Breaking Bad episode review: Staying quiet, color theory, and the question of young Mr. Pinkman
How much money would it take to change your life? I’m not asking how much would be nice, $10,000 or so would allow most of us to pay off some debts or maybe take a vacation, but how much would it take to truly change the circumstances of your day to day life?
The number tends to be much higher than people assume. Even $100,000 wouldn’t allow many people to fully pay off their home and, after quitting your job, living for a year or two and buying a nice car, there wouldn’t be much left. If you have a family and already have a decent middle class existence, would it take $1 million to improve the lives of your family?
What would you be willing to do for that money?
Walter and Jesse are out of the meth game, and they both seem to have enough money to be comfortable for the rest of their lives. This is the end game for Walter, and he wants to make sure his wife gets to keep the money, and then to pass it down to their children. Jesse can’t seem to get rid of it fast enough, and his plan to throw it onto the lawns of people living in a particularly bad neighborhood backfires when he finds himself in police custody.
This is one of those “slow” episodes where it may not look like much happened, but every character comes in to sharp focus during this hour of television. We wondered what would happen now that Hank knows that he’s related to Heisenberg, and things begin to move quickly. Both men jump on the phone and begin plotting their next move.
Hank goes for Skyler, and does a sad job of convincing her that she doesn’t need a lawyer while trying to get her to give a statement on the record. He doesn’t care about her, he doesn’t care that she’s family, and the legal danger she’s in barely registers. He just wants to win, to finally get his man, and Skyler is another obstacle between his current situation and that goal.
So what do we think Skyler is thinking through these scenes? She’s shaken, and trying to figure out her next move, but her thought process is opaque. We know that she doesn’t want to give a statement, at least not yet, but we don’t know what options are swirling around in her head. It takes a slap from Marie, not to mention the attempt to take the youngest child from the house, before Skyler seems to snap out of her panic to think about her next step.
Skyler handles these situations with as much grace as possible, considering the circumstances. There is still plenty of room left for her to maneuver, there is still a chance that she gets to keep the money that is now buried out in the desert, and Walter is on the way out, one way or another. She has to be relieved, at least on some level. All of this will be over soon.
“Maybe our best move here is to stay quiet,” she tells Walter.
Channeling Scrooge McDuck
Let’s get back to the original question for a moment, because the scene dealing with the two henchmen sent to deal with the giant pile of money in the storage locker is a nice comedic aside in a very heavy episode. You would almost have to just enjoy the feel of so much money, wouldn’t you? To lean back on it, and let your mind go for a moment to think of the possibilities. Neither of the two men explicitly say that they are temped to slip a stack of bills into their pocket, but the idea is there.
“This guy hit ten guys in jail within a two minute window. It’s all I’m saying,” is the response to the other gentleman’s silly offer of “Mexico.” If Walter wanted to be feared on the streets, he has succeeded. The money is safely packed into barrels before he once again goes into the desert to do the dirty deed of hiding the cash one more time. He barely counts it; the amount isn’t that important. It’s a giant stack of cash, and most of it’s there. Good enough.
There are only six episodes left to tie up all the loose ends, which means it’s likely that every scene during this episode will have some meaning in the final moments of the show. But honestly, why do we care what’s happening with the meth operation? Lydia is unhappy at the drop in quality, the men cooking it don’t seem too worried about keeping up the quality that made the product so popular in the first place, and it ends in bloodshed. The comings and goings of the meth business don’t matter to any of the core characters anymore, at least not directly, so it’s hard to see how this will loop around to the main story once again.
Also, if you’re into the color theory going around, pay attention to the remote-controlled car in the opening scenes of this episode. What color is it? It’s hard to avoid falling into the trap of seeing meaning everywhere, but if yellow marks criminal behavior, why give that color to a child’s toy?
Walter wants to keep the money safe for his family. Hank wants to finally close this case, and now he has a target. Marie wants the same thing, especially after being betrayed by her sister. Skyler can finally see a reality where she doesn’t have to worry about going to jail, or Walter, or any aspect of his second life as a drug kingpin. Lydia wants to get her product up to the previous high standards for her overseas buyers. I’m assuming Walter Jr. just wants breakfast.
So this all makes sense, and there is much room for drama and the fun stuff. There is one question left, however, and it’s a very important one as Hank gets to take another crack at our favorite young, tortured student of chemistry: If Jesse wants redemption, and the stack of cash that's motivating so much of the action is meaningless in that goal, what next?
The door closes. We're going to have to wait until next week.