Breaking Bad Episode 306 “Sunset”

breaking_bad_print_306_535x320“This is my own private domicile and I will not be harassed…bitch!”

What an episode. Such good, classic, edge-of-your-seat drama. Walt and Jesse are about to be caught. There’s no escape. Crouching around the RV. It’s kind of nice to see Walt and Jesse thrown into a situation where they have to be on the same side. They might not be thrilled with each other but this is a situation where they’re forced to work together. Of course, Walter White comes up with a solution. As Badger would say, it’s kinda dickish of him. He feels bad, but what else can he do? Another little piece of his soul.

Hank, man, he’s not having a great day. Look at all that crap in his car. He hasn’t been home or eaten a proper meal in awhile. He’s going totally rogue from his DEA duties. The intervention of Old Joe (the junkyard lawyer) works so well because Hank knows that he’s off policy. Old Joe is reminding Hank of things he probably already knows about what won’t hold up in court, what’s unlawful, and he’s trying to steamroll past it. All of this was started as a way for Hank to deal with, really overcompensate for, his decision not to go to El Paso.

And just to make Hank’s life worse, Gus has now directed The Cousins (they speak!) to kill Hank and leave Walter White alone. Man, those Cousins are scary. LOVE the coupling of the apple and the ax in that teaser. Love those dudes in general. What powerful characters.

And Walt does something really shitty to Hank here. The whole Marie ruse. The one little thing that I wish they had cut from this episode is showing Francesca and Saul’s conversation after the call. I think it would’ve played better if they left that out. You sort of assume it’s Saul and can recognize Francesca’s voice (okay maybe that’s from watching too much Breaking Bad) and the scene where Hank runs through the hospital is sooooo well done. The music, seeing Hank’s face, and seeing his lips move without actually hearing his voice, having the color and the real sound of Marie’s ringtone fade in slowly all works together so well. That sequence is beautifully directed. And I think it might’ve had a little bit more impact without the Francesca scene.

Goodbye, RV, our old friend. Breaking Bad has been changing for awhile, well really since the beginning, but this loss of the RV marks the change in a solid way. I think that Season Two and Season Four have very distinct feels, with Four being so bleak and devoid of hope. Three is the transition, and this destruction of the RV in the middle of the season is like a way of saying that the days of the first two seasons are over. The feel of the show is getting darker. In comparison, the old RV days will feel light and heartwarming.

Walter White packs a brown paper bag lunch, replete with sandwich with the crusts cut off (a la Krazy-8?) to his new job at the meth superlab.

GALE! When I first watched this episode, I wasn’t sure if I liked Gale at first. He reminded me too much of someone I know in real life, a person I didn’t particularly want to be reminded of. He was too much of a suck up. But that feeling didn’t last, because Gale is so…lovable. And sweet and nerdy. He’s like the opposite of Jesse. He’s Walt’s equal, or almost, chemistry speaking. They are like totally made for each other. They have the same specialty – X-Ray Crystallography (this was revealed about Walt in 105 “Gray Matter”). They’re both highly educated and barely have to talk, until the end when Gale asks a question about the phenylacetic acid solution.

I don’t know if Walt wants someone who’s his equal, or that close to being his equal. Gale clearly respects Walt and is the assistant but Walt…he wants to be the genius.

I want to take a moment and diverge into talking a little bit about “When I Heard the Learn’d Astronomer” by Walt Whitman, because that poem has woven its way through different parts of my life. I don’t remember where I first heard this poem, but I put this excerpt from it into the quotes section of my old AOL profile, when I was like sixteen or seventeen:

“…I wander’d off by myself,
In the mystical moist night-air, and from time to time,
Look’d up in perfect silence at the stars.”

When I went away to college, I took an astronomy class during my first semester with Allan Weatherwax. It was one of the best college classes I ever took. The class was in the morning, and sometimes we’d have these observation sessions at night where he’d set up a telescope on the college green and we’d look at Jupiter’s moons or Saturn’s rings, the craters on the moon, the constellations and discuss the possibility of extraterrestrial life and the dark matter of the universe. The prof would always bring up books about astronomy that weren’t strictly academic. He inspired my love for Carl Sagan that persists to this day. He used to call our class “astronomy for poets” and I remember him reading us this Whitman poem.

Then, almost ten years later, when I was planning to go back to school, I sat in on classes at all the schools I was considering. I sat in on a writing class at Portland State University. I was about to leave for a three-month trip to India and had to start my malaria meds beforehand. I had taken it the night before the college tour and one of the side effects was depression (and hallucination and the first time I took it I saw fibers waving in front of my eyes, like an acid trip) and so I was depressed and miserable during the campus tour. I freakin’ hated PSU and was never going to go there. In the afternoon when I sat in on the writing class with Susan McKee Reese, their assignment was to bring in touchstones relating to writing. Some girl in the class brought in this poem. I hadn’t heard it in years, and it brought me back to my old class, my old AOL profile quote, and gave me a spark of inspiration. It seemed like a sign. To add to that, Susan’s email signature at the time was a quote from Tony Hoagland, who wrote another of my favorite poems. For a writer, I really don’t like a lot of poetry. In fact I pretty fiercely hate a lot of it, so when I like a poem or poet, it matters. I followed the signs and went to PSU.

So then to have this Whitman poem show up in my favorite TV show ever to exist in the world just somehow ties things together. For me personally, it just doesn’t get any better. I love that in this show that is so dark and full of crime, there is also poetry. Walt is seen reading Leaves of Grass before Hank calls. And it fits too, the poetry isn’t just thrown in there. Walt and Gale are both highly educated, would’ve had to take some literature classes. And I love that Gale, who is a chemist, who probably loves proofs and figures in columns (I know I do), also uses a poem like this as a touchstone to the feeling of the magic of the lab. It is so easy, in science sometimes, to forget the magic. And I just love Gale for not wanting to lose that.

306indexIt’s Marie who suggests Hank call Walt to track down Jesse’s RV. When she says she can think of someone who might know something about Jesse, Hank doesn’t even put it together. He’s all, “Who?” I don’t know if he really isn’t connecting the dots or if he sorta blocked out the whole Tuco incident and what led up to it since that’s what sparked his PTSD. This leads me to something I meant to mention in my post for 302 “Caballo Sin Nombre,” and I know has been addressed elsewhere. I always thought Marie would figure out Walt was Heisenberg. She never forgets about Walt’s connection to Jesse and the pot. She brings it up here. In 302 she tells Hank that she doesn’t think Skyler kicked Walt out over an affair, that she thinks it’s something more, whereas Hank doesn’t. If there is one place that Hank should figure out that Walt is involved but doesn’t put it together, it’s this episode. How else would this Marie in the hospital ruse work?

The look on Hank’s face after he realizes he’s been played is all I’m gonna murder Jesse Pinkman. But there’s a hit on Hank too. Shit is getting real. And Walt and Jesse start the episode running parallel meth operations. Will they continue on this way or will they start working together again?

As always, there is some amazing cinematography in this episode, especially when Walt and Jesse are in the RV. The light through the bullet holes, the mirror shot, the lighting in that whole scene. Such artistic sensibility.

~Emilia J

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