We started out Season 5 of Breaking Bad following up on the aftermath of Walt's murder of Gus Fring, which was mixed in with a little caper to try to protect the identity of Walt, Jesse and Mike from the DEA. (Magnets!) In last night's episode, we continue this, but also begin to get a little more set-up as to where Walt is essentially going to take everyone and from all indications, it is not a good place. We also really see Mike step into the spotlight as he is quickly becoming one of the main characters in this season of the show, which I am more than pleased with. This feels similar to the role of Hank (Dean Norris) who at first seemed to be just a side character and part of Walt's family, but has steadily turned into so much more, and I wonder if he will become the true and eventual foil to Walt's entire plans and life. (We will get to that in a moment.)
First, we must discuss the opening scene at the Madrigal company in Germany and some French dressing. When the episode began, I actually had to rewind a couple of times to make sure this was the beginning of Breaking Bad. They are notorious for out of order opening sequences, but it was a bit disconcerting to begin a scene in a place and with characters we had never seen before, and ones who really did not make sense until we got some more explanation. However, just as Breaking Bad always seems to somehow pull off, this ended up making this scene all the more disturbing. When first introduced to Mr. Schuler we see him testing new sauces for one of the Madrigal company's many restaurants. The odd scene that occurs should be noted for its hilarity as you can seriously imagine some "food chemists" sitting around a McDonald's kitchen thinking they have struck brilliance with the idea of putting French and Ranch dressing together. However, it is the way in which Mr. Schuler tastes them that becomes so noticeable. I spent the first few minutes wondering if he was about to keel over from a heart attack or if he had just literally gone nuts. Then, a moment later, after his assistant announces the fact that three policemen are waiting for him, we see that he was actually enjoying the last bites of chemically engineered food he will ever taste and preparing to off himself in a bathroom. This was fascinating, because we then leave this scene with so many questions. Did he do this because he knows he was going down? Did he do it because he was this broken up about the death of his friend and partner, Gus? Did he do it because the **sauce** tasted so awful he couldn't go on living anymore? Right now, we have no idea and thus, yet again, the writers have done a brilliant job of setting up another huge question and mystery for us, as we know we will begin exploring this company and situation in some form throughout this season. I also must say, I don't understand how after four seasons this show is constantly able to figure out new ways to kill people. Defibrillator in the mouth?! No words.
We then cut back to Walt, and throughout the episode see him plotting and bringing together everything that he actually needs to start cooking and dealing drugs again. First up, he must get Jesse back in the game. I thought it was pretty brilliant that they brought it back to the cigarette and Jesse's confusion as to where it was, because I expected that to be an element that was just dropped once we got the answers as to the fact that Walt actually did take it. I guess I should have known better as this show rarely leaves a loose end untied. However, in this scene, I did have one major question. Why did Walt create a new cigarette if he actually had the old one? Perhaps there was something I missed there or something that will come back to haunt Walt, but I could not figure that out. Either way, the scene that occurs after Jesse finally finds the cigarette in the Roomba (I only wish a Roomba actually worked that well) was so heartbreaking it was incredible. It felt like a moment that Jesse just needed to get out and emotionally let go of everything he has experienced recently, and you can see him finally deal with and let go of his fear that Walt had done something shady in this situation. The performance by Aaron Paul in this scene was stunning and you could really feel the emotion pouring out of his tears. I love the fact that this show is never afraid to show men being emotional or crying, but more than anything I thought this was a very fascinating look in to the motivation of Jesse Pinkman. Walt is involved in this because of his ego; we find out for Mike that it is out of love and necessity, but truly all that Jesse wants is a father figure who will love and accept him. The fact that he almost killed the man in his life who holds this position was almost too much for him to bear. This moment made that much more impactful by the fact that we as the audience know Walt is so far from this it is scary.
The episode then took a turn, and we went on a journey with Mike and began to really focus on his story, which seems to be becoming more and more important to the lives of Walt and company. We also meet Lydia for the first time, who I suspect is also going to increasingly become more important this season. It was interesting that they introduced her in a manner that made her seem so nervous and well, annoying. It was hard to believe that this woman could be working closely with Gus in managing one of the biggest drug rings around. On the other hand, we see her completely go against Mike's wishes and see she is tough enough to order the murder of a whole lot of men. I wonder if she is putting on an act, or if she truly is that person. It is great character development no matter what because either they are showing how true to life the depictions of powerful people may be, as someone in this position is not necessarily always tough and self-assured as is oftentimes depicted in film and television. On the other hand, on this show, I can see her acting with this nervous and meek personality and then busting out a gun and blowing up a nursing home in the next episode. Either way, she has now become part of this world, and we will see where this takes us.
Mike's story continues and we see the evolution of the events that truly and completely bring him into the fold of Walt's new "business" endeavor. He is such an interesting character because while you know he has no problem gunning a man down, he really seems to have a heart of gold. He cares about Jesse and wants to protect him, and in the end we realize, he really just wants to make sure he sets up his granddaughter with a good life. This was a fascinating move, as he has now turned into the guy who will do anything to protect his family. Walt has been saying that all along, and the episode ends with his creepy statement to Skyler (who seems to have become clinically depressed in the after-math of Gus' death and Ted Beneke's injury) "There's no better reason than family", yet when really looking at it, Mike is really doing what he has to for his family, and Walt is doing it because he wants to. He and Skyler have the car wash now, that she admits is making pretty good money, but Walt is still not willing to get out of the game. Instead, he is actually digging them in deeper. He goes on a rant with Saul about the fact that he is $40,000 in debt and has no money, but I believe that if he asked Jesse, he would let this slide. Jesse has never cared about the money and I doubt he does now, so it seems to now just be an excuse for Walt to get back into the business. He likes the game, and the scary thing is, he has really shown that he will stop at nothing to get there and to the top again.
I also wonder if Mike's response when Walt first asks him to go into business with him could be some of the biggest foreshadowing in the series? He responds, "You are trouble. You are a time bomb. Tick tick tick and I don't want to be around when it goes boom." Not only is this a call back to the way in which Walt killed the previous drug kingpin (Gus), I wonder if it is also giving us some ideas about how Walt's plans (and life) will eventually end? The saddest part is that Mike has now engrained himself into this world again, and as much as he wanted to resist, being broke and powerless, he truly saw no way out.
I believe my last biggest questions of the episode revolve around Hank. First of all, did he have a lightbulb moment when he was at the station and discussing the life of Gus Fring. Hank's boss says "he was somebody else completely, right in front of me." The camera then cuts to Hank and holds on him for a moment before leaving the scene. I'm not sure which way I am leaning on this one, but either way, the moment did serve to build up the tension as to whether or not Hank will eventually figure out that Walt is in fact the real Heisenberg who he has been chasing for so long. This is also a question that I ask myself and ponder, yet, have not found an answer yet; do I think Hank will find out and do I want him to? There are so many parts of me that don't want to put Hank through that and really don't want Walt's family to have to suffer the consequences in that way. However, Walt has turned into to a pretty awful human, and although it's strange for me to admit, I wonder if in some ways he does he need to be "taken down." It's so hard, and I really don't like having to think about this because it means we are truly nearing the end of the series and beginning to ponder questions as to how it will be wrapped up. However, for now, I think I am just going to leave for the moment and enjoy any ride they decide to take us on. Until next week….