has to be more as to why Hank is acting like that.

Alan, I strongly agree about the editing in this episode. Love the deep look into the IV and seeing Walt's world going fast.

I don't blame Skyler is saying what she said about where Walt Jr is. Walter has totally abandoned the father role since he protected his son in the clothing store. He has totally left his family before he has even died.

Love the quote you opened up with. It shows that Jesse no longer things Walter as his teacher, but now as a mutual peer. He has a point about the original plan. It should have stayed that way. And I honestly thought it would have if it wasn't for the whole Krazy 8 thing.

Anonymous said...

renton, Kim Manners (a he, not a she) was a director/writer on The X-Files, along with BB's Vince Gilligan. He died of lung cancer at the end of January.

JoeE said...


I get the feeling Hank is in the early stages of post-traumatic stress disorder. It can happen to even the coolest, most professional cops or soldiers. The scene with the exploding bottles definitely had a very PTSD vibe.

CC said...

Interesting that the episode dedicated to someone who died of lung cancer included a plotline about a pregnant woman smoking.

Kim Manners lived only to see his 58th birthday. IMO, in these photos, his appearance shows some of deadly effects of longterm cigarette use. Granted, it's not crystal meth, but still poison:

Holly G said...

Walt just seems to be moving from one personal hell to another. First, he was the invisible, insignificant teacher and now he has jumped on another treadmill, trying to keep up with his continuing medical bills while his family slips even farther away than they were when this transition started. He isn't dying on his own terms at all...he's working for "the man" more than ever.

Jessie, on the other hand, is realizing his own personal power, moving beyond the dependency of his family/inheritance and into the adult world of self-support, problem solving, and even delayed gratification.

Right now, this show seems to be centering on personal power. Walt gave his up long ago and no matter what he does or how smart his plans, he is still standing on the side, letting life happen to him. Letting his rash decisions define his future.

Jessie, on the other hand, has seen the dregs (2 episodes ago) and is fighting his way back using his street smarts. His future is the most compelling right now.

Loved the time/pace effects this show. And they don't let us forget that this whole situation rests on a foundation of violence and sickness rather than glorifying the drug trade. God, the cackle of that customer was haunting.

And heart broke for her as she forced her sister to apologize and come clean. She wasn't really talking to her sister at that point. This was the conversation with Walt that she was aching to play out. Guilt, shame, whatever it took. Great acting by Anna Gunn.

So nice to have something to talk about. I love this show.

Kensington said...

I know this point is getting repetitious, but I'm still impressed by it: they're not even bothering to make Walt even remotely sympathetic anymore. Just contrast the Walt who wanted so badly to let Crazy 8 go last season with the cold, mean SOB who forced his gun on Jesse and told him to "handle it" tonight.

What a loathsome bastard he's become. I'm now sort of hoping that he lives long enough to go to prison at the end of all this.

It's all so, so recklessly stupid on Walt and Jesse's part. They're making themselves the kingpins now, but they have almost now insulation. All it would take would be for one of Jesse's street guys to get arrested, and the whole thing would come crashing down.

Anonymous said...

And they're talking on phones!

Ted Kerwin said...

I found it interesting that Walt wanted to talk about his situation in the abstract with Hank while at the grill and Hank just brushed it off and walked off. I am a late comer to the show but does that scene show Hank will not talk about it with Walt or that Hank never thinks about that element of his job?

As for the sympathy for Walt, I think his statement to Jesse in the RV explains that more than anything, "I admit to a learning curve" He has to think that the ultimate goal is more important than his old moral code. He does not have time for breakage, he does not have time for the nice way, and really that first round of Chemo finishing is another sign that time is passing.

I have also watched the Wire too much to not think that the economics of the package Walt and Jesse are selling makes it difficult to be the hard ass 2,000 no excuses seller. If my best profit is $500, and the street dealers felt that was optimistic, to take care of the problem by beating down a dealer does not make for any type of loyalty. If you want the dealers to pay no matter what you don't front the package, you get the money up front. The better deal at this point is to say, ok, you understand the product is better, now I want $1500 up front and calculate in the breakage. Greed and violence go hand in hand

Norgard said...

This episode had a really weird pacing. It started very slow, with Walt getting Chemo again and then that very "Breaking Bad" moment when Walt has to wait for the bill printout, and by the end of the episode they've got their gang going and they've gotten ripped off and Walt is demanding violent retribution. Kind of dizzying. I'm not saying it was bad, but if the show keeps going like this, I can't see it lasting beyond the third season. Then again, I'd love for "Breaking Bad" to have short but good run and then eagerly await whatever Vince Gilligan cooks up next.

"Any reason why we see Walt back to slightly weasing and vomiting again? Withdraw or is the cancer still lingering?"

The vomiting is pretty much a direct reaction to the Chemo. As for wheezing, I only noticed it when Jesse sets the terms for their new partnership. I thought that was a psychosomatic reaction: for the past episodes, Walt has been using Jesse as a punching bag, holding him responsible for his problems and ignoring Jesse's plight whenever possible. Now that Jesse is asserting himself as an equal peer, it seemed fitting that along with the power loss Walt experiences in that relationship his body would show signs of failing him again.

Norgard said...

Addendum because I missed Ted's comment:

"I found it interesting that Walt wanted to talk about his situation in the abstract with Hank while at the grill and Hank just brushed it off and walked off. I am a late comer to the show but does that scene show Hank will not talk about it with Walt or that Hank never thinks about that element of his job?"

Walt may have been talking in the abstract from his perspective, but for Hank the question must have been fairly specific: "Hey, that guy Tuco you killed? Do you ever wonder about him as a fully-fleshed person with feelings and a bad childhood and stuff that you cut short by violently killing him?" Hank is obviously troubled by the shooting, and I don't think we can read any more into the scene than that Hank doesn't really want to dwell on the man he killed, which would be understandable even without the apparently developing PSTD.

What I found interesting about that scene was that among the rather cold behaviour Walt shows elsewhere in this episode, this was pretty much the only moment where he showed some moral qualms about what he's doing. And, come to think of it just like Hank with killing Tuco, Walt finds no way to address the problem head-on.

"I don't blame Skyler is saying what she said about where Walt Jr is."

When Walt says "You don't know where your son is?" I expected her to reply: "Well, at time I don't know where my husband is either."

Redsmom said...

Finally saw a shot of Sandia (mountain) out of Hank's garage. I can tell exactly where, in the valley, his house is supposed to be. They don't show much of Albuquerque in this show, which is a shame. I liked the sister complaining about what a hole Albuquerque is and then denigrating El Paso/Juarez. That's pretty authentic.

belinda said...

Again, impressed with how much I felt for Hank and how he is(or isn't) dealing with the whole Tuco thing; it was eerie and I have no idea how it'll all turn out for poor Hank. The whole bottling scene (both scenes) was fantastic to watch.

And I'm really enjoying the relationship between Jesse and Walt. Jesse has taken the leadership role in the partnership for a change, and it was nice to see how the dynamic between the two has and will continually change. Especially since in that last scene when Walt told Jesse to handle it, I got the distinct impression that in some ways, Jesse still wants Walt's respect/leadership/teachings despite where Walt has led them to the first time around. Which is all the more sadder because without Walt, who knows where Jesse would have gone in his life now?

It was also interesting to see Jesse embark on his new chapter of his life - moving out from his parents, being responsible, renting his own place, gathering up his own 'business' plan, etc, and all in stark contrast to where Walt is in his life.

P.S. It was nice of them to dedicate the episode to Kim Manners.

jogree01 said...

Alan awesome post as always. I don't have much else to add between the great post and the great comments that always accompany your blogging, but did anyone else notice that the real estate "chick" was Krysten Ritter, better known as Gia Goodman from Veronica Mars?

The girl is looking as hot as ever, hope she makes a few more appearances before the season is over.

And one more side note, Brian Cranston was on Adam Carolla's podcast about a week ago if anyone wants to check it out. Very NSFW to say the least.

Thanks again Alan.

DonBoy said...

It's obvious, but just to drive it home: it was about a month ago our time, probably less in story time, that Jesse wanted to kill Tuco (before the kidnapping) and Walt pointed out that he hadn't thought it through, about how to actually kill someone. And now Walt hands Jesse a gun and just tells him to do it? Yeah, that'll work out.

sandra said...


But since that time, Walt's family situation has gotten pretty bad. And the worst that situation gets, the crazier he acts.

But it would be really stupid for them to start killing people, bodies usually get the attention of police and Walt should realize this. Not to mention, he is putting the gun into the hands of someone who is not exactly a world class murderer. What if Jesse is caught? Belinda, I agree with you, Jesse still wants Walt’s approval, and Walt knows this.

Anonymous said...

I'm really enjoying this season but the past couple episodes have not been nearly as good as the first two episodes were. I think Tuco's death left a big void that has yet to be filled. Hank's story has been good, and I love the idea of Jesse building an empire (or trying anyway) but the show has been lacking some of the tension and the sense of impending doom it usually has.

I'm guessing that either the landlady chick hooks up with Jesse, or she's a meth head, or both. She's got to get dragged into the story somehow.

I'm tired of Skyler. Always been very annoying but she's become unbearable lately. However, "maybe I smoked them in a fugue state" was a great line. I suppose Skyler has to be unlikeable or Walt would be so unsympathetic that the show wouldn't work. As it is, I find Skyler so shrill and annoying I always have sympathy for Walt unlike some of the other commenters here. If that woman was my wife, I would find reasons to disappear too. She is awful.

floretbroccoli said...

What's that old adage, if you introduce home-bottled beer in the first act, it has to go off in the third?

Karen said...

It is staggering to see what a shit Walt has become. His treatment of his wife, his treatment of Jesse: so hateful. You can see that he is becoming Tuco himself.

Strong, strong performances from everyone involved...but sweet Jesus this show is getting more and more difficult to watch, isn't it?

Jennifer J. said...

The cackling of that meth addict lady was nightmare-inducing.

I'm pretty sure she's teh same actress who plays the highly make-up'ped prostitute on "My Name is Earl".

Mike said...

Indeed she is Ear's daytime hooker.

Anthony Foglia said...

Ted Kerwin said...
If my best profit is $500, and the street dealers felt that was optimistic, to take care of the problem by beating down a dealer does not make for any type of loyalty.

We're not clear on who Walt wants Jesse to "take care of". It's possible he might go after the junkies who stole from his dealer. If Jesse thinks the dealer was telling the truth, you still need to make a statement to others that they don't want to mess with your business.

cgeye said...

I've gotten the impression from last season that Skyler was a golddigger Walt took on the rebound from the girl his partner married. Both have cause to be bitter -- Skyler never got the successful scientist she gave up waitressing to woo, and Walt felt her resentment every time they went over their credit limit.

I always saw Walt's life of crime as revenge on her -- so you want success, without ethics? Here's the cash, here are the secret safe deposit boxes, choke on them. The baby makes that motivation less harsh, but the die was cast when Walt refused help from his ex-partner (let's face it, he was offered a borderline legal no-show job with benefits, one sketchy cash arrangement for another). I think this is part of Walt reclaiming what he thinks a man should be, while poisoning the apathetic student population -- those he judges as wasting time and resources -- in the process. In short, I think his madness has a method, albeit unconscious.

Anonymous said...

I agree with the previous post about still feeling sympathy for Walt and finding Skyler to be intolerably annoying. At this point, she has no reason to be attributing Walt's behavior to anything other than the depression, anxiety, fear etc. associated with the fact that he's dying, and to the physical pain resulting from cancer treatment he didn't want but undertook to appease her. While her suspicions are accurate, why wouldn't she be giving him the benefit of the doubt? It's because for the 1st time he's defying her rather than kissing her ass as it's clear he's done for their entire relationship. No matter how suspicious she is, what spouse abandons her long-term partner when he's on the verge of death?
Walt has made very bad choices while in crisis. The lack of support from and withdrawal of affection by the woman he loves has simply made his poorly chosen path inexorable.
Skyler has failed to support him in his illness in any meaningful way, even before her suspicions arose. She's disclosed his illness to both family and estranged friends without his permission and against his wishes, humiliated him by asking for handouts, forcing him into treatment, and haranguing him to react emotionally to his situation in a way that gives her comfort but causes discomfort to him. It's understandable that he has finally crossed the ultimate line into calculated murder for business rather than self-preservation.

Osnat said...

Kim Manners, to whom the show was dedicated, is a man, not a woman. A producer the dies that year from cancer.

Anonymous said...

I don't know if anyone is still reading these posts, but I am currently watching the shows for the first time by DVR'ing the reruns being put on late at night.

I want to thank Alan, the shows he recomends never disappoint.

I also want to echo the statement about Skyler. I absolutely cannot stand the woman. She fails to attribute any of Walt's issues with the treatment that she forced him to undertake. She has no empathy, no humanity and is simply petty.

I don't know whether I want her to remain this way, so I can condone Walt's treatment of her, or to change and maybe help Walt make better choices.

Oh, and Jesse has no shot with the landlady.