Sunday, May 02, 2010

Breaking Bad, "One Minute": The magic bullet

A review of tonight's insanely great "Breaking Bad" (aka The Best Show on TV Right Now) coming up just as soon as I look like a TV weatherman...
"I'm just not the man I thought I was." -Hank
Um...

uh...

um...

WOW.

Sorry, just need another minute to pick my jaw up off the floor after that.

What an incredible, bananas finish to the strongest episode yet of this third season. As written by "Breaking Bad" newcomer Thomas Schnauz (another of many "X-Files" vets Vince Gilligan has brought in) and directed by Michelle MacLaren (who joined the staff full-time after last season's gorgeous "4 Days Out"), the parking lot climax was a perfect model of suspense filmmaking. We'd already been primed all episode to fear that the Cousins could hit Hank at any moment (every time the elevator doors opened, I know I gripped my armrest), but then to have someone(*) warn Hank ahead of time kicked things up several levels. Suddenly, we and Hank were in the same mindset, looking around every corner, jumping at shadows (and/or men with squeegees), waiting for the two men to come and wondering if an unarmed Hank possibly had a chance against those two unrelenting figures of death.

(*) So, is there anyone it could have been other than Gus? Gus clearly wanted the Cousins the hell out of his territory, and I can see him warning Hank in the hopes that he might be lucky enough to take them out - or, at least, to bloody them enough that they'd have to re-cross the border in a hurry rather than hanging around in the hopes of also killing Walt. Other than Mike making the call on Gus's behalf, there doesn't seem to be a character in a position to know or do anything about the planned hit. For that matter, I'm not sure how even Gus would have known that Hank had roughly a minute to act, but I'll accept that he could for the sake of what that call added to the scene.

In many ways, the parking lot shootout evoked the failed hit on Tony Soprano from the end of "Sopranos" season one, down to the use of an SUV as a weapon. But I'd argue this scene one-upped that. Violence on "The Sopranos" always had something of a black comic tinge to it (the lead-up to the hit is Tony wandering around in a depressed stupor, and the hitmen were introduced in a scene played for laughs because of Uncle Junior hiding in the back of a car), and these guys didn't have the kind of mythical build-up the Cousins got. And on top of that, Tony Soprano was the star of the show, and it wouldn't work with him dead, whereas "Breaking Bad" would miss Hank but could easily continue without him. So the danger was far more real even without the Cousin factor.

In the end, though Hank is tough and resourceful, he won the only way anyone could against these two: through luck. He was warned in advance and was still in his car. Leonel's(**) gun also happened to fall right where Hank could reach it, and Marco conveniently had an extra, special bullet in his jacket pocket courtesy of the friendly gun dealer, and the duo's flair for the dramatic gave Hank just enough time to find the bullet on the ground and load it and shoot out the back of Marco's skull before the shiny ax could finish its backswing.

(**) Nice of the show to finally give the Cousins names - and a backstory - right before Hank killed one and either crippled or killed the other. The flashback with a middle-aged Tio at the height of his powers was chilling in its portrait of the culture those two grew up in. With Don Salamanca as the dominant male in their lives, and giving them "lessons" like that one, is there any wonder how they grew up to be these two unflappable killing machines? Note also that Leonel, the one who as a boy cries over Marco's destruction of his toy, is the one who's now hardcore enough to tell the other to finish the job rather than staying to help him. Tio made him that way.

But here's the thing: even without those crazy final minutes, "One Minute" still would have been one of the best "Breaking Bad"s to date.

What an amazing showcase for both Aaron Paul (who seems a lock to repeat his Emmy nomination next year, and possibly to win it if he submits this episode) and Dean Norris (who sure deserves to join Paul, but may not in what's always a crowded category).

Hank's beatdown of Jesse brings both men to a crossroads. Having lost his girlfriend, his partner, and now his source of income in the RV, Jesse finally tumbles over the abyss after Hank puts him in the hospital. Acting with half his face hidden by some really convincing prosthetics, Paul showed us a Jesse even colder and angrier than he was in his "I'm the bad guy" phase earlier this season, giving a riveting monologue(***) about all the ways he intended to punish Hank - and the way he'd drag Walt down with him if the DEA came after him.

(***) If the parking lot scene reminded me of "The Sopranos," Jesse's speech was like a more controlled version of Al Capone's speech from "The Untouchables" about what he wanted done to Elliott Ness.

But when Walt returns to Jesse's hospital room later in the episode to try to save his former brother-in-law, Jesse's evil calm is replaced by raw, unbridled pain, as he unloads on Walt with the laundry list of all the ways his life has gotten worse since Mr. White came back into his life. These are words Walt has needed to hear for a long time now - to have someone he can't tune out explain how toxic he's become to everyone in his life - and it's to Walt's credit that he already seemed aware of this after first seeing Jesse's ruined face. When he chews out Gale for screwing up the temperature, it comes in part from his need to feel superior to others (he does this shortly after Gale starts working two steps ahead of him), but also clearly out of guilt for what he saw happen to his previous lab assistant. Walt is a monster, but there's enough humanity left in him to recognize the pain he's caused, and the debts he owes, and so he manages to talk Gus(****) into letting him fire Gale and bring Jesse into the Walt-cave.

(****) And Gus's willingness to go along with that plan torpedoes my theory that he was using Gale to appropriate Walt's methods and then say goodbye to the loose cannon. It's entirely possible he still has that in mind (maybe the Walt-cave is tricked out with surveillance gear?), but could Gus have far grander plans for Walt that extend past the initial three month agreement?

And in the wake of putting Jesse in the hospital and his own career on life-support, Hank finally lets himself open up to Marie. Getting back to my fear of the elevator doors, when Hank got on the elevator the first time with Marie, I was expecting Cousins and was then floored to see husband and wife sobbing in each other's arms (and amused to see them completely composed by the time the doors opened on the ground floor, because there are some things Hank Schrader will not show the world). Even better than that scene, though, was Hank getting ready for his hearing with OPR, where he talked about his PTSD (in terms he could use), and about how much he's been struggling since he killed Tuco.

So here's what I wonder: the shootout with Tuco is what started Hank down this mentally unhealthy road, and the exploding turtle made things worse, but he finally seemed to be at peace by the time he left the DEA field office, knowing he'd probably lost his job but wouldn't go to jail. Now that he's barely survived a horrific ordeal, seen more people killed in front of him (and because of him) and killed one or two more himself, what happens? Does Hank's psyche shut down on him again, or does knowing he overcame two unbelievable bad-asses give him a new sense of invulnerability? And will this give him a road back into the DEA? Surely, the Cousins are in a law-enforcement database somewhere, and the man who took them out is about to become a legend - and someone who perhaps might be put back on the trail of Heisenberg.

It certainly makes sense for the show to have Walt being pursued by a (former) family member, but how will Hank (and Marie) cope with being thrust back into this violent world right when it looked like he was out for good? And now that Hank has taken out three members of the Salamanca family, will the cartel be even hotter for his blood, or might they want to stay far away from the brewer of Schraderbrau?

Damn, damn, damn that was good.

Some other thoughts:

• Of course the only thing Walt could tell Jesse to heal their rift was that his meth was good. That was all Jesse wanted to hear when he showed the stuff to Walt in the high school parking lot - really, it's all he's wanted to hear from the guy since the partnership began. Jesse (whose parents have cast him out) needs a surrogate father even more than Walt (who has a good relationship with Walter Jr.) needs a surrogate son.

• As Hank beat on Jesse and asked how Jesse knew his cell phone number and wife's name, I began to worry that Walt took things too far with that gambit. I understand why Hank has blinders on about Walt, but sooner or later, he has to make the math work, doesn't he?

• Note that the Tio/Cousins flashback also included Tio on the phone discussing the start of the cartel's business relationship with Gus, whom Tio dismissively refers to as "The Chicken Man."

• Saul had a few good funny lines at Jesse's expense (comparing him to Rocky, then Ringo), but the scene in the hallway - shot, appropriately, in half-darkness - where he started preparing Walt for the idea of killing Jesse was a reminder that this guy is not a joke.

• Hands up: who would be happy to go to their local supermarket and buy a "Breaking Bad" brand pre-made PB&J sandwich, cut up Walt-style?

• A few years back I was in a car accident where I broke several ribs, and I am very familiar with that pain assessment chart. After Jesse's half-face stared at it, I may never think of that thing the same way again.

Finally, in case you've missed the news, this is the last "Breaking Bad" review I'll be doing before I relocate to HitFix.com. I'll still be reviewing every episode here the exact way I did here, so just change your bookmarks accordingly.

What did everybody else think?

144 comments:

Abhimanyu said...

I haven't gone that long without breathing since...the hotel scene in No Country for Old Men. The highest praise possible.

A perfect perfect episode. Right now I feel like Breaking Bad might be the best show on TV - even be better than Treme!

I know. I might change my mind in a couple hours but...wow.

Adam said...

Great review as always.

So I don't know if everyone had this happen, but when about 3/4 of the way through during of the commercial breaks, AMC decided to show me the preview for next week's episode, which included the ENDING of tonight's episode. Can someone explain the logic behind that? I'm so upset about this.

Of course this was the one episode I actually watched when it aired, but after this incident, I'm done watching TV when it airs.

Nicole said...

It truly was an excellent episode and would have been even better if the idiots at AMC had not shown previews of the last scene and of next week at 10:47 pm. So yes I did feel the tension that Hank felt when in the car, but knowing how it ends before it happens is not ideal.

Anonymous said...

Liked the fact that Tio was sitting in a wagon-wheel chair...

Steve said...

Wow, I'm glad I kept switching away to the Mets-Phillies during the commercials.

Really, a flawless episode. Normally, the cousin deciding not to finish off Hank with a head shot and going to get his axe would seem like a contrivance, but the way Gilligan et al. set these characters up, it made perfect logical sense.

Carson said...

Yeah, I also saw the ending to this episode when AMC was previewing next week's during the last commercial.

Ruined the ending for me, as it strongly suggested Hank would survive. So booooooooo AMC.

Robert Cervantes said...

Alan:

They do sell bread without the crust. Would I buy it? Sure. But man, Sony needs to advertise some stuff to give away when we buy the DVDs. We should have gotten a teddy bear for buying season 2.

NoMoreVegas said...

As great as Breaking Bad has been this season (if a bit darker than usual overall), this ep was full of actors topping themselves and some gripping writing.

The opening with the cousins and Tio added such a great bit of depth and backstory to these characters. The cousins vaguely remind me of Omar from "The Wire" in a way, with their larger than life natures. I'd pay to see a show about Omar coming up in the streets of Baltimore, as I would about the Cousins.

Aaron Paul was absolutely stunning this episode. His lengthy, bitter tirade against Hank and his work with Bryan Cranston when Walt admitted to him that his meth was good was as rich a performance as I've seen on any other AMC show.

It was also interesting to see everyone swallowing their pride to do the sensible thing (as opposed to Walt's behavior in the past for most of this season). Hank finally broke down and admitted his mental stress issues to Marie; Walt admitted to Jesse that he was capable via the quality of meth he was able to reproduce; and Skyler asks for Walt to intervene with Jesse.

My major problem with this episode has been the ending. Was it gripping? Absolutely. But the way the brothers approached the hit on Hank, they were incredibly sloppy, with Leonel getting killed by Hank's SUV because he just stood there firing, yet they were smart/practical enough to get kevlar to prepare for the hit. That inconsistency is the one thing about this ep that raised an eyebrow for me - in a not-so-good way. You could chalk it up to being a colorful storytelling device, much like Omar walking around in broad daylight whistling "The Farmer in the Dell," further enhancing their larger-than-life characteristics, but the way Leonel got killed seemed sloppy.

Carter said...

Alan,

Maybe Gus had Mike tailing the Cousins/ Hank?

Ben said...

This episode made the Emmy race for best drama a lot less interesting.

JoeInVegas said...

I don't think Gale screwed up. Walt needs him out of the way else he has no carrot to give to Jesse.

Which is more likely, Gale messing up the batch ("I wrote the number down") or Walt scheming to get an opening in the lab?

Jesse better hope that Saul doesn't tell Mike to start keeping an eye on Jesse, because you know that will get back to Gus. If Jesse gives up Heisenberg then Gus is next in the chain. Gus hasn't made it 20 years in the biz by leaving loose ends.

Justin said...

Total agreement with the mid-episode spoiler. AMC makes a fantastic show like this possible and then blows one of the better moments. DUMB!

Glen said...

Holy crap, that was one of the most intense, suspenseful scenes I've ever seen. On any show, not just Breaking Bad.

Also, I'm glad I went to the bathroom during the last commercial break, because I missed this apparent AMC goof. That's insane.

Rick said...

The setup for that ending was flawless. I had totally forgotten about the bullet-proof vests, right up until one of the cousins was completely unfazed about getting shot by Hank, at which point I think I may have actually let out an audible gasp.

Eric Johnson said...

Wow. It may just be that I spent some of the weekend catching up on this season's mediocre genre tv (FlashForward, Caprica, and V), but this really felt like one of the best hours of televsion I've watched in a while. This show just keeps getting better.

As a side note, I really think Tio/Don Salamanca is one of the coolest minor characters on TV now -- I love how he keeps getting little bits of his character filled in.

Wish I could be more coherent but I'm still processing; can't wait for next week.

gnet said...

I actually watched the last minutes of the episode with my hands clinched to my mouth ... I haven't done that since I was kid at my first scary movie. I have a slight headache from the adreline charge. WOW. Can't get over how good that was.

I think things are going to start heating up for Gusl. Tio has never really liked him and I'm sure he's going to blame him for the death/permanent injury to his nephews.

MM said...

I want to thank you for praising the show on this week's podcast. I caught up today and was very glad I did. I was on the edge of my seat for the last three episodes.

You're right - one of the best things on tv right now. (I'd say best but I'm pretty fond of Treme too.)

I too thought that Gus had planted the new assistant to learn the recipe and technique thereby making Walt expendable. Perhaps that will still turn out to be the case?

Seamus said...

I'm interested to see what happens the next time Jesse and Hank cross paths. Jesse has been beaten up before(Crazy 8, Tuco, and if I remember correctly, Spooch the meth head also took a swing at him in the crack house), and every time it eventually ended in the death of the perpetrator. Even though he dropped the charges, he seemed way too serious in his revenge speech to forgive and forget.

Kyle said...

I didn't notice the actual ending of the episode in the preview but it definitely did the tension a bit of disservice.

Don't get me wrong, it was still tense. But AMC needs to cut that crap out.

medrawt said...

I really enjoyed:

"Your meth is good. As good as mine."

serving as AMC's Bizarro Universe equivalent of:

"I will spend the rest of my life trying to hire you."

Beyond the surprisingly strong Mad Men parallel, though, I just want to seventeenth the amazement at the episode, the last five minutes of which I spent on my feet, not blinking, tenser than I've been for any show in a loooooooooong time. After spending an episode resigned to the idea that they were giving Dean Norris a farewell song, they managed to change my mind back and forth three times in the final scene.

Patrick said...

I am also glad that I changed the channel during the commercial when AMC showed the spolier of the ending 15 minutes early. I wonder if it was a purposely done as a sick experiment to see how many people watch the commercials. Probably not, but I like to think the people at that network would not be dumb enough to make an error that large.

Jordan said...

I don't know why, but when Hank got "the call" I got the impression it was his boss on the other line. (I'm blanking on the name at the moment, but let's just call him "Mustache".) He would be a good person to have in Gus' pocket, and we already know that Gus has some kind of connection to the DEA office(from his tour of it)

Also, even scrambled, I still heard similar inflections in the voice.

Anyway, it's just a guess.

HOLY CRAP on that ending BTW (not that anyone really needs ME to tell them that)

Mary-Kate Hopkinson said...

So what convinced Jesse to drop the charges? Did Walt ask him to, or did he just do it out of the goodness of his heart since he'll now be working with Walt? Or to lie low? Seems like a negotiation/decision we should have seen. Perhaps left on the cutting-room floor (understandable in an episode so packed with awesomeness).

Oh, and there was a shot (from inside the thermometer as Walt was peering at it) that seemed to suggest surveillance was actually in effect in the lab. Hmmmm....

But yeah...."wow" is right.

Peter said...

They spent the last few episodes building up Gale as a character and now what? They just dump him? No way. He will be back. He has some sort of infatuation with Walt. He's not going to just let this go.

michael said...

My heart almost stopped when the clock turned to 3:08. What an episode. Truly brilliant.

Love these blogs, Alan. I've been looking for this type of website for a LONG time, and after listening to your appearance on the Bill Simmons podcast a couple months back, I decided to give it a try and I am very very glad I did. I don't know what I look forward to more, watching another installment of Breaking Bad Sunday night or reading your blog afterwards. Probably due to the fact that most people I know don't watch the show and therefore this is my only "outlet."

Can't wait to see what Vince Gilligan has in store for us moving forward.

Galaxy News Radio said...

Most intense moment of TV I have veer seen, bar none.

Jim said...

What is that Jewish term you use Alan? The one that means, "If that was the only thing it would be enough....but".

This episode had it in spades!

And for all the tension ("Stop looking at the clock and vamoose, Hank!") I still had two LOL moments.

"You are now officially the cute one of the group. Paul meet Ringo. Ringo, Paul"

"Stop a bullet like a soft wang against a Quaker girl. Just ain't getting through".

Top shelf television is what it was!

Angela said...

And now that it's over, I'm supposed to just go to sleep?!? Fantastic everything!
I really wasn't anticipating the cousins showing up as soon as you Alan. Not until I saw Hank with the flowers. That's when I started saying, "Oh No, no, no!"
Did the voice on the phone warning Hank sound like anyone? I couldn't hear it well. Some other lines I missed were what Hank and Maria were saying as they left the building. Or what Hank's boss said when Hank said "I wonder why Pinkman's dropping charges". Anyone?
I loved the scenes between Hank and Maria.They make a great couple.
When Jessie hung up the phone with Walt to say yes to the partnership, it seemed like he might have been having some additional thoughts/plans that he wasn't telling Walt about. Did anyone pick up on that too?
I didn't see the previews/endings thank god. How horrible for AMC to do that! I would write them at the AMC site and tell them.
Well, I will wait for others to post. I'm still speechless.

Graeleight said...

So The Cousins are brothers or did I hear Tio wrong?

BTW, everyone is referring to cousin-1 (I know they have names now but to me they'll always be cousin-1 and cousin-2) as being maybe dead and maybe just crippled but I'd be willing to bet my TV that he's dead. Nobody survives those kind of crushing injuries.

gnet said...

A few more thoughts on that ep ...

I like the bookends of the "one minute" from death proposition (Tio aks Leonel how long does his brother have before he drowns at the beginning and Hank gets the warning at the end)

What if Saul had Mike trailing Hank? Why? Can't figure it yet but at least he would be in a position to know that Hank has one minute before the Cousins (aren't they really The Brothers?) arrived to kill him.

cgeye said...

Gus, AFAIK, has never drawn a stupid breath, so I'm betting Gale's still on his speed dial, if not in his own parallel methlab setup. Gale took notes *same day* on that setup -- I've no doubt he's been told to chart every bit of the procedure.

As for surveillance, why tape geeks moving beakers when you could set up each and every piece of electronic lab equipment with telemetry? The only thing Gale needs to do is data mine what happened, when, then add his recollections. Considering the sophistication of that lab, Gus could be gathering data for automated meth processing. The only reason it doesn't happen now is that people are cheaper than robots.

As for Hank's showdown, the only reason the Cousins had as much of a chance that they did was that Hank was unarmed, something his observer didn't twig to. Hmmm.

I bet that Gus expected Hank to execute the Cousins. I wonder if they attacked outside DEA headquarters, or just in a mall parking lot? In either case, Gus hadn't accounted for A) Hank to be so discombobulated that he wouldn't call for backup; B) Hank being unarmed. That's why he needed luck that bordered on the supernatural.

One more data point: If Gus Frings is South American, as that old mean bastard said, then there's both ethnicity and color prejudice involved in his relationship to the Cartel, assuming they're as racist as Tio. If he missteps, a lot could go south, real fast.

Jim said...

They are brothers, but they were Tuco's cousins.

glassarm said...

Agree about the gun salesman being drop-dead hilarious.

What is so amazing about this show is that it is not exactly fast-paced -- they show us little details like Hank having to get his hands pictured and long conversations like the one on Hank and Marie's bed -- yet still so much happens every episode.

They do not dilly-dally around. Hank confronting Jesse happens in the second scene of this episode. On a lesser show that would have occurred 2-3 episodes later and we would have spent those hours building up to it.

It is an impossibly good television program.

PanAm53 said...

I want to add another "WOW."

Looks like BB has blown away all the Emmy competition. I am a really big Mad Men fan, as well as a BB fan. Following the episode of Mad Men where Don reveals some of his past to Betty, I recall that Alan stated that unless BB outshines Mad Men in Season 3, Mad Men would be a sure bet for winning the 2010 Emmys. Looks like that's happened, and we're only half way through the season! I think that Aaron Paul and Best Dramatic series are a sure thing.

I definitely believe that Walt set up the reason for firing Gale so that he could "fix" things with Jesse.

I also was one of the many who believed that Gale was placed as Walt's assistant in order to learn the recipe.

Funny that Alan made reference to The Sopranos. Unbelievably, my receiver turned itself off just as Hank fired the final shot and my screen went black, just like the finale of The Sopranos. Luckily, it was the receiver, not the cable box. I always DVR the episodes, and I was able to go back and see the final moments of the episode.

Tina said...

Insanely great was right -- I had absolutely no idea what was going to happen and that is a rare but great feeling.

I got a little distracted that Hank's knuckles seemed to have healed so quickly when he flexed them in the car, but soon got over it. What a great showcase for Dean Norris, particularly at the end with Hank straining to load the gun.

Anyone else hear the horn alarm at the end fade out and have it bring back the dinging bell of earlier? Maybe just me.

As has been said, Aaron Paul did amazing work in his scenes tonight, upping the stakes in a huge way.

And -- this may have been brought up before, but anyone watch with closed captioning? Why do they censor the captioning when the audio is unbleeped?

Anonymous said...

"For that matter, I'm not sure how even Gus would have known that Hank had roughly a minute to act, but I'll accept that he could for the sake of what that call added to the scene."

I was trying to figure that out. He must have Mike (or a Mike-equivalent) following them. Which is hard to believe -- Mike seems like he wouldn't want to get too close to them. But, if Hank were the one being followed, how would anybody know when the cousins were coming?

This is the kind of thing that, yeah, I'm slightly confused in the moment [for a second, I thought it was the Cousins fucking with him], but I have enough faith in the show by now that I'm sure they'll explain that within an episode or two.

Nick said...

Never before have I been more scared for a character than I was for Hank in that last scene. That's the power of this show. Just superb.

The amount of ground they've been able to cover from episode 1 to now (just episode 27!!!!) is mind blowing.

greg said...

I'm glad someone else brought up the previews for next week. I think it was just more noticeable this because it wasn't the only time. It happened other times this year too.

Anonymous said...
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pootietang said...

I really like this show. Just about the best thing on TV right now. Having said that...I think this might have been the night when Breaking Bad jumped the shark. The way the cousins bungled their attempt at killing an unarmed Hank(yes, I know they did not know it at first) just didn't ring true. All of the "coincidences" or "luck" just made it way too unrealistic. No doubt, I will continue to watch...but it won't be the same for me again. I have to believe others out there are left dissatisfied, as well. I think the show did us a disservice tonight. That's all.

Anonymous said...

"When Jessie hung up the phone with Walt to say yes to the partnership, it seemed like he might have been having some additional thoughts/plans that he wasn't telling Walt about. Did anyone pick up on that too? "

Jesse has slipped. Remember, in the first official conversation with Hank about him beating Jesse, he was told that Jesse came back clean, no drugs, and he was even refusing the pain medication from the hospital.

When he calls to accept Walt's offer, he's clearly changed his mind about those pain meds. He stayed off the meds before because he was afraid it'd bring about a slip, that he'd slide back into who he was.

That was the point of the conversation. Jesse, sober and in massive amounts of pain, finally told Walt off, and told him to get out of his life. Walt left, but not before setting a lure for Jesse to go back to the old ways, and Jesse bit hard. He's taking Walt's deal, and he's high.

ScottyG said...

Jesse being in that hospital bed reminded me alot of Two-Face

unreal episode, great stuff

Boresville said...

Whew, great ep!

Three things I enjoy about Breaking Bad were well exemplified tonight.

First, the creative use of objects. Like the teddy bear eyeball from the plane crash. I was amazed as I pondered all the events that led to the cousins sitting on Walt's bed a few episodes ago, holding the eyeball. Tonight, the bullet. The wacky arms dealer gives the cousin a free bullet. The bullet ends up killing the cousin and saving Hank.

The second thing; the foreshadowing of future events by seemingly throwaway lines of dialog. Tonight, Hank's boss said to him "maybe you have a guardian angel!" Later comes the call, out of the blue, alerting Hank to the danger he faces. I'm pretty sure there are previous instances where such lines prove prophetic. Can anyone recall them?

One other question: Anyone else wonder about a mole in the DEA? Someone gave up Tortuga. I've gotten to wondering about Hank's boss (Merket, thank you IMDB). I see that Jordan, above, notes that Hank's gaurdian angel sounds like Merket. Other commenters have mentioned Gus's visit to the DEA office, where Gus was shepherded around by…Merket. Gus and Hank made their first deal just before that visit. Then, as Hank gets closer to catching Heisenberg, he gets assigned to El Paso. Could Merket be looking out for Gus's interests?

Anonymous said...

1- I don't think the disparaging comments about South Americans had anything to do with Gus. But that line caught my attention as well. Tio was talking to someone higher up the food chain, and that person was South American (and thus most likely Colombian).

As I recall, Tio expressed his misgivings about Gus taking the reigns north of the border, but he then said something to the effect of "but of course, you have my support either way." It was only after he got off the phone that he talked trash about South Americans, which means he was against the nomination/promotion of Gus more than he let on during his conversation.

Now, this could be nothing, but I got this feeling that the writers were foreshadowing another character waiting in the wings. Like I said, it could be nothing. At the time of the flashback, Colombia was the center of power for all drug trafficking. Lots of drugs (mostly coke but also weed) were smuggled into Miami via the Caribbean, but almost as much were being smuggled through Central America and Mexico. At the time the Mexican cartels were largely middlemen in the transportation/smuggling network. Thus it would make sense that someone like Tio would report to someone in Colombia, even if he didn't like them (think of "Scarface" and how the Cubans hated Colombians, even though they obviously had to deal with them as the suppliers). So the line could be interesting but ultimately meaningless, especially since the Mexican cartels have replaced (subsequent to the time of the flashback scene) the Colombia cartels as the ones running narco-trafficking.

But... Tio wasn't happy with Gus being the cartels North American counterpart at the height of his power, and in the meeting earlier in the season (when Tio and the Cousins wanted permission to take revenge on Gus's side of the border) it was clear that Tio still doesn't think too highly of Gus.

Granted, he's not the acting boss anymore, but Tio clearly still has a lot of clout. And when Gus flatly refused Tio's vendetta request earlier this season, it seemed like Gus enjoys a very strong level of protection from somewhere on high. (If I recall correctly, the new acting boss in Mexico didn't really care either way, he just wanted to avoid drama).

But tonight's episode provided a possible wrinkle that I alluded to earlier. Tio didn't like Gus from the start, and he definitely hates him now. You get the feeling that if Tio had his way, Gus would have been out of the picture a long time ago. So is the same anonymous South American that originally put Gus in charge north of the border still around and propping up Gus to this day?

Obviously this is speculative. But like I said earlier, that South American jab stuck out, not just as random, but exceedingly specific for a random line.

2- The phone call to Hank had to come from Gus. And it kind of makes sense that he would be following Gus. Remember, Gus had to protect Walt. But the Cousins were clearly not going way. They had to be placated, so Gus threw them a bone in the form of Hank. Even though that was his only play, however, Gus doesn't want any heat or drama from these psychos assassinating a DEA agent in his own backyard.

He doesn't even need to think that Hank would be able to take them out if he's given a minute warning. He just needs to tip off Hank so they can't actually succeed in killing him.

Remember when Hank's boss told him that Jesse wasn't going to press charges? He specifically made reference to Hank having "a guardian angel" looking after him. It was great symbolically in the very next scene when he actually got a call from another "guardian angel" (albeit a different one) warning him to get the hell out of harm's way. Unfortunately with Hank's state of mind, he didn't act fast enough, even though things appeared to have worked out anyway.

PanAm53 said...

I was afraid that I might have misremembered what Alan said re: Emmys following Mad Men S3 E11, so I went back to read the recap. This is what was written:

"After watching this one, I may need to retract my Hugh Laurie is a lock to win next year's Emmy column, because if Jon Hamm submits this one(*)... well, we have a horse race then, folks.

(*) Bryan Cranston would be tough to beat in any year - and lord knows what the "Breaking Bad" writers are going to give him to play in season three - but Hamm didn't help himself this past year by submitting "The Mountain King," which isn't an ideal awards showcase, in that he's playing Dick Whitman for virtually the whole hour, as opposed to shifting back and forth between the two personas, or else largely playing the more magnetic Don Draper personality."

I apologize for incorrectly paraphrasing Alan.

Hutch said...

I pointed out a few episodes back that I liked Hank, that despite the macho posturing he was the most genuinely "good" character on the series. The episode brought this into sharper relief for me. He is not willing to lie on his statement, even though it could have servious repercussions in regards to his future. I also loved Paul - Ringo, Ringo-Paul.

I was blown away by this episode.

Anonymous said...

I can honestly say I have never seen an hour of TV that had me on the edge of my seats, gripping the chair underneath my butt, my knuckles turning white. I cared for this fictional character, Hank, as I feared and knew what was coming. I expected Death and it hurt. Here was an honest man, one that tried his best to do good by an old fashion code of honor. He had his faults but if we were to weigh his life actions on a scale they would be worthy of remembrance - more good than evil.

I knew all of this and it hurt because what was worse is knowing Walt should be the sick son of a bitch who got shot. Walt should be the man lying on the ground and bleeding to death. Instead it's Hank. Walt would rather repair Jesse than do good by Hank. It sickens me.

The plane crash last season did not jolt me to the consequences of Walt actions but this did.

On that note, the only other person besides Gus that could have warned Hank was the Fixer (middle aged white man that planted the cameras in Hank's original).

Love this show.

JWIII

Boresville said...

That arms dealer... isn't he a McPoyle (from Always Sunny)? And the other brother was on Party Down just last week!

Jonathan Buckingham said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...

Please, don't talk about previews. I don't watch them and don't want to read comments about them. Kay? Thanks!

JWIII

I'm On A Moose! said...

So do you think Gus (or Mike) makes that call if Walt doesn't kick Gale to the curb earlier that day? Could Walt's dickishness have actually done some good for a change?

cgeye said...

"One other question: Anyone else wonder about a mole in the DEA? Someone gave up Tortuga. I've gotten to wondering about Hank's boss (Merket, thank you IMDB). I see that Jordan, above, notes that Hank's gaurdian angel sounds like Merket. Other commenters have mentioned Gus's visit to the DEA office, where Gus was shepherded around by…Merket. Gus and Hank made their first deal just before that visit. Then, as Hank gets closer to catching Heisenberg, he gets assigned to El Paso. Could Merket be looking out for Gus's interests?"

One phrase from young!Tio's phone call: "I don't care who he knows". It'd make sense that Gus got where he was because he got to a high-enough mole early enough in his career to own him -- a process that's paying dividends, now.

I'm On A Moose! said...

I didn't catch it the first time, but during the "one minute" when Hank is frantically scanning the parking lot he looks forward and sees a guy with a beard in a grey shirt walk past, and one of the cousins is directly behind the SUV eyeballin' Hank.

LP said...

Not one wasted scene in this entire episode. Seriously, every scene was tense, and extremely well-acted.

I am actually physically tired from watching the show.

The scene with Hank and his klepto wife was Dean Norri's finest of the season -- and that's saying something.

I am amazed that three seasons in, they not only continue to bring it, but they up the stakes. All the slow developing plots at the start of seasons pay off and are in such a different direction by the end that it would be impossible to predict.

Also, via The Onion AV club review of the episode, this is an awesome Flickr set of the Breaking Bad locations -- all are authentic Albuquerque locations (I was born and raised in Albuquerque, so trust me).

http://www.flickr.com/photos/24869473@N02/sets/72157623732482564/

Boresville said...

Correction. Closing my Firefox tabs, I see that Hank's boss is ASAC Merkert, not Merket. Sorry.

Anonymous said...

The Salamanca family is comic gold. Even in what is perhaps the most intense television action scene I've seen all season, the Cousins still managed to make me laugh.

Anonymous said...

This is the third episode of the season to feature a flashback in the cold open (after "I.F.T." and "Mas"). Given the gimmick Gilligan employed in season 2 (the titles of the episodes that open with flash-forwards reveal what happens in the finale: "737 Down Over ABQ"), is it possible they're doing something similar this season? (Otherwise, "I.F.T." seems like a strange title choice even if you know what it stands for by the episode's end.)

If so, right now we'd have "I.F.T. Mas One Minute" with possible additions of "Fly," "Abiquiu," "Half Measures," and/or "Full Measure."

Along the lines of chemistry, "I.F.T." could be Interfacial Tension (or possibly Immunofluorescence Test/Instantaneous Fourier Transform/Initial Film Thickness)--then there are a bunch of airplane-related terms, but come on, are they really going to pull that a second time?
Acronym Finder: I.F.T.
Wikipedia: I.F.T.

Possibilities for "Mas" include Milliarcsecond, Multiagent system, and MasAir.
AcronymFinder: "Mas"
Wikipedia: "Mas"

Thoughts?

Shenonymous said...

I'm calling bullshit on the Season 3 now. I don't see why the brother would proclaim "too easy" and give in to such a B movie cliche when the series has deserved so much better for it's supporting characters until now. In the director's cut will we see spilling forth the cartel's entire plan. I loved the show until tonight. But I could be done.

Max said...

I personally found the last scene kind of predictable, though that didn't detract from it any, either. I haven't particularly cared for any of them -- nor Hank, but by the end of this ep, I was really to cheer him on as he took those two out.

What makes this interesting, though? Think about how much FREEDOM Walt has right now.

He isn't being stalked. Jesse isn't limited to the small stakes, nickel and dime hustles that comprised the early part of their career as partners -- he's out of the loop.

Heisenberg is officially off the radar.

And I'm just thinking about how potentially dark and ugly things can get from here -- especially after all the shippy BS I put up with at the beginning of the season to make White "a more sympathetic character".

And laughing.

I can't wait to see how Walt screws things up, next.

Anonymous said...

sorry Hugh Laurie, Bryan Cranston just locked himself a 3rd straight Best Actor Emmy.

This better win the Emmy and not that overrated and pretentious Mad Men

LeeZy said...

Was it just me, or was one of the innocent bystanders shot in the parking lot "Frogurt" from LOST? Or was I just seeing things?

Anonymous said...

I'm guessing that the cartel will be even hungrier for Hank now. We've seen how Tio feels about family both in this week's intro and re: Tuco, and despite his physical limitations, his opinion still seems to carry a lot of weight with the family.

Speaking of the intro, how terrifying was that? It reminded me at first glance of "The Godfather" (not quite the same, but kids play at violence in the garden with the don), although Tio came off much worse here. We haven't seen much of Gus' protection or enforcers, but I can't help but think that the Salamanca family will direct some of their anger toward him soon. How does perfectly professional Gus handle the messy task of armed turf warfare?

Hard to miss the lighting of brother #2 (Marco? Leonel?) in the last scene. I think he's worn that suit before, but the grey silk dupioni/shantung looked almost white and luminescent here; I guess that's what Hank would have seen as he's facing death, but to see a bad guy in white still stuck out to me. And Aaron Paul, I knew it had to be coming, but that was a well-delivered "bitch" at the end of your first monologue. I wonder if the writers have heated discussions over where to place Jesse's "bitch" (or two) of the week.

paul in kirkland said...

I loved that Tio was sitting in a chair that looked like a wheelchair in the flasback.

Didn't Guy get Hank's business card when he was being shepherded around the office? That would explain how he has his number, though I'm beginning to suspect a mole as well.

If Hank loses his job, and his income...well, who better to have on your side as a meth cooker than a former cop? Hell, at this point I wouldn't be surprised if Merkert arranged the whole deal, via Gus.

Jordan said...

Some commenters are calling the last scene predictable. I feel quite the opposite on this manner.

Hank, as a character, both hit his rock bottom in this episode, and came to terms with it by taking the high road with his "statement/confession". When he did this it could have very easily been the end of his character's arc.

So in the final scene I thought it could have gone either way. Yes, he could have killed the cousin, but he was also in a place, narratively, where his character could have been killed without leaving any loose ends thematically for the character.

With the end of the episode we now have room for a continuation of his arc, but if it had ended tonight, it would also have felt "right" narratively to the viewer, and that's why I think the last scene worked in terms of tension and suspense.

3333/afa said...

I don't have much to say that wouldn't parrot everyone saying how awesome this episode was, so I will contribute only by posting a picture to try to answer LeeZy's question about Frogurt: I don't think it's him. Here's a screencap I took:

http://i563.photobucket.com/albums/ss72/mshar352/frogurt.jpg

applejack said...

Brilliant episode. Brilliant show.

Firstly. Hank's situation: unrealistic? I'd have to disagree. In my opinion, without the phone call Hank wouldn't have survived the altercation as it would have just been too much of a shock - walking to his car with the flowers, the man was at peace and trying to move on with his life. The phone call put Hank back in his old world - the same world where he had the ability (or better the luck) to kill Tuco, the know how to be weary about a head carrying tortoise and the physicality to fuck up those bikie dealers.

Anyone find it interesting that it was a phone call that saved Jessie and Walt and now a phone call that has saved Hank? You'd have to think that Walt giving Saul Hank's number could have something to do with Hank receiving the call. Whether the phone call was from Gus' people or not - it sort of makes sense not to want to Hank die. Having Hank die in a parking lot with no sign of the killers would have the DEA/Feds all over Jessie in light of the recent beating he received.

I think that something will come from the Gale relationship - whether it's Gus' trying to get in on the formula or Gale himself being some kind of (educated) drug kingpin himself putting on the best friends forever ploy.

(Also, don't people realise that whenever so-called/believed peripheral characters are played by a somewhat recognisable actor - the guy who plays Gale is like one of those "i've seen him in everything" type actors but I don't know his nam - then you're obviously led to believe they'll play a bigger role later on in the storyline)

But the scene I'm constantly reminded of is Walt consciously not saving Jane which lead to Jessie's downfall and obviously the plane crash. And this is where I see any conflict between Walt and Jessie arising from.

Anonymous said...

"Also, don't people realise that whenever so-called/believed peripheral characters are played by a somewhat recognisable actor"

Jere Burns, DJ Qualls, and Harry Groener are still waiting for their callbacks. Though, admittedly, they did manage to bring back Danny Trejo this year...

belinda said...

Oh boy, wow. I've never been so nervous about a fictional character before. On the one hand, I liked the setup of the magic bullet - on the other, it was a little predictable that Hank was able to get the bullet in and shoot the Marco's brains out, and that the Cousins turn out to not be as infallible as they seem before. Either way, I practically turned blue holding my breath at the last scene. Well done.

I wasn't sure what Walt was thinking while he was talking with Skylar - did he really mean what he said - that Hank wasn't family, and thus, not his problem. Sure, at the end there, he did sacrifice 1.5 million dollars to get Jesse back as a partner - but for which reason? The fact that he knows Jesse will spill, or that he needed to protect Hank so he doesn't go to jail? It's probably a little bit of both, but tremendous work on Cranston's part portraying it in a way so I can't tell!

Poor Jesse. He's clean in that he's not using, but he's also 'using' again now that he's working with Walt. In the scene where Walt drives home and gets Jesse's 'yes' call, I half expected Gale to pop up and go mental on him for firing him. Since that didn't happen, I'm pretty sure it's not the last of Gale we'd see - especially given just how calculated and intelligent Gus is (especially after the whole sic Hank/DEA on the Cousins move). Walt, and now Jesse, has no idea what they've gotten themselves into...

And we've still got just about half the season left to see where all this goes. WOW.

I'm going to miss this blog! Hoping the hitfix comment section would be as abundant and rich as the ones here are.

Trilby said...

Someone said "Oh, and there was a shot (from inside the thermometer as Walt was peering at it) that seemed to suggest surveillance was actually in effect in the lab." That was my thought too.

Someone said they couldn't hear part of conversation between Hank and Marie. I had to hold my remote through the whole hour last night as the sound kept getting too loud and then too soft. Stop that, AMC!

Pootietang had some problems with the Cousins bungling the hit on Hank. Me too! I mean, I suspended disbelief for the sake of my enjoyment, but when the one guy could have finished Hank but then said "too easy" and went back for the axe, I thought that was a tiny bit lame.

Also, I was surprised that Walt wanted Jessee back, and also not surprised-- despite all Jesse's screw-ups, Walt LIKES him. Whereas Gale started to grate on Walt with his teacher's-pet suck-up act, doing everything in advance.

Also, I have detested the character Hank as a loud-mouth jerk throughout the show. This episode Hank finally dialed that down. It was refreshing to hear him talk like a normal human being-- and then I thought he died. I'll have to watch this again-- I believe you all that he did not. I just thought he did.

paulf said...

I'd love to see a transcript of the gun seller's monologue. I might watch the episode again just for that.

pluvlaw said...

The theory posted above by Jordan about it being Hank's DEA boss who warned him is interesting. Gus' ties to the office aside, the boss did also already know about Pinkman NOT filing charges and warned Hank that "it didn't come from me." Maybe he was tipped off about that and warned to be on the lookout for the twins by Gus.

As to Gus letting Walt bring Jesse in and get rid of Dale, maybe Gus sees Walt as being far easier to manipulate and having much more to lose than Gale. After all, having a kid who has something hanging over a DEA agent's head in your employ can be a good thing for drug kingpin I suppose.

But...after the shootout, I was left wondering if Jesse did not just place a bigger target on everyone's back. Cops don't much like people coming after cops. The story could easily go down a line of the DEA thinking the cousins were working for Pinkman (or his believed-to-be employer, Hisenberg), leading to an all-out war between the "Hisenberg gang" and the DEA.

Whatever way they go, last night's episode was awesome. It was good to see Oz's Antonio Nappa reincarnated through a "younger" Don Salemanca. Margolis sure can play a bad-ass.

lawofbov said...

I'm going to have a guess and say that message sounded an awful lot like Hanks boss made that call. He even said before the incident that Hank had a "guardian angel." Maybe he meant himself? Possibly he works for Gus?
Maybe he's a dirty cop who felt sorry for Hank?

Lisa said...

I was e-mailing a friend afterward and we were remarking that we haven't had to cover our eyes so much during a one-hour drama since the early years of the X-Files. So, thanks, Vince Gilligan: Scaring the crap out of people while making laugh themselves silly since 1993....

At the end of this episode, I would echo Alan's "what's next for Hank?" thoughts. But now, I think the attention also turns to Skyler and what she'll do. That short scene where she visits Walt to talk about Hank means a lot more now since Hank's attack. She's obviously not buying Walt's BS about distancing himself from Jesse, and right now, it's plausible she suspects Jesse put the hit on Hank. Obviously, Gus is the phantom no one knows, particularly since he's seen by the DEA as an upstanding member of the community.

So for all Hank, Skyler and her sister know, Jesse's decision to drop the charges against Hank were due to Jesse deciding to rub Hank out -- and failing.

Jesse is in more danger than ever and Walt is clearly his only protector unless Jesse indeed decides to play his card and go into witness protection. But is Jesse bright enough to do that? Does he love (yes, love) Walt too much to do that?

So I can't wait to see what Skyler does next. She has several huge decisions to make. Does she walk into a hospital room and lie to her sister about her ex-husband's connection to her brother-in-law's hit? Doubt it. Does she throw in with Walt, essentially promising not to spill the beans with the DEA in exchange for more money to hide so she and the kids can live when Walt faces his inevitable demise? Not sure. I think we haven't begun to see what Anna Gunn can do.

Otherwise, I loved the gun dealer -- Vince and his team write white trash better than anybody -- and if Bob Odenkirk doesn't watch it, he might be in Emmy contention as well. When you come right down to hit, this strip-mall lawyer is as good as any seven-figure mob lawyer. Saul always knows best.

God, I love this show.

Carrie said...

Wow. What an amazing episode. Aaron Paul just astounds me at how he can so perfectly render the evolution of Jesse Pinkman from season one's comic screw-up, to season two's sympathetic center, to the soul-rotting, bottom-hitting Jesse we are seeing in season three. Incredible work.

At first I had a big problem with the cousin proclaiming shooting Hank as "too easy" and going back for the ax, but after thinking about it in more detail it makes perfect sense. From the beginning of the season the cousins were set up as these mythical, larger-than-life creatures who do things no normal human does. We learn family is everything, so right after Hank kills/maims his brother, it makes sense that the other brother wouldn't want Hank to get a relatively easy out via a gun.

I love this show!

Jonathan Buckingham said...

Sorry about the preview mention. I will atone.

Lisa said...

Quick correction on my earlier post. Left in some words I shouldn't have. I meant to say that I doubt Skyler will be able to come clean to Hank and her sister about Walt's connection to Hank's hit.

Anonymous said...

i began the episode reclined on the sofa and ended it kneeling on the floor, sweating. this is outlandish! my cousin from ireland called immediately screaming in the phone, asking HOW, HOW they were supposed to go to work after an epi like that! i agree.

Anonymous said...

am i the only one that wondered why walt would risk going to the hospital to visit jesse? wouldn't the DEA be watching the hospital?

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

AJ, once again: no talking about the contents of the previews.

Anonymous said...

Did the phone call really help Hank? Before it rang he already had the keys in the ignition, and the Cousin's were on foot more than a minute away at the standard cousin dramatic walking pace. If he hadn't got the call and panicked he would have been half way home before the cousins got over there.

Girl Detective said...

Just finished all the 81 comments, a testimony to the quality of your stuff, Alan, and your readers. I do find it funny that no matter what, there are people each week who swear that some ep is the best while others groan about shark jumping.

I wondered why Jesse said yes, other than Walt's encouragement. I like the idea that he took the pain meds as part of a slide down the slippery slope.

Great discussion, great episode.

Camille said...

The phone call did help him, otherwise, he would have brought trouble home which could have ended in even more tragic death.

Tom said...

Another excellent recap, Alan.

Unbelievably great episode.

There must be some "OZ" fans here: Having finally figured out a few weeks ago that Mark Margolis plays Tio, it was cool to see him in more of an Antonio Nappa mode in the flashback.

I also like the use of the ginormous cell phone (which I will always think of as a "Miami Vice" cell phone) to establish the scene as a flashback.

AJ said...

Alan: So you wipe my entire comment???? And there was so much talk on the blog about the preview airing Before the show ended, thus ruining the ending...but asking if someone could tell what the preview said After the show ended is breaking your rules?

Done with this.

Alan Sepinwall said...

I don't have the power to edit comments, AJ. They're either in or they're deleted. And the only ones I deleted were ones that revealed information from the next episode.

To quote the great Walter Sobchek, there are rules here - as there will be at the new place.

digamma said...

The elevator scene was fantastic. A crying character can be a cheap manipulation of the audience, but with the gradual unraveling of Hank's tough guy act over the last two years, the show earned those sobs.

And if that had been the whole scene, "dayenu"! But then we got that quick cut to the two of them leaving the elevator, both showing poker faces to the world. Bravo to the actors and everyone behind the camera.

Jim said...

"dayenu"

That's the word I was trying to remember.

Thank you!

Anonymous said...

I agree with those saying the voice on the phone sounded like Hank's boss, Merkert. I'm subscribing to the theory that Merkert is Gus' mole in the DEA. I'm guessing that Merkert informed Gus, and therefore the cousins, that Hank had turned over his gun and badge. The cousins were obviously concerned about going after an armed agent, hence the vests, so it makes sense that they decide to strike right after learning Hank is unarmed and before Hank gets home where he may have his own gun. That is how Merkert knew the cousins were coming. And while Merkert is dirty, he is also a cop and this is a line he does not want to cross, so he calls to warn his fellow agent. That all makes more sense than Gus (or Mike) warning Hank considering Gus is the one who sent the cousins after him in the first place. Also, the guardian angel line is a tip off. Plus, it seems to me like this Merkert character sort of came out of nowhere and has a growing presence on the show the past couple episodes. So I'm betting that the show is setting him up to have an important role in the overall plot for this season.

DJ Nick said...

I don't understand the people thinking that everyone will think that Jesse was behind the hit on Hank. Those guys were Tuco's cousins. Hank killed Tuco. I don't see how that connection won't be made.

Jeez said...

The charactor of Gale doesnt sit well with me. He seems too honest and good-natured to be in the Meth Business. Maybe his geekyness is all an act...

DJ Nick said...

Another thought just came to mind... When Jesse sees how much they are producing, I'm sure he's gonna tell Walt how he's getting ripped off. If I remember correctly, they got 1.2 mill for 36 lbs. (i could be off but it's close) So at 200lbs a week for 12 weeks? They are really gettinfg ripped there. Walt doesn't know it, but I'm sure Jesse will let him know all about it.

Ed said...

"Now that he's barely survived a horrific ordeal, seen more people killed in front of him (and because of him) and killed one or two more himself, what happens?",

He may not survive. He's shot up pretty bad and bleeding all over a parking lot.

Anonymous said...

I don't think so, DJ Nick. There is a big difference between creating and selling your own product from scratch where you supply the equipment, the raw materials, the lab, assume all risk pre-sale, etc. vs. just showing up and doing the work for someone else who supplies everything and assumes much of the risk as owner of the lab and equipment.

Alan Sepinwall said...

He may not survive. He's shot up pretty bad and bleeding all over a parking lot.

I highly doubt that. They deliberately showed Marco hitting him in two spots on his torso that aren't automatically fatal, and after all this build-up of Hank's obsession with Heisenberg, it doesn't make good dramatic sense for them to let him bleed out - especially after an episode where the writers could have explicitly bumped him off if they'd wanted.

Anonymous said...

In the final scene, the clock turning over from 3:07 (third season, seventh episode) to 3:08 (Walt's address) was riveting. Are the numbers just a coincidence?

bleibtreu said...

I'm sure Walt would be well aware of the fact that he's not making nearly as much money working for Gus as he made in that one big sale. But, he's an employee now, working in a lab built and paid for by someone else. Much less risk (no more having to break into warehouses to steal supplies), and no financial investment in either equipment or raw materials.

It's a three-month deal; maybe he'd be able to renegotiate after that.

As an aside, I'm glad I stay up late. I didn't watch until the 1 AM repeat broadcast, and didn't notice any previews that gave away clues at that time.

Bill White said...

When Hank's clock changed from 3:07 to 3:08, knowing the title of the ep I thought, "That was an interesting minute - things have suddenly changed a lot for Hank." Little did I know what a ride was coming up in the following minute!

And the colors! The colors! The shot of Jesse on his floor after Hank's beating - I've rarely seen such beautiful colors and composition anywhere with the red couch on the left and a beautiful soft light coming in from the right. The lighting around Hank and his wife in the hotel room was perfect. What's with her purple everywhere? Last week I noticed half the things in her kitchen are purple; this week she's wearing it.

There was a scene in which the sky was an impossibly beautiful shade of yellow-orange. If that's real and not video post-processing, I'm ready to sell our house, load up the van and move the family to ABQ just so I can live under that sky.

PanAm53 said...

Jeez said...
The charactor of Gale doesnt sit well with me. He seems too honest and good-natured to be in the Meth Business. Maybe his geekyness is all an act...

I agree...Gale's "geeky scientist" is an act (probably created to appeal to the previously potential Nobel prize winning chemist, Walt) just as Gus's straight as an arrow businessman is an act.

I too believe the warning call came from Hank's "Guardian Angel" boss. The call most likely came from the DEA office. I don't think that Hank would have answered the call if it showed up as blocked. The call possibly originated from Gomez's desk in ABQ, which is why he made the return call to Gomez and left the message.

Alfred A. A. said...

Jesus, what a scene. Best episode to date. The moment Hank opened up to Marie I thought there was no way he was not going to end up dead by the end of the episode... and then the phone call came... when Lionel appeared before him I thought he was dead, and when Marcos appeared from behind I thought he was dead, and when Marcos got his last bullet I thought Hank was dead, even after Hank killed Marcos I still thought the axe would fall on top of him!! Props to the staff, they really made an incredible episode.

Andrew said...

OMG, how sick was it when Marco proclaimed shooting Hank was too easy thus he turned around to get the axe. The most badass moment in television history!

Anonymous said...

"I don't see how that connection won't be made."

Keep in mind, though, the only reason Hank killed Tuco in the first place was that he was tracking Pinkman's car.

Adriene said...

I never really bought the idea that Gale was a plant. I think he was just supposed to stand in as the anti-Jesse. Someone Gus thought would be incredibly tempting to Walt. Someone who would work better with Walt than Jesse and keep Walt happily bringing in profits for Gus. This ends up being a miscalculation on Gus' part. Walt's need to feel superior is greater than Gus expects, and by letting Walt fire Gale and bring Jesse in, he's correcting his miscalculation. I wonder how that dynamic will work now that Walt has been forced to make Jesse his true partner.

Trilby said...

@DJ Nick- About Walt getting ripped off by Gus, that is the difference between being an entrepreneur and an employee.

Also, when the cousin was about to shoot Hank and said "too easy" I thought he meant tot easy for himself. Now I get it. It was too easy a way for Hank to die. Thus the pause that allowed Hank to get that bullet in the gun FINALLY.

Trilby said...

@ Bill White- About Marie's purple, I noticed that too, because I'll never forget a friend saying dismissively that girls get into purple when they come into their sexuality.

Anonymous said...

Two armed and armored cartel hitmen couldn't kill an unarmed man sitting in a truck in broad daylight?! Uh, okay.

Ryan said...

Just watched last night's episode On Demand. I don't throw around compliments like this lightly, but it may be the best hour of television I've ever seen. Riveting from start to finish, and the last ten minutes or so were absolutely breathtaking to behold. This is TV at its finest, and the best that this medium has to offer.

I think a big factor is Hank becoming much more likeable and a really intriguing supporting character. It has added a new dynamic to the show.

Snot Boogie said...

I just sent this email to AMC.

Hello,

I've been a loyal viewer of Breaking Bad and Man Men since they premiered. I tell all my friends to watch both shows because they are so good. I love AMC's programming and watch the channel all the time.

But I swear to God, if you spoil the ending of another episode by showing previews for the NEXT WEEK's episode BEFORE the current one has finished airing, I will NEVER watch AMC again. EVER. I'll find other ways to view the programming, so that you don't benefit from myself. I will no longer tell anyone else to watch AMC. In fact, I'll do the opposite.

Your complete lack of respect for your viewers during last night's episode was disgusting, inappropriate, and unnecessary. The irony here is that your motto is "Story Matters Here". Last night, it clearly didn't.

Their address is: amccustomerservice@rainbow-media.com

Feel free to copy and paste it and send it in yourself.

bleibtreu said...

"I don't think that Hank would have answered the call if it showed up as blocked."

In fact it showed up as "restricted." There's a clearly visible shot of the phone's screen as Hank looks at it after the caller hangs up.

An unrelated thought, now that I've gone back to re-watch that scene: Hank's two bullet wounds may have intentionally been placed precisely. They both could have missed a standard law enforcement Kevlar vest. One low, one high. That could explain why the obviously skilled shooter didn't fire a fatal wound: rather than risking a round being repelled, he wanted to incapacitate Hank so that he could approach and finish the job.

GingerDoggie said...

To me, Community Vs. Individualism is the most interesting theme on Breaking Bad. Coming from a country where getting cancer sucks, but would not financially enslave me and those who cared most about me, it’s very apparent that the origin of all the fallout is the attitude that it’s every man for himself.

The origin of almost all the badness in Breaking Bad is that no one is willing to share or form a community. This is true at the at the macro level (HMOs boning Walt) and micro level (Walt boning Jesse, Schwartz’s boning Walt). Everyone is a thief on this show, everyone steals what they need from others. There no honor among thieves and no social safety net. The show has worked hard to show us that there is a serious lack of viable alternatives: you are 100% on top, or you are 100% on the bottom. “You are a man who drinks, or a man who pours.”

What’s cool about the show is that it doesn’t translate well into most other industrialized societies. It’s such a Western. There is something primal and Darwinian about Walt’s attempt to survive and ensure his family survives (I’ll drink your milkshake type stuff). It profoundly undermines any claim that the US might make about being a place of civilization and community. On Breaking Bad, it’s dog eat dog world. Hank is thrust into this world when he is boned by the healthcare system.

Walt never questions his own motivations, he accepts his situation for what it is and tries to survive. He could not anticipate how much his society would reward his bullying, brutality, singleminded asshattery. Throughout the show Walt has gradually awakened to the real forces at work in society he has gone from family and community oriented to naked self-interest. As Jesse says, he doesn’t care about anyone but himself.

In season one he was bottom dog, and he “Broke Bad” to become a top dog. At it’s foundation though, I keep on thinking about what made Walter White a bottom dog to begin with, to trace it to the origin of the problem. Walt believes he was made a bottom dog by Gretchen and Elliot Schwartz (Black in German). Is he the white hat to their black hats?

What happened with Walt and the Schwartz’s? They hold the patent for a product to which Walt’s knowledge of crystallography contributed. Perhaps some kind of patent medicine? It would be funny if Grey Matter were a pharmaceutical company. Funny because Walt would be taking it in both ends from pharmaceutical companies (as a cancer patient paying through the nose for the best treatment and as a dispossessed chemist). Walt says they cut him out, they say he bailed on the project. He was not fairly compensated for his work and they were individually rewarded for something that was a collective effort (generations of scientists, “standing on the shoulder of giants” and whatnot).
From the outside, the issue is the patentability of life-saving medicine – how does it make sense? Why rip-off sick people who are fighting for their lives? Why rip-off people at all? Oh, right, because it is a dog-eat-dog world and as Walter discovered, you are either ripping someone off or getting ripped off.

GingerDoggie said...

The issue of ownership is in question and they are willing to give Walt charity, but not his fair share. The issue of ownership is raised again between Walt and Jesse and the formula but this time Walt is wearing the Schwartz hat. Sharing is out of the question, both men want 100%. On Braking Bad, “it is a zero-sum world” (to borrow a line from Treme). I think this zero-sum attitude is the origin point for much of the Breaking Bad we see. I think the writers are very critical of this aspect of society.

The show presents a world where is a very real possibility that your family could end up without the means of survival. For these characters, financial ruin is the worst possible outcome. To avoid it, they turn criminal. Everything that tethered them to their families and communities is eroded. The end result of a culture where no one gives a shit about anyone else is that everyone ends up in a fragmented state: broken and bad.

Gary said...

Love this show, and loved this episode.

I re-watched the last 5 minutes again just now. Did anyone else notice how after Hank shot the cousin in the head, the shiny axe fell and was impaled in the asphalt of the parking lot? How cool was that?? The pullback shot of the bodies lying on the ground with the axe standing there in the asphalt, along with the car alarms blaring, was intense.

Love, love, loved it!

Anonymous said...

I hope many of you will follow Alan over to his new site because as much as I love Alan's review, it wouldn't be the same without the wonderful commentary from everyone else.

JWIII

Dennis said...

- I know Alan gave two possibilites for how this affects Hank and I think it galvanizes his belief in who he thought he was because if this furthers his PTSD then the guy's basically gonna be a basket case who doesn't leave the house and I don't think they'll do that to this character.

- I imagine jessie decided not to press changes for a couple of reasons: first off he's about to start cooking again so he doesn't want the cops tailing him everyday and perhaps to his new workplace and secondly perhaps he imagines that if he gives the cops a break maybe they'll give him one.

- nice job on the recall of a camera angle coming from insider some of the gear in the lab and that's not a device that's often used on this show - only other time I can think of is when it was from the ATM's POV - so I think we can safely assume that it was a way of letting us know that Gus has cameras in the lab. And for some reason I think jessie will be the one who either points out the reality to Walt or perhaps the possibility.

Dirk Digler said...

Ok...first. This is the single best episode of television drama that has ever aired. This was Hitchcockian in it's suspense, only it was, seriously, questionably better than Hitchcock had ever done. Amazing.

Second, is this, and I throw this question out to the knowledgeable followers of Mr. Sepinwall, the best show that has ever been on TV? My vote is still The Wire as Best Show There Has Even Been, and quite possibly Best Show There Will Ever Be, but this has shot WELL BEYOND Mad Men and ousted out Deadwood and the Sopranos as well.

berkowit28 said...

Interesting insights, GingerDoggie, although I'm not sure they were intended or would be subscribed to by the writers. As someone who used to live in two civilized countries and now lives in the US, however, I find your point very well taken.

dez said...

Not much to add, just another WOW (with a side of HOLY SH!!!T!).

I bought Marcos going for the ax to make Hank suffer more, especially after Hank crushed Leonel. I'm just glad it wasn't Marie they went after because she'd be dead.

I wonder if Walt will feel any bit of responsibility for what happened to Hank, assuming he learns who the Cousins are?

Drew said...

I was watching this episode this afternoon while my children (5 and 4 years old) were playing in the other room. I was so engrossed in the final scene I didn't even notice they had come in the room and were watching too. I noticed just as the cousins started shooting on Hank. So at least they missed the final mind-blowing shot. :)

Yeah, I think I ruined my children forever. Or, they'll grow up appreciating brilliant cinematography. Yeah, that's it!

Shane Schleger said...

A lot of that last scene is reminiscent (in a good way) of sequences from Heat (the early scene in the parking lot where Waingro escapes, the scene in the Drive-In where Neil has to put the car in reverse in order to avoid death by gunfire, as well as the final confrontation at LAX) and The Terminator (pretty self-evident--"terminolo!").

I guess if I had one technical question, it would be, Why didn't Hank fire one of the first 4-5 shots he got off at the guy's head? I think the scene would not have suffered if Hank's final assailant took a shot to the arm and still kept upright.

Amazing episode, great review.

Anonymous said...

"Why didn't Hank fire one of the first 4-5 shots he got off at the guy's head?"

Police/feds are trained to aim for the chest because it's a much bigger target than the head. He quick-fires those rounds, using all his bullets (he's probably panicking a little by then, and certainly desperate). It's only when he realizes the guy's wearing a vest that he aims for the head.

Actually, knowing that feds are trained that way, when Hank got the gun up I shouted "NONONO!" at the TV, knowing that he was going to waste his bullets on chest shots that we already knew would be ineffectual because of the vests.

Kristi said...

Wow wow wow. After having to wait until last night (and somehow avoid spoilers and not read this recap) to finally watch this episode, I can wholeheartedly say it was worth the wait. This is the kind of TV that renews your faith in the medium and reminds you how sickeningly good shows like "Breaking Bad" really are compared to most of the other crap on TV these days. The rest is my $.02...

1) If Aaron Paul isn't nominated for an Emmy after his performance in this episode, I will officially consider the Emmys a sham.

2) Unlike some other commenters here, I find it quite believable that Cousin #2 would let his emotions get the better of him when it came to finishing off Hank. The other killings on their way to get Walther (and then Hank) were more or less a means to an end, but Hank's death was personal for them (revenge for the family). I felt the flashback in the beginning of the show helped set up that moment in reminding us that The Cousins, for as heartless and cold-blooded as they appeared, were once children and still had some human emotion left in them, so I can see them letting emotion get the best of them in finishing Hank off as painfully as possible. Plus, The Cousins weren't terribly meticulous when it came to their other kills (i.e. carelessly disposing of the woman's body whose house they shacked up in).

#3- I can't imagine the call to Hank came from anyone other than Mike (the Fixer). The "one minute" comment seemed to indicate that the caller knew that The Cousins were within walking distance of Hank's car at that point, and I don't see either a) Gus or b) Hank's boss tailing him.

#4- More than anything, this episode solidified in my own mind how I see the endgame to this series. I find it hard to believe that there's any way this can possibly end well for Walter, and at this point, I can't say that he doesn't have it coming, and deservedly so.

Frank Drackman said...

Best Part had to be Hank punchin in Jesse's whiny face...

digamma said...

What amazes me about this show is that it always gives you something unexpected and memorable. Now, sometimes that's a human head on an exploding tortoise. But not always. Sometimes it's an emotional moment between a husband and wife. The show works on both of those levels and switches between them seamlessly.

Anonymous said...

kristi: i thought about mike "the fixer" too...but how would he know? are we to believe that he does nothing but follow all the lives of the characters in this show simultaneously? his is an intriguing character, but... to the person that wondered how 2 cartel hit men couldn't finish off on unarmed agent: my cousin spent 25 yrs in So. America for the DEA and he retired one very dangerous dude. they find a way, find a way, always survive. hank's success is totally believable to my cousin. BTW he is blown away by this show, too.

Kristi said...

Anonymous- I think Gus put Mike on Hank's tail the moment after he offered up Hank to The Cousins in exchange for keeping Walt alive. I think Gus's other motive for offering up Hank was that he really wanted to get rid of The Cousins, and the best way to do that was by having them try to kill a DEA agent much more capable and trained to protect himself from harm (and also would get a little help from Mike's "guardian angel" phone call) instead- plus, the connection to The Cousins and Hank (and Tuco) makes perfect sense and deflects any heat from Walt.

Hollywoodaholic said...

Great ep, but I totally expected a coda to the first elevator moment with his wife where he broke down, to the second elevator moment where he found he the charges were dropped. Doors close. He pumps his fists and has a total celebration moment. Then doors open, he's back to business face. I thought that's where they were going. Just a slight missed opportunity in an otherwise brilliant episode.

Jungle Orangeman said...

@ Gnet "I have a slight headache from the adrenaline charge."

I feel ya on that. That was so amazing, beginning flashback (Chicken Man reminds me of Finger Man/Stand and Deliver), Tour de Force acting/tension-packed middle, and that wwwild ending that did not get spoiled for me. Hank the Tank baby! Type O donors step up, the man is bleedin'

bleibtreu said...

"Police/feds are trained to aim for the chest because it's a much bigger target than the head."

Exactly. The term used is usually "center of mass" -- because depending upon the position of the person being fired on, it's not always the chest. Basically, fire at the biggest part of the target to minimize the chance of missing completely, and accordingly to minimize the chance of stray rounds hitting bystanders.

Kujo said...

This show better win the emmy for best drama. No disrespect to Mad Men, I like the show, but there's nothing better than "Breaking Bad" right now.

Just a phenomenal episode. Just when you think the drama, and tension couldn't surpass last week's ep. Wow.

Anonymous said...

WOW! Best episode yet. Hank's breakdown and stoic swallowing of the punishment was awesome. Definite Emmy Nom. Only thing missing from the episode was a Badger sighting.

A question for the crowd, where can I get a shiny axe like Marco's? Home Depot and Lowe's don't seem to carry them.

Skyler's reaction to Walt's new digs was the perfect combination of jealously disguised as disgust.

My bet is that Hank gets his mojo back and will be back at the DEA soon.

Anonymous said...

Echo everyone's blown awayedness.

I just want to be clear that Tio wasn't talking to Frings but rather about him in the open. And his diatribe against South Americans is odd, unless we are to believe that Gus is a native spanish speaker, when _clearly_ G. Esposito is not, or that he was on the phone with a S. American, in chich case why would they be voting together over giving Frings the territory. Surely the Mexicans don't have to share New Mexico w/other Latinos?

Anonymous said...

I love this program, and I loved this episode.

I work in this field -- not DEA but close -- and the subject matter is very close to me.

The only part that rang a little hollow, frankly, was Jesse's rant in the hospital about how he was going to "own" Hank until he killed himself.

First, the beat-down wasn't that "valuable" in a lawsuit sense. And, it would likely be the feds that paid, not Hank personally, since the feds are the deep pocket and Jesse's lawyer would have advised him to go after the deep pocket.

"Pressing" criminal charges wouldn't be Jesse's call -- victims don't get to unilaterally decide who gets prosecuted for crimes. The DA would have to make the call whether to prosecute Hank.

We as viewers saw the attack was unprovoked, but in a courtroom it would be a "he said/he said" matter, with the differing accounts being offered by a drug dealer/user and a decorated DEA agent. In such circumstances -- especially given the provocation -- my bet would be that no DA would ever file.

Hank would face DEA discipline, but believe it or not, what he did PROBABLY wouldn't be a firing offense. Suspension, loss of rank/seniority, maybe forced into an early retirement if eligible, but not a firing.

Other than that, a great hour of TV.

Anonymous said...

"I think Gus put Mike on Hank's tail the moment after he offered up Hank to The Cousins in exchange for keeping Walt alive."

He had to be following the Cousins, not Hank, in order to know that they were a minute away. Even then, it's a bit fuzzy -- maybe he had a tracking device on somebody?

Anonymous said...

"Jesse's lawyer would have advised him to go after the deep pocket."

The thing is, Hank wasn't there officially as a fed (though I agree Saul would be anxious to try), and Jesse wants personal revenge on Hank.

Anonymous said...

might this be the best show of this genre in recent TV history? the best episode? for sheer suspence, it's closest rivals are the John Le Carre adaptations done on PBS in the early 80's. what is extraordinary is the writers' ability to "share the wealth" amongst the entire cast. seasons 1&2 belonged to Cranston. this year...how many stellar award-worthy performances have we seen? every week, it seems, surpasses the previous week. the best TV ever, hands down: BBC's adapation of the Evelyn Waugh classic Brideshead Revisited. best American TV drama: BB.

bleibtreu said...

On the subject of Jesse's threat about "owning" Hank "ringing hollow," remember that it was only Jesse talking. That's what he planned, and what he thought could happen -- but that doesn't mean in actually would be so easy.

Remember, too, that Saul -- the lawyer, who would actually know the likely outcomes -- advised against pursuing the matter at all.

bleibtreu said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
madmenfan said...

Lets not get carried away please. Mad Men remains the best show currently on television and it would be a travesty if the show was robbed of recognition. Mad Men had an extroardinary season as well.

Anonymous said...

Great line- Walt (to Gale): This is chemistry, degrees matter!"

Rubbing in that Gale only has a masters degree.

Danke Bleibtreu, for the chrome axe link. Now, I just need a wheelchair accessible van, kevlar vests, shiny suits and I can terrorize NM!

Anonymous said...

Great way to end it but im left mad by the whole bullet next to Hank...when u watch its it fall out next to the guys shoe its no were near Hanks location at all...then poof its right there next to him in arms reach..wtf? not well thought out.

Joshua said...

To all of those who have stated the bullet was not within Hank's reach, you are mistaken. Marco dispatched the random shopper man and attempted to take out the shrieking woman, but had spent the entire clip. He stops to reload behind the cream-colored pickup truck where the bullet falls from his pocket. As (the cousin) walks to the side of the truck, Hank pops out from behind the very same pickup and takes his four shots, before being taken down. He falls backwards into the same general area where the bald badass dropped the brain shredding bullet.

Angela said...

anonymous wrote:
possibilities for "Mas" include Milliarcsecond, Multiagent system, and MasAir.
AcronymFinder: "Mas"
Wikipedia: "Mas"

Mas also means "but" in Spanish

DC said...

Incredible episode. Might I say that the way BB deploys its rogues gallery of character actor guest stars keeps impressing me. They show rather than tell (and I guess keep the budget down?)

Beal said...

I'm sure no one will read this, but "más" in Spanish means "more" (not "but"..."pero" means "but").