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September 3, 2014

Breaking Bad: ...and the Bag's in the River

by Jason Hughes, posted Feb 11th 2008 10:03AM
Breaking Bad: ...and the Bag's in the River
(S01E03)
"I thought we were going to Cold Stone Creamery." Walt, Jr. with Hank

With this episode we come to the conclusion of what would be considered the "First Act" of the Breaking Bad saga. I have to say that I was very impressed with this conclusion, and with the opening arc. Cranston continues to dominate the screen with his tragic portrayal of a desperate man who's health is clearly failing more and more with each passing moment. Hard decisions are made, and the hardest and best decision he's made yet looks to be the one the episode ends on.

Before we can get to the end, we need to start at the beginning. And this episode picks up (literally!) where the last one left off, with the most disgusting mess in the history of broadcast television being cleaned up by our meth-cooking "odd couple." Honestly, I'm not sure if these two will be able to work together after these events, nor do I really have any idea where the show will go from here.

It could be just as compelling if they completely give up their ideas of cooking meth for cash because they've still got all this crap they've already done to keep covered up. With Walt's brother-in-law Hank and his DEA goons already hot on that trail, there'd still be plenty of meat left for a show. I like that I'm not sure where this show is going and find that I don't really care because the ride-along is so damned great. In a way it reminds me of The Shield in that we're following some, let's face it, pretty bad dudes now and you still find yourself rooting for them.

I'm not sure that the flashback sequence to a younger Walt and some unknown girl writing down the chemical makeup percentages of the human body worked. It was a nice juxtaposition during the cleanup scene at the beginning, as we saw how all those chemicals could turn into a gooey sludge, but this is the first flashback the show has given us, and I'm not sure I see the overall significance, unless the mention and question of a missing component in the scientific equation being a soul will speak to an impending spiritual crisis.

When Pinkman leaves Walter for the day to finally take care of the Krazy 8 situation; remember the guy strapped to a pole in the basement with one of those horseshoe bike locks, we finally get to see what Walter is made of. Walter gets to see what Walter is made of, and it's tougher stuff than I would have imagined. Again, Cranston shined throughout this episode as he wrestled with his conscience and reason on what to do about Krazy 8.

The climactic sequence where Krazy 8 manages to convince Walter that the only right thing to do is set him free, followed by Walter's epiphany regarding the broken plate was a brilliant piece of writing for the show. The plate was broken when a coughing fit knocked Walter unconscious as he was bringing a plate of sandwiches to Krazy 8 in the basement. What an incredibly clever piece of storytelling, and a brilliantly executed resolution to the problem by White. In fact, what Pinkman comes home to find in regards to the state of the RV and his house speaks volumes about where White is psychologically, and gets me psyched for what's coming next.

HIGHLIGHTS

  • DEA Agent Hank's wife swiping a pair of heels from a shoe store, under the watchful eye of a way-too-typical disinterested sales clerk on the phone no less
  • Hank's "scared straight" talk outside a dilapidated motel where he lectures Walt, Jr. about pot being a gateway drug because he mistakenly believes he's doing pot. Bonus points for Wendy the meth-head hooker showing her teeth and then going off to bang Pinkman after Hank dismisses her. Walt, Jr.'s clueless reactions throughout this sequence are priceless.
  • Walter making a Pros and Cons list of the benefits on either side of the "to kill or not to kill" Krazy 8 situation. Reasons to kill him: "He'll kill your entire family of you let him go."
  • The aforementioned revelation to check the pieces of the plate, reassembling it like a puzzle, and the subsequent method by which White "handled" the Krazy 8 problem.
  • The end where, finally, Walter confronts his wife and tells her: "Skyler, there's something I have to tell you."
Again, I have no idea where the show might go from here. Walter and Jesse are hip-deep in it already so the question they have to face is how far are they willing to go to get the riches they've yet to achieve. Or is it worth it at all for either of them? And have they been smart enough to get away with anything?

Do you think they'll give up their meth-cooking scheme?
Yes15 (8.2%)
No168 (91.8%)

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rickyjames

CraigO - The Nobel Prize angle is just one more facet of how Walt's life has not met his expectations (for some so-far undepicted reasons) and ended up far lower than he had hoped, making him the desperate man he is today. For those of you that don't have a clue what we're talking about, the very first airing of the pilot episode was run without comercials and has some BRILLIANT additional character development moments that were cut for commercials in subsequent airings of the pilot on AMC. Such as his exercizing at 5AM in his study-turned-nursery with an atta-boy certificate on the wall stating he was a cog-in-the-machine member of a Nobel Prize winning team in the mid-1980s.

I absolutely LOVE the details in this show highlighting how things are less ordered than Walt wants them to be, right down to the oil stains in the driveway from the Aztec. But I gotta confess I totall missed the comparison of the missing elements in the human body and the missing part of the plate. Thanks.

February 17 2008 at 7:53 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
CraigO

This may be a stretch, but the flashback could be Walter back at college as a professor working with a much younger girl (student?) and not necessarily Skylar. Didn't we see him look at a Nobel Prize on a wall in an earlier episode (or was that a gag gift?) Why would a Nobel Prize winner be a high school Chem teacher?

February 13 2008 at 7:10 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
eric f

The cleanup scene at the beginning was possibly one of the most disgusting things I've ever seen on TV.

I love it.

February 12 2008 at 10:59 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
nattyff

to Scott: LOL

to Chip Douglas: c'mon!!!, if you are about to die, you woud actually think a lilttle more about what you do in these life (wherever your belives are). Plus, even if the fact that you are about to die (and you don't have to dwel about what you did for a long time), it's hard to even think in taking a human life by your own hand, no mather how bad the other person is, the fact that YOU have to do it it's dificult, (and don't get me wrong, i support 100% the death penalty for murderers phsicos, because is not me the one doing it).

PS: not sure about my spelling, sorry, these is not my language. :)

February 11 2008 at 9:23 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Alastair

I did not at all think the unknown woman breaking down the human body was Skylar. Remember the first episode when Walter was sweating away at the car wash and watching the hottie step into her sports car. I took the flashback as a way to bring up his youth and the decisions he made. He wasn't always a boring chem teacher. He was once a full of life grad student (perhaps?) with lots of hair on his head and was smooth with the ladies. Was she probably some undergrad student. I'll be disappointed if we don't see more flashbacks as the series goes on. It gives us his full character study.

February 11 2008 at 6:59 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Chip Douglas

I did not understand why Walter is conflicted about his decision to kill Krazy 8. It is pretty simple from his pro's and con's lists. Plus, if he can not live with his decision, presumably, he will not have to deal with it for very long. He is cooking meth to support his family. As Krazy 8 says, "Walter, you are not very well suited for this line of work." But he is all in with both feet. He needs to start swimming. And, his biggest obstacle to reaching his goal is Pinkman.

February 11 2008 at 3:13 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
J-Sim

For a few seconds there I thought that the plate would be Kobayashi Porcelain or the Crazy 8's dad's name China Company and that would snap Walter our of his false hopes. This week's show and next week's previews suggest that this show might be back on track.

February 11 2008 at 2:59 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Cody

Krazy 8's strategy should have been to use his hands to pull the lock forward, thus crushing Walter's fingers against the pole and saving his own life, rather than flailing around with the plate shank.

February 11 2008 at 2:53 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Chris Shifty

Perhaps the most disturbing murder scene I've seen in a long time. I watch 24 and The Shield but something about being choked by a bike lock against a pole and being stabbed with a broken piece of a plate just did something to me.

February 11 2008 at 1:50 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
fred

It's funny, because as much as I love the show, and I really do, the fact that it was a missing piece of a broken plate that got him to realize what was going on is the one thing I didn't really like on this episode.

So far Walter has been pretty smart about the whole thing, he's been able to face & handle some crazy shit and managed to get through it pretty well, considering.

So while I liked that killing someone wasn't as easy as pulling a trigger, but actually meant something, the fact that he would actually really consider letitng him walk, and even almost do it, I mean he's smarter than that.

I found his list funny because all reasons for not killing him were pretty much the same : killing is bad. But he had to put it using many different words, yet he did not do the same for the other column, and he should have : the guy was most certainly going to kill him and his family.

And that this realization only came to Walter by chance, because of a broken plate he saw at the last minute on the trash, I didn't thought it was the best, no.

Other than that, another really great episode of a really good show, I love it!

http://tvoholic.com/episode-reviews/breaking-bad-and-the-bags-in-the-river/

February 11 2008 at 10:52 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
2 replies to fred's comment
ben

I thought putting the broken plate together and finding one small sliver missing was a clever subtle inference of the flash back to where they were piecing the different chemicals of the body together and were missing the less than one percent. Realizing that one percent might be the 'soul' of the body also meant that one percent of the plate was what would possibly be the end of another body.
Regardless, it gave more purpose and duality to the flashback sequence.

February 11 2008 at 11:27 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Joey Geraci

That's a good point, ben. That also figures into the point that Crazy 8, despite going to college (!!!) growing up in a nice middle-class family, maybe always had a "piece" missing from the get-go.

February 11 2008 at 12:08 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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