This episode is all about aftermath, about the natural and unnatural consequences of what comes next and cleaning up the mess.
And let’s talk about that for a moment, because Breaking Bad takes a turn here that a lot of shows wouldn’t. The pilot episode was fast-paced with lots of dramatic action. It had pants falling from the sky, a fire, a cancer diagnosis, a meth lab bust, blackmail, a meth cook in an RV, a drug deal, two “bad guys” coming after our “heroes,” Jesse getting knocked unconscious, Walt’s ingenuous plot to kill those bad guys with some chemistry, and then a near-miss almost getting caught (not to mention Walt’s almost suicide in the process). And then we get a nice conclusive ending with Walt and Skyler in bed together.
And I think a lot of shows would’ve left it there. The next episode would go on to the next drama of the next cook and the next drug deal. The fact that Breaking Bad doesn’t do that and instead goes back to look at how they deal with getting the RV towed, and how they deal with the two bodies (and later with the fact that Krazy-8 is still alive), shows that it’s going to be a different kind of show. It’s going to hyperserialized, for one thing, novelistic. And the aftermaths of events won’t be swept under the rug or ignored, but rather explored in detail. This is a world of cause and effect. This is a show that’s going to take it’s time and deal with the high dramatics and the internal struggles.
This episode is slower than the pilot, for sure. It’s a different type of episode, and the balance and play of all these aspects is one of the things that makes BrBa so good. I mean, this episode isn’t so much high drama as it is phone calls and coin flips and ultrasounds.
There are some GREAT moments of physical comedy in this episode, like Krazy-8 running into the tree, and my favorite, Jesse at the hardware store trying to fit into the plastic containers. It’s funny to watch, and once you think about the reason he’s trying on plastic containers for size–to dispose of a body–it adds this dark layer to the humor. Love it.
Both Walt and Jesse in some ways seem so innocent in this episode, especially compared with some of what comes later. Look at what a horrible liar Walt is here, when he’s talking to the guy towing the RV, really overdoing the explanation of why they need the RV towed. He’s all stuttering and giving way too much background, sure signs of lying, and then goes on to bumble through more overexplanations of why he has no pants on (he blames it on a coffee spill). This is definitely not the world-class liar that he will eventually become.
When I was watching the series the very first time, for whatever reason–and probably because Aaron Paul is such a phenomenal actor–I thought Jesse was for real. Like I didn’t think he was acting. I thought they had found some druggie kid off the street. He seemed that real. So I think in that first marathon of watching Breaking Bad, I saw Jesse’s character, at first, as kinda hardened, the more experienced criminal of the dynamic duo. And in that, I think I missed some of his innocence that, on subsequent viewings, really does show through early on.
I mean, the kid is totally freaked out! When Walt says (and I love this line), “It seems to me that our best course of action would be chemical disincoporation, dissolving with hydrofluoric acid,” Jesse’s all quietly, “You can’t be serious,” and then, “You’re serious?” It hits home even more later on, when he’s trying to psyche himself up to dispose of Emilio (who we find out in a later episode he’s known since third grade).
Visually, I was really drawn to the deep red of the stairs in Jesse’s house.
They’re both in way over their heads. As much as Jesse is the more experienced criminal, it’s been pretty low-level. Both Walt and Jesse have crossed some lines they weren’t really prepared to cross. And there will be no going back. And on a somewhat related note, I think every time I’ve watched this, even the very first time, when Walter and Jesse are discussing who’s going to dissolve the body and who’s going to kill Krazy-8, it just seems like it would be totally unforgivable if Walt left Jesse to do the murder. Maybe it’s the age difference, or the fact that Walt blackmailed him into it and was the one to poison the guys in the RV. But it was Jesse who brought Emilio and Krazy-8 to the cook site. Still it just seems like it would be totally wrong if he had to be the one to deal with Krazy-8.
Gotta mention this quote: “Oh, like I came to you, begging to cook meth. ‘Hey, nerdiest old dude I know, wanna come cook crystal?’ Please. I’d ask my diaper-wearing granny but her wheelchair wouldn’t fit in the RV!”
This episode has my favorite of Walt’s lectures. I heart chirality. In fact, when I was taking organic chemistry, my professor talked about the same example (thalidomide) but in a bit more detail than Walt does with his high school students. It’s also one of the longest lecture scenes we get of Walt teaching chemistry.
I want to talk about the scene between Walt and Skyler at her ultrasound appointment. Now, going through the show again, I see some of what others saw in Skyler’s character that I never did originally. I don’t know, I never found her annoying. I think this is the kind of show in which you can see things from just about any character’s perspective, and I could always see hers. I also think a bit part of it for me was what Walt says into the video recorder early on in the pilot. It’s so clear that he loves her that it makes me the viewer (immediately identifying with the main character) want to feel the same way, to love the family Walt wants to go to such great lengths to fight for. But this time, I sorta see it more. I really do feel that her character, as well as Hank’s, was not as rounded this early on. And she was all looking up Jesse and going to his house and being a little too nosy and messing with the “fun” our meth cook protagonists were having. Still though, I’ve gotta say something in her defense because really, Walt was acting pretty strange, hadn’t come home until really late the night before, didn’t even offer an explanation, then was late to her appointment, and was clearly lying to her about the phone call from Jesse. So I don’t think she was being unreasonable in that, given the situation.
And then of course, Jesse gets into trouble while Walt was away, putting Emilio’s body into the tub and pouring on the HF. And this leads to that great scene of the blood and guts and acid leaking, then plopping and then totally crashing through the ceiling. And there’s still a guy in Jesse’s basement with his neck in a bike lock, tethered to a pole. Walt gave him food, water and a makeshift toilet even though this guy tried to kill him and Jesse the day before. This mess is far from cleaned up, literally.
- Breaking Bad Pilot Episode
- Weak Interactions – The Science of Breaking Bad: Cat’s In the Bag… (explores all the science elements of this episode–chirality, hydroflouric acid dissolution, LDPE plastic, etc).