The Boob Tube Review: Breaking Bad, Season 5, Ep. 4

Sometimes, we discuss the television we've been watching. There are usually plenty of spoilers, so beware.

Ok, you are all probably going to think less of me but there was a time in my life when I was young and foolish and just had kind of questionable taste overall (I drank a lot of Southern Comfort and thought nothing of making out with brothers – not at the same time but still, brothers!) but I once thought that Aztecs were sort of ok. That's terrible, right? Nah, I'm totally kidding! Fooled you! Never thought they were cool! Certainly not because you had the option of attaching a tent to the back. A tent, guys, to the back of your car! But, no, Aztecs are totally uncool... Just camp outside. On the ground. Make it easy for the bears. I also once wanted nothing more than to own and drive a Jeep. Yep.

This week we had to say goodbye to Walt's Aztec, an SUV that saw him through so many accidents, cracked windshields, vehicular manslaughters and plane crashes that the entire series was beginning to look like one super long Aztec ad campaign (just show the tent add-on! No one can resist the tent add-on!). So long old-friend, you will be missed. I can only hope that there will somehow be a Katabasis episode where Walt and Jesse have to go to the underworld to ask Tio some yes or no questions (unless Charon lets them bring a Ouija Board with them) and then they can meet up with Gus and Gale and Crazy Eight and while Jesse has a tender moment with Jane, Walt can have a sweet reunion with his trusty Aztec. Ach, who am I kidding! That car will never die! Aztec 4ever!

There seemed to have been two major themes this episode, or two motifs? (Are themes and motifs the same? Where does allegory differ from a metaphor?? And will someone tell me what a trope is because it sounds delicious. I don't know, I'm an Aboriginal Studies major with a minor in Classics.) All I knows is that there were a lot of horror movie things happenin' like Skyler garrotting her finger and floating in the water with her eyes open like a ghost-corpse (looking at you, What Lies Beneath otherwise known as What Killed My Crush on Harrison Ford For 90 Minutes and Why I Struggle to Swim at Night), Lydia's scream and the power-outage, and Walt cutting his head and his fight with Skyler and the graphic, violent nature of their threats. Add this to the ever increasing physical darkness of the White homestead, making every scene look like a living Gregory Crewdson tableau. I'm a little hard pressed to think of a genre that Breaking Bad doesn't fit into (rom-com, probably; mumble-core, maybe? Blaxpoitation, not yet...) and now horror can definitely be added to the long list of crime, detective, western, noir, bildungsroman (for Jesse, totally), cowboy, thriller, gangster, buddy... American Horror Story was pretty scary what with Dylan McDermott jerking himself off whilst weeping and all but it doesn't hold a candle to the reign of terror that Walt has going on.

The other theme/motif/whatever was power. Everyone wants it, some are struggling with it (Lydia, literally, struggling to cut the power), some are fighting for it, some just got their first teeny little sip of it, and some just think they have all of it.

Serious kudos to RJ Mitte for his maniacal grin during the cold open as he revelled in the power of his new car. I dig that his car (Mustang, I believe? Mustangs are pretty rad but can you camp in them?) is representing his inevitable moral unraveling. Walt has long been jealous of the admiration that Junior has had for Uncle-Hero Hank and now it looks like he's successfully usurping Hank's influence with money and horsepower. Looks like Walt Jr is going to be let in on the family business fairly soon.

The atmosphere at breakfast was decidedly chilly, because, man, you give a teenager one brand-new muscle car and all of a sudden he can't give his dad the big piece of bacon so that the 1 in 51 isn't so piddly. KIDS. In a scene that lasted a minute and a half there was a lot of back and forth power struggling: Skyler lands the first blow by 'forgetting' the bacon-birthday tradition, Walt and Junior bully and guilt her into compliance, she does it but does it half-assed, Junior bullies her some more, she retaliates on him by trading his full piece for a half piece, Junior is put in his place as lowest in the pecking order and the supposed order in Walt's head (him = king, Junior and Skyler = supplicated) is restored. Damn.

The showdown between Skyler and Walt was a longtime coming and it was great to see Anna Gunn do something other than stare hollowly and suck in air and pretend to sleep while Walt paws at her and coos about how great things are *chills*. Not only did she show some grade-A, Walt-level scheming with her Woolf-walking into the pool but she also zapped the power, again, from Walt by upstaging his saccharine retelling of his cancer woes.

She was fantastic as the mama bear going up against "the one who knocks" (lol): Her fierceness and then her collapse as he batted away everyone of her threats (I thought she went toe to toe with him and that her threat to pretend that he was abusive was genius, confused that she'd still want Walt Jr to think so highly of Walt after everything...). And then when she got the last word and decimated him with the cancer thing. Wowza; go, girl. I can't imagine that Walt would be hurt by her wishing him dead at that point, or wishing that the cancer would come back but that it was the reminder of his mortality that knocked the wind out of him. To quote the ever wise Nelson: "ha-ha".

And seeing Skyler with damp, relaxed hair reminded me of her hotness in the first 2 season and leaves me with one question: why on earth is Anna Gunn's hair being styled so terribly? The awful Real Housewives of New Jersey blowouts that she's had for the past couple seasons have been driving me up the wall. What is going, stylists? FIX HER HAIR. And bring back the wrap dresses.

If episode 2 was all about Mike (luv u) and episode 3 was more about Jesse (u 2) then 4 was Sky's episode. Jesse showed up briefly to give Lydia a stay of execution and Walt the ticker for his time-bomb (one year to go, Walt!). Mike gave a Feminism 101 speech and was just super awesome as per usual but in an abbreviated capacity. Marie was there just long enough for me to stare longingly at her beautiful mouth (real talk, Betsy Brandt has a beautiful mouth. I like to look at it). And Hank, who is somehow incredibly perceptive about everyone else, sorting out Madrigal/Pollos Hermanos like he's Rain Man, can't seem to put his finger on the fact that something doesn't smell right over at his in-laws. Come on, man! Something tells me that being head honcho isn't going to stop Hank from chasing his White whale.

I've read some reviews online that say that Breaking Bad is a show without a hero and while I agree that Walt is most definitely not the hero (or anti-hero hero, even) I would say that the emerging hero of the series is Jesse. We've watched him really grow over the past four seasons and this season especially he has shown incredible depth, compassion, adeptness and heart. He has become the shows conscious, especially this week with his refusal to let Mike kill Lydia (which I'm sure will turn out to be a terrible decision and that Lydia did and will continue to try and fuck them). I hope in the end that it is Jesse who survives and somehow bests Walt. I hope that Walt sees that Jesse is a better man, a better human being and a better business partner. But I also hope that Jesse never finds out about Walt's role in Jane's death. I don't think he could take that.

There have always been two things that represent Walt's inner-villainy: his Heisenberg hat and shaving his head. This episode he wore the hat in public, as Walter White and he had a rage shave. Shit's gonna go down.

One more super pressing question:

Who is Lydia?


Alex Snider still kinda wants to go camping in an Aztec. But she doesn't make out with people who share the same (immediate) bloodline as one another anymore. She blogs here and tweets here.


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