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Jeff Balinski: (0:55) http://www.nbc.com/saturday-night-live/video/z-105/280282/
This clip of Jimmy Fallon on SNL just about sums up my feelings for this episode of Breaking Bad. I realize that a lot of people had high praise for last week’s episode, but I felt like this week was the true return to form from where this show left off at the end of the fourth season. As all of our readers know, the first episode of this season tied up some of the loose ends lingering from Gus’ death; Episode two did more of the same. Both, in true BB fashion, only dug the grave deeper.
This week’s episode, titled “Hazard Pay” opened up with Mike making his rounds to those on his list that currently still have a pulse. For a moment I thought that this was going to be another Mike-centric episode, but much like the money from their most recent cook, this episode was split evenly among Walt and Jesse as well.
Mike having to keep his men quiet seems to figure largely in the overarching plot of this season, and the future of the meth business for Walt and Jesse. While Walt and Jesse seem to be fairly insulated from the information the men on the list may divulge (other than, perhaps fingering them in a lineup of faces they frequently saw at the laundry), this is not the case for Mike. If the ship springs a leak, Mike goes down with it. Walt and Jesse need him to be their captain, and as much as Walt would not like to admit it, he has no idea how to sail. Why Mike doesn’t point this out when Walt questions the “Legacy Fee”, I have no idea. Speaking of which, why not just give them a little bit of a heads up about the situation? Is it a power play? Or is it just him being careless?
One item that concerned me in the cold open, was that Mike seemed to be very frustrated. He is a man that has been making a lot of promises lately. Promising that his men would stay quiet. That his men are reliable because he chose and coached them himself. Promising to those men that he would make them whole again. Mike seems to be losing his grip a little, and even seems unsure about the words that are coming out of his mouth in the prison. I’m not entirely sure if it’s his guy, or himself, that he’s trying to convince when he promises to make him whole again. This leads to his frustration and anger that shows while waiting for the door of the prison to be open. More and more of Mike is being exposed this season, but I think what will really matter is when we get to see where his loyalties lie now.
Vinny Ginardi: It’s interesting that you bring up that Mike keeps making promises. The more promises he makes, the higher the risk of breaking one becomes. What will happen then?
This episode had two major elements that have been, and will continue to be, constants throughout the season. The first was the face-off between Walt and Mike. It’s been clear for a while that they each dislike the other, but I’m starting to get the feeling that neither has respect for the other anymore either, but rather just an understanding that they need each other for their business to operate smoothly. Every move that Mike made in the money splitting scene felt like a power play. Why else would he give Walt over $350 thousand and then take away more than half of it? Mike wanted to make a point that he’s in control of a large portion of what’s going on. As Jeff pointed out, Walt has no idea how to run the business side of this of this operation. This is just speculation, but it’s very possible that at some point Walt will think he knows enough and no longer see a need for Mike, which could lead to Mike’s death.
The second element, one which has been one of the show’s main foundations since the pilot, was the interactions between Walt and Jesse. For the second time this season, we saw Walt control Jesse like a puppet (the first being “finding” the poison). In this episode, Walt brings up the topic of Andrea and Brock with Jesse. Walt probably sees Andrea and Brock as somewhat of a potential threat of the truth that he poisoned Brock to someday surface and also as a reminder of what he did to gain an advantage. While Walt has become a truly terrible person, we saw in the episode entitled “The Fly” in season three that he does feel guilty about letting Jane die, and he probably feels the same way about poisoning a child. Does he regret it? No. But it might weigh on his conscience a little bit.
Anyway, Walt appeared to be (at least to Jesse) a concerned friend by bringing up his relationship with Andrea. Of course, Walt had his own motives for bringing the topic up and was successful in putting the idea in Jesse’s head that it would be smarter to not have her in his life. Any doubt that Walt was actually being a good friend in this situation was eliminated when Jesse told Walt later in the episode that he broke up with Andrea and Walt dismissed it immediately. How long will it be before Jesse finds out that Walt is consistently playing him like a puppet?
Joe Binckes: I’ll jump in on the discussion for this week in Mike Cresci’s absence, and perhaps going forward as well. I’ll echo the idea that this episode was the strongest of the three we’ve seen this season. It felt like there was finally some forward progress, moving us into the story arc that will dominate the show for weeks to come in this new Walt-Jesse-Mike business venture. It seems ridiculous to think that Walt could be so naive to think that his proposal of a three man operation is reasonable or even feasible, especially considering that right off the bat we’ve got Saul, Lydia, and the entirety of Vamonos Pest Control in various levels of involvement. I suppose that just backs up the point that he really doesn’t know how to run the business.
Walt’s ego is absolutely out of control. He uses people, even those closest to him, as a means to an end with no regard for the impact his actions might have on anyone else- so long as it works towards his benefit. Skylar is clearly an absolute wreck since finding out what Walt did to Gus, and yet he’s moved on seemingly without a second thought. He either doesn’t recognize the effect his actions are having on Skylar, or he’s blatantly ignoring them because addressing how mortified she is about the whole ordeal might limit his ability to continue down this path. Beyond ignoring his wife’s cries for help, he takes it upon himself to start moving his stuff back in without mentioning it beforehand, simply stating that “It’s time.” Oh yeah, let’s not forget that when confronted by Marie about Skylar’s unusual behavior he crafts a scenario where he gets all of the sympathy and the blame falls on her.
As long as I’m thinking about Walt using people to achieve his goals without regard for others, I’m reminded of the situation with Brock. When he and Andrea arrived at Jesse’s place, it reminded me that we don’t know how Walt poisoned Brock with the Lily of the Valley. For a split second I thought he might be busted, before I realized once again that most everything he does is much too calculated to risk that happening. Even so, I can’t help but wonder if the looks exchanged by Brock and Walt were simply those of a shy child meeting a stranger or if they were vague recognition. For now he seems to be in the clear, but somehow there will probably be consequences for Walt later in the season.
Mike Aurigemma: Joe you brought up a great point about Walt’s ego and how big that truly has gotten. It is crazy to imagine that this was once a man in the first season afraid to do anything really in his life who now feels he can control almost everyone. And he has been doing a pretty excellent job at it as well. This will be the situation to watch as for now he feels like he needs to have Mike around to be able to run the business to perfection, but when does his ego once again take over and make him feel that he could do it all by himself. Eventually he will take on more than he can actually handle and it will come back to bite him, but that will have to come after he eliminates Mike from the equation.
I still cannot believe what Walt has been able to do to Jesse throughout all of these seasons. He has used him in anyway possible so far and at this point probably feels like he could get him to do whatever he wants. Walt is so far into Jesse’s head that he could probably just start to speak for him at this point. Eventually Jesse will have to realize what has been going on and I really just cannot see Walt being able to control so many people at once like he has in the past. Jesse, Skylar, Hank and even Mike at this point who came back to Walt to do business with him will eventually start to see how manipulative Walt has become and that will be the end for him.