Breaking Bad Episode 207 “Negro Y Azul”

207imagesThis episode is all about new territory, literally and figuratively, on so many levels.

The previous episode, “Peekaboo” gave a much needed glimpse into the real dark and depressing and yeah, swanky, underworld that’s on the other other side of Walt and Jesse and their cooking endeavors. But it also did something else important. It set Walt and Jesse up in a position of power that they didn’t have before. As long as everyone thinks that Jesse crushed a dude’s head with an ATM machine, our dynamic duo have a new license to take new risks.

Or really, it’s just Walt who wants to. He’s kind of a greedy bastard this season. He wants to expand into other dealers’ turfs. He immediately senses the business potential inherent in people thinking Jesse killed a guy who jacked him. He knows they can feed on fear. As always, he’s real academic about it, all exponential growth and levels of distribution and initiative and nice colored maps. Walt would have made a good business shark in some ways.

But I’m not sure he knows the criminal world as well as he thinks he does. Jesse seems much more in touch with the realities of the drug dealers on the streets, and with the unspoken rules about territory and turf.

And before he even can convince Jesse to go along with this plan, Walt has to convince him to get out of bed (or sleeping bag as it may be). Jesse is having his own form of psychic pain after the events of the last episode. It’s nothing at all like the PTSD that Hank is having, at least not on the surface, but I think it sorta comes from the same place. Jesse is holed up in his apartment, not answering the door, not picking up the phone and even after he lets Walt in, he throws himself down on that sleeping bag a few times and doesn’t want to deal.

But it’s not just Walt who wants to literally push into new territory. Hank is now in El Paso, TX, and completely out of his element. He relies on his tough guy act, on his usual joke style, but it is not passing in this new place at all. I thought they did such a great job of portraying how out of place Hank feels, how he’s trying a little too hard to fit in and doing it all wrong. One example is when his fellow DEA cohorts are speaking Spanish, and there are no subtitles, so that the viewer is like Hank, a little lost in that conversation, trying to guess and put together what’s going on, alienated.

I still want to know who it was that came up with the exploding severed head on a tortoise idea. Gory but brilliant. That whole sequence is beautifully shot. There’s something almost mesmerizing about seeing that head on the turtle arrive, the slow reveal of “Hola DEA” and then Hank’s panic attack that saves his life and limbs. It’s great that after freaking out, he’s back on it, helping the other guys out.

I just gotta say, before leaving the subject of Hank’s scenes in this episode, that Danny Trejo is awesome as Tortuga.

Skyler is maybe not entering new territory so much as re-entering old territory. That guy from the picture she was looking at in Episode 201 has turned out to be Ted Beneke. That last episode also set up this turn for Skyler to look for a job. Walt convinced her that Elliot and Gretchen are broke, so there’s no more money for Walt’s treatment. And he is done with treatment for now. Dr. Delcavoli did say he could be cautiously optimistic, but the way everything’s been set up so far about Walt’s cancer, this seemed like a momentary hold, not a long-term reprieve. It’s likely he’ll need more treatment, and there is no safety net anymore. Not to mention the financial troubles the family’s been having since the pilot episode.

Interesting that Marie and Walt have heard totally different stories about why Skyler stopped working for Beneke in the past. Marie knows that Ted was “Mr. Grabby Hands” at a Christmas party once when he was drunk. Walt thinks it had something to do with welding. As Dr. House would say, “Everybody lies,” and in this family, it’s certainly true. Skyler and Walt are each resourceful in their own ways, able to tell a convincing lie when need be. There’s something about this that makes them actually seem really well-suited for each other. They’re both bullshitters.

Speaking of, how awesome was it when Walt tells that kid from his class who’s clearly full of it, “Don’t bullshit a bullshitter”?

Walt gives Jesse another sorta weird pep talk. There was something similar back in Episode 107 when Jesse didn’t think he could get methylamine and all the other materials and chemicals on Walt’s grocery list. He was going to leave town rather than risk showing up without the amount of meth that Walt had promised Tuco. And Walt did the whole, “This is the first day of the rest of your life” bit, spurring Jesse to go for a life of greatness (ha). And now he gives Jesse a similar pep talk, coaxing him back into life as a meth cook. This time he uses a blowfish analogy and gets Jesse pumped up. “I’m a blowFISH!”

It’s another stranger, almost father/son moment. The father figure talking the son figure into getting back on that horse. And again it’s a bit creepy and funny because of the context of what exactly he’s convincing Jesse to do. Add that to the earlier scene where Walt lies to Jane and says he’s Jesse’s father (Mr. Jackson!) and you can see this dynamic between these two develop and solidify.

I LOVE that when Walt has to go meet with the crew, before he gets Jesse back on the horse, they meet at the Atomic Museum. I don’t know if it’s because of the chemistry tie-in, or the conversations between Badger (not his real name), Combo and Skinny Pete, or Combo’s awesomely outrageous shirt (love) or how scared they all are of Jesse now that they think he killed a guy, but I love that scene. And how Walt doesn’t exactly lie but confirms their suspicions by that “Shhh” gesture and, “You didn’t hear it from me.”

Walt’s literal push for taking over other dealers’ territory isn’t his only push. He also wants to charge more. After just two episodes ago in 205, Jesse’s crew told him that they were already charging a lot. They could get away with it because there wasn’t much competition and their product was so great. But another price hike so soon? Walt just seems to push and push and keep pushing.

One thing that strikes me re-watching this episode, is how intricately linked they all, how even the smallest details come build on each other and create this world layer by layer (like nachos). That last episode, which seems almost like a diversion in some ways at first blush, has set up the excuse for Walt to push forward and expand his drug empire in a few different ways and the impetus for Skyler to go back to work. And we haven’t seen the last of either of these story elements.

This episode in turn build on these elements and sets up story stuff down the line. What’s going to come of Walt overstepping his territory, charging more? What’s Hank going to do in light of his seeing a severed head on a turtle blow up? What might Mr. Grabby Hands do now that Skyler’s working for him?

207aimagesAnd what of Jesse and Jane? That’s Jesse’s venturing into new territory. Kind of adorable. At the end of this episode, Jesse’s unease is like palpable. It’s radiating from the screen. There’s so much silence, so many drawn out pauses, all that searching for the satellite signal. It’s all right there–that feeling of wanting to impress someone and then having things (like the TV) not work, that feeling of putting yourself out there, not knowing exactly what you’ll get back (and Jane doesn’t give anything away), that feeling of that heightened state of fear and hope and risk and lust.

The pauses make it almost excruciating to watch; this scene that is quiet and small in a show where severed heads on turtles blow up is just as rife with tension. That’s good writing and filming right there. When Jane reaches out, sort of tentative herself, for Jesse’s hand, while still looking ahead at that big blue screen, it’s sweet relief.

This episode is halfway through Season 2 and so many pieces are set in motion.

Oh and how did I get through this whole post and forget to mention the narcocorrido music video in the beginning? In a word, awesome. But is it implying that Heisenberg is getting big for his britches, as the saying goes?

~Emilia J

Next Episode: Better Call Saul

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