In the last episode, Walt broke into his own house and in this one he stays, even when Skyler comes home and calls the cops. Walt’s been consistent on this–he cares more about getting his family back more than he cares about getting turned in, that if he doesn’t have his family, it’s all been for nothing.
Walt says to Skyler in their talk later in the episode that he’s made sacrifices. At first, it seems a little disingenuous. What has he really sacrificed? Yeah he’s gone through hard times, but overall, he’s been the one causing harm, killing, lying, and sometimes he has thoroughly enjoyed being Heisenberg. But I do think that in doing these things, Walt chose to sacrifice pieces of his soul. He’s sacrificed his conscience. His ability to truly believe he’s not the bad guy. He has to know, every day, that he let a girl die, a girl who the person that’s like a son to him loved more than anything. As Walt says, he has to live with the choices he’s made. It might not be the same kind of cost others have had to pay or suffer, but it’s still something.
Who knew that it was The Cousins who killed Tortuga? I loved that teaser, the flashback to something that happened in Season Two and ties in to the mounting drama in Season Three. Those Cousins are pretty badass scary guys. The filming of the teaser is so artful–the coloring, the odd close-ups like the lighting of the cigarette, the slow, slow build to an ending the viewer already knows. The slow burn only gets worse when Tortuga’s boss makes subtle, then less subtle comments about Tortuga’s words flowing like rivers, talking too much, and you know that he knows that Tortuga talked to the DEA.
El Paso wants Hank back and Hank plays it cool and upbeat, as he always does when he’s getting freaked out. So much emotion is captured in this episode without characters directly speaking about it, one of the things that Breaking Bad does so well, over and over and over, that so many shows don’t. So many shows would have Hank have some big talk with Marie, or Walt, or Gomez about how he’s not sure he wants to go back to El Paso. Or would have Jesse cry to someone about how much he misses Jane. Characters would tell, tell, tell.
But here, it’s different. It’s more real. Characters don’t process out loud immediately to everyone around and talk it out. Just like people in real life, they express it in different ways. Hank gets into a bar fight with some meth skells, going to the seediest bar. Jesse dials Jane’s number over and over to listen to her voice on her voicemail greeting until her phone gets disconnected. He barely has any dialogue this episode. Just a few lines to Saul. It just plays more real this way.
Another thing that plays real–and I know people are going to disagree–is what Skyler does. It’s not a good thing, but it’s very human. Skyler gets pushed into a corner. Walt has called her bluff, and is back in the house. She can’t bring herself to tell the cops anything. When she tells her divorce lawyer, she doesn’t get any relief, because she just won’t turn Walt in or let the kids find out what Walt has been doing. But she still wants him out. She also has to get painted as the bad guy. Walt Jr blames her. Hank and Marie think she’s wrong for keeping Walt away, and she takes it because she doesn’t want to reveal what Walt’s been up to. As she tells her lawyer, she thinks maybe she can just wait it out. Wait Walt out. Incredibly sad. Those lines speak such volumes about how trapped she feels.
And you know, she has every right to be upset with Walt. As viewers, we identify with him and tend to be on his side, or at least fascinated by what he’s going to do next and who he will turn out to be. But from Skyler’s perspective, Walt has lied, lied, lied to her, caused all kinds of disruptions in the family (fugue state anyone?) and he’s a criminal. It’s reasonable that she wants him out, that she thinks it might not be a good idea for the kids to be around him. Walt doesn’t see it that way, which is natural, but it makes sense that she does.
And I think it’s a very real and human thing that sometimes when a person feels cornered like that, they break bad in a different way, and sleep with someone. I think it gets to a point when it feels like there is no way out, that a person will do just about anything to rebel, to escape the situation for a minute, to hurt the person back. Like I said, not pretty at all, but, it’s been known to happen (about a billion times over and then some) in the course of human history. It’s a lot more ordinary and mundane than cooking meth.
So I know people hate Skyler for what she does in this episode. I don’t, as bad as it is. And it is a different kind of breaking bad, because it breaks loyalty in a different way. And loyalty is big on this show. Walt and Jesse are loyal to each other. Remember how fucked up Jesse was over feeling like he rolled on Walt, and how Jane couldn’t understand? Or how his word is his bond? Or all the times Walt and Jesse have stood up for each other. And Walt is very loyal to his family. He loves them, even Hank who could end up being his undoing. I don’t think Walt has ever, over the course of the show, wanted to abandon his family in any way. Even as some viewers have hated Skyler, Walt has loved her. And so Skyler does break this unspoken adherence to loyalty in this show that does make her crime feel worse, even though Walt’s meth-making and murder are objectively bigger crimes. But I don’t hate her for this. It’s just such a terribly human for her character to take under the circumstances. People have cheated, strayed and messed around over a lot less.
One thing I really love about this whole sequence is that Walt is all talking about honesty and how good it is, and then Skyler drops the “I fucked Ted” bomb. This is the first time though that he’s had a real honest conversation with her about why he’s doing. It comes right after Ted says essentially the same thing to Skyler in the previous episode.
The Salamanca family also has a whole lot of loyalty. Watching this episode, I was struck by how much reverence is shown toward this man who can’t speak or walk, who’s stroke-stricken and disabled and old. It’s a little unexpected, how this man is still the seat of power and respect even though he can only communicate through a bell. You would almost expect the others to be irritated with him, to not want to carry his chair, but there’s none of that. Tio is the man.
And here is where we find out, definitively, that these two mysterious dudes are Tuco’s cousins, the ones he referred to in Episode 202 when he said his cousins were coming up from Mexico. In fact, when Walt and Jesse heard a car approaching, Walt thought it was The Cousins (but it was Hank). Once again, Breaking Bad takes a little stray comment from awhile ago and makes it into a full arc.
Gus now has this pressure about Walt. The Cousins might not be able to be patient. They want blood. Is Gus going to rethink his position on fear as an effective motivator now that he has to get his business dealings with Walt over with as soon as possible so The Cousins can have their revenge? And how cold is he when he says they can get that revenge once he’s done with business dealings with Walt? A good reminder that Gus is a businessman, that to him, people are pretty expendable.
So Walt pees in the sink. When ya gotta go, ya gotta go. I’ve heard that this part really grosses people out. My reaction was a little different. Actually, I took this scene in stride, partly because I used to know someone who did that a lot (I’m laughing while writing this but for real it’s true). Actually, I’ll probably gross people out more with this. I have no idea why–maybe he thought that using the bathroom would wake me up or something (by the layout of the apartment this made sense but I really don’t know) but this guy I used to date and live with used to always pee in a jar and pour it in the sink when he had to go at night. I don’t think he knew that I knew, but yeah, I did. Sorry for the personal and probably gross digression. Just wanted to say that what Walt did didn’t faze me too much. And also, that scene was a silent way of showing, without dialogue, how Walt felt shut out.
And so far, Michelangelo still won’t paint. But Jesse (the sous chef?) is cooking without the maestro.
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