Monday, August 8, 2011

Breaking Bad Recap: Fiction


"There's got to be something else that I could do. Some way to keep everything from spiraling out of control."   --Walt

This week's episode, "Bullet Points" -- I sure do love a double entendre -- finally brought the long-awaited (first of many?) Mike mini-sode, and it. was. awesome. Not unlike most of the scenes Mike appears in, but this particular one firmly established this character as the weariest-looking, most blasé BAMF on TV, bar none; with the exception of the events surrounding the night of Gale's death, nothing has elicited an emotion more powerful than mild irritation out of Mike -- not being forced to clean up after Walter's killing spree, not scraping remnants of Victor from his jacket, and certainly not being ambushed in the desert by what I can only describe as an avalanche of bullets. I love this guy.

Back at Casa White, humor reigns, as Walt and Skyler are preparing to come clean -- correction: preparing to "appear to come clean" -- to the family about Walt's gambling and subsequent windfall of cash/purchase of the carwash. Well, Skyler is preparing while Walt just sort of sulks and belittles her obsession with details from the sidelines; I don't know if Walt's had so many narrow escapes that he's taking his invincibility for granted, or if he's simply too proud to admit that Skyler is being incredibly smart in a way that he hasn't been (or both). Whatever his reasons, his reaction to Skyler's bullet point approach couldn't be more dickish. "Maybe lying doesn't come as easily to me as it does to you," she says by way of explanation. We know, of course, that Skyler is actually an exceptional liar, but ironically not one who can see through Walt's own, less convincing lies. What I really enjoyed about this scene was the seamless incorporation of character-revealing statements in an ostensibly routine conversation between estranged husband and wife: both Walt's delusion about his own heroism and Skyler's resentment over his months-long deception are brought to light during their exchange of opinions about her proposed script for their "fiction." Skyler may be willing to enter into business with Walt (and into a world of crime that she knows very little about), but that doesn't mean she has forgiven him. And just when she thinks she's finally gotten the long-overdue apology from her husband, she realizes that he was just rehearsing for their big fake confession. Ouch. Feel-good family drama is not one of this show's levels (though the extended family scenes are often oddly moving; must be all that amenable dishonesty). 

Cut to Hank and Marie's front door stoop, where Walt and Skyler anxiously await the curtain call on their little fiction; I like that shot because I can imagine a similar one taking place on the other side of the door. Sure enough, the door opens, and everyone is positively exuberant to see each other. But just in case we forgot how miserable Hank and Marie have been, we are quickly reminded that Skyler is not the only lady on this show who is harboring husband resentment. Case in point: Marie's passive-aggressive invitation that Hank "show the boys his rock collection"; she is probably aware by now that Hank prefers the term "mineral," don't we think? And that's when the episode takes the dark turn we all knew was coming: Gale guilelessly singing karaoke at Walt from Hank's TV. (If this were any other show, I would accuse it of laying it on a little too thick with the cuteness, but being that Breaking Bad is usually so devoid of sweetness and light, this particular Gale reminder kills me on behalf of Walt, yes, but mostly Jesse, all over again.) And just like that, whatever invincibility Walt may have felt is gone, as he learns that Hank is consulting on Gale's case. He is now worried in a way Skyler's limited knowledge prohibits her from being, and his deeply buried remorse resurfaces, if only long enough to deliver a veiled apology at the dinner table. Walt did pull the metaphorical trigger, after all.

The literal trigger puller, on the other hand, continues to act rashly and dead inside, skimming off meth from the lab and generally asking for it with his out-of-control partying, if one can even use that term to describe whatever the hell is going on at his aunt's house right now. And yet, all Jesse seems to really be interested in is having company and playing video games. This poor kid! Even his interest in money seems to be a thing of the past. And his sharp observation of the blindfolded thief is not consistent with drug use, which makes me think Jesse's been sober this whole time. It would certainly explain his clear-headed rhetoric with Mike and his nonchalant attitude about everything excepting the Gale ordeal, which a fingerprint-obsessed Walt forces Jesse to relive in detail, no doubt confident that the trauma of looking at some crime scene photos is akin to that of shooting a man in the face. Still, it's nice to see that Walt still cares about Jesse as more than just his potential downfall; his fierce "Where is he?" into the camera after Jesse's disappearance certainly indicates more avid interest than he's shown in his own son in quite some time.

One errant thought: When Walt rushes over to give him the Skyler treatment regarding Gale's shooting, Jesse is sporting a new buzz cut, and given this show's obsession with baldness, I have to consider the significance of this. Not only did Walt's own de-hairing signify the emergence of Heisenberg, but the last alteration Jesse made to his head gear -- in losing those teen-thug hats he used to wear -- signified his newly achieved sobriety and general awakening to a new layer of reality after Jane's death. If losing his beanies meant accepting his own darkness ("I'm the bad guy"), then it looks like shaving his head might mean total cynicism. Which would make him perfect for going into Mike training. Which I think is where Mike is taking him at episode's end. Thoughts/predictions? 

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