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Breaking Bad: Crazy Handful of Nothin'

by Jason Hughes, posted Mar 3rd 2008 12:53PM
Breaking Bad - Crazy Handful of Nothin'
I hadn't even realized how quickly this season has gone by until the closing moments told me that next week was the season finale. That's way too soon, and yes I understand there was a pesky writer's strike which played havoc with production schedules. But Breaking Bad is just too good of a show that's just starting to find its groove. Bryan Cranston just constantly blows me away with his performance, and Aaron Paul continues to find ways to turn what could be a very one-dimensional, archetypical street thug into a complex personality.

That said, after this episode I find myself wondering if Cranston's Walter really needs Paul's Jesse anymore. I'm sure he ultimately does but he seemed to handle things pretty well himself. Walt is clearly emboldened by his prior misdeeds, murder and arson on top of the obvious drug activities, as well as his sense of impending mortality. His new-found courage, or lunacy, reached a crescendo in how he ultimately handled the Tuco situation. By the way, I thought that was a really well handled flash-forward effect. By showing us the carnage and the bald Walter, we know it's something that's to come as the chemo hadn't taken his hair yet, but we didn't yet know when.

After having both failed to find other ways to get by in life in last week's episode, Walt came back and agreed again to work with Jesse. Still left unresolved is why he's so adamant in refusing his former partner's money for his treatment. Preferring to take on the tremendous risks of cooking and selling meth over accepting a handout from a friend, or at least a former friend, is a pretty huge statement. Whether it's a huge statement of Walt's stubborn independence or pride or an indication of tremendously bad blood in that relationship remains to be seen. And hopefully it will be addressed, because right now it's a huge albatross hanging over the story.

Meanwhile out in the desert, the arrangement put in place for "cooking" is that Walt is the chemist and Jesse the salesman, with no crossover between the two. That plan quickly fell apart, though, as Walt's deteriorating health in response to his chemotherapy chased him from the RV mid-batch, leaving Jesse to finish up. This also led to Jesse discovering that Walt had cancer as he'd watched an aunt die from the disease. In a moment of tenderness, Jesse suggested, "Put an icepack on your head during chemo. My aunt said it helped with the hair loss." Later, when Jesse brought back a paltry $1,300 from his various sales, Walter was disgusted and immediately started making suggestions on how to rectify the situation. By the end of things, arbitrary lines would be broken and Walt would be fully involved in this side of the operation as well.

When Walt asked Jesse if he knew any distributors to whom they could move large quantities, Jesse responded, "Yeah, I used to. Until you killed him." A sobering reminder of this dark path they're going down. With that distributor, Krazy 8, out of the picture, a guy named Tuco had horned in on his territory. But despite Walt's insistence Jesse explained that you can't just go up to someone like that and try to sell. You have to have an "in." And then, later, Jesse finds his "in" with a friend of his who used to share a cell with Tuco.

Unfortunately, when Jesse called to give Walt this good news, Walt was in the middle of going over his high school lab equipment with DEA agent and brother-in-law Hank. The gas mask they'd found in the desert when investigating the new clean strain of meth circulating had led Hank back to Walt's high school. At this point, Walt should be incredibly grateful that he comes across as such a stick-in-the-mud because it was just beyond Hank's comprehension to think that Walt could possibly be involved. I would suspect he'll be in for quite a rude awakening if and when he finds out.

Throughout the episode we were treated to Walt both receiving his chemo treatments and responding to them. From bouts of sickness to clumps of hair falling out to him ultimately shaving his head when the bald patches were getting too prominent. We also got to experience an incredibly awkward group therapy session in which Skyler and Walt, Jr. lamented that he goes off in the afternoons and seems withdrawn. Honestly, Walter has been a withdrawn man since we've met him and I have a hard time believing this is a dramatic character change. Sure, he's probably become more withdrawn and it's more challenging now, but should they really be surprised.

The creators did a good job of setting up high school janitor Hugo as a sympathetic character while at the same time showing us Walt's declining health. It always seemed to be Hugo who was there to help clean up after Walt's bouts of vomiting as a result of the chemo. Be it to clean it up so Walt could get back to teaching the kids or just to offer him a stick of gum, Hugo came across as a decent guy. So I guess I should have seen it coming when Hugo took the fall for the missing lab equipment. Even though his only crime seemed to be the fact that he was a pothead, it was enough for Hank to connect him. Ultimately he was cleared of that, but he was still looking at losing his job and going down in some fashion for possession. Another notch on the bedpost of victims Walt is ratcheting up.

While Walt was busy dealing with this, poor Jesse was getting his ass kicked ... again. He has spent at least half of this series so far either getting his ass handed to him physically or verbally. And this time it was by Tuco and his goons. At the arranged meeting, after Jesse demanded he be paid $35,000 up front for the pound of meth he brought rather than trust that Tuco would repay him later, he instead got beaten nearly into a coma. And then Tuco just took the meth anyway. Walt didn't even know this had happened for the longest time. When he found out, he went and saw him in the hospital where Jesse had a neck brace, broken bones and extensive injuries. Again, something that might not have happened were it not for Walt.

At this point the episode came full circle as bald Walt arrived at Tuco's pad with a bag of meth. We've seen Walt show increasing signs of reckless behavior, but this was him entering into a whole new arena of crazy. Manhandled and escorted to the same room in which Jesse met his grisly fate, Walt made his demands. "Thirty-five for the pound of meth you stole, and another fifteen for my partner's pain and suffering." Standing there with nothing but a bag of meth, torn open in front of him on Tuco's desk, Tuco could do nothing but laugh.

"Let me get this straight. I steal your dope. I beat the piss out of your mule boy. And then you walk in here and bring me more meth?" Tuco laughed. "You got one part of that wrong. This is not meth," Walt said picking up a piece of it and throwing it to the ground. The next shot was ground level outside as all the windows blew out upstairs. This was an amazing scene, which is why you get to relive it so thoroughly. Here we have terminal high school chemistry teacher Walt walking into the hornet's nest. He knows what they're capable of because he's seen Jesse and knows they've already stolen a pound of meth from them. It would be nothing to these people to kill a sickly looking middle-aged white dude.

But a show of strength was exactly what Tuco would respond to and suddenly Walt had made the business deal that Jesse couldn't. Of course, it will still probably all turn out horrible for Walt as this is a very dangerous crowd he's now climbing into the proverbial bed with. So far, Walt has managed to roll with every punch the meth game has dealt him, but I have to figure he's going to meet his match soon.

With no word yet on a second season, I can only hope there's at least some sense of closure next week. That said, the show has been getting almost unanimous praise across the review circuit and I think has been netting good numbers for AMC. And with a lot of buzz about Cranston come Emmy time, you would think a renewal would be a no-brainer. Or maybe the story isn't even being set up to have a second season. You know, if it is designed to end next week in whatever fashion, I think I might find that tremendously satisfying as well. I like the idea of a show knowing when to get in and when to get out.

Do you think Breaking Bad should get another season?
Yeah, keep it on the air as long as possible.324 (64.4%)
Maybe one more, but don't try to drag it on too long154 (30.6%)
It'd be great if it wrapped up next week with a killer ending.24 (4.8%)
No, the show should just get canceled regardless.1 (0.2%)

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T Massari

this is the best show on tv hands down no arguements.....i am super bummed that the season is over, i live next to burbank and the strike screwed up everyone! i absolutely love the show, bryan deserved an emmy..hopefully he gets one...cheers...

March 10 2008 at 3:16 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

probably one of the best television series i have ever seen. i certainly hope that it does not end. there have been way too many nods for the show.

March 09 2008 at 11:21 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

great episode - one of the best series 2008!!!

greets from germany

March 07 2008 at 3:10 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Hank is a poor mans Vick Mackey.

March 06 2008 at 11:32 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I saw previews for this show weeks ago and wasn't terribly interested. Then one night by chance, I caught the first two uncut episodes on IFC. I've been watching ever since.

This episode was fantastic. I loved the flash forward to start the episode as it showed a *completely* different Walt than what we've seen thus far. Plus it was great to know that Walt got out from the meeting (once he got there), but with no idea of how he did it.

All I could say was "Wow" when the explosion went off. I mean, I knew he was coming unhinged and I thought he'd do something a little nuts, but not explosion nuts. How cool was it to see a chemistry teacher muscle 50 grand out from a drug dealer? It's a great feeling when a show surprises you like that.

AMC had better renew this show for at least ONE more season. Yeah, he's got nasty cancer going on, so that could limit how long the show could plausibly last, but I'd love to get more to the story. The whole thing with his college buddies, the "I've never had a say in my life" thing with his wife (how she didn't snap on that comment I'll never know), and just to see how crazy/determined/desperate Walt will actually get before the end.

All that plus I didn't know we were only on a 7 show run instead of the usual 13 or so. I was looking forward to a few more weeks.

Cable is increasingly producing shows that are better and better than the standard networks, by far. First 'Mad Men' and now 'Breaking Bad'? Things usually show up in 3's you know, so I wonder what else (if anything) AMC has in store.

March 05 2008 at 10:45 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Was it just me, or was there really Hank visible in the flash forward, astound about the explosion and watching Walt leaving the building?

March 05 2008 at 6:52 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Gary C

Who plays Tuco.

March 04 2008 at 10:48 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Gary C's comment

Raymond Cruz: http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0190441/

He's been in a ton of stuff before.

March 04 2008 at 4:04 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I almost gave up on this show a couple of times, but my DVR insisted, and I always ended up thinking it was well done.

And, maaaaaaan, that final scene in last night's ep just BLEW. ME. AWAY. Great stuff.

March 03 2008 at 11:41 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Absolutely incredible episode. Every scene was pitch perfect amazing. As much as I've loved shows that have gone on for years, I think I would really like it if there was real closure next week and the show ended. Its fantastic, but its only that great.

March 03 2008 at 8:36 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I tried this show once. Couldn't watch it.

Bryan Cranston might be giving a great performance but I couldn't see any of the subtleties. AMC simply comes in too pixelated on my cable system. I suppose it's a low-priority channel that gets very little bandwith, but it's utterly unwatchable on a large-screen TV (the only one we have hooked up to the cable box.) It looks less like a TV show and more like a quilt. Yes, it's honestly this bad, enough so that it hurts your eyes when you try to discern smaller details on screen.
It's a shame, as AMC seems to have decent movies more often than other channels.

I'll be sure to watch when it comes out on DVD.

March 03 2008 at 4:33 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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