Breaking Bad Episode 309 “Kafkaesque”

Screen Shot 2013-06-22 at 3.15.16 PMWalter and Jesse may be working together again, but they’re still at odds with each other. They’ve been on separate trajectories this season, and at this point, I think they still are, at least on the surface. They’re having such different reactions to the job in the superlab. It’s like a regular job, with regular hours and a quota and you can even pack a brown bag lunch if you want. From the teaser, you get a sense of the superlab as part of one big assembly line. You also get a global sense of how Gus’s operation works, how organized and orchestrated it is, in just a few minutes.

Jesse misses being a criminal, feeling like a criminal. He’s also figured out–and it’s pretty funny when he says how he calculated it so many times–that though they’re getting paid extremely well for what they do, in Walt’s words, percentage-wise, not so much. They’re getting a lot of money but not a big piece of the pie. Oh I am dying to connect this to Season Five, but out of not wanting to spoil anything for those who may not have seen it yet, I won’t. Just, how funny is it to see this scene, after watching 506? Everything on this show comes back in different ways.

But Walt’s okay with it, and Jesse wonders why. “What happened to you?” he asks. And he has a point. The Walt we know is kind of a greedy bastard. He made Jesse “handle it” with Spooge when their share showed up short. He made Jesse hunt down what happened to Badger when Badger hadn’t paid up yet (when he got busted). You got the sense that if his take was three cents short, he would’ve hunted down what happened to those three cents. So why is Walt so okay with getting such a small percentage of the profits from his product? He’s clearly calculated it already. He’s not only willing to take such a small cut but to essentially give Gus some extra free meth.

What happened is that Walter is afraid of Gus. In the episode before, he put so much together about who Gus is, how much power he has. Walt is clearer than ever about who he works for. He knows that Gus spared his life and directed The Cousins onto Hank. He knows that Gus knew a lot more about him and his family than he ever suspected. There are more important things to worry about in the wake of Hank getting attacked than what percentage of the meth money pie he gets to take home.

308indexSo Walt goes to see Gus at the chicken factory. He’s had time to think. He was in Hank’s hospital room as Hank told Gomez about the warning he received, and about the landscape of the blue meth and where it’s showing up. Walt puts it all together and has to go see Gus. Such a great scene. Both men are so businesslike. Inscrutable is the word the writers like to use for Gus, but here they both are. They both seem deadly. Walt says, classic line here, “I know I owe you my life, but more than that I respect the strategy.” I feel this is Walt saying to Gus, I know what you’ve done–and really he’s put together more than Gus probably thought he might–and I have no question or qualms with you being in charge here, I know my place. But when he says he respects the strategy (a strategy that got a family member shot), it’s Walt saying, I am just as smart as you are, Gus, just as strategic, and I’m okay with what you did. It serves both purposes, to show that he’s not going to make any problems for Gus, but also to say I see exactly how you are pulling these strings and you can’t put anything past me. They are almost equals here, at least in intellect.

But Walt isn’t crazy about the situation either. He’s not going to complain like Jesse is, but he’s frustrated. These guys did used to have more control, a bigger cut, and the loss of that is hitting both of them. So he goes a little crazy in the car to get a bit of a Heisenberg fix, living on the wild side for a moment since his criminal job is so nine to five punch a clock now.

vlcsnap-2011-06-04-21h19m49s68Jesse has some great scenes in this episode. Oh, the wooden box monologue! This is where I think we get to see in this almost indirect way, something that’s been hinted at all along, that a big part of Jesse’s motivation to cook meth is the need to be really good at something. He hasn’t had a lot of that. He’s been such a failure in other realms, but here is something he can do really well. And his speech about the wooden box, especially in response to the question of what would he do if money were no object, if he could do anything, demonstrates that so well without having Jesse come out and say it. So moving.

Oh how I love that Jesse says that paying taxes is Kafkaesque, hilarious! And then Skinny Pete’s “Church!” just does me in. Pure genius. But I do love when he’s describing his job at the corporate laundry and all the absurd things that really are a bit Kafkaesque, that’s a great monologue too.

You know, I don’t think we ever find out how Jesse does end up laundering his money. If he doesn’t buy the nail salon, what does he end up doing? Saul is pitch perfect in that scene, describing how money laundering works with all the nail salon supplies. “The best money laundry a growing boy could ask for.” Hmmm, someone has to correct me on this and tell me that there is some detail later on that I’m forgetting that shows that Jesse is laundering his money somehow.

As is the arc for his character this season, Jesse is embracing being “the bad guy” ever more. Now skimming off the top from the superlab (he has not put together the same details on Gus that Walt has, or he might be more cautious) and pushing meth on recovering addicts. That’s kinda more wrong than his usual deal. Clean Jesse is straightforward and matter-of-fact and more even keel and better dressed (say some, I miss his old wardrobe, so fun) but it’s like he has taken this idea of accepting himself as the bad guy too far. Maybe he should’ve been there for self-improvement, back in 301.

Still though, the scene at the rehab meeting is awesome. Skinny Pete and Badger tread that line where they are almost on the edge of overselling it, but pull back. And Skinny Pete and the hand-raising thing? Amazing. Such attention to detail in this episode.

Skyler, WOW. Her turn back towards Walt continues here, but as always, in a nonlinear way. She’s so good making up Walt’s gambling story. She puts little digs in there, about how his pride wouldn’t allow him to accept charity from Gretchen and Elliot, and of course afterwards, but she also says the things Walt wants to hear. She emphasizes how Walt earned this money. And the level of detail in her lie, it’s amazing, how she explains his fugue state. It’s the perfect way to pacify Marie who always knew that the Whites’ marital problems were bigger than an affair. Skyler just sold that lie so well. She says she learned from the best and certainly she has watched Walt evolve as a liar, but like Walt, I think she had it in her from the beginning. We’ve seen her lie before. In a way, it could be one of the things that drew Skyler and Walt together initially, they both have this side. They’re both very, very smart. Well-matched. It’s such a good lie because she builds on real information, and because it makes both Walt and herself look bad, the kind of thing no one would question, like when Walt takes his clothes off in the drugstore. Going all the way to sell the story. And it’s just perfect. And it seems fair that Walt use his money to help pay for Hank’s treatment.

Her biggest turn back towards Walt is how she ends things with Ted. Affair over.

Wonderful Los Pollos Hermanos commercial, literally makes me hungry. Great tones of orange. And the falling meth is so beautiful. As always, the color is amazing, and creates great contrast, orange then blue. LPH is owned by Madrigal Electromotive GmbH – a little detail. I wonder if the writers and directors put that in there knowing how they would use it later, or if it was just put in as some sort of whim and then used later in Season Four and Five.

~Emilia J

Next Episode: Fly

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