Sunday, May 17, 2009

Breaking Bad, "Mandala": Jane's addiction

Spoilers for tonight's "Breaking Bad" coming up just as soon as I refer you to our website...
"You can never trust a drug addict." -Gus
Three times in "Mandala," a character (first Jane, then Skyler, then Walt) is faced with a decision between what is right and what will feed their craving (for Jane, using drugs; for Skyler, Ted Beneke; for Walt, the chance to keep dealing drugs and making money). Three times, that character closes their eyes for a moment and tries to convince him or herself to resist temptation and do the right thing.

And three times, they give in.

Jane walks back to Jesse's bedroom, smokes some crystal with him, and eventually introduces him to the joys of heroin. Skyler gets out of her car and returns to work at Beneke. Walt ignores Skyler's text about going into labor, hoists a garbage bag full of meth, and goes to meet the mysterious Gus for the biggest sale of his career.

Drug dealers prey on human weakness, and in becoming a dealer, Walt has inadvertently attacked the weaknesses of the people all around him. He pushed Jesse into expanding their territory, which led to a rival drug gang murdering Jesse's buddy Combo, which led to Jesse wanting to get lost smoking meth -- and, after dragging Jane down with him, shooting up. He made Skyler feel so alienated that she would seek out Ted Beneke's company, even though she doesn't want to cheat on her husband, and even though she doesn't want to work for a man who cheats on his bookkeeping. And for Walt, the dealing itself has become like a drug, one that makes him feel more powerful and alive than he has in years, if ever, and so he's even willing to choose a drug deal over witnessing the birth of his daughter.

It would seem impossible for anyone within the circle of influence of this drug world to make smart, careful choices -- or, it would, if in the same episode we weren't also introduced to the mysterious Gus.

Played by Giancarlo Esposito, Gus (aka Gustavo) appears to be everything Walt aspires to be: a careful, successful drug lord who not only acts like a legitimate businessman, but owns a series of legitimate businesses. (This week in "The Wire"-to-"Breaking Bad" translation would have Gus as the best parts of Stringer Bell and Prop Joe.) Walt believes he and Gus are kindred spirits, but Gus knows better, telling him, "I don't think we're alike at all, Mr. White." Between Walt's ignorance of the drug game, his reliance on Jesse and his own stubborn pride and need to make money as fast as possible, Walt has repeatedly made the kind of mistakes that could end a career -- or a life. He may be careful and have a plan when he cooks the blue meth, but the rest of the time, he's improvising -- and usually badly.

It's curious, I thought, that after Gus decided to do business with Walt, he would give him a first assignment with such a tight time window that it would make nearly any man get sloppy. Maybe the idea is that only a man as careful and organized as Gus would be able to get his hands on that much supply so quickly. Or is there a chance this is all a set-up -- that Gus has determined Walt is a man he can get over on, and get ahold of a large supply of quality meth for nothing? (I'm guessing not; seems like too much potential risk for a relatively small reward.)

We're reaching a point with this series where it feels like praising the actors is almost unnecessary -- that the brilliance of Bryan Cranston, Aaron Paul and the rest is so obvious that it can go without saying. But one of the trickiest things an actor can do is to simply show the audience what their character is thinking, and in "Mandala," the cast -- Cranston in the kitchen, Paul while Jesse is floating above his bedroom while high on dope, Anna Gunn in the car, and Krysten Ritter at the doorway -- all nailed those moments. (Ritter in particular, since we have so little to work with on Jane and she still told me a very long story during that pause.)

Even if Walt somehow pulls off this deal, I think we all know things are falling apart -- and would know it even without the Teddy Bear of Doom imagery. As Walt himself finally admits to Saul Goodman, "This entire process has been so... it's always been one step forward, and two steps back." And so long as each character is consumed with feeding his or her addiction, no real progress can be made.

Some other thoughts on "Mandala":

• I like that Skyler is, yet again, drawn to a man who commits a crime for what he claims to be a selfless reason, though at least she knows about it in Ted's case. And her performance of Marilyn Monroe's version of "Happy Birthday" -- reprising something she did the last time she worked for Beneke -- provides even more evidence that what went on wasn't sexual harassment, but some kind of mutual-consent flirtation, if not a full-blown affair.

• Dazzling work on the entire heroin sequence, with Jesse appearing to float up to the ceiling of his bedroom, as "Enchanted" by The Platters plays. Check that look of pure bliss (and relief) on Aaron Paul's face and you can see that Jesse is not going to want to stop doing this anytime soon.

• Shows like "House" and "Six Feet Under" (where the victim was never who it seemed to be at first) have conditioned me to look for twists in pre-credits sequences, but I have to admit to being completely suckered in by this one. I thought for sure that all the shots of the little boy on his bike meant he was going to be collateral damage in the hit on Combo, but instead, he was the killer. Nicely done.

• Now that Walt has told Skyler that Gretchen and Elliot have cut off the money tap, how does he intend to explain his ability to pay for the $200,000 surgery? Also, note how the roles have now reversed: where before it was Skyler who had to push Walt to get any kind of treatment, now he's the one aggressively pursuing it while she wants to at least think. Now that Walt knows he has a chance to live -- and has accepted that he can live as a drug dealer -- he's embracing it.

• The surgeon was played by veteran character actor Sam McMurray -- who, coincidentally or not, played Uncle Junior's brilliant oncologist (named John Kennedy) in a latter-era "Sopranos" episode.

• Saul Goodman's helpfulness proves to not be unlimited here -- he needs to reach out to "a guy who knows a guy who... knows another guy" to get ahold of Gus, and he has no Plan B when that meeting fails -- but he's still funny, telling a bickering Walt and Jesse, "Who do I look like, Maury Povich? I Am not your marriage counselor."

• Would the reveal that the fast food manager was really Walt and Jesse's contact have worked better with a less recognizable actor? Or was the point supposed to be that we identified the guy but it took Walt longer to do so?

What did everybody else think?

53 comments:

Chris said...

I called the manager being the contact but not because I recognized the actor (which I didn't).

Another fantastic episode. There's really not much more that can be said.

I was just wondering the imagined length of the series. I want this to run as long as possible but I don't want the quality to diminish. I think this is the kind of show that can benefit from a planned endgame. Have you ever heard anything from Vince Gilligan regarding how long he wants/thinks the show to go?

Josh said...

I thought the manager reveal was nicely done. Esposito NAILED the part - that sudden shift from ingratiating help to cold dealer was perfect. So we can't take him out of the equation. But, the director knows that with a glance, we'll know who it is.

So how do we get our first glance? Out of focus in the background. He's there, but easily missed, which puts us in Walt's shoes. More to the point, they didn't drag it out too long to the point of irritation.

Jesus, though, what a depressing episode. We've all known there weren't happy endings coming, but this was some incredibly bleak stuff.

JoeE said...

This actually felt quite a bit like "Heidi and Kennedy" from the last season of the Sopranos, with all the failed moral tests. Unlike that episode, though, the characters here don't act out of self-preservation, they act the way they do because that's the kind of people that they appear to genuinely want to be, even if they'd never admit it.

One thing I noticed during the birthday scene (surely the most awkward scene to air this year on a show that's not called The Office) was how many modestly attractive middle-aged women that Ted appeared to have in his employ, one of whom was quite clearly unhappy with Skyler's flirtations. Between that and a scene a few episodes back where Ted's receptionist shot Skyler about the dirtiest look I've ever seen, I don't think Skyler is the only woman in the company the boss has been working, even if she is his favorite.

I don't quite know how they've done it, but this show has made drug-dealing junkies far more sympathetic than a middle-aged science teacher dying of cancer. I felt more for Jesse in this episode than I have felt for Walt and Skyler this entire season. It was heartbreaking when Jane woke up and immediately went for the drugs, knowing what it was ultimately going to lead to for both of them.

Chris - I think Gilligan has said that he can't see the show going on for more than two seasons after this one. At the end of this season we'll be at the halfway point.

Anonymous said...

I like Josh's take, though mine's a little different. I caught Esposito's name in the credits and was waiting for his appearance. But seeing him running the Pollos like a prim and proper manager really made it hit home when he said that he and Walter were nothing alike. Gus runs 14 stores and maintains impeccable control over his persona while Walter can't even remember to turn off his cellphone in the classroom ceiling.

The sudden delivery timeline seemed odd to me at first. But as a careful guy I don't think Gus wants to have much to do with Walter White, really. But 38 pounds of product is just too tempting. I could see him then wanting to take Walter out, since Walter figured out who he really is.

Also, this episode pulled off a neat trick. In this episode Jesse went from being a drug user to a drug addict. That's an odd thing to say about a character who has been a semi-regular meth user for two seasons, and yet Jane's entire preparation sequence combined with the floating montage made clear that Jesse has crossed some line. That's a subtlety you don't usually get on TV. (Arguably the show backed into this by being coy about exactly how much of a meth user Jesse is, but still.)

Every time I see Anna Gunn I wonder how much extra "daughter" weight she is carrying. Even if it is lighter than I think, she's got to be happy to be able to finally take it off.

Robert Cervantes said...

A few points:

I am shocked nobody talked about the opening scene. It seems like the Mexican cartel is getting annoyed with intrusion into their space. And knowing the real life stories of gangs like MS13, the use of a child for murder is not out of their realm.

JoeE, great point about the selection of women employees. It does suggest that he hires them primarily for their looks. And it seems like Skyler was the one Ted couldn't fully get.

The downfall of Jane reminds me a lot of Christopher's plight from the Sopranos. Every now and again we saw Christopher do good, but the evils in his life pull him back into the demons. Jane's relationship with Jesse certainly goes against everything those meetings teach you.

I think the music composers on this show go highly unnoticed. They are truly underrated. Everytime we had a music drop, it has perfectly matched the scene or elevated it. It was great to ear one of the people responsible for the music on one of BB's podcast.

For the reason why Mandala is used as the name for the episode, take a peak at this week's podcast. Just went up.

Skyler got up the energy to text Walter? She doesn't seem like one of those adults that rocks a BlackBerry and texts all the time.

What was the ornament or figure that Walt used for breaking the door down?

I know Alan covered it, but I think I should expand it by saying we need to see at least 3 Emmys for Breaking Bad. Bryan, Aaron, and the writing crew deserve it.

stan said...

Robert:

It's not clear who killed Combo. It could have been a local gang hit and not (directly) cartel connected.

And Skyler texted after trying to phone and probably leaving a voice message. Clearly texting wasn't her her first choice.

Robert Cervantes said...

Stan:

I've come to learn from this show that nothing is random. Everything has a purpose in this world. It's the biggest reason why I don't think this was a random hit on Combo.

As far as the texting, yeah, I agree with you on that.

Girl Detective said...

I think the bludgeon is Deedo the gargoyle, sold by NPRish catalogs. Also, I suspected, but didn't go back, that when he shoved it aside, a key went flying from under the ashtray.

About the C section--she and her doc referred euphemistically to trouble with her last labor, and I've wondered for a while if a long, bad birth might have caused/contributed to Walt Jr.'s condition--lack of oxygen, something like that.

I thought Walt looked like a demented Santa Claus running out of Jesse's with the garbage bag over his shoulder.

Stan said...

Robert:

But this show does have random deaths. Spooge (I'm not even sure Spooge's woman saw that coming). Tuco's henchmen (sort of random, with Tuco freaking out). Tuco's other henchman (completely random, with the cars falling on him). Combo's death is just a reminder that Walt and Jesse are in over their heads. Just how over their heads is a detail yet to be revealed. I think it could be a cartel thing, like a warning that Walt and Jesse are too stupid to understand. But it could also be what Jesse said, that they're on somebody else's turf. It plays nicely against the end of last week's episode. Walt thinks he's a badass for getting in the face of some dude in the hardware store parking lot. Truth is, he was lucky he didn't get shot.

Mr. Bill said...

I'm new to this blog and am glad I found it.

Great job on breaking down the episode.

I too enjoyed the scene with Pink on his new found drug of choice.
I know we need some type of catalyst,in terms of story telling, to move the story along but I was really hoping that Jane would be helping Pink to get clean not the opposite.

The new secretive partner or whatever he will become is very interesting to me and I suspect we will be seeing much more of him.

Daniel said...

Any chance of another interview with Vince Gilligan? I'm sure he (and you) are pretty busy, but it would be great to hear his thoughts on such a brilliantly executed season of television and I don't imagine there's much else for you to cover at the end of May aside from the finale.

Jesse's Yo said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
cgeye said...

"The Jane character is unnerving, and I'm surprised that many view the situation as "Jesse dragging her down," when it was apparent from the get-go that she "secretly" desired to relapse when she rented Jesse the apartment on such loose/sketchy conditions."

You got that right, Jesse's Yo. Jane wanted to be bad, and that was apparent ever since she dissed Jesse in front of her dad. The program requires rigorous honesty, right? Her dad had a key, probably paid for the house and the rehab, and would be concerned for her if she dated a meth junkie. But if she wanted to stay clean, why didn't she admit that to him? Why didn't she help herself and Jesse by going to meeting after meeting, until they got over the hump of indulging in their worst habits -- isolation, lying, idleness?

She probably knew Jesse was a dealer from the get-go, and decided it would be much easier to score with a lover than relapsing with strangers. Put me down in the 'oh, yeah, she's using him' column, for hurting him so callously that I'm betting she wanted to push him into a cozy relapse they could share.

And as for next week? Let's just say I'm not missing a certain FX series anymore....

Brown Shoes said...

catilstI agree with anonymous: We've had some heavy hints regarding Jesse's drug-use history, but tonight he crossed over into all new territory when he let Jane stick that needle in his arm.
I have known that truly negative consequences would eventually have to follow the awful actions of our dynamic dealing duo, but I held out hope Jesse might somehow find a way out... just not THAT way.
Watching him absorb Walt's utter indifference toward Combo's death ("Which one was he again?"), as well Jane's decision to pick up the pipe again made Jesse's dive into heroin a foregone conclusion for me, but it was gut-wrenching TV viewing.
Regarding those scary pink teddy bear vignettes - did anyone else note the lingering shot of a pair of (Walt's?) shattered eye glasses?
This show continues to floor me every week: terrific writing, top-notch acting, fantastic music, and excellent direction and cinematography.
I have finally, officially stopped mourning The Sopranos.

bs

Anonymous said...

Another Wire connection maybe, with the killer in the beginning turning out to be the young boy, a la "Kenard" in the final season. I think I just miss the Wire and I am trying to make any connection to it in every episode I watch!
Alan, I noticed Esposito's name in the credits and as soon as Saul said he knew someone who had been in the game for 20 years, I thought that Esposito was going to be that character. I was also surprised that Gilligan said he could do TWO more seasons after this, I thought he could probably only do one more. I also hope that Breaking Bad sweeps the Emmy's, no drama on TV this season has even come close.

Anonymous said...

I thought the contact was the restaurant manager, too. What will be next? I just can't wait for Sunday night, I love this show!! Who is Esposito and how is he known?

Russell Lucas said...

Yeah, I told my wife it was Esposito, the manager, since I'd seen his name in the credits and figured he had to have more screen time to justify that, and to justify having him on the show at all. Call it credit spoilers.

Anon, Giancarlo Esposito is a character actor, but for my money he'll always be Buggin' Out from Do the Right Thing.

Before I started watching the show, I thought it seemed like another tired treatise on suburban amorality. I'm happy to be wrong, and while we're seeing Walt come to grips with the fact that he isn't going to check out before the human and moral toll of his dealing arrives, I can't believe how good the show is at batting my sympathies back and forth. I hate the Walt who could be so callous as to ask Jesse which one Combo was, and yet I want him to make the score.

K J Gillenwater said...

First, I wanted to say how much that opening scene reminded me of "The Sopranos." And then how interesting to see that several commenters mentioned that show here.

I knew the kid was up to no good when he started riding around the dealer. But it was still shocking.

"Also, the physical differences and odd attraction between Walt and Skyler has never been more apparent. I'm not sure what they ever saw in each other."

Didn't they show some of that in a flashback from last year? When Walter split up with Ms. Smart Scientist lady? I seem to recall that we saw Skyler as a waitress...or is that some weird dream I had?

Going off of Walter Jr.'s age, around 16, right? And knowing that Skyler is almost 40, I assumed that perhaps they got married b/c she got pregnant. But maybe not.

Anyway, my assumption from the flashback was that Skyler was a total rebound person for Walter. She was a blue collar worker type. He was an educated scholar who looked to have a very promising future. Skyler latched onto that....and then rode it right into suburban credit-card-debt hell.

Anonymous said...

Another new poster here -

The shot of the syringe with the blood swirling around in it as they were shooting up reminded me of a similar shot when Walt was getting one of his first chemo treatments. I thought it was an interesting juxtaposition -- chemicals entering the veins for such different purposes, and with such different results.

Josh said...

Daniel - it won't sate your interview lust, but I highly recommend the Breaking Bad podcasts on AMC's site. They do one for each episode, and it's always the head editor and Gilligan, with rotating appearances by various writers, actors, and crew. Really interesting stuff, and really insightful - about 30 minutes a week. Well worth investigating. Head over to AMC.com, go to the Breaking Bad blog, and you should see them.

Bob Timmermann said...

Being both:
1) male
2) never been pregnant

But would Skyler have been able to wear the shoes she had on when she was coming out of her OB/GYN after the ultrasound. Those looked to be four inch heels.

That just doesn't look comfortable. Of course, she was dressing up for the birthday party afterwards.

Alan Sepinwall said...

Yeah, Bob, I'm also not female and have never been pregnant, but it looks to me like they've been dressing and styling Anna Gunn as if she looked like she always does, only with a belly pad. Obviously, it can be tough to do realistic makeup on the other weight gains that come with pregnancy (though Mad Men did it brilliantly).

Hartzler said...

Who said Flynn was Walter's true son?

I think we're seeing al lot about Skylar that we didn't know from before. All these characters are deceptive.

Walter; mild mannered Chem teacher by day, Drug lord by night. Skylar's sister is a thrill seeking shoplifter, her husband suffers from PTSD but fronts the Hardcore Narc role. All of them are not what they seem to be.

Perhaps Skylar got pregnant from her boss and led Walter to believe Jr. was his.

Anonymous said...

I would say he's more like "The Greek" in the wire. Very high level mover, doesn't get involved at all with street level, very careful

Anonymous said...

In response to Jesse's Yo's comment about the brain quality of Jesse's drug crew, I am reminded of a line Tom Selleck as as Lance White in the Rockford Files. Lance has stirred up some mobsters, forcing Rockford and he to fight their way out of the situation. Rockford chastises him, and Lance said the mobsters got a beating and would think twice before committing more crimes.

Rockford's reply is priceless and memorable (I haven't seen that episode in 20 years but still remember it). "These guys don't think twice,that's why they're in the line of work they're in."

Simply put, most street dealers are fairly stupid. They showed that in "The Wire" when a dealer tried to sell dope to a cop, who was still in uniform and was driving an unmarked, but obvious cop car.

jon said...

The opening sequence was superb, one of those "can't watch" moments because surely the kid was going to die. This show does an excellent job dishing up the unexpected.

Which is why I was disappointed with some of the other plot developments. It was almost telegraphed that Jane was going to fall back into drug use. I'd have been more surprised if Jane walked out the door. Why did she pick this particular moment in time to relapse, especially after telling Jesse that it's not going to help him?

It's always a pleasure to see Saul. The scenes with Gus were fantastic and extremely smart. Loved the cell phone buzzing in the ceiling - classic.

I'm still predicting Jesse and Jane in the body bags (can there be any other future for them?), and am interested to see if John De Lancie has a bigger part than his walk-on last week. Walt's actions are affecting a growing number of people, and it feels like we're heading to a tremendous season finale.

Eldritch said...

Alan said,
It's curious, I thought, that after Gus decided to do business with Walt, he would give him a first assignment with such a tight time window that it would make nearly any man get sloppy
.

My take on it is that Gus is testing Walt's good judgment. Walt's been ordered on short notice by a kid he's never previously met to deliver $1.2 million of easily stolen product to an isolated truck stop out on a highway somewhere.

It it good judgment to follow those instructions?

I don't think so.

In the restaurant, Walt presented himself very well when he met Gus. He came across as intelligent, capable, and determined, as he always does. But his actions belie his appearance. As Alan's said, he's great at chemistry, but he fumbles everything else. ....which, I think, is leading us to the flambéed teddy bear.

Sam said...

I seriously doubt they're going to kill off Jesse. I also think Jane is one of the bodies in the bag.

Spiral Jacobs said...

I think Jane stayed and did drugs with Jesse because she couldn't stand it that he kicked her out. She was used to him being her puppy dog, but there was something that he loved as much,if not more, than he loved her: getting high. He had to choose between hanging out with her and smoking meth, and he choose the meth. Having been there herself, she figured, if she couldn't beat him, she'd join him, something she'd unconsciously wanted to do from the day she let him move in.

Mike said...

If we extend the arena a bit from The Wire to Homicide: LOTS, we can recall Giancarlo Esposito as FBI Agent Mike Giardello, though he didn't have one tenth of Gus's composure.

By the way, did it occur to anyone else that shortly after Walt assures Gus that he is indeed a cautious man, he allows Gus to rush him into acting like a complete maniac?

Tom said...

One note regarding Gus -- he is not the 'manager' of the fast food grease & salt emporium, he *owns* it, along with 13 others. Interesting that even his legitimate business entails pushing poisons onto the lower classes.

Also, I've got to send some love to Bob Odenkirk. Saul is his best character since Porno Gil back in season one of "Curb Your Enthusiasm." That man was born to play sleazy.

And I also loved the cell-phone in the classroom ceiling business, especially having Walt tell the class it must be the pipes, only to have the "missed call" chime immediately sound. It's not every show that opens with a child committing murder and contains a tutorial on shooting a meth/heroin speedball that also can make the viewer laugh out loud.

TC said...

I'm guessing that Saul bought the "World's Greatest Lawyer" mug for himself, perhaps at the same store where Michael Scott bought his "World's Greatest Boss" mug...

jon said...

"I seriously doubt they're going to kill off Jesse."

We'll see. I remember reading an interview with Vince Gilligan or Aaron Paul, saying that he was supposed to die at the end of season 1, but the writers strike forced them to change plans.

Plus, Jesse and Jane are heading down a path of turning into Spooge and Skank...and we saw how that ended!

Jane's Spoon said...

2 things:

#1. As a former user I must say that the depiction of Jesse's speedball high is completely ludicrous. Pure movie cliche horseshit on the level of HR Puff'n'stuff creatures appearing during a psychedelic experience. Not only is this a silly way of capturing a heroin high, but it's especially off the mark since Jane and Jesse are speedballing. She crushes pure grade-A Walt salt in that spoon. Shoot that and you're not exactly going to be floating down the ol' River Lethe, especially right off when you're really going to be feeling the effect of the stimulant.

#2. If I was a gambling man (which is not recommended for ex-users, natch), I would lay money that Aaron Paul is going to have a lot more time to spend with Bill Hendrickson's daughter at the end of the season. On a show like Breaking Bad, everything turns to shit. They've laid too much groundwork showing us that despite clearly being a damaged generation fuck up, Jesse is a real dumb sweetheart who doesn't really have the constitution for this game because deep down he's actually not a wretched human being. They wouldn't have gone to all that trouble if they weren't going to kill him off. He isn't Chris Multisanti and Walt isn't Tony--their relationship isn't that complicated.

robsalk said...

Newbie here - great blog and great conversation! For what it's worth, in my opinion, the darkest moment in this dark episode is when Walt junior took that third drink, and how he talked about it later with Walt in the kitchen. Since the very beginning, I've been waiting for Walt Jr. to get caught up in the family business somehow, but he's been pretty straight and steadfast so far. I have an awful feeling that losing Walt Jr. in the web of deceit and violence that Walt has been spinning is about the only dramatically satisfactory payoff - and we just took the first step in that direction.

Doug S said...

For a while, I thought the mystery drug distributor was going to not exist, because it would turn out that Saul was talking about Heisenberg. That theory even got me as far as the guy not showing at Chicken Bros.

And to me, the actor who played the doctor will always be Sam's dad (dentist?) from Freaks & Geeks.

Anonymous said...

I just watched the entire series in the past day, not bad. I fear the end of this season might be too dark for my liking. If the wife and the son is killed by Walt Sr. then I will stop watching. In fact if Walt ends up killing his son then I will stop watching. I hope they don't pull a fast card and reveal it to be the Partner's Girlfriend.

Anonymous said...

I agree with the idea that the two body bags contain Jesse and Jane.

My guess is that it is Gus that kills them bc he wants Walt freed up to cook more meth.

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Alan Sepinwall said...

Guys, no talking about the previews for later episodes. It's Rule #2.

Alex said...

I'm probably over-guessing here, but I noticed that Jane said "Meet you there" to Jesse, and then did not meet him there; in fact, she hasn't moved since she shot up. (Including when Walt came in and slapped Jesse around fairly noisily.) Is it possible she's already dead?

Alex said...

Oh, and also: agreed with whoever said "Happy Birthday Mr. President" was the most uncomfortable moment in recent memory; in fact, it was more uncomfortable than anything I've seen on the Office in ages. My wife and I literally watched it through cracks in our fingers. We debated fast-forwarding. That was worse than Hostel.

Anonymous said...

Alan,

Suggestion: For the newbies perhaps you should make your "six rules for posting" visible on your blog homepage.
anonymoose

Anonymous said...

Oops, nevermind, I see you have it at the top of your "recommended reading" links. You can see alot by looking.
anonymoose

JoeInVegas said...

Why would a dealer that has 20 years experience and is supposed to be so careful let Walt get anywhere near him? Did he not do any due diligence and find out that his brother-in-law is the hot-gun DEA agent in town?

Why meet them in person? Why fess up when Walt asks him about the deal? The one-hour deadline I could handle because Walt claimed he was ready anytime…

He tells Walt that you can’t trust a drug addict, but now all it takes is for Jesse to screw up, give up Walt and then Walt gives up Gus. The only way I could believe this is if Gus wanted both to bring the meth to his boys and his boys to take them out.

Did anyone catch the goof ups when Skyler was explaining the malfeasance? They under reported revenue? You mean they brought in a mil and only reported 800K? But then she says that she found fake invoices… Oh you mean over-reported revenue….

Eldritch said...

JoeinVegas said,
Did anyone catch the goof ups when Skyler was explaining the malfeasance? They under reported revenue? ... Oh you mean over-reported revenue…
.

My accounting classes are so far behind me that my eyes just glazed over during her explanation. It was clear that something financial was wrong. It was only a matter whether he was the culprit or just covering up for someone else.

More central to the episode was the problem of the anally careful Gus exposing himself to Walt as carelessly as he did. I agree with you, it seemed out of character. ... and he was very right, you can't trust an addict.

Can't wait to find out what happens at the truck stop!

Anonymous said...

New poster here...

Wanted to find some opinion on this episode. I have a differing opinion than most viewers. I fear that the writer may have jumped the shark here.

The reason why I love the show is because it puts relatable characters in a situation that is unfathomable by the average Joe. We generally relate to people we like. Even if they are seriously flawed, there's always a redeemable trait. "House" is a perfect example of a flawed character that is likeable due to his roguish nature.

The problem I have with this episode is that it leaves me with nobody to cheer for. Everyone is amoral. Everyone is weak.

The previous episodes show the very flawed Jesse showing some of his humanity while Walt loses his. This episode absolutely wipes all of that out. I was so hoping that Jesse would do the right thing and stop Jane from shooting, but he is too weak. I suppose it couldn't happen any other way.

The only positive I see is that at some point, Walt needs to see the absolute evil he is perpetrating on his community firsthand, and recognize that he can no longer separate himself from his victims. The viewer also needs to experience this to bring back the reality of the dark side of drug use.

As much as I enjoy this series, I hope the upcoming episodes will give me a reason to care for the characters again.

Peter Woods said...

Did anyone notice the name of the restaurant, which translates as "the chicken brothers"? Replete with a ridiculous caricature of said chickens, it seemed an oblique reference to our two hapless heroes.

belinda said...

Wow, pretty great to see so many comment posts here, with a lot of interesting points. I only got around to watching last week's episode just now, and it blew me away.

I do agree with someone above who said that it's possible for Walt to give Jesse up (though, in the scheme of the show, I just can't see them giving up Aaron Paul at all. He's amazing, and they play off each other so well.), especially after Walt's proclaimation "Because he does what I say." For a father-son relationship that isn't between a father and son, it certainly mimics a classic one. But anyway, there's something very ruthless in how he said it, perhaps a little to show off to the new contact, but at the same time I totally buy that Walt believes it to be true too. What happens now that Walt can't trust Jesse? Jesse used to be the only person who Walt can unburden himself with all his secrets and drug dealings, but now with the addition of Saul and possibly this new contact who Walt aspires to me (calculating, careful, and anonymous), such is not the case anymore.

On the other hand, I'd feel that should Walt ever get a chance at redemption (which is unlikely, given the tone of the series, but...), I feel that even this slightest bit of chance will cease to exist should Walt give up on his partner. While this season has everything to do with showing us the full scope of Walt - that he had this 'bad' streak in him way before the cancer ever hit him, or before he and Jesse teamed up - and while the inevitable end to the series shouldn't be anything but a sad one, I'd still be pretty upset should Jesse be in one of those body bags, especially in the hands of Walt.

Which reminds me - will we get a resolution on those flashforward scenes of the body bags and the teddy bear in the pool by the end of this season?

2 more episodes, right? Can't wait.

chungiemunchin said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
bleibtreu said...

I'd suggest that the comment before mine, made a few days after "Mandala" aired, be removed. Plenty of people watch shows for the first time long after they're broadcast. Unfortunately for me, I read the spoiler in the first few words of that comment right after watching the episode this page is supposed to be about, and before reading the one that comment is about.

RWF said...

about a year late to the dance, i started watching breaking bad (season 1) about 2 weeks ago and am completely hooked. i just finished watching this episode ("mandala") and decided to take a quick break (i will return to watching soon....how couldnt i with the show "on demand"?!?!).

i have been a follower of alan's website for years (dating back to his upenn nypd page) and he never steers me wrong.

this episode was pretty devestating, actually "out-sadding" even the somberest of the "the wire" eps. i am completely rapt, but am a bit worried that there is no one left to whom we will be sympathetic.

okay enough writing, back to watch the penultimate episode of season 2.

Anonymous said...

I'm a bit (more than that) late to this as well but I've kind of been marathon-ing in the past two weeks.

Of course,I have yet to see the final episodes and next season but perhaps I didn't have as much of a problem of 'who to root for' as others.This episode was devastating but despite all the mistakes made,I can't help but root for Walt and Jesse....somehow - Jesse,more than Walt this season.It's so tragic but Walt has many years on Jesse but Jesse is young and not yet jaded.He has a good heart and we see so many moments in S2 where he just cares SO much.And the sad part is that by initially giving Jesse what he was always searching for (interest,acceptance,etc.),Walt hooked Jesse,in the same way a drug could.And now Jesse is stuck,now turning even more to drugs.Of course,I was upset at Jesse's decisions in this episode but I saw and felt everything behind it.As much as I hated all of it,partnering with Walt led him to that place.

Anyway...long rambling over...Walt,I love to hate (and secretly still root for because BC is so good) but Jesse...I just love and root for,even though I know him overcoming things would end the series lol.