Is it me or is this season already flying by way too fast?
So let’s get to Season 5, Episode 2, “Madrigal.”
The opening shot is a perfectly swirled blob of mustard. I’m not sure if this was intended or not, but I immediately thought of the pilot episode, when Walt first finds out he has cancer and all he can focus on is the mustard stain on the doctor’s coat.
It looks like we are in for some unexpected teasers this season. This one went from Madrigal Electromotive exec Schuler taste-testing such flavors as “Franch” and “Cajun Kick-Ass” with a look of dread (he knows what’s coming) to killing himself with a defibrillator. I think the most compelling moment of that whole sequence was when he put the lead under his tongue. If he was the least bit unsure about what he was doing before, that was *the* decisive moment.
When he first starts taking off his jacket to perform his suicidal task, I immediately thought of Gus exquisitely taking off his jacket and folding it before making himself vomit the poisoned tequila in “Salud.” Schuler does have a level of care in that scene, removing clothes layer by layer, but he’s not as meticulous as Gus (could anyone ever be?) and in an interview about “Madrigal” Vince Gilligan says the connection wasn’t intentional, even though many fans and critics had the same thoughts. Even the pristine clinical feel of the lab feels a little like Gus.
Other notes from the teaser:
They were taking down the Los Pollos Hermanos sign, wow.
Was that Lydia in the background during the taste-testing? Because of my blindness, I sometimes have trouble distinguishing faces, especially in the background, but a few people to the right behind the guy presenting “Franch” and the other flavors, was a woman who looked a lot like Lydia, with her hair parted in the exact same place. Can anyone confirm or deny?
In terms of the story moving forward, the main goal of this episode was to establish that they’re going to start cooking meth again and to get Mike into business with Walt and Jesse. He wouldn’t join them willingly because as he says to Walt, “You’re like a time bomb, tick, tick, ticking away and I have no intention of being there for the boom.” So there had to be some external motivation for Mike to reconsider. That comes when the DEA uncovers and seizes the 2+ million dollars he had saved for his granddaughter.
So much in “Madrigal” hinges on the DEA finding Gus’s Cayman Island account info at the end of “Live Free or Die,” which probably would’ve remained hidden if Walt, Mike and Jesse hadn’t used the magnet to destroy Gus’s laptop, destroying the picture frame that hid the info in the process. Hank says to Gomez that Gus’s laptop was encrypted and they probably wouldn’t have been able to get anything from it anyway, the implication being that if Walt, Jesse and Mike hadn’t pulled their stunt, everything might’ve been fine. The DEA wouldn’t have the offshore account info that informed them about who was on Gus’s secret payroll, and they wouldn’t be seizing it, which is the thing that’s pushing Mike’s “solid” guys to maybe not be so solid. And it’s eventually what makes Mike tell Walt, “I’m in.” Now, like Walt in the pilot, Mike needs to start making some money to leave behind for his family, in his case Kaylee. I love that we see the picture Kaylee drew of Mike before we see Mike in his first scene of the episode.
That scene between Mike and Hank was pretty surreal. You just don’t expect a scene between those two characters. They are both solid, both unwavering. Mike calls Gomez’s bluff and never gives himself away in any slight body movements or facial expressions. He could pull it off, but I don’t think Hank buys it, at all. It reminded me of the episode “Bit by a Dead Bee” in Season 2, when Hank questions Jesse about the money they found in his car after Tuco dies and Jesse says he knows nothing about it and has to walk away without it. Mike did the same thing here. The government has A LOT of the drug money that has been made through Gus and Walt’s enterprises, in one way or another. It always seems that something Walt does is what keeps the DEA and Hank on the trail of Heisenberg.
When Hank and Gomez drink with Merkert, who’s apparently taking the fall for not catching Gus (after all, there’s that framed picture of the two of them, with that huge check that says, “Don’t Meth With Us,” lol) but as PolloMan pointed out over at freeforums, what REAL evidence does the DEA have? There is everything that Hank put together in Season 4 that led him to Gus and the laundry. The fingerprint at Gale’s apartment, the ties between Gale and Madrigal and Los Pollos and Gus, the electrical use anomalies at the laundry. Then there are other circumstantial things, like Gus being murdered by an old cartel dude, the laundry underground lab being burned and destroyed after Hank investigates, Schuler’s suicide instead of facing questions, and Gus’s account info. Is that enough? And what exactly clicked in Hank’s mind when Merkert talks about having Gus over for the 4th of July? Merkert says that Gus turned out to be a completely different person and was hiding right in front of him, and Hank (not immediately but in a “wait for it” sort of way) has this expression like a light bulb has gone off for him. Is it too soon for him to suspect Walt?
I’ve also been thinking about this: What if Marie figures it out? I think she might be able to see through Walt a little more than Hank does. I’m just thinking of that scene early in season 3 when Hank and Marie discuss Walt and Skyler’s separation. Hank seems to assume Walt is cheating, and Marie says she thinks Skyler would tell her that, and that it feels bigger than that. Plus, being Skyler’s sister, she might be able to read things from Skyler (especially now that Skyler’s all depressed and freaked out) that Hank can’t.
Speaking of the DEA, I’m not sure I believed that Madrigal exec who spoke to them. I think we’ll see him again. He was pretty eager to blame Schuler, “Innocent men don’t commit suicide,” and just a little too polished. It has to go beyond Schuler, right? Or will the Madrigal Electromotive story end here? Walt and Jesse could go back to smaller time cooking on a new “Crystal Ship” (loved that) but what about that production schedule Gus always talked about? I guess I’d feel a little disappointed if we don’t see a little more with Madrigal Electromotive because they’ve been mentioned on and off since Season 3 (freakin’ genius writing), so it seems like the story with the company has to go somewhere more. Lydia being in that DEA/Madrigal scene seems to indicate that there will be more.
For the record, I don’t think Lydia was Gus’s lover or ex-wife as a lot of the talk going around seems to suggest. I’d bet she was doing some accounting or purchasing or administration for Gus’s drug empire through Madrigal. I also don’t think Gus was gay (keep reading that online). I always thought Max was Gus’s drug partner (like Walt and Jesse are drug partners), not life partner.
I’m SURE we’re going to see more of Lydia. I find her a very compelling character. Neurotic and nervous, but believable. In rewatching the episode, it struck me even more how similar she is to Walt. I think in terms of temperament, Walt is trying to fill Gus’s shoes. He’s trying to be more meticulous (hiding ricin in the electric socket), he’s manipulating people the way Gus did and using Jesse to do it, just as Gus did. When Saul says that cooking in town is more dangerous, Walt says, “if Gus can do it, so can we.” I don’t think it’s in Walt’s nature to be Gus–Gus was way more composed and inscrutable than Walt will ever be–but he’s trying. And in a similar way, Lydia is filling the shoes of Walt’s old temperament. She’s totally paranoid, totally ill-equipped for this line of work (remember Walt in Season 1? How Jesse chides him for picking that abandoned parking lot or whatever it was to meet Tuco, saying something like, “This is a non-drug dealer’s idea of drug dealing”), in over her head, unstable and extremely reactive. You might say volatile. Or you might say she is like a time bomb, tick, tick, ticking away.
The exchange that really brought this home was when she hands Mike the list of names. Mike, having no delusions about himself or anyone, immediately knows she wants him to kill all the people on the list. She sort of pretends that’s not what she wants but then admits it is. How similar was that to Walt in the season premiere? He asks where the evidence room is and Mike immediately knows he’s thinking about planting some sort of bomb. Walt tries to deny it, “No one said anything about a bomb,” then admits he was thinking about “some sort of device.” The way Walt and Lydia handle situations is similar and there are a lot of parallels between the two characters. Lydia is a loose cannon. She may be able to procure them some methylamine which they seem to have no other way of getting, but she’s trouble.
God though, how brilliant was that scene between Lydia and Mike? In her panic, she wanted her daughter to find her dead body so she wouldn’t think Lydia had abandoned her. That was an interesting turn. The question is, did Mike really originally intend to kill her? I think it could be debated either way. He said more to her than he did to Chris. All he asked Chris was, “Are you ready?” then shot him. He says to Lydia, “if you have anything to say to me, now’s the time,” and then when she doesn’t, “Two good men died today because of you.” Either he’s just trying to say stuff until the nanny leaves or he wanted her to recant her actions and work with him. Or he originally wanted to kill her but her total freakout and her little daughter (who probably reminded him of Kaylee and why he does what he does) changed his mind.
I liked the scene with Kaylee a lot (Hungry Hungry Hippos!) and then later how Mike used her stuffed pig toy as a decoy when sneaking up on Chris. We keep seeing these two sides of Mike. There was a similar scene at the end of Season 3 when he’s playing grandpa to Kaylee, gives her balloons, saves one for himself then uses it to take out the transformer to the chemical plant where Chow works. Again, I love the recurring characters like Chow, Kaylee, even the roomba.
Oh yes, the roomba. That whole sequence after the teaser was surreal and scary. To hear the phone call where Jesse is freaking out, worried that he lost the ricin somewhere and someone could find it and die, and then at the same time see Walt carefully make a fake ricin cig with salt that he can plant in Jesse’s apartment and hide the real ricin in a socket (loved that) just showed Walt as remorseless Heisenberg. I loved the montage of Walt and Jesse tossing Jesse’s house. So many great camera angles during that sequence and I like that you see the roomba during that montage, before it comes back around when they’re on the couch. Jesse is taking the search seriously, but Walt, though he is wearing those yellow gloves, is going through the motions (and must, at some point, plant it in the roomba). It’s weirdly like he’s making a big deal out of thinking Jesse’s making too big a deal about the ricin cig. And the kicker is when they’re sitting on the couch as if having given up and the roomba rolls around and Walt goes, “What the hell is that?” Walt is quite the actor.
When Jesse find the “ricin” cig and breaks down crying, things were happening on so many levels and it was disturbing and hard to watch. Jesse, who was originally exactly right that Walt poisoned Brock through Saul and had Huell take the cig from him, now thinks he made a terrible mistake and starts crying over how he almost shot Walt over it and says things like, “What’s wrong with me?” Walt, who set up this whole manipulation, comes in as the father figure, comforts him saying things like, “I wouldn’t change a thing,” and hammers home the point that the two of them defending each other is what’s kept them alive. He then talks about going forward. It’s true, they’ve saved each other time and again, but lately it’s been all Jesse saving Walt and not the other way around. This scene also makes you wonder if, up until finding the “ricin” cig in the roomba, Jesse still on some level suspected Walt.
By the way, I love that Jesse still calls Walt “Mr. White,” even while sobbing. And on another note, I kinda want a roomba.
Walt has Jesse in the palm of his hand. Jesse now distrusts his own (correct) instincts about what happened with Brock, which I could see leading to more self-distrust, trusting Walt over what he knows is the truth. And through comforting Jesse and acting like the father figure Jesse desperately wants Walt to be, Walt has him ripe to agree to cooking again. And to top it off, Walt owes Jesse money, which I think is part of the manipulation, keeping them connected. Walt has in the past, almost always found some reason to try to not give Jesse money, and I just think the way Walt is acting like they are so even now, and mentioning that he owes Jesse money is not some newfound respect but all part of Walt’s playing Jesse like a fiddle. Plus is Walt really THAT broke? That doesn’t seem real. Consider this article.
And if we had any questions about Walt feeling any guilt over poisoning an innocent kid, we can rest assured that he wouldn’t change a thing. Ugh. I’ve thought of myself as “totally Team Jesse” for awhile now but always still sorta rooted for Walt as part of the pair, as the original protagonist, as a damaged guy who started out with somewhat justifiable intentions but has now become a monster who is much harder to root for. We barely see his humanity, except when he plays with his baby.
Jesse is freaking out and breaking down because he still has a conscience, and because he’s being lied to and manipulated by Walt. The same could be said of Skyler.
Again, the episode ended with a totally spooky scene between Walt and Skyler. All through the episode, Skyler was in a huge funk, not wanting to get out of bed or work at the carwash. When she gets up to shower, you almost think she’s just moving so Walt won’t touch her. Walt thinks it’s all guilt about Ted, tells her “it’ll pass” (how much does that say about him?) but she’s also terrified of him. Watch her face in that scene, the way her lip trembles and she starts crying. And Walt being Walt, unaware of anyone’s feelings but his own, kisses her and tries to tell her that it’s all good because they’re doing what they do for family. Like last week, this final scene between them seemed so creepy, empty and ominous. And kinda gross. Both episodes left me feeling a little icky at the end.
And can we talk about Saul’s socks? Amazing. I love his crazy wardrobe so much. And he’s STILL wearing the Wayfarer 515 ribbon!
P.S. From here on out, I’ll be posting a more in-depth look at some aspect of the show every Sunday before the new episode airs, then episode reviews each week by Monday or Tuesday, and then non-BrBa posts (writing, albinism, blindness, science, etc) on Weds or Thurs, and the usual writing sample every Friday.
- Breaking Bad: Walter White’s Moral Demise and the People Jesse Pinkman Loves
- Breaking Bad Episode 501 “Live Free or Die”
- My Official Breaking Bad Season 5 Predictions Post
WordPress Blog Reviews of “Madrigal”
- Basket of Kisses
- Sidekick Reviews
- Neon Dreams
- Tucker’s Hole
- Weak Interactions: The Science of Breaking Bad
Critics’ Reviews, Interviews, Etc
- Spoiled Bastard Q&A for Ep. 2 “Madrigal” (this was fun, I got to join in this time)
- Maureen Ryan: ‘Breaking Bad’ Recap: Mike Has A Bad Day
- ‘Breaking Bad’: Showrunner Vince Gilligan talks about ‘Madrigal’
- ‘Franch’ Dressing Origins Revealed by Vince Gilligan
AMC Extras for “Madrigal”
- AMC Breaking Bad Episode Guide
- AMC Inside Breaking Bad 502 “Madrigal” (says it contains scenes from Ep 503 so if you’re spoilerphobic, beweare)
Forum discussion threads for “Madrigal”