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October 7, 2015

Breaking Bad: Mandala

by Jason Hughes, posted May 18th 2009 11:01AM
Breaking Bad - Mandala
After last week's episode, I thought we might have a moment where Walt came back to Jesse and said that it was back on. He'd got the passion for cooking in his soul and he couldn't shake it out. It's really starting to make me worry more about those foreshadowing opening sequences we've seen with body bags and destruction. Explosion at the White house? Is his family going to be collateral damage?

We didn't get any further on the foreshadowing sequence in the opening segment, instead we got something equally devastating in the here and now. If you're going to get into drug distribution, you have to learn to expect collateral damage. When that damage came it was perfect that Walter didn't even recognize him by name.

Walt's subtle superiority complex is one of his more frustrating traits. From the beginning, he's been in this for himself and Jesse is just a tool he's been using. Whereas Jesse has that sensitive side to him, Walt is absolutely cold to him and almost uncaring. Walt cares about his family, with little room or regard for Jesse. Learning things like the names of Jesse's friends and distributors isn't in the cards for Walt because it doesn't affect him directly.

Thankfully, Saul was there to save the day. And yes, Saul, they are the worst drug dealers in the history of the planet. That's why we love to watch them struggle and, as Walt said, take two steps back for every one forward. It was a little disappointing that they gave Walt such a concrete reason to stay in drugs. A $200,000 price tag for a risky surgery that could save his life puts his incentive right back where it was, except that he might come out the other side more alive then ever.

But I was ready for Walt to deal drugs for the rush of it. As a substitute for the empty and shallow life he's been meandering aimlessly through for decades. It's clear that dealing has made him feel more alive than he was when we first met him. That Mr. White was bored with his existence. But White on meth (distribution). That Mr. White is vibrant and loves being the bad boy. That's his addiction.

Jesse's is much more tangible. I knew Jesse's relationship with Jane wasn't going to end well, and even though it hasn't ended it's not well. For some reason I didn't make the connection that he might pull her into his drug problem. As a former addict, she's going to be vulnerable and he should have been stronger to help her stay clean. But strength isn't one of Jesse's greatest strengths. It was absolutely heartbreaking to watch her wake up and reach for the pipe. More collateral damage.

Saul was a good addition to the show. Bob Odenkirk's delivery is brash and nearly psychotic. The polar opposite is tonight's new addition to the Bad family. Gus Frings is as unassuming as Walter White, and even if Walt didn't realize his potential distributor was the restaurant's manager, I did. Kind of makes you want to look at everyone in ordinary jobs a second time, doesn't it?

At Skyler's ordinary job, things took another interesting turn. I suspected Ted was skimming from the company, but I didn't expect Skyler to walk out because of it. Maybe there's hope for Walt. If she's willing to turn her back on white collar crime, surely she can forgive his transgressions. Except maybe for missing the birth of their child so he could make more than a million dollars unloading a trasbhag full of crystal. That's pretty much unforgivable.

As for next week, it looks like Jane may turn out to be more trouble than she's worth. How far is Walter willing to go to keep his secrets? He's come a long way down a very dark path, but either he loses out on a lot of money, he loses everything, or he has to make Jane disappear, and possibly Jesse. Jesse has generally been more trouble than he's worth, and if Walter is handling distribution as well now, what is Jesse's role? Only two episodes left until the season finale!

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What first drew me to this show was seeing a character like Walt -- book smart, handyman, rational, and logical -- approach a field that traditionally is occupied by thugs and crazy people. And his intelligence obviously did him very well as his cooking was far and away better than the string of usual amateur hour cooks. But we also see in this episode that he was very deficient in many regards: the whole tangent of trying to handle distribution themselves (and so much resulting pain) could have been completely sidestepped if they had reached out to the sleazy lawyer earlier. Of course with hindsight being what it is you can't fault them for not knowing at the time that there were options that didn't involve street level thuggery, but it's still funny to see it reinforced in such stark terms.

May 20 2009 at 4:19 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Be careful about typing "Explosion at the White house." You're probably on a list somewhere.

Dammit, now I'm probably on a list somewhere!

May 19 2009 at 8:09 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

When Jane paused with her hand on the door knob, I knew Jesse was in for a whole new world of crap. Still, when she broke out the needle a few scenes later, I was hoping that Jesse would slap that thing out of her hand. It's a safe bet one of those body bags has her name on it.

One thing I don't think anyone has mentioned was the fact that John de Lancie (Q from ST:TNG) played Jane's dad in that brief scene an episode or two back, which I thought was a pretty small part for the actor. Sure enough, a quick check of IMDB shows him in the next two episodes. Body bag number 2 perhaps? Doubtful.

The one thing that bugged me about this episode was this: if big time drug distributor Gus is so very careful, why set up the initial meet in one of the chicken shacks that he owns? Sure, who would suspect the bespectacled man behind the counter, but c'mon...

Odenkirk kicks ass. I'm loving this show!

May 18 2009 at 12:15 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

The first half of this episode felt very rushed and over-acted to me. I liked the introduction of Gus and his acknowledgment that Walt is sloppy; it seemed to get better from that point.

May 18 2009 at 11:41 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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