Monday, August 1, 2011

Breaking Bad Recap: Grown-Ups

"For what it's worth, getting the shit kicked out of you . . . You do kind of get used to it."   --Jesse

As though Mike gloriously kicking his ass in the last episode wasn't bad enough, in this new one Walt arrives at work only to find video cameras installed throughout the lab. Pumped full of righteous indignation over Gus's lack of trust, Walt proceeds to flip off the camera, thus kicking off a regression-heavy episode, which revolves mainly around the show's core characters and their respective lapses into immaturity. First, Walt bullies and ridicules Skyler into cutting him slack about his black eye after feeding her some line straight out of the battered woman handbook by way of explanation, in spite of the fact that, although she doesn't know it yet, she has justifiable reasons to be worried about both Walt and her own family's safety. Walt then follows up his childish diversion tactic by whining to Jesse about the "violation of the workspace" constituted by the lab cameras. Oh, Walt. That complaint was made even more ridiculous by yet another sighting of Mr. White in his trademark tighty-whities.

This episode really belonged to Skyler, who, in spite of her own regression into adolescent stubbornness with the whole carwash acquisition matter,* has managed to maneuver a very complex situation to her favor as well as trick her own husband into supporting her in the endeavor by appealing to his sense of pride. It was quite a treat to behold such a masterful manipulator at work and even better when, in spite of her ostensible confidence in her negotiating stratagems, she underwent that slight moment of doubt while waiting for the phone to ring the second time. Skyler is compelling precisely for being both calculating and vulnerable, and I'm relieved to see that Breaking Bad is finally starting to pay attention to its women.

Jesse's party, meanwhile, is still going full swing, if  we expand the meaning of the phrase to include the pathetic wasteland of addiction and excess the party has degenerated into since the last episode. And what spells excess more than the scene in which Jesse, playing the part of a modern-day Nero all too convincingly, makes it rain money over the junkies who have overtaken his home (while Tyrus The Goon watches it from afar)? Compared to how much energy the Whites are putting into their laundering scheme, Jesse seems almost deliberately careless with his money; I worry about that and especially about the cash he gave Andrea. It's ironic that not too long ago, Jesse was motivated entirely by greed, yet now that he is by most definitions a very rich man, he has also become deeply unstable and cripplingly lonely. I don't know what's sadder: the fact that Walt turned him down for go-karts or the fact that Jesse's expression all but begged him to come in the first place. In a weird twist of fate, Andrea and Brock, the two people who could offer Jesse some genuine companionship are also the walking reminders of the guilt he has unsuccessfully been trying to banish. It's heartbreaking to see him reverting back to this sort of childlike vulnerability, which is evident not only in his recent choice of recreational activities, but also in his seeking to spend time with his only available friend/ally and father figure: Walt, who has been neglecting both Jesse and his own son for some time (not to mention the fact that baby Holly is now being carted around by Skyler on her not-quite-above-board errands).

Poor Marie has reverted instead to her kleptomaniacal compulsions, going around inventing increasingly more exotic fantasy realities for herself and pocketing various tchotchkes from open houses around Albuquerque. The episode, aptly titled "Open House," spent quite a bit of time on this particular subplot, but I appreciated the fact that the show has brought back one of Marie's somewhat pointless Season 1 quirks in a way that actually makes sense now that she's dealing with an immobile bear of a husband at home. And speaking of Hank, his childish behavior is right where we left it last week: berating his wife and tending to his rocks -- sorry, minerals -- and literally jerking off. He's so bored that he agrees to take a look at Gale's lab notebook as a return-favor for the detective friend that kept Marie out of jail, and you'd better believe Hank is going to find something. Here's hoping that his involvement in this investigation will finally bring Hank out of his self-pitying funk, because Lord knows it's time something did.

*It's a bit of a problem when Saul Goodman is the most reasonable person in the room

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