Monday, September 9, 2013

What I Watch: Breaking Bad 5.13 - "To'hajiilee"

One key to writing a story that's laden with drama and suspense is to create situations from which the solution or escape is not readily apparent. It's a tradition that harkens back to the movie serials of the 1930's and 1940's all the way to the prime time soap operas of the 1980's. In more recent years, it was the hallmark of season enders for shows like THE X-FILES, OZ and especially LOST. Those last few minutes where the viewers' jaws are left unhinged while the same thought is blazing through brain waves across the country: "How the hell do they get outta this one?"

This final stretch of episodes -- in fact, even going back to LAST summer -- have managed to achieve this "finale effect" with nearly EVERY episode. Mouths agape and eyes wide, we're no longer focusing on what will happen in the final episode -- we're consumed with what will occur in the first five minutes a week later. Hence why the delayed gratification of last week's "Rabid Dog" was so deviously ingenious.

Perhaps more than any previous episode, after last night's whirling dervish of drama, people are theorizing up the ying-yang.  Be it the next few minutes to the last remaining ones on September 29th, everybody's all abuzz with predictions. So, I'm going to add a new segment to this week's blog in deference to such speculation. 

But I'm going to "delay a little gratification" myself here. Let's see what else there was to learn and discern from "To'hajiilee" (beyond how to pronounce "To'hajiilee").

Todd's a Sociopath with a Crush

Watching Todd invade Lydia's personal space while suggesting Uncle Adolf "smooth things over" with those Slavic buyers was creepy enough. Running his finger around her lipstick imprint on the mug, and after nonchalantly discussing his Uncle's next murder-for-hire -- drinking from that very cup -- was as skin crawling as it gets. 

Follow the Money, Find the Money...
Either Way, it's All About the Money

When Jesse said he was going to hurt Walt "where he lives", I knew it wasn't about family.

Everything had always been about building that pterodactyl sized nest egg. This is Walt the Empire Builder, remember? 

Plus, even though I believe Hank officially "Broke Bad" by going rogue and not caring whether his informant lived or died, he still would never go along with a plan that would have used Walt's kids. Although there's a slight "leap of faith" in Jesse thinking Huell would have ANY information about Walt's money.  If this had been just a couple days earlier -- Huell would have nothing to tell them. At THIS point, Hank's the one who gets lucky. But more on luck later...

We Kill, You Cook

Uncle Adolf continues to be UN-impressed by Walter White, and his sneer is more prominent than his swastika. They'll keep Walt's hands clean from Jesse's murder, but he has to slip the hazmat suit on once again to give Todd a refresher course on how to cook the blue.

You Trap Me? Oh No, I Trap You

Walt's plan to lure Jesse out by showing up at Andrea & Brock's casa goes awry.  But Hank & Jesse's scheme to trick Walt into leading them to the money goes just fine.  Well, almost...

Foreshadow much?

Fear and Greed Leads to Blabbing

First Huell folds like one of Saul's cheap suits because he's scared of The Wrath of Walt. Then later Walt admits everything outside of the Lindbergh baby kidnapping on the phone with Jesse (and presumably Hank).  Now, the wire Jesse wore at the park was legally obtained, but if this call was recorded, it doesn't appear Hank and Gomez had time to go through legal channels for it to be admissable in court. 

Even as I yelled at the TV screen, thinking Walt should STFU (yes, I may be the only person on the planet still rooting for Walt -- even Gilligan & Cranston aren't on his side)...even as I was later steadfast in my belief that the call HAD to be recorded -- I now realize it might not have been, as the objective of THIS plan was finding the money.

I also want to point out that this was the moment when Walt FINALLY explains how he poisoned Brock, and now it FINALLY makes sense as to why he didn't use the ricin. Of course, we're assuming Walt is being honest and sincere, which is usually a mistake.

Remember...He's LUCKIER than You

Walt's meth-addled goose is cooked. He's in cuffs; hell, he's got Jesse's gob of spit dribbling down his face. Hank even calls Marie to let her know he won (much like Walt's call to Skyler after he took care of the Fring problem, only with a much different reaction from HIS better half). The poignancy of that call cannot be overlooked...

But like Jesse said, Walt is not just smarter than Hank and Gomez (as one can say he certainly wasn't in this episode), he's LUCKIER than they are as well.  And Walt's luck takes the form of Uncle Adolf and the other Neo-Nazi Nitwits rolling up for the rescue despite Walt telling them explicitly NOT to come once he saw Jesse's back up was actually Hank & Gomez. 

Which also means at this point, Walt had genuinely given up. His last bit of Heisenberg-ian rage was spent when he seethes the word "Coward" at Jesse.  As Saul pointed out earlier -- he underestimates his former student, as it turns out the "Angry Non-Rat" does have a taste for cheese after all.

Oh, You Did NOT Just David Chase Me!

I've sat through hundreds of thousands of hours of television in my lifetime. I don't recall EVER seeing an episode stop short in the midst of a high intensity shootout. That sudden smash-cut to black had me thinking of ordering onion rings in a New Jersey diner. Interesting how the episode starts with a Steve Perry song, and the end reminded me of a classic TV moment that famously featured a Journey song.

This was about as laugh-free an episode as I can remember in quite some time. 
So what I choose to note is more mildly amusing than anything else.

- We get not one, but TWO 80's classics during the Cold Open of the show: Steve Perry's "Oh Sherrie" AND Thomas Dolby's "She Blinded Me With Science". First time Breaking Bad's has ever put me in a karaoke mood.

- Hank may have unintentionally converted thousands of viewers to vegans when he dumped those brains on the floor. Not sure if they were cow, pig or lamb -- I'm no Hannibal Lecter.

- Junior's incredulous reaction to seeing local late night TV spot celebrity Saul Goodman, and Saul's line: "Don't drink and drive. But if you do, call me!"

Let's run through a few possible scenarios just for shits and giggles (pun most definitely intended)...

Hank and Gomez are Gonna Be Buried Deeper Than Walt's Money

Right now, it's still hard to believe that not one of those thousands of bullets was able to hit a paunchy dude with a gimpy leg. Still, barring a Hellmouth opening in-between Hank, Gomez and the Klinksters -- it's difficult to conceive of how they DON'T die. Jesse himself said -- it's always the reverse opposite of what you expect.  But, since that's NOW what many of us believe is now an inescapable fate for Hank (hence that last phone call to Marie), let's assume that IS the outcome of this firefight.

First the Cartel, Now the Neo-Nazis...Poor Jesse

Seconds before the shooting begins, we see Jesse slowly opening the car door -- and we never see him again during the bullet-ridden chaos. So let's say he's hightailing it thought To'hajiilee, running for his life. But what safe refuge is there in the middle of the desert? An old cave or mineshaft?

Assuming there isn't some divine intervention, no deus ex machina moment where Jesse conveniently hails down a passing truck or beamed aboard the starship Enterprise -- we can then edge a little further out on a limb and say Uncle Adolf's boys catch him.

But with no Hank or Gomez, Jesse's got no leverage since outside of Marie, no one knows about this. Even the DEA guy who's babysitting Huell knows NOTHING about the case.

So instead of being executed, Walt and Uncle Adolf make a deal. Jesse's life is spared, but HE has to educate Todd for the meth cooking. After all, who's the ONLY OTHER GUY who can cook meth the way Walt can? He said it himself: Jesse.

And maybe that big Rambo-sized gun is indeed to take on the Neo-Nazi brigade several months later, but perhaps it's also to rescue Jesse? Maybe THAT's Walt's last shot at a tiny shred of redemption?

Could the Other Whites Be Wiped Out?

The death of Hank may be enough to permanently drive a wedge between Walt & Skyler.  That video confession was bad enough, but while she was willing to be complicit in the removal of Jesse -- she would never be able to go along with the murder of Hank. 

And THAT could prove to be a problem for Uncle Adolf -- which could lead to an attempt on HER life -- but more likely result in the death of one or both of her children. The death of either Junior or always in pink Holly has been hinted at any number of times - to the point where I'll be genuinely shocked if they both survive by the end of this series.

As For That Pesky Ricin...

There are some who'd say "Who'd trust anything they eat or drink near Walt for him to use such a thing?" After mocking those people with some choice curse words and general intelligence disparagement -- I'd point out that outside of Jesse, Saul and his men and the presumably dead Hank & Gomez -- who else would know Walt had even considered poisoning anybody? Why would Lydia, Todd or Uncle Adolf ever suspect such a thing? 

Poisoning is also traditionally a woman's method of murder, so it's the near polar opposite of an M60 machine gun in terms of murder weapons. Yes, Walt's a chemist, but the murders everyone DOES know about have involved bullets and bombs - they simply wouldn't think poison would be "his style".

That's it for this week's episode.  Until next time, be good even if BREAKING BAD is better!


  1. Good stuff!

    With the potential of recording the call with Jesse, what if it was "technically" Jesse who recorded the call? You wrote: "Now, the wire Jesse wore at the park was legally obtained, but if this call was recorded, it doesn't appear Hank and Gomez had time to go through legal channels for it to be admissible in court." It varies from state to state, but in many states it is legal (and admissible in court) to record a call as long as one party on the call knows it is being recording. New Mexico *supposedly* follows this federal guideline.

    I like your thinking on the presumably dead Hank (I still hope not!) driving a permanent wedge between Walt and Skyler. We'll discuss all tomorrow night. . . .

  2. I seriously doubt the Hello Kitty phone had recording capabilities. So it would have required additional tech. Which I don't think they had (at least it was never in evidence, so to speak).

  3. There's always the old fashioned technique of putting the call on speaker & recording both sides into a mic connected to a cassette tape recorder.

  4. While in a car? Seems rather unlikely as well as a little too low tech. Plus, if such shenanigans had been taking place, I would think we would have gotten some indication of it.