Breaking Bad: Grilled

"We tried to poison you because you're an insane, degenerate piece of filth and you deserve to die."

When you know your main characters will live through an experience, it takes really outstanding writing and acting to get the audience to fear for them. Mission accomplished.

Gold acting stars for Raymond Cruz, who did an exceptional job playing the late and deeply unlamented hair-trigger lunatic, Tuco Salamanca. Walt and Jesse were trapped with him for hours in that "really nice crib in the country", not knowing from one moment to the next when Tuco would kill or hurt them. As if that weren't enough, it got even crazier because of a wild card -- a silent old man in a wheelchair. Walt and Jesse made the serious mistake of assuming he was a vegetable, but "Tio" saw and heard everything, and in a state of extreme frustration, he kept trying to tell Tuco what was going on, throwing himself at the poisoned food and ringing his bell. Was he Tuco's uncle? Tuco certainly didn't treat him very well.

The rest of the episode centered around Hank, and in a way, he was like old "Tio" with the bell. The opening scene with the pep talk ("Hell, yeah! Hell, yeah!") was really funny and we're going ah, Hank, you're all hot air. And then Hank showed us that he saw everything, understood everything, and he's damned good at his job. He followed Marie and Skyler's lead to Jesse and he actually did find Walt, although he doesn't know it yet. Big gun battle with Tuco, pause, careful aim, goodbye Tuco. A wow of a kill shot. I like Hank. He seems like such an overblown jerk at times, but there's an impressive lawman hiding inside there.

Which left Walt and Jesse stranded in the desert without Jesse's ridiculous bouncing car. And "Tio" alive and inside the house, knowing Walt's real name. Now what?

Even with everything Tuco did, neither Walt nor Jesse could bring themselves to kill Tuco in cold blood. I care about Walt and Jesse now, and did not like seeing them locked in a trunk, tossed around and terrified. (Which had to be taxing for the actors, as well.) Walt cares about Jesse, or at the very least, feels responsible for him. Not so sure of the reverse, since Jesse was suggesting that since Walt had a short time to live, he should sacrifice himself to save Jesse. Maybe Jesse was kidding. Nope. Well, maybe just a little.

The photography in this episode was fascinating. We constantly got close-up shots of discarded objects, shell casings, and bits of Jesse's car along with the unidentifiable noise that we later discover is Jesse's car hydraulics bouncing away. What did it mean? I'm not sure that I know. I observe, you decide. Seriously, though. Post something!

Bits:

-- The family thinks that Walt killed himself, and that photo of him on the MISSING flier made him look helpless and pathetic. But Skyler, Hank and Marie also know now that Walt had a secret cell phone. Great visual when it was mentioned and they cut to that very cell phone flying through the air like a bird.

-- Loved the shot with Walt and Jesse arguing sotto voce as photos of Gonzo, NoDoze and the junkyard appeared behind them on the television. Laugh out loud funny. I also liked the optical illusion picture in the background when we discovered that Tio wasn't exactly a vegetable. They do this sort of symbolism so well.

-- Tuco's shirt looked like shiny snake scales. His previous shirt had chains all over it. The wardrobe department knows what they're doing.

-- Did Tuco really shoot a cow with a machine gun? (Symbolizing Tuco destroying Walt, his source of money.)

And pieces:

-- Tuco didn't kill Gonzo, after all. The poor guy Tuco beat to death was called NoDoze. Guess he's sleeping now.

-- Tuco's cousins are still coming. This can't be good.

-- So Walt did have the poison with him. For a moment, I thought Tuco would actually take it.

-- If you're new to Breaking Bad, I'm going to spoil you a tiny bit by revealing that the bell-ringing "Tio" (Mark Margolis) appears again. I love this character.

-- In this week's car report, Jesse's ride was seriously shot up. So was Hank's.

Quotes:

Hank: "Study the face, study the file, get a big old raging hard-on at the idea of catching this piece of shit. My apologies to the HR department! Grow tumescent with anticipation."

Tuco: "I like doing business with a family man. There's always a lot of collateral."

Tuco: "What's with this gag? It smells like head cheese."
Jesse: "It's killer. Seriously."

Marie: "I think the very fact that they haven't found him yet bodes well. Somebody would have smelled something by now."
Marie, like Cordelia Chase, has never actually heard of tact.

Marie: "Chemotherapy and marijuana go together like apple pie and Chevrolet."

I was trying to think of how many ringing bells to give this episode, and I realized that Breaking Bad is either very good or outstanding. Constantly giving it three or four bells is going to get boring. It probably needs a scale all its own. Any suggestions?

Billie
---
Billie Doux loves good television and spends way too much time writing about it.

5 comments:

Billie Doux said...

Programming note: I'm planning to post at least one Breaking Bad review a week, and hopefully two, depending on what other reviews I'm doing during the week.

Patryk said...

That opening scene was the greatest opener the show has done so far imho. I think they were going for creating an unsettling and eerie atmosphere using something that's supposed to be a fun car modification. Whatever it was though it was very effective. five out of 4 bouncing cars.

Also this would be the season 1 finale without the writers strike.

Billie Doux said...

Thanks, Patryk. That makes sense. It feels finale-like.

Jess Lynde said...

I agree with Patryk that this particular "in media res" opening is one of the very best they've done. I still remember how much it freaked me out the first time I watched this ep. And the ep only got more insanely tense from there! This is one of those episodes where I absolutely loved all the unbearable tension, especially contrasted with the hilarious comedy stylings of Walt and Jesse. I don't always love the tension, but it worked so well here. Fantastic episode.

Tio really is a great, great character. And that bell! Oh, that bell.

Suzanne said...

Since we had no idea what Tuco might do to Walt and Jesse given how crazy he is, I think the opening was meant to be unsettling, too. I found myself trying to imagine what the noise could be the whole time and having horrible visions of what it might possibly be in relation to what he could be doing to them enter my mind. I was actually relieved when Walt and Jesse were finally shown inside of the truck since as awful as it was, it didn't come anywhere close to being as awful as I imagined. Remember this is coming from a person who watch The Shield, a show that was never shy about showing horribly graphic scenes.

Tio was amazing in this episode. I really admire the actor who played that character because it must have been incredibly difficult to play. By the end, I felt like I could read his mind. Did anyone catch the way he smiled near the end when Tuco took out after Walt and Jesse? He seems to admire and is possibly proud of Tuco's crazy violent streak.

One of my favorite scenes in this episode was when Jesse was trying to whisper to Walt that they should try to attack Tuco in the kitchen as when he directs Walt to hit Tuco over the head with something heavy, Walt picks up the fly swatter and says something like "and what do you suggest I use?" with a funny movement of his eyes as he said it.