Breaking Bad: Negro y Azul

"The game has changed. The word is out that you are a killer. Don't you see how great this is?"

From the music video opener to the exploding turtle, this is an episode that just stays with you. There was a lot going on, and yet it all just seemed to flow together into a rather bizarre whole.

It's all about the reputation, even when it's based on lies. (Or especially when it's based on lies.) Thanks to The Shield, I have learned that the opener with the legend of the gringo drug boss Heisenberg was a Mexican crime ballad, a "Narcocorrido." It made me laugh out loud several times, but it was also disturbing. The cartel in Mexico is pissed about "Heisenberg" and they are planning to take him out. These are very scary people. Look what they just did to Tortuga, as well as several DEA agents.

Cut to Walt chewing out one of his slacker students. "Don't bullshit a bullshitter." Was Walt aware that he called himself a liar in front of a student? Too late, Walt was ready to take back his order for Jesse to "do something" about Spooge and Cackle Woman. But as it turned out, Walt might have been right, after all. Jesse's idiotic minions and their customers were all terrified of Jesse's mad ATM killing skills. The hilarious exchange about Jesse being a blowfish was the episode in a nutshell.

"If you know your enemy as yourself, you'll fight without danger in many battles." The cartel doesn't have a clue about who or what Walt really is. The reverse is also true, because Walt seems to have no idea how dangerous a cartel can be. The DEA? Also clueless.

Hank, who also has a bit of the blowfish about him, was out of place in his new assignment where he literally didn't speak the language; his new workmates were lying to him about what they were saying behind his back. And yet, Hank's honest reaction when he saw the tortoise, his acknowledgment of the shock he was feeling, saved his life. Not to mention that he managed to give critical first aid to a man who had just ridiculed him and lied to him.

Jesse also impressed Jane by telling her some truth. They're both artists (or as Jesse says, "drawers"). And like Jesse, who now has a rep as a mad killer but was so upset about witnessing a murder that he couldn't handle it, Jane is a tattoo artist who has no tattoos of her own because they're too much of a commitment. Jane is delightful. They're terribly cute together.

There were other fascinating bits in this episode. There were scenes at the National Atomic Museum in front of the first atomic bomb contrasted with the explosion in the desert. The bust on Vanco's desk mimicked the disembodied head on the turtle. Walt decided to branch out and acquire more satellite dealers for Jesse's minions, while Jesse's TV was searching for satellite signals. Which I think is another huge mistake, and I mean the branching out, not the flat screen. Why won't Walt ever listen to Jesse?

"Negro y azul" means "black and blue." Along with the obvious meaning that I think applied to Jesse, who was physically and emotionally bruised by his experience in the last episode, there were a lot of references to the colors. Heisenberg's black hat and the blue meth in the music video. Jesse's flat screen, where the blacks are really black, but the screen was blue (which at home we call "the blue screen of death"). Skyler wore black and blue to her first day at work, and Walt asked if she was going to a funeral.

How much do I not care that Skyler went back to work for Mister Grabby Hands Ted Beneke? Skyler is aware that her relationship with Walt is broken (like the obviously symbolic photo of him that she dropped and broke in her new office) and she is longing for something better than what she has. She left Beneke four years ago because of fumes, which I find really funny considering her husband's current line of work. Isn't it a little deceptive to wrangle a job from someone that you know is hot for you? Especially since she obviously never told Walt about it?

Bits:

-- The photo that Skyler dropped was the same photo they used for the MISSING fliers.

-- Jesse's wardrobe again featured a scary face: first a jack-o-lantern, and then a skull with a crown on it.

And pieces:

-- Walt is now hiding his secret cell phone in the ceiling at school. It's probably the only place on earth where Skyler won't think to look for it.

-- Another lie. Walt is coughing and is deliberately concealing that he is coughing from his family.

-- Back in "Seven Thirty-Seven," Skyler was looking longingly at a photo of herself and a man. That was Ted Beneke. I'm not actually that hyper-observant; I've just seen the series before.

-- Jane works for ABQ Ink.

-- There was a Humane Society note at the end, so I am assuming no one actually blew up a tortoise. Although the poor thing did have to carry around a disembodied head.

Quotes:

Student: "I mean, I really studied, like, really really studied, like all night, hard, and I mean, I'm so into chemistry for, like, the concepts. I just think I have, you know, the attention deficit... could you please just let this slide?"
Walt: "Don't bullshit a bullshitter."

Jesse: "I didn't say I killed him."
Walt: "Tell me what happened."
Jesse: "The dude's wife crushed his head with an ATM machine."

Walt: "Can this person identify you? Can she ID you being there?"
Jesse: "She couldn't identify her left ass cheek."

Jesse: "I'm a blowfish."
Walt: "Say it like you mean it!"
Dan thinks that Jesse missed a real opportunity to retort, "Does that make you Hootie?"

Vanco: "What's the matter, Schrader? You act like you never saw a severed human head on a tortoise before."

Four out of four exploding tortoises,

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

5 comments:

Jess Lynde said...

The ending is certainly memorable. Tortuga's fate was so insanely outrageous that I had to tell my husband all about it after I saw the episode, and it now mentally defines the series for him. It is also the last time he let me talk about the show with him. Severed heads on exploding tortoises will do that, I guess.

Very nice review, Billie. I completely agree that Jane is delightful and that she and Jesse are terribly cute together.

Suzanne said...

Great review, Billie. Thanks for helping me remember why I knew what kind of song was playing in the beginning of the episode. I knew it, but I couldn't remember why I knew it -- of course, The Shield! Where else?

Jess, I think my husband was feeling the same way as yours after I described what the episode before this one was about.

This is an exceptional series even though the subject matter is very tough to watch at times. I really enjoy reading these reviews to see analysis about all of the various layers of meaning in each episode.

Patryk said...

I didn't know that there was a whole genre of mexican drug songs. :D Thanks Billie. Now I like Negro Y Azul even more.

I like the slow introdcution of the cartel, mostly by their actions and desciptions before we actually meet any of them.

Walt is asking for even more trouble by expanding the sales...

Mark Greig said...

I'm now halfway through my season two catch up marathon and I just want to say thank you for reviewing this series, Billie. Your reviews gave me the kick up the arse I needed to finally start watching again after catching the pilot a year ago.

Keep up the fantastic work.

Josie Kafka said...

There was a message at the end from the humane society? Did the disclaimer also say that no Danny Trejos were injured in the filming of this episode? :-)

(For what it's worth, tortuga is one of my favorite words in any language. Like potato, it seems completely appropriate for what it describes.)

I'd forgotten all about the narcocorridos from The Shield, but I loved the way they used a music video as a narrative device. What a perfect way to interject a bit of omniscience into a fairly limited p.o.v. show.

The video does a great job of showing how little Walter knows about the world he's getting into. Expand? Why not! He doesn't even mention the cartels. Even Jesse just refers to other "crews."

Speaking of The Shield, Hank working for the DEA in New Mexico and not speaking Spanish reminded me of Dutch not speaking Spanish as a cop in LA, and how his partner and the various criminals they rounded up in one episode all laughed at him.