Breaking Bad Roundtable 5.3: Hazard Pay

The cold open this episode wasn’t as striking as the previous episodes. What are your thoughts on this.

Dave: I didn’t mind that aspect of it. It was good to see Mike doing some of his dirty work and really set up Mike’s motivations during the big money counting showdown at the end of the episode.

Chas: It wasn’t particularly enjoyable but it was very necessary. We already know Mike doesn’t fuck around so his line at the end about meaning to get to every jail in one day wasn’t particularly momentous. However, when Walt starts acting like a bitch about the money it was important to have more context and perspective on how solid Mike’s guys are.

Burner: I agree with Chas that it was necessary to set up the conflict later over the money and how solid mikes guys were. Howevah! I feel like they were really hitting the “You will be made whole” thing over much. We got last week that that was Mike’s motivation we don’t need to see it being spelled out again. Additionally, did the DEA just pack up and go home? Did the ABQ just become 1970’s New York and no one’s bothered by yet more dead bodies? Two of the guys the DEA talked to are now dead along with a high profile drug dealer and the collateral damage that went with him. The DEA knows Mike is involved, yet no one is following him? Keeping an eye on him? Him just doing this run around seems like a great way to pin conspiracy/obstruction of justice charges on him. Seems to me that, from a committing crime standpoint, Mike should be totally toxic, but both Walt & Jessie and the totality of south western law enforcement seems to think nothing of him getting right back to business.

How is no one watching this guy?

Kevin: I thought it was fine. Fun to see Mike in a suit and pretend to be something that he’s not. I guess I disagree a little with Burner re: the “you will be made whole” thing. I’d imagine these guys would start to get scared about Mr. Chow and Would-Be Assasin being killed, so it’s conceivable that they’d be concerned with being next on the list. Mike is there to assure them that those were mistakes and the plan is the same. Regarding the two dead bodies, I just assumed Mike took care of it. Yeah, the DEA might eventually wonder why an interested person in the case is not responding to their calls, but i’m not sure that Mike would be at the top of the list yet as someone who might be responsible for it. He’s just security of Pollo Hermanos with a kickback to his granddaughter. They haven’t linked up his involvement other than as a dirty cop with a questionable job in the whole thing. You would think the police or DEA would have surveillance teams on all of the witnesses in the case just to see if they could pick up dirt, but maybe the budget is limited.

Walt is back playing the master manipulator. Between convincing Jesse to leave his girlfriend and Marie that Skyler is distraught because of infidelity. How much do you hate Walt at this point?

Dave: He’s certainly not likable anymore, although I really did enjoy him turning the tables on Marie towards the end of the episode. There’s still something there I’m rooting for despite the fact that he’s probably going to get all my favorite characters killed.

Chas: As I’ve stablished multiple times, I’m fine with Marie getting murdered. I don’t think Skyler had a breakdown at all. I wanted to shout shut up to Marie 10 times in a row and I’m glad Skyler did it. Jesus Christ, Marie is such an ungrateful bitch. Plus, if there’s anyone on the show who has the most inconsistent character development it’s Marie. Hector Salemanca was about 10x as fleshed out and interesting and he couldn’t even talk save a few flashbacks. If Walt kills Marie at some point all of his sins are forgiven. And I think God would agree with me.

Burner: I have to say that I was totally fooled by Walt and Jessie’s chat about how much to disclose to the girl friend. I thought that’s what the conversation was actually about. Not until Jessie said he’d broken it off did i get that that’s what Walt was up to. In the end it’s probably safer from What’s-her-name and Brock that Jessie is out of their life, so at least that’s a positive. As for Marie, I couldn’t care less if Walt fucks up her and Skyler’s relationship or how one sister thinks of the other or….snzzzzxxxxxxxx. At any rate the manipulation was masterfully done, right down to “Don’t tell Hank I don’t want him to think less of Skyler or me.”

AWKWARD….

Kevin: I also was fooled about the convo between Walt and Jessie. Just though it was them shooting the shit. Not sure I “hate” Walt anymore. Getting Jessie to break up with his girlfriend (a smart move for everyone involved) and getting Marie to buy into the idea that her sister’s a cheater (a true statement) aren’t very high on the list of “Awful Things Walter White Has Done” the last few seasons.

Walt’s line on Scarface sure seems to be foreshadowing. “everyone dies in this movie, don’t they.” It seems like all our main characters might not make it out alive. How much did the odds increase of us seeing Walt using that gun they showed us for a Tony Montana-style shoot-out?

Dave: Infinite. I really don’t like the odds of anyone significant surviving to the end of this season.

Chas: The Scarface movie was too much. They might as well have painted Symbolism on a rock and smashed me in the face with it. Also, did it annoy anyone else that there were commercials for the actual movie Scarface on AMC during the episode? That pulled me out of the TV show in a bad way. All I could think of was that AMC clearly had to negotiate rights to use Scarface in the show so they decided they might as well throw some more money down to get the whole thing. Distracting.

Yeah, yeah, AMC, we get it.

Burner: Well I guess this is my moment to take a bow for calling out the Tony Montana ridiculousness or the M-60 in episode one. I don’t take it as foreshadowing, that seems a little too on the nose for Breaking Bad, instead I see it as corporate synergy. At some point someone at AMC likely said to Vince Gilligan and co, “During week four of your run we’re going to have Mafia Week on the network, please pick from one of these mafia movies to have on during your episode the previous week, as a tie in,” (or alternatively, “Have Scarface on a tv in episode 3.”).

Kevin: The Scarface stuff made me cringe. I’d expect to see that sort of hack writing in The Walking Dead or The Killing, not Breaking Bad. Even if this was a network decision, Vince Gilligan has the network by the balls at this point, tell em to fuck off. What are they going to do? Refuse to air the show?

There was more Skyler and Marie in this episode, but so far we haven’t had much of them. Are we still on the lookout for a Skyler episode?

Dave: I suppose we are, although Skyler did scream at Marie to “SHUT UP!” about 20 times which was pretty fantastic since that’s all I’ve been screaming at her since I first saw her.

Chas: haha. I’m glad Dave agrees with me on Marie. I’m hoping the next Skyler episode we see is her having a complete mental collapse and then either turning Walt in or killing someone and/or herself. Actually, I hope Franken-Beneke escapes from the hospital and strangles her to death with Walter Jr’s cane while he eats breakfast. She used to be a great foil and a powerful adversary for Walt and now she’s just a limp, broken psycho. God I hate what Skyler’s become.

Franken-Beneke

Burner: Oh, make no mistake, a Skyler episode is coming. No doubt it will involve her motivation and actions changing dramatically and with little reason compared to the week before.

Kevin: My guess is suicide is up next for Skylar. So prepare for a really long, depressing and emotional episode centered around her and the White family. Snooze fest. But then no more Skylar!

What was your favorite scene from this episode?

Dave: I loved Mike talking to the exterminator guys. When he tells them that Walt and Jesse should be referred to as “yes sir” and “no sir” I thought that Jesse’s look he had on his face was dynamite. I was also happy to see Jesse Plemmons (aka Landry from Friday Night Lights) in this episode.

Chas: I really liked Saul in this episode. Him taking them to each place and getting increasingly frustrated was great fodder for Bob Odenkirk. It also showed off the meticulous thought they put into every element of the show. I don’t know if cardboard construciton machines really do steam up the room or if tacos will absorb the meth smell but Breaking Bad has so much conviction I assume everything they’re saying is well-researched and factual. Jesse grabbing the tortilla was also a nice touch.

Burner: I agree with Chas, so I’ll say my second favorite scene was the cook itself. Like Dave said about the search for the poison cigarette on last week’s StewCast, this week’s cook was classic Breaking Bad. Upbeat music, quick edits, time lapse filming, and a dose of GCI all helped convey the sort of, well joy in chemistry and in doing a difficult thing well that Walt and Jesse get from a cook. And that arty shit is all well and good, but I’d sign up for Bob Odenkirk’s Tour of Sketchy Commercial Real Estate in Albuquerque, New Mexico right now.

The Big Showdown

Kevin: I’ll go with the money scene. The tension between Mike and Walt came to a head there and it was fun to watch. Also, the more Walt gets pissy, the better chance he does something crazy.

What were your overall thoughts on this episode.

Dave: I felt very uneasy the entire episode even though there really wasn’t any underlying tension. Maybe it’s just knowing that this is all going to go horribly wrong that makes me feel that way. Walt is continuing his spiral downward and the way he manipulated Jesse this episode was pretty horrible. The scene with him and Brock on the couch was incredibly uncomfortable. But, having said that it was still an excellent Breaking Bad episode. The cinematography was great and there’s always something cool to see (eg the picture of the family while they were cooking meth in their house). Things seem to be setting up for the fall and with only 5 episodes left until the break it will be interesting to see how quickly things start to ramp up.

Chas: I’m glad that they moved everyone quickly back into meth production. They could have messed about for 3 more episodes before they even cooked again. We’ve seen that happen about three times previous so i’m glad we’re not focusing on that story again. The episode wasn’t standout but it was entertaining and efficient and I think that’s what the series needs to build momentum to Walt asking Hank to say hello to his little friend (nothing sexual.)

Burner: How much can you truly like an episode that has Marie and no Hank? I would say this was the weakest episode of this season. I can’t really get past the lack of surveillance on Mike and Walt seeming to just assume there is none. On top of that I don’t really understand the Icarus Threat (which, incidentally, is the title of my new political thriller, available from Bantam Books this fall!) that Walt makes to Jessie. I see that they need to make Jessie more and more wary of Walter, but I just don’t see the motivation for this from Walt’s perspective. He’s always been the dominant one in the relationship so it’s not that, and Jessie hadn’t just proposed some wild new plan (house to house cooking was Walt’s idea) so where does that come from? There was some good stuff in here but this was just an alright episode of Breaking Bad.

We’ve seen better episodes…

Kevin: Yeah this was a solid B. Nothing great, but nothing terrible (other than the Scarface crap) Burner, i’m with you about Walt’s confusing threat at the end. At first I thought he was threatening Jessie, but that makes no sense at all given Jessie’s reluctance to be involved in any sort of confrontation and the history of their relationship. So I have to assume he means Mike, but that doesn’t make much sense either. Walt has to know that Mike is an absolute necessity for the operation. He gets them the chemicals they need, he gets them the delivery system and buyers they need, and he protects them in just about every way from the cops/DEA investigation. So, an empty threat maybe until circumstances change? Gilligan and the writers just being too cute for their own good? I dunno.

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