Written by Matt Barone (@The_SummerMan)
How does Walter White (Bryan Cranston), currently the king of his domain, go from being the lord of the meth game to a sickly, isolated old man planning a last ditch attempt at something, that involves a heavy-duty machine gun? Last night's episode, "Hazard Pay," offered a hint at what ultimately sets Walt down that path: He's just too damn arrogant.
It took three episodes, but the Walt and Jesse (Aaron Paul), now plus Mike (Jonathan Banks), are ready to get back to business. With all of last season's loose ends finally tied up, the first order of business is finding a new place to set up shop. Saul (Bob Odenkirk) adds "realtor" to his growing list of consigliere duties.
With Saul as their guide, the foursome tours location after location, though, unfortunately, no spot compares to the sheer genius of a lab under a laundromat. Of course, it's Walt who has the light bulb moment on where they'll make their new home.
Walt and Jesse may be Saul's most important unscrupulous clients, but they're not his first nor his only. Enter Vamonos, Pest a bug terminating crew that case and later rob the houses they work. The kind of guys who, for a generous cut, are willing to turn a blind eye to Walt and Jesse cooking in whatever house they've tented for the week. The cook remains completely undisturbed, and any passerby won't think twice about a curious smell emitting from a fumigated house. It is, quite simply, perfect.
"Just because you shot Jesse James, doesn't make you Jesse James."
So, about that aforementioned, possibly fatal arrogance? It's on full display in the final scene. Walt seems to be at peace with certain aspects of starting his own meth operation from the ground up; moving in and out of residential houses is no Super Lab. But as far as everything else goes, this guy is completely deluded as to why he isn't making as much money as Gus, commanding the same respect as Gus, and so forth.
The hubris provided by his superior product rears its ugly head when the gang divvies up the profit from their first batch. All of the various vigs necessary to make this work, plus the responsibility of refilling the hazard pay for Mike's "guys," significantly shrinks the pie. Forget that the loss of Mike's guys' hazard pay is his fault, and that it's in his and Jesse's best interest that none of Mike's guys talk. Never mind that $137,000 is a nice haul for their first solo outing, on top of a successful legitimate car business. Heisenberg wants more.
What exactly does he mean when he theorizes, as many viewers already had, that Gus killed Victor for daring his hand at Walter's precious recipe? Who exactly is flying "too close to the sun" now? Mike? One thing's for sure: Walt's increasing sense of entitlement will surely play a part in his downfall.
The Master Manipulator
The moral rot of Walter White continues this week in two particularly reprehensible, selfish occasions. First, he continues to play Jesse like Skinny Pete (Charles Baker) plays the piano, here subtly and easily manipulating him into breaking things off with Andrea (Emily Rios), just to put his own mind at ease. It's messed up to play on Jesse's perpetually damaging guilt over murdering Gale, and even more messed up that his takeaway from Jesse and Andrea's earnest invite for an extended-family dinner is what spurred his idea that she might be a threat.
Walt manages to top himself later in the hour when Marie (Betsy Brandt) visits him after the cracks from Skyler's (Anna Gunn) new-found fear of her husband are made visible when she explodes at Marie (Betsy Brandt), though who doesn't want to tell Marie to just shut up sometimes. He masterfully, and disgustingly, uses Ted Beneke's unfortunate accident coupled, with the revelation of their short affair, to explain away Skyler's current despondent state and remove any suspicion from him. Hell, he even gains Marie's sympathy.
As we said last week, Skyler's reaction to the "new Walt" is sensible, responsible storytelling, but in our opinion, it's overdone. So he blew up the guy that was threatening to kill their entire family. That kind of action should rightly alter the White marriage dynamic.
Skyler's reaction, however, indicative of something more horrific, a peak that Walt hasn't quite reached yet to earn workplace breakdowns and her horrified reaction to Walt and Junior (RJ Mitte) enjoying Scarface, with their baby girl on daddy's knee. Especially considering her limited knowledge of Walt's crimes. Imagine what she'd do if she found out that he poisoned a child!
Things To Consider
- Walter Jr. Snack Report: popcorn with Scarface.
- Speaking of Scarface, series creator Vince Gilligan has long described the log line of the series as Mr. Chips becoming Scarface, so a direct nod to Brian De Palma's classic film was inevitable.
- The first cook of the season is treated to a classic Breaking Bad, beautifully shot musical montage that the series likes to use now and then. The song was "Tribute to Wes," by Moses Dillard & The Tex Town Display.
- The Vamonos worker that pointed out the nanny cam, Todd, is played by Jesse Plemons, whose casting was announced earlier in the year. Expect there to be more to him than initially meets the eye.
- Walt and Jesse still have no love for Saul's beleaguered Laser Tag property.
- "He probably threatened someone before breakfast. It's what he does." - Walt, about Mike.
- Breaking Bad season 5 drinking game: Take a shot every time Mike affectionately refers to Gus' henchmen as "my guys."
- "If you don't like paying 20%, then maybe you shouldn't have killed the guy." - Mike, to Walt
- Always a pleasure to see Badger (Matt L. Jones) and Skinny Pete.
- It's minor, but one of the most contrived details of Walt's elaborate ruse last season to get Jesse on his side was: How exactly did he administer the Lily of the Valley plant to Brock? Clearly, the kid doesn't recognize him (or does he?) but will we ever get to see how Walter pulled that off?
- Future Theory: The series started on Walt's 50th birthday. A year has passed in series time, and Marie mentioned that his 51st is approaching, but in the premiere at the diner he makes a 5-2 with his bacon. Hence that scene is about one year from the events occurring now.
Written by Matt Barone (@The_SummerMan)