"Please tell me you got something!" -JesseWalt spends much of the first half of "Sunset" in the company of Gale, his new lab assistant in the Walt-cave, and a nail-biting chunk of the second half trapped in the RV with Jesse. And while Walt and Gale seem a perfect match on paper in nearly every way, it's clear by the end of this gripping episode that for all their flaws and incompatibilities, Walt and Jesse are, much to both their chagrins, made for each other.
After Walt tried to ban Jesse from the meth business last week, I assumed it might be a long time before the two might work together again. I of course neglected to factor in two things: 1)Walt and Jesse's tremendous capacity, both separately and together, for screwing up; and 2)The weird gravitational pull that RV held over their relationship.
"Breaking Bad" always seems to find a higher gear whenever those two are in the RV together, and so it shouldn't be a surprise that their final time in that accursed but useful vehicle/domicile would be one of the most memorable yet. I've loved every minute of season three so far as the show has gone in an even darker direction, but the climax to "Sunset" felt very much like old-school "Breaking Bad": Walt and Jesse finding a way to make a bad problem worse, stuck in the RV together, Jesse waiting for Walt's great brain to find a way out of the mess.
From the minute Walt pulled onto Clovis's lot and started barking orders about destroying the RV, I knew things would go pear-shaped, and they did. Where Walt feared that Hank might have tapped Jesse's phone and hung up without explaining the situation, what he should have feared was the exact reaction Jesse had when Badger told him Walt was taking away the RV (Jesse's entire business) to destroy it. And so Jesse led Hank right where Walt didn't want him to be, with those scenes feeling oddly like a desert twist on "Jaws," with Hank as the shark circling the boat, looking for a way in to devour the lives of the men inside. So intense, so well-acted by Cranston and Paul and Dean Norris, and so well-written and directed by John Shiban (behind the camera for an episode of TV for the first time since a 2002 "X-Files").
Walt ultimately recognized the three words that have saved his hash so many times before - "better call Saul" - but the look on Hank's face in the hospital (confusing, then relief, then complete and utter rage) suggests that the hunt from Heisenberg has turned from an excuse to avoid El Paso into an absolute vendetta.
Of course, Hank is now the target of a vendetta himself, as Gus has decided that the headache of a murdered DEA agent is less vexing than losing Walt's genius too soon. (Even though I believe Gus is going to use Gale to copy the Heisenberg formula so he can produce it without this egomaniacal loose cannon.) Hank may be able to win the day in a bar fight, but the only thing that has thus far been able to stop the Cousins is Gus himself. I've been worried for a while that Hank might not survive the season, but is he even going to make it deep into the second half of it?
And what happens to Walt and Jesse now that the RV is gone? Does Walt take pity on Jesse and offer him either money or a job (assuming Gus would allow this) to make up for the mobile meth lab's destruction? Or, without that vehicle to hold them together, will the rift between the two grow wider and nastier?
Incredible episode. My jaw was on the floor for large chunks of it.
Some other thoughts:
• Loved Walt insisting on taking the model home, and then going through a morning ritual (the shirt, and the brown bag lunch with his name on it) as if he were going to a real punch-the-clock job. It's a fake life he's living, and so he needs all the accessories to make it look (and make himself feel) good.
• Badger returns to New Mexico after fleeing the state late last season after Walt and Jesse's business got him into legal trouble. And he busts a few fancy dance moves upon returning.
• Lots of great, off-beat music throughout the episode, but particularly the use of some of Vince Guaraldi's "Peanuts" music for the meth-cooking montage in the Walt-cave.
• You can find the full text of "When I Heard the Learn'd Astronomer" here.
• Two notable guest stars: David Costabile (recently a villain on "Damages," but also the "more with less" newspaper editor in "The Wire" season 5 and Mel's husband on "Flight of the Conchords") as Gale, and Larry Hankin (who, to me, will always be the Kramer from Jerry and George's sitcom pilot on "Seinfeld") as the legally-wise junkyard manager.
• As I watched the Native American cop head towards his demise at the hands of the Cousins in the prologue, I again thought to myself that someone is missing a golden opportunity at giving a spin on the cop drama series by setting one on an Indian reservation. "Mystery!" did a few adaptations of Tony Hillerman's Joe Leaphorn/Jim Chee novels in the early '00s, and at one time there was talk of DC Comics trying to turn "Scalped" into a TV show, but that world feels like it has so much untapped potential for a weekly cop show. Am I alone on that?
What did everybody else think?