How far is Walter (Bryan Cranston) willing to go? He, Jesse (Aaron Paul), and Mike (Jonathan Banks) spend the first half of "Dead Freight" deliberating over one extreme measure after another: killing Lydia (Laura Fraser), robbing the freight train, taking the train by force. Walt wants to be the ruthless badass, and at this point in Breaking Bad's saga he has made several morally questionable calls, (non-fatally) poisoning a kid, for one.
But does he have it in him to do whatever is necessary? One thing's for sure: Todd (Jesse Plemons), the latest addition to the team, definitely does, and his actions at the end of last night's episode just put a new skeleton in Walt's jam-packed closet.
Precursor To Murder
So what led to Todd's horrific act? It all started with Mike's intense warehouse interrogation of Lydia. At Jesse's behest, Mike and Walt agree to give Lydia the benefit of the doubt and investigate the curious case of The Blatantly Obvious Tracker on the methylamine canister. One "beleaguered husband" performance later and Walt has successfully tapped ASAC brother-in-law Hank's (Dean Norris) computer and bugged his office. We're pretty sure a little piece of his soul disintegrates every time he manipulates Hank, Marie (Betsy Brandt), or Junior (RJ Mitte) through falsely sympathetic means like this.
As it turns out, Lydia was telling the truth. A couple of DEA brain trusts placed the tracker on the exterior of the canister, and, in fact, every single canister in the warehouse. The entire methylamine stock is compromised, meaning the Meth Boys would have to hustle backwards and settle for a chemically inferior Sudafed cook.
Lydia, ever the opportunist, proposes her own genius solution that would see the Heisenberg recipe continue and earn her a nice cut for her troubles. Before Madrigal Houston ever gets the methylamine, it's imported and loaded onto a chemical-carrying train in Long Beach, which then passes through a dead zone in Arizona before reaching the company. It's there that, if they're daring and willing, the team could boost enough precursor to "fill a swimming pool."
"Leave No Witnesses."
The chemicals are there for the taking, but the taking may not be worth the consequences. Chief among them: the two innocent engineers on board the train. Walt and Mike can't plot out any functioning heist that wouldn't have to end with their murder. Then, for the second time this season, Jesse comes through with the clutch, patented Pinkman & Heisenberg harebrained scheme.
In essence, methylamine is water-based. So it stands to reason that if the gang stops the train for long enough, they can siphon off a decent amount of the stuff and then replace it with good old H2O so that the car still meets the required weight. When Madrigal inevitably notices they have an extremely watered down product, all of the blame will most likely be put on the manufacturers in China. It's the perfect plan.
To pull it off, however, extra hands are necessary. Saul's henchman Kuby (Bill Burr) distracts the engineers with a staged truck conveniently stuck smack in the middle of the tracks, while Vamonos, Pest exterminator Todd will help Jesse with the train car.
After all of the typical, but still entertaining, heist suspense moments (the failed distraction, the success by the skin of the teeth), shit really hits the fan. Walt, Jesse, and Todd's mid-desert fist pump is cut short when they see that they're not alone. Truthfully, the significance of the boy from the earlier, pre-opening-credits teaser should've been obvious once we saw where the train would pass through, but to be honest, we just got so damn wrapped up in the thrill of the heist that we completely forgot about him and his new tarantula. Of course it all came rushing back, and before Walt and Jesse have the chance to say, "Oh, shit," Todd mercilessly blows him away.
In the middle of the episode, Walt, the ultimate self-deceiver, tries to sell Skyler (Anna Gunn) a line of crap about the family being safe now that he's the uncontested Number One meth man in town. We don't need to know what's in store for him in a year to side with Skyler in calling bullshit on that. We've lived Walt's yearlong foray into the drug world along with him and there have been dangerous, fatal consequences since day one, and this may be the darkest one yet. Skyler's snipe about burying bodies in the desert just became literal. In all, "Dead Freight" was a fantastic episode.
Things To Consider
- Walter Jr. Breakfast Report: No jokes this week. When Mitte is asked to do more than shovel bacon in his mouth, as in tearfully demand answers as to why he's being forced to live with his aunt and uncle, he brings it. We feel for you, Flynn.
- That warehouse scene with Lydia was probably the most menacing Mike has been yet. And, still, hilarious: "Everybody sounds like Meryl Streep with a gun to their head."
- Is Skyler being a wee bit melodramatic in calling herself Walt's "hostage?" We get her impossible scenario, but never forget that she made a choice not to leave back in season three. And then again last year, when she visited the Four Corners.
- The dirt-biking scene has got to qualify for the top ten most obscure teasers this series has ever done, but it also cements the fact that this is truly top-notch storytelling. A lesser show would have telegraphed the connection much more, with diminished results.
- So just what is this Todd guy all about? Why was he even armed in the first place?