Sunday, May 24, 2009

Breaking Bad, "Phoenix": There's no real way to dust for vomit

Abbreviated, holiday-length spoilers for the penultimate episode of "Breaking Bad" season two coming up just as soon as I move to New Zealand...
"Want to see what your daddy did for you? That's right: Daddy did that. Daddy did that for you." -Walt
I spend a lot of time in these "Breaking Bad" reviews making comparisons to other movies and TV shows about crime and the drug trade, because creator Vince Gilligan openly invites them. His pitch for the show was and is "We're going to take Mr. Chips and turn him into Scarface." Various storylines and moments have echoes of "The Godfather," or "The Wire," or "The Sopranos," not least of which was Saul Goodman offering to be Walt's Tom Hagen a few weeks back.

The scene at the end of "Phoenix" wasn't quite as overt in its homage as the Hagen scene. For all I know, it may not have been intended as homage at all. But if you've seen "The Sopranos" (and if you haven't but plan to at some point, you may want to stop reading this review immediately) it's impossible to watch and not think of Tony snuffing out Christopher's life after their car accident in "Kennedy and Heidi."

Now, Tony actively chooses to smother Christopher, while Walt simply lets Jane choke on her own vomit rather than turn her on her side (as Jane had done for Jesse earlier in the episode), but beyond that, it's the same scene: our crime lord protagonist doesn't go into the scene intending to kill anyone (or let anyone die through inaction), but when an opportunity presents itself to eliminate a troublesome junkie acquaintance -- someone who doesn't even pose a current threat, but who might one day be a problem -- he can't resist taking advantage of it.

The Tony/Christopher scene was notable as the moment when even the most devout Tony worshippers could no longer deny that they had been rooting for the bad guy all these years, and I imagine Walt's moment here will have a similarly clarifying effect about the monster that Walt has become.

One person who remains firmly in denial, though, is Walt himself. Just listen to how tenderly he speaks as he shows baby Holly the money he's acquired through such unspeakable crimes, or the look of horrified self-pity on Walt's face after he lets Jane die(*). In his mind, Walt is still the hero of his own story, making hard but necessary decisions to protect his family.

(*) Insert boilerplate "Bryan Cranston is an acting god" commentary here.

At the same time, "Phoenix" (written by John Shiban and directed by Colin Bucksey) gives us a stinging reminder of just how unnecessary this has all been, with the subplot about "Flynn" setting up a website to get PayPal donations to help pay for his dad's expensive cancer surgery. When Walt tells Skyler that "It's charity," the disgust in his voice at that word brings back how much Walt's pride has driven all of this. He could have just gone to Gretchen and Elliott himself, or at least dropped out of the drug game once they made their offer, but he refused, because Walter White is too damn proud to accept help from outsiders. And because of that pride, a lot of people are dead -- and, I imagine, a lot more will be dead soon.

Some other thoughts on "Phoenix":

• Two notes on SaveWalterWhite.com: first, the site design looks like something you might have seen on Geocities in 1999. Second, at the time I write this, the URL directs you back to AMC's official "Breaking Bad" page, but for all I know, they have a fake version of Flynn's site that went live once the episode aired.

• Another "Sopranos" parallel, intentional or not: when Walt is drinking with Jane's dad at the bar, he refers to Jesse as his "nephew," which is the same term Tony always used to describe Christopher, even though they were more like distant cousins. And, like Tony with Christopher, Walt really is starting to think of Jesse like a surrogate son, which makes his frustration with Jesse -- and his horror at what he just did to him -- that much greater. For all the terrible things Walt does in this episode, and in the series as a whole, I believe he really did mean to do right by Jesse by denying him the cash until he got clean.

• John DeLancie got quite a bit more to do after little more than a cameo a few episodes back. One thing to keep in mind about guest stars on this show: Vince Gilligan talks a lot on the podcasts about how the show can't afford to bring in actors from Los Angeles unless the part is significant. So if you see a guest star you recognize, chances are they're going to be doing something of note.

• Speaking of Jane's dad, are we to assume that he's also a recovering addict -- which means that his recent struggles with Jane had kicked him off the wagon? Or is it customary for sober family members to escort loved ones to 12-step meetings? From what little I know of that world, it seems that if you need to be dragged to them, you're not really ready to work the program.

• I like how, when Jesse comes back to his old classroom to confront Walt and demand his money, Walt deals with him the same way he dealt with the student trying to con his way into a higher test score a few episodes back.

• Check out the way Walt reacts to the realization that Ted Beneke is in Skyler's hospital room, and that he was there the whole time while Walt was off selling meth to Gus Frings. Walt knows there's something between his wife and Beneke, and he doesn't like it one bit.

Season finale next week. I'm not ready for this to be over just yet.

What did everybody else think?

73 comments:

Anonymous said...

While I appreciate the comparison you're trying to make to the Sopranos, I disagree with you. We got to know Tony and Christopher over 70 plus episodes leading to that moment, so we had a greater sympathy for him when Tony snuffed him out. Tony's actions were more despicable because, for the most part, we liked Christopher. Jane, on the other hand, was an unlikeable blackmailer who we've only gotten to know in a handful of episodes. We, as the audience, haven't built up that same relationship with Jane. From her behavior, she remained a legitimate threat to Walter, and I can't have been the only person who watched those final scenes who was glad that Walter didn't help her.

Anonymous said...

In reference to Jane's death, Walt was turning his own daughter on her side in case of spit-up earlier in the episdode, which I thought was interesting.

This might sound wrong, but I'm not sad to see Jane go, I'm more worried about what Jesse's reaction will be.

Overall, a brutal episode and I have no idea what will happen next.

JoeInVegas said...

I'm still rocking back and forth on the floor after that ending.

I figured that Walt was thinking that he might have to get rid of his problems and was expecting him to hotshot Jesse. Man the down side is no more Jane panty shots.

Walt better hope the cops are sloppy, cuz he will be hard pressed to explain all the calls to his house. Boy its going to be a long 9 month wait for season three....

Anonymous said...

I agree, although I am finding a slight moral dilemma about liking Mr. White. Cranston's acting and the writing are so incredible, you cant help but feel bad about liking him. This show is absolutely the best show on tv, bar none. I cant believe how many people say they have never seen an episode, let alone heard of it.

JoeE said...

Yeah, the Heidi & Kennedy points of reference were definitely there last week, too.

I don't think Jane's father is a recovering addict, I just think he escorts her to the meetings because she really isn't ready for sobriety, and that's the only way he can be sure that she'll be there. That or his suspicion that she had fallen off the wagon was aroused (justifiably) by Jesse and he was trying to keep a closer eye on her.

Loved all the little lies Walt had cooked up for when the baby came. "Honey, I think the baby is hungry." And the BS with the highly-sophisticated security system "for the baby", when a pool cover or fence would have gotten the job done fine...yeah right.

As if we hadn't had enough of Walt being an evil SOB, we get him showing his meth money off to his little baby girl, and then getting all pissy when he realizes he won't be recognized as the one who made the money in Saul's office. The bait-and-switch at the end was almost cruel - for once, Walt was going to be a good guy and try and do right by Jesse, and then he watches a human being choke to death right before his eyes. Granted, she was trying to blackmail him, and she was poison to Jesse, who Walt genuinely does seem to care about, but just because she kind of deserved it doesn't make it right to let it happen.

It's obvious that Jane is one of the bodies, but I don't know who the other one will be. Jesse seems almost too obvious - I think it'll be someone we aren't expecting. (please don't be Hank, please don't be Hank)

Josh said...

Disagree with you, Anonymous. I instantly thought of the Tony/Christopher incident as well, but in some ways, what Walt does is worse, once you factor in the difference between Walt's life/background/job and Tony's. The moral jump there is much bigger, and Walt knows it.

I may dislike Jane for blackmailing, but I can't fathom how she's not pitiful in the literal sense. A girl struggling with rehab who backslides? I understand she may be a legit threat, but I don't know that Walt doesn't DESERVE some threats, given what he's done.

BTW, Alan, the site IS up now, and the donate link goes to a cancer foundation. Nice touch.

Anonymous said...

Alan--don't forget the parrallel between the turning/non-turning to the side of Jesse/Jane with the newborn baby girl being turned on her side by Walt and the aunt (Marci, is it?...who mentioned the hypo-genic blanky or whatever).

Agreed that the audience had a much more vested interest in the Tony-Christopher relationship than the Walt-Jane...Jane was purely a thorn in the side of Walt, whereas, Christopher, for all his detriment to Tony; was still family.

But, there is no denying the Sopranos homage...my question is, will Gilligan go the Sopranos route when it comes to crime-scene evidence being a complete non-factor? I'm going to assume yes, he will...he already did it once with the ATM head-splatter situation. Otherwise, picking up that needle and touching the door-knob...not a genius move on Walt's part.

Great episode...great series. Great reviews, too.

JoeE said...

Another Moltisanti-esque moment was Jesse suggesting that Jane paint the local castles of New Zealand. I wonder what Bret and Jemaine would think.

Anonymous said...

The comparison to Tony/Christopher is interesting, but shouldn't the comparison be with Jane and Christopher's girlfriend, if at all?

Honestly, I viewed Walt at Jane's bedside to have a deeper moral connotation. One thing that Walt---who has become a monster, I agree---is great at is sizing up odds, and he knew Jane would ultimately destroy Jesse. There is a big difference between telling a "nephew" what girl he can and should date, and seeing said "nephew" date a girl who plays on all of his weaknesses, weaknesses that can possibly be curbed with an elder's insight.

Unlike Tony with Chris, Walt let fate play its course, hands-off. I'm interested to see how Jane's father plays into the series. I do see Walt getting unjust payback via her father for letting that happen, even if the father never finds out explicitly.

Jane told Walt that she would destroy him. Being a total stranger, and in his current predictament with a baby on the way, Walt's hesitation was maybe five seconds too long. I do hope that the show follows The Sopronos' path and doesn't "punish" Walt and Jesse for being "bad people."

I've noticed more religious imagery this season. Very subtle, but Jesse seems to go into the praying motion in tough times. Is Breaking Bad a morality tale? I sense so. I hope not. Great episode. Amazing acting all around.

Anonymous said...

I agree with the religious imagery being pretty prevalent. I'm doing pure conjecture here, but to me, Season 1 showed Walt in his slide-to-hell, with all his angst and fear, etc. - a man still with some morals fighting demons, internal and external. This season, we're seeing Walt down in the depths, embracing the evil. So I'm assuming at some point, Season 3? - we'll see some attempt at redemption. I thought the tear down the cheek at Jane's death was a precursor to that. Three episodes ago, he would have just been relieved.

jasctt said...

2 or 3 weeks back when they showed he 2 body bags in front of the WHITES home...Am I the only one who thinks it's Jesse and Jane?

jasctt said...

2 or 3 weeks back when they showed he 2 body bags in front of the WHITES home...Am I the only one who thinks it's Jesse and Jane?

Teresa said...

Thank you, Alan. I also got the "Kennedy and Heidi" vibe. A weighty episode. Still rooting for White. I was not sad to see Jane go!

Also, I didn't think Walt felt self-pity when he was crying. I think he was crying at the realization of who he's become. I think he knows he can't go back. Sad but beautiful.

Cheers.

Craig said...

So if you see a guest star you recognize, chances are they're going to be doing something of note. Which means that we haven't seen the last of DJ Qualls' local cop?

Anonymous said...

anyone is welcome to AA meetings. my father (who is a recovering alcoholic) accompanied my sister to meetings when she first started. not because she didn't want to go, but as support.

i wonder what jane's father's job is. i almost got the impression that he has some job in law enforcement, but the call to the pd threw me off. i still think he is going to play a major part in the future of this series.

Matthew L said...

Judging by the jump comment, there's a New Zealand reference in the episode? Excellent. Speaking as a New Zealander, it's always funny when a US show or movie makes an unexpected reference to our country, because you suddenly find yourself strangely excited in a "they know we exist!" way.

Anyway, that's all I'll say, since I haven't seen the episode, and I don't want to be spoiled.

Anonymous said...

Walt's instinct was to immediately rush to help Jane; he stopped himself and the realization that he is becoming a hard person washed over his face. This was the second departure from this world he's facilitated. How to rationalize? It would have happened if he weren't there anyway; and maybe it will help Jesse get clean (might have the opposite effect though). But that will be cold comfort when he (inevitably) finds out who Jane's father is. I think the scene in the bar helped cover a lot of ground for the audience in feeling awful about Jane's death. We understood vicariously how much she meant through her father.

Still trying to figure out how we get from here to the Teddy bear and pool in one episode. Or will they be so cruel as to leave that to overhang the season break?
anonymoose

Eric said...

http://savewalterwhite.com/ is live now. The donation button goes to a National Cancer Coalition donation form.

jasctt said...

Joe, you were "rockin' back and forth on the floor?" really? that powerful.

The episode was top notch and maybe the best so far htis season and, yes, Cranston is an acting God. Poor Jon Hamm. I guess being hot and awesome is its own reward.

As for all the SOPRANOS talk, the scene in the bar strangely rmeinded me of the 1st season of LOST where Sawyer runs into Jack's dad in Sydney. Different contexts but the sameness is striking.

Can't wait for next week!

Kensington said...

"The Tony/Christopher scene was notable as the moment when even the most devout Tony worshippers could no longer deny that they had been rooting for the bad guy all these years, and I imagine Walt's moment here will have a similarly clarifying effect about the monster that Walt has become."I had basically the opposite reaction. Having grown to loathe Walt throughout the season, my feelings suddenly softened slightly when he started crying as Jane dies. It was the first time he truly seemed to suffer over his choices since he killed Crazy 8 last season.

I still think the SOB needs to end up in prison, but I found him more identifiable tonight than he has been in weeks.

As a side note to the commenter who cites The Sopranos as a show that doesn't punish it's characters for being bad, can I just point out that the vast majority of those characters came to pretty rotten ends, including, if you read between the lines like I do, Tony himself.

But that's off-topic, so back to Breaking Bad. Wonderful work by Krysten Ritter, who took Jane from a sweetly endearing character some weeks ago to someone both a little scary and kind of exasperating tonight. The moment when the quick change in the tone of her voice let Jesse know that her acquiescence to her father was an act was particularly noteworthy.

It was a nice touch, too, that on some level Jesse seemed to understand that Walt was right and never came around to any of Jane's strong-arm tactics on his own.

I came into tonight's episode fairly certain that the two bodies under the police tarp would be Jane and Q, but now? I just don't know. I hope it won't be a cliff-hanger.

Finally, it's so interesting that Walt's pride has taken such a prominent place in his motivation. It's clear now that nothing will ever be enough to satisfy that hole in his soul, and God help those who get in his way the worse it gets.

Anonymous said...

I agree that the Walt/Jesse relationship parallels that of Tony and Christopher on the Sopranos. But I don't believe the scene Walt doing nothing while Jane chokes on her own vomit is reminiscent of the scene where Tony kills Christopher. However, I was fully expecting Walt to put an end to Jesse in that scene--either by giving him an overdose of heroin or (once we saw that the syringe was empty) smothering him with a pillow. Now THAT would definitely have been a parallel to Tony/Christopher. The fact that Walt couldn't or wouldn't do it--despite the fact that Jesse has become a huge liability to him and his family and that every bone in his body was probably telling him to do it--just goes to show that Walt hasn't completely lost his soul yet (with the emphasis on YET).

This season has unfolded brilliantly. No doubt the finale will be incredible. And if we're starting a pool, my money's on Skyler and Ted being the two in the body bags--Ted being in the wrong place at the wrong time and mistakenly killed in the place of Walt.

Batchout said...

Walt did not just "Let Fate Take its Course" by letting Jane die choking on vomit. If you notice, Jane was lying on her side, by Jesse, until Walter shook Jesse (and the bed)

I also loved the little "I got you, b*tch" expression right before the credit. Great forehead/eye acting, Mr. Cranston!

Mark B said...

In my little city, our free weekly reports that heroin is responsible for more than three of every four street drug overdose deaths last year. Assuming dead is dead, I am going to miss Krysten Ritter’s lovely portrayal of Jane. As a character, she deftly conveys the longing and anger of a person missing some grounding foundation to life. Jane is the one who offers her hand to Jessie then attempts to hide him from her father and her father from him. She knows exactly what will transpire if they collide, so she is quick with her well crafted pleadings and lies when her two realities come together.

The excellence of Breaking Bad is in part the feeling that if Walt had only owed Jessie $500, then maybe this young couple could find a path toward a happiness not manufactured by chemistry. Lots of money changes everything, at least to those who believe in the power of money to solve misery. Jane first demands justice from Walt, and when she perceives the injustice persisting she responds with the confidence of someone who understands trouble and knows when the other person has it.

Walt knows this fact too. When Jane and Jessie secure the cash they dissolve into euphoria as potent as any intoxicant. The freedom to be whoever they want to be, or more accurately, the belief their desire to escape the burden of judgment can be purchased. The actions of their parents lead them to find each other living in the same building and possessing similar torments. Now that fate bestows the moment of bliss, it seems inconceivable that fate would not want them to waste a moment of the joy. If only they had known the universe has a perverse way of pricking bubbles.

dez said...

Also, I didn't think Walt felt self-pity when he was crying. I think he was crying at the realization of who he's become.ITA. As already pointed out, she wouldn't have been on her back if Walt hadn't shook Jesse in the first place, and now she's choking to death and he won't help. I think he's feeling some guilt mixed with horror. Total "Holy Sh!t!" ending.

I'm not sure which look was "harder, when Walt first saw Ted in the room or when Ted left and kissed Skyler, with her obvious affection for Ted written all over her face. Ouch. That will not end well.

Anonymous said...

Did anyone else catch the pink teddy bear when Walter was at the abandoned hotel at the very beginning of the episode?? It was laying on the ground!

fgmerchant said...

The first picture on the site, is reused as the second picture, but with some bad photoshopping.

I thought the website would make Walter a little too visible in the community, in that if he received half a million from numerous donations, he would probably end up on the local news. Visibility and recognition would not be good for Walt.

Why would Jane be the one in the body bag? If she is dead now, her body will already be taken to the morgue or buried. The bodybags were in front of Walt's house so it would probably be people who are in the house at the time. Just conjecture, but I don't believe Jane is the last casualty we have seen for this season.

I do wonder if that ominous hazmat scene will even make an appearance this season. Maybe it will be addressed next season?

I was disappointed in how quickly Jane backslid off the wagon. If she had been clean for 18 months, I would have thought she would be better at controlling herself now.

Anonymous said...

I will never get tired of this show... Every week brings us deeper and deeper into these characters. I can't help thinking as I watch this show phenomenal the evolution of Walter White has been. While I give most of the credit to Bryan Cranston, who has made the whole world forget Malcolm in the Middle, you can't help but laud the writers for taking a slow, methodical pace as they peel layer after layer off of Walter to the point where you don't realize just how much he has changed until you watch an episode like this.

At first I thought he was going to screw Jesse out of the money after he hung up on him without saying he had stolen the meth. I knew Walter could justify it, after all he was trying to support a family with a newborn and would need to send two kids to college...And isn't Jesse just an unreliable junkie who at this point has gone too far off the deep end and almost caused Walter to miss the biggest deal of their lives...

And then they let me believe that Walter was going to keep all of the money after Jane tried to blackmail him. Afterall, if he went down, Jesse would go with him, and Jane, too if he wanted.

And then when he broke in to Jesse's place "just to talk" and found Jesse comatose, I thought he would steal the money back. Afterall, he knows what is best for Jesse, whether that junkie fuck knows it or not. And he needs to protect himself with these heroin addicts trying to blackmail him. They can't be trusted with that kind of money...

And after thinking all of these things throughout the episode, thinking about Walt justifying those actions, and how the episode could have followed any of those paths, Jane started choking. And Walt just stood there.

60 minutes ago, if someone had asked me what Breaking Bad was about, I'd have told them about a mild-mannered chemistry teacher, diagnosed with cancer and a baby on the way, who decides the only way to make sure his family is provided for after he is gone is by cooking crystal meth.

And then, 30 seconds before the credits rolled tonight, I found myself thinking "You should have known better, Jane. You cross Walter White, and you get got..." It suddenly dawned on me that after about 17 hours or so of this show, the Walt we met last spring has changed so drastically as to be almost unrecognizable. But at the same time, hearing him rant and rave about how he needs to be the source of the money, how he needs to be the family's savior and get the credit, reminds me of shades of the Walt we saw in season one. It is fascinating to see him now compared to who he was.

Bravo to Cranston and the writers. Can't wait to see how they finish things out after the "bang" they went out with last year.

And, yes, I saw the pink bear in the motel parking lot, too...

Jennifer J. said...

For some awful reason I fear that Flynn is in one of the bags. That would be tragic.

Kensington said...

"I was disappointed in how quickly Jane backslid off the wagon. If she had been clean for 18 months, I would have thought she would be better at controlling herself now."I'm told that opiate addiction is extraordinarily difficult to control, that the recidivism rate is very, very high, and that without a highly structured support system in place and active, it's virtually impossible to kick.

Also, everything I've read about heroin suggests that the feeling of being on it is spectacular. It scares me to death, but apparently if you've ever had it, the urge to get it again is overwhelming, and then part of why it gets so debilitating is because it's never as good as the first time, and the physical reaction to going off it is very painful.

So it seems very credible to me that Jane could backslide so quickly. Part of it is that she clearly missed feeling that way. Oh, what a nightmare it sounds like.

Alan Sepinwall said...

Which means that we haven't seen the last of DJ Qualls' local cop?

Not necessarily. Qualls' screentime and importance in "Better Call Saul" passed what I'm guessing is the LA test, where DeLancie's brief scene in "Over" wouldn't have on its own.

b said...

Wow. On some levels, Walt letting Jane die might do Jesse some good (in trying to kick his habit, once he wakes up and sees Jane die of her own vomit. At the same time, there's that underlying tension of IF Jesse would find out what Walt's part in it was, and what that would do to Jesse and Walt.) I hope for the sake of Jesse he never finds out, because Walt is not a man he can mess with anymore. I had a hard time reading him though - did he do it for Jesse, or because Jane actively told him that he won't know if she'd ever blab to anyone. I like to think it's a bit of both, but I'm starting to think it was all really to do with the latter.

Much like Walt's decision to continue his drug lord life a few episodes back not solely because of money but more about his pride, I think it's only a matter of time before Walt needs any more reasons/excuses (that he can convince himself of, like last season where it was about self defense in a very present way, and now with Jane where it really was about shutting her up for the future) to kill someone.

But, I don't think Walt will kill Jesse, or let him die in a direct or indirect way. I feel that would be too defining for Walt, as a central character whosse moral ambiguity (though more bad than good as of late to us; though to himself, he probably would think it) is very important.

I do wonder if there'd be more to the aftermath of Jane's death (which seems pretty clean cut - overdose/vomit with Jane's history of drugs, but would be something a regular show would just gloss over as that) in the next episode though, given the style of the show to stretch out the usual quick bits. Anyway, I think the actress did a great job of portraying Jane, given she didn't have a lot of time to work with.

Though, I'm not even sure if Jane's body is in one of those body bags - will there be two more deaths coming up? I can't really think of anyone who I won't want to see in the next season, so I hope it's... Jane's dad, and maybe Ted. Possibly Marie, given I don't really recall too much of a storyline for her this season.

Anonymous said...

For some awful reason I fear that Flynn is in one of the bags. That would be tragic.I don't even want to think about that. Somehow I can't shake the thought, though, that Walt is going to have to pay a big price in this finale. Sooner or later we all know some of this is going to catch up with him and--by extension--his family. My guess is that someone in his family is going to pay the price and I have this real foreboding that it's going to be Skyler.

And if Skyler is one, then who might that be in the second body bag? Flynn? Gosh I hope not--he's the only purely good and innocent character on the show. Ted? An earlier poster suggested it might be him, mistakenly killed in place of Walt. That may be a good guess. If they kill off Skyler then Ted has no further role to play so why not kill him off too? Jane's dad? Possible... but he'd have to make a pretty big leap to connect all the dots from Jesse to Walt all in one episode. If anything, he's more likely the perpetrator than the victim though. Jesse? Unlikely that the writers would kill such a rich character off at this point of the show. Walt? Not a chance--maybe in a series finale but not in a season finale. Hank? Nope... you know that ultimately Hank and Walt are headed for some kind of showdown later in the series. Marie? Possible but not likely. Saul? Doubtful... he's too smart to show up at Walt's house.

So who does that leave? Can't wait to find out...

Kalman said...

I have no advance knowledge of the next episode, I swear. This is merely a theory, just like every other one being floated on this site about the body bags.

But when the reveal comes, I want credit for calling it, as I am sure the bags will include Jane and . . . wait for it . . . her dad.

You can expect that he will blame Jesse for killing his little girl, mistaking him for the corrupting influence, refusing to believe it was her. He has access to the apartment; he will confront and threaten Jesse. Someone will be required to stop him, probably protective dad-figure Walt.

Expect Walt to stage some water heater explosion (someone else gets credit for that) or something.

Remember. I called it.

Dan Jardine said...

It seems pretty clear that Walt will take the money and Jane's body, leaving Jesse to think that she high tailed it outta dodge with his dough. The result is a win-win for Walt, who gets the money back (uncertain if he'll ever give Jesse his share) and pins its "loss" on druggie Jane. This may get Jesse to clean up his act, go to rehab and "earn" his money back from Walt.

As for who is in the second body bag, damned if I know. Just so long as it isn't Hank. Love that big lug, and his character's often tortured arc. His eventual showdown with Walt is gonna be a highlight of this series, and it would be a damned shame to lose it.

dez said...

Why would Walt take Jane's body to his own house? Where would he hide her vomit-covered body? That doesn't make sense to me.

Otto Man said...

Yeah, I'm not seeing a believable scenario that gets Dead Jane along with a live man to the White household for the explosion.

Skyler and Ted is sounding more and more plausible.

Anonymous said...

Doesn't the hazmat scene happen at Walt's house and include a shot of the pool? In that case, having the bodies of Jane and Jane's dad at Walt's house doesn't make sense to me. I'm afraid at least one of those bags is going to have to include someone Walt cares about--Jesse, Skyler, Walter Jr., Dean or Marie. This episode was tough to watch. I thought about halfway through that Walt was going to kill Jane (albeit more directly)--I just didn't know how.

SJ said...

"I paid my rent, I've got civil rights!"Even among all these dark moments Jesse makes me laugh.

Alan do you think this is the best drama on tv right now? Imo it is.

Anonymous said...

Okay- here's my body bag theory. Given the fact that the teddy is on the ground at the hotel, and we never see the transaction between Walt and Gus's representative, I think that the setup is that Gus and Gus's representative have a confrontation with Walter and they are the two in the body bag. Or it could be Saul...can't wait until next week!

Kensington said...

Interesting theory about maybe Gus being one of the bodies.

It did strike me as significant that we never saw the transaction between Walt and Gus's representatives, but I just figured it was economical story-telling.

But there would be a sort of logic to Gus dying if it meant that Walter was able somehow to inherit his mechanisms and end up rising even higher in his drug-lord kingdom.

Anonymous said...

A lot of people seem to think that Walt killing Jane was a good decision. Not in a "good for your soul" kind of way, but in a "smart drug dealer kind of way."

I don't think it was a smart decision. It might have been a smart decision to kill off Jesse and Jane, or even to kill off Jesse and leave Jane alive. Jane wasn't the source of Walt's problems, Jesse was and is.

See, people don't realize that even the most pathetic junkie might have someone who hasn't given up on her and still loves her... in this case her father.

The only good news for Walt is that Jane is going to end up at the bottom of some landfill somewhere, and Dad will be desperately believing that she is still alive and healthy somewhere. Otherwise? Otherwise he might have nothing to live for other than to put Jesse (and any associates who happened to be around!) in the ground.

In this series, we should realize that an apparently middle class family man is capable of shocking violence when pushed to it.

linnypru said...

I also think that Gus will be one of the dead bodies. Sad to say, I think it would make sense that Jesse would be the other dead body. With Gus, Jesse and Jesse's crew all gone, Walt and Saul would rule.

Anonymous said...

I think that scene in the bar was meant to convey that Jane's dad is an alcoholic. Even being from the Rust Belt, the empty shot glass next to the beer said "off the wagon". It seemed like obvious shorthand to me.

Anonymous said...

From the moment I saw Walt Jr.'s computer and the PayPal dialogue, I thought "money-laundering" and for a couple of minutes I was irritated that Walt didn't see the opportunity. For a moment, I lost faith in the show that they would make something so obvious to the viewers not apparent to the "smart" main character. Two minutes later the show not only redeemed itself, but left me a little bit in awe in Odenkirk's office...yes, of course Walt had thought about laundering money through PayPal, his pride was getting in the way, not his writer-laziness-induced-stupidity. This is really some of the best writing I've seen on TV since "The Wire".

While the Sopranos, Godfather, Wire allusions are obvious, I was getting a strong "Shield" vibe from this. The Jane/Jesse/Walt relationship seems like a altered mirror of the Shane/Mara/Vic relationship. Especially when Jane revealed herself as the manipulative money-grubbing pants of the relationship.

Dan Jardine said...

Given that the teddy bear makes its appearance at the abandoned motel, I think that the bodies we have been seeing are being fished out of a pool at this site, not at Walter's house. It'll look like a junkie died at an abandoned hotel. Happens every day. And that would allow one of the bodies to be Jane's. Again, as to the other, who the hell knows at this point?

Anonymous said...

Here's my crazy theory: Gus saw that Walt was talking on his phone and acting very nervous and called the deal off. Walt freaked out and things got out of control. Gus got killed and rolled up in a tarp with the teddy bear. Walt takes Gus and Jane to his crawlspace to be dissolved in chemicals. Q finds the money and finds out about Walt (either by beating up Jesse or creating a rift in the space/time continuum) and goes to Walt's house with a gun. Walt comes home and Q shoots his windshield out, but Walt escapes inside. The gas main gets shot and boom. The wife and kids aren't home at the time and Q ends up in a coma and the police decide he was on a crazed murder spree. The money gets burned up and Walt is back to square one next season.

Anonymous said...

I don't know about all the other parts of the theory, but the money getting burned up part is intriguing - it was in such a precarious hiding place, in a place that feels like either someone in the family finds it, or that something happens to it, like the watertank exploding and burning it up.

Doug S said...

Nice catch, those of you who saw the teddy bear at the motel - I missed it. The theory that the scene we're all waiting for will take place at the motel would then make a lot of sense. Didn't Gus' guy tell Walt to be at a truck stop? It confused me when Walt showed up at the motel.

Also, nice use of The Outlaws "Green Grass & High Tides" in the bar scene. Made me less annoyed at the convenience of Walt meeting Jane's dad (I then expected them both to show up at the duplex and do a classic double-take).

My other small complaint about this otherwise-perfect show is that I feel that Jane's character arc was too rushed from start to finish. She hooked up with Jesse too fast, got back on smack too fast, turned into Ma Barker too fast. By the end I wasn't really buying it, although the actress has something to do with that, as she just seemed to be screaming "upper middle-class rebel."

Best line was Walt's: "Way to wear the pants."

Tom said...

Walt, in standing by watching Jane die, was more perverse than Tony when he smothered Christopher. Tony was fulfilling his and Christopher's destinies with that act -- remember, Christopher's last words were 'no hospital' (or words to that effect) and, given the circumstances, Tony was fulfilling Christopher's dying wish. Furthermore, murdering Christopher led Tony to his epiphany in the desert -- that terrifying 'I get it moment' -- which was the climax of the entire series. In psychological terms, killing Christopher was a necessary step in Tony's path to self-actualization.

Walt, on the other hand, is systemically perverting every instinct he possesses. Jane, unlike Christopher, was not a hardened criminal and junkie: her greatest wish was to kick the junk and live 'free.' Standing by and watching her die for selfish reasons violates every core value that Walt, the 'provide-and-protect' all-American male, holds dear.

What a great show. It truly does merit comparison with 'The Sopranos,' which is the highest praise something like this can earn.

chungiemunchin said...

My personal experience with this show and Krysten Ritter's portrayal of Jane is quite different from the person's who stated we hadn't developed a relationship with Jane, enough to care about her. I found myself surprised that I cared so much as we watched her (Jane) die, in what I believe was one of the most powerful scenes in the history of television. In the few episodes in which she appeared, Ms. Ritter showed a sweetness at the same time she exposed a toughness to Jane's character (example: the holding hands scene and the apology girl scene vs. the way she manhandled Walt in protecting Jesse's (and her's) interests). Jane was strong and vulnerable at the same time. Underlying all of these complexities of personality, was a scared lonely little girl who was reaching out to a scared little boy in Jesse, asking to be his friend and stepping up to prove her worth when the situation called for it. No, I disagree with the reviewer who claimed we could care less whether Jane is gone or not......Ms. Ritter pulled off a real coup when she gave us Jane in such a short amount of time, in all of her complex emotional states and character.....beautiful Jane full of promise is no more....and it makes me want to cry.

Bravo Ms. Ritter....Bravo Mr. Paul and Mr. Cranston....Bravo!

jon said...

My other small complaint about this otherwise-perfect show is that I feel that Jane's character arc was too rushed from start to finish. She hooked up with Jesse too fast, got back on smack too fast, turned into Ma Barker too fast.Completely agree with this. Badger had less time for character development, and I liked him more!

So if the earlier scenes are to be taken literally - photographers in hazmat suits with two body bags - it can't be Jane and Jesse together. I still think Jesse is one of them - Gus getting Jesse out of the way means that Walt is freed up to focus on cooking.

Maybe Gretchen will learn about the Web site and bring a gift to the baby and be caught at the wrong place at the wrong time?

Re: Ted Beneke. The scene with Walt meeting the baby, with Ted lurking in the background, was extremely well-done. I'm looking forward at some point to the Feds knocking on the Whites' door - but they will be looking for Skyler, because she's complicit in cooking the books. Should make a great head-fake for Walt and some really good character interaction.

Kensington said...

Ooh, I don't know about Anonymous's "crazy" theory, but my stomache clenched when I saw Walt hiding that cash in the house like that. I know he can't deposit it directly into a bank, but couldn't he put it in a safe deposit box or two?

Phebe-Ann said...

I might be wrong but I think Jane's dying is necessary for Jesse to make an effort to be clean. The fact that Walter watched her die rather than helped more than shows he's pretty serious about his game right now, and he has already been warned that Jesse and his drug problems pose a threat to that. If Jesse doesn't at least make an effort at being sober, what would that mean for their partnership? And Jane's death might be the catalyst for that.

Anonymous said...

I think there is no way Jane is one of the body bags. For one, Walt would never bring the body home. He wouldn't even leave it in the back of his SUV in the garage. He may not be as cautious as Gus, but bringing a junkie's corpse home with him is completely out of character for Walt. That is beyond reckless.

I think we have to remember that the HazMat suits suggest some kind of chemical contaminant. They don't gear up like Chernobyl for every day junkie overdoses.

And for those thinking that Gus is going to start eliminating people to make way for his new prime chef to cook exclusively for him, that certainly doesn't sound like something a cautious man would do, does it? Let alone doing it via chemical spill, and at Walts home no less. Admittedly, we don't know how ruthless Gus might be, so it is entirely possible that behind him mild mannered El Pollo Hermanos franchisee, he is a stone cold killer that makes Tuco look downright reasonable, but I have serious doubts that he would do something so public and so brutal. Not the sign of a cautious man...

That said, I have no fucking clue who is in the bags. I don't think it is Skylar or Walt Jr., if only because a loss like that would end Walt's kingpinning. If the toll it took on his "real" life was his wife or son, there is no way he could justify it to himself to keep going, and I can't imagine this show is going to stop following him down the rabbit hole... Hank or Mrs. Hank, maybe. I know a lot of people think it is Jesse, but I don't know if the show could continue without him. If Walt is running solo, there would be nothing to ground him in his drug life. We would lose all of the emotionality in that aspect of his life.

I say Mrs. Hank gets it when she is mistaken for Skylar by the Mexican Cartel they have been hinting at all season. Everyone assumes it is related to Hank being on the DEA taskforce to bring them down, but truth be told, they are after Walt. Second body? No clue.

Dan Jardine said...

When I posit that Jane is one of the bodies, I ain't saying that Walt brings her body home. That theory is based upon my belief that the crime scene is the pool of the abandoned motel, not the pool at Walt's house.

However, I remain confounded not only by the identity of the second body, but more imporantly, knowing why that person is there (at the abandoned motel.)

Anonymous said...

Now that you mention it, that motel would make a hell of a cooksite if need be. And a chemical accident there could justify the HazMat suits...

Anonymous said...

I'm guessing Walt leaves Jane's body in the bed where she died. Yet, if that's the case, he'll have to take the money with him when he leaves (before Jesse wakes up) or else the cops will do a lot more investigating than just writing off a junkie's overdose. Yet, if Jesse wakes up and the money's gone, then he'll freak out completely -- dead girlfriend and no money.

I wonder if it would have been so easy for Walt to let Jane die if he knew her father was the guy from the bar. DeLancie's looking great these days, isn't he?

Daniel said...

Just a couple points:

I'd be stunned if Walt doesn't just back out of Jesse's bedroom and go home. Doing anything else would tip Jesse off that he had been there and he still desperately wants to continue their relationship. I expect he'll trust Jesse to hide the money after he wakes up and calls the ambulance.

Second, though the presence of the bear at the motel is intriguing, the opening flashback clearly takes place at the White home. There's a panning shot directly from the side of the house into the pool with the floating bear. I guess there could be a hidden cut there, but that feels like cheating the audience to me. Besides, the eyeball is flushed into a working filtration system and there's no way an abandoned motel would have one going in the first place.

Still, that's definitely the bear at the motel, so I'm pretty stumped.

Daniel said...

Having just re-watched the flash forwards, in the final one they actually show the hazmat guys carrying the bagged bear out of the backyard in the same shot as the two body bags. So it definitely takes place at the White household. Maybe the pink bear at the motel was just to set the mood for the finale?

digamma said...

God that was good. The slow development of Walter's parental concern (maybe even love) for Jesse through the episode, particularly the nicely calm scene with Jane's father, all led up to yet another new low for Walter.

Jesse's and Jane's combined struggle with drugs calls to mind Requiem for a Dream more than any crime drama I know. The drug use isn't about getting high or being addicted, it's about the lack of emotional alternatives in the characters' lives. Jesse and Jane were doing great together until Badger got killed and Walter brushed Jesse off. Jane was a strong woman but she went back to drugs to be with Jesse.

I don't think Breaking Bad is going to follow the classic HBO pace, where your penultimate episode has all the explosions and your finale calmly ties it up. Instead we got a strong blend of introspection and action good introspection plus some action this week, and we'll probably get a similar blend next week.

digamma said...

Oh and since nobody else pointed it out explicitly, I will: Jesse told Walter "way to wear the pants" back in Season One after Skyler confronted Jesse.

Anonymous said...

I never watched the Sorprano's so it's interesting to hear comparisons. When I watched Walt let Jane die it was showing the complexities of the character and the slow transition of a harsh future in a more significant drug career. Walt knows it's horrible but he lets it go on anyways. We all like Walt and see his slow progress of rearranging his morals and values. They happen to be those that are viewed as negative.

The dreaded finale as it's been hinted at all season seems to occur at the Walt house. The findings of Walt's glasses to the car to them showing the house is a big clue. If the wife and son both were killed it'll definitely transition Walt into not giving a fuck about life but I can't help but wonder if it's too soon.

Laura said...

are we sure that the body bags/pink teddy bear scene has to be this season's finale? because another item I noticed were some crayons. Holly wouldn't be ready for crayons for at least a year, maybe two, so that led me to believe that this flash forward was even further away.

jon said...

Another item I noticed being removed by the hazmat guys in an earlier episode was a string of pearls. Can't recall which character wears them though.

Brown Shoes said...

This show is a breathtaking, frustrating, heartbreaking illustration of its own central theme: addiction. And we, as viewers, follow the same path of shock, pain and devastation as those who (often against their own better judgment) love the addict.
In particular, I think Breaking Bad has done a magnificent job of entangling us in one of addictions most destructive elements...Walter White is the king of denial. Hank is a DEA agent who denies his fears. Skyler is a wife who denies her anger and (?) philandering. Her boss denies the extent of his illegal business activities. Marie denies her shoplifting, Jane denies her relapse, her dad denies all the awful warning signs and so on (and on and on).
There are few pure characters here, though I would argue that Flynn, Tuco and maybe Jesse fall into that category. Flynn (and Tuco) for all the obvious reasons, and Jesse because he has never put any deep emotional energy into being someone/something he isn't.
Without major intervention, most of the characters we know and love are bound to have some pretty unpleasant 'come to jesus' moments soon - and I am betting that those body bags have something to do with Hank and possibly Flynn.
The cancer website scares me - Heidelburg's face flapping in the cyber-breeze is too loaded with trouble for me to bear contemplating...though as a side note, it is incredible to watch pride/sorrow/anger/self-loathing flicker over the great face of Brian Cranston as he hears his son wax poetic about how "nobody knows what a great man my dad really is".
Jane's swift slide back into heroin rang horribly true to me - once an addict, always an addict. If you are able to stop, you are recovering, not recovered. And if you start again, you almost always pick up where you left off and descend ever faster (speaking as one who has personal experience here).
I believe Walt let Jane die because she was a threat - but not solely to his business. Until Jane, Jesse looked up to Walt in some sad way, and has been his only confidante. Equally important, Jane was messing with the balance of control and power - as Walt said in an earlier episode, "I keep Jesse as a partner because he does what I tell him to do." - and that could NOT be tolerated.
I am so sorry that next week will be our last episode of the season, but it will be nice to once again relax on Sunday evening... the ntensity of this show can be exhausting sometimes. Kudos to such fantastic writing, acting and the many other subtle touches that make Breaking Bad the best show on the planet.
I would also like to say that Mr. Sepinwall writes a damn fine blog, and those who comment provide erudite, interesting, enjoyable and often passionate insights that serve to highlight and increase my enjoyment of the show. Thanks to all.

Derek said...

Don't forget, it was JESSE who dragged Jane back into drugs. Sure, she took it up a notch, but Jesse opened the door.

In the same way, WALTER is the one who put Jane on her back when he pushes Jesse trying to wake him up.

I love how the little things have big consequences on this show.

Girl Detective said...

I never read Jane as sweet. She reverted right back to a nasty piece of work as soon as she decided to do meth with Jesse. Doesn't mean she deserved to die, but she made all the bad choices that led up to it, from the first one, which was renting to Jesse.

I don't think there's any way that Jesse is in one of those bags. I think Jesse is the counterpoint to Walt--dumb but good hearted as opposed to smart but increasingly evil. The show wouldn't be balanced if he were gone.

Dennis said...

I have to admit that I got into this show in a weird way.

I'd read all the buzz here and from Tim Goodman but I don't get AMC on my dish and BB is hard to find online if you don't download torrents; I usually catch all my stuff via OVTVguide.

Anyway, a bud of mine bought the first season on DVD and I kept reading how great this show was but I wanted to keep it on the hook for some summer viewing. Well, I spent a long weekend house sitting at my sister's and she had AMC On Demand and I gave S2: Ep 8 a while and jumped in during the middle of the second season and I was absolutely floored with how good this series was.

So, now I head out there every Mon to catch the On Demand eps and I got a loan of my buddy's S1 set and I'm two eps into that season

Watching BB is like discovering an indie band; you know it's only a matter of time before they're popular but it's great to be able to brag about being on the inside while you can.

I read Walter's tears as him finally letting his guard down and being an actual person for the first time in a long time.

Carla said...

Anonymous at 12:03 May 25 says that anyone is welcome at AA meetings. Well, technically, that is half-true. There are 2 kinds of AA meetings: "closed" meetings (for alcoholics only) and "open" meetings (for anyone). I believe NA operates the same way. Those meetings we saw in this episode appeared to me to be "closed" meetings. Therefore, I suspect Jane's daddy has his own problems.

Hans said...

Hey guys, you can't really say that "hadn't Walt been there, it would have happened anyway" fate, etc, because it wouldn't have happened! Jane was lying on her side spooning with Jesse and only turned on her back when Walt tried to wake Jesse up (he shook him and that's when she turned), a bit nitpicky I know, but I had to mention it.

Also I can't imagine one of the body bags being Gus, and Walt taking over, it simply would be too easy.
Though I really have absolutely no idea who it might be (how amazing is that? don't even remeber the last time I was so anxious to see what happens in a TV Show!)
My best guess is Jesse and Skyler, however I hope I'm only correct on the latter (can't stand that woman! note: I mean the character, not the acress)

This is hands down, THE best TV show in years, bar none. This second season? Unfrigginbelievable. Bryan Cranston's acting? If he doesn't win everything there is, then there is no God.

Hyde said...

I'm thinking Marie for the other body bag. She's the most disposable of the series regulars, the only one who has never really shared a storyline with Walter. And her death would heighten the stakes as far as Hank is concerned.

The other possibility is that Jane's father comes after Jesse, with someone dying in the ensuing confrontation.

This has been about my favorite season of any series since The Wire finale.

Anonymous said...

I was floored by this episode. I anticipated Walt saving Jesse from an OD, and oops! Not quite! The look on Cranston's face was extraordinary--calculation, horror at his own actions, grief at realizing who he actually is.
The problem is--Walt can't just leave the body there for jesse to deal with; jesse will end up in jail, which is the last place Walt wants him. The body has to be disposed of, leading me to agree with others that hers is one of the bodies in the bag.
Have to disagree with those who feel Jane was dragged into relapse by Jesse. Jane was looking to relapse, and Jesse was her conduit to doing so. After all, when not using, she's clearly more educated, intelligent and sophisticated than he. The attraction for her was his drug involvement. She's certainly more responsible for leading him into serious addiction than he is for her relapse.

Sarah Jane said...

Years later. Just watching this in Ireland now, and totally hooked. Best TV series since The Wire (never saw The Sopranos - the couple of episodes I did see didn't cut it for me).

Anyhow: I thought it was a major cop-out that this episode didn't show the drug deal between Gus and Walt. $1.2 million and 38 pounds of meth, and NOTHING GOES WRONG! C'mon. Walt's a sitting duck there. Plus, what was the one hour deadline about, if not just for dramatic purposes? Some kind of test? Ok, but what kind?

Also, Walt's paternal 'nephew' thing came on a bit suddenly for me. Has he ever had strong protective feelings or an emotional bond with Jesse - rather than just being someone he needs who knows a little about the drug trade? He's not letting Jane die just because she's a bad influence on Jesse. The ambiguity of motive is compelling, of course, but the new caring Walter was stretching it a bit.

One other tiny thing: 20% of $1.2 million (Saul's cut) leaves $9.6 million. Half of that is $4.8 million. So why are they talking about $4.6 mill a piece? Just curious.

Strange that my first port should be critical, when I actually love this show so much. I guess I just don't like it when it seems to let me down.