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Breaking Bad: Mandala

"From what I do hear about him, he sounds a little like you."

So much for do-it-yourself distribution.

Gus, the cautious and careful owner of a string of Los Pollos Hermanos (The Chicken Brothers) restaurants, feels like the answer to Walt's prayers, if Walt were the praying sort. Gus is the opposite of Tuco. In fact, he appears to be a lot like Walt: a smart, quiet middle-aged man who wears glasses, works hard and keeps his illicit drug trade completely separate from his private life, a man people would never suspect. The thing about Gus that immediately got to me was the way he dropped his pleasant manager persona as if it were a complete subterfuge. Which I'm sure it is.

Walt's cancer is no longer inoperable, and he has to come up with $200,000 if he wants to live. It's interesting that the writers chose to establish in the previous episode that Walt wanted to stick with his new illicit profession, even though he didn't have to. It's also interesting that Gus would have refused to work with Walt because Jesse is a drug addict.

Thanks to Jane, Jesse has just discovered heroin. I always got the impression that Jesse enjoyed drugs but was also able to leave them alone. Jane is the exact opposite; she's all or nothing. (I was particularly struck by the way she kept putting the needle in her mouth as if it tasted good.) Of course, you could see this the other way, too, that Jesse managed to screw up Jane's sobriety. But why would a woman in the program be dating a guy she knows is a drug dealer? Because deep down, she desperately wanted to use again. And now she's jumped off the cliff and she's taking Jesse with her. I hate seeing them this way.

The episode started with a slow-moving car. And then there were lots of shots of cars sitting still in parking lots. When Walt got the word that he had one hour to deliver 38 pounds while Skyler simultaneously went into labor, there were cars zooming all over the place. The episode ended with Walt breaking into Jesse's house and taking off with a huge garbage bag full of meth like a drug dealing Santa, all the while ignoring frantic phone calls and text messages from Skyler. When this show speeds up, they don't fool around.


-- The opener was tragic. I know kids get recruited early into gangs and dealing, but that poor kid was just as much a victim as Combo was. (Like Walt, I didn't even know Combo's name. It was Badger, Skinny Pete and the other one.)

-- Before he was killed, Combo was standing near a dumpster labeled "American Waste."

-- Jesse and Jane were watching a television program that featured kids doing stunts on bikes.

-- In Saul's office, Jesse was using the scales of justice as an ash tray.

-- Again with the parallel of Walt's cancer and Skyler's pregnancy, since Walt's surgery was about to be scheduled at the same time as Skyler's due date.

-- The title of this episode is "Mandala," which is Sanskrit for a sacred circle that Jung described as a representation of the unconscious self. Fascinating.

And pieces:

-- Cackle Woman has confessed, and Jesse's rep has suffered.

-- Skyler has found evidence of criminal behavior on Ted's part, but apparently, he was just doing it to save his company. Sure, I believe that.

-- Happy birthday, Mr. President. Ted sees Skyler as Marilyn Monroe. I'm all for the empowerment of women, but that seemed like a weird thing for her to do while nearly nine months pregnant. The other employees looked uncomfortable.

-- Loved Walt's phone going off while he was giving a test. He shouldn't be teaching any more, should he?

-- Gus's minion seemed sober, smart and all business. It's Jesse the screw-up that makes Walt more human, less evil.

-- Without posting spoilers other than that this is not his only episode, let me say up front that Giancarlo Esposito is just terrific as Gus.


Jesse: "Combo's dead. Shot."
Walt: "Which one is he?"

Saul: "Drug dealer getting shot? I'm gonna go out on a limb and say it's been known to happen."

Walt: "What do you want me to say, Jesse? Things have changed."
Jesse: "Oh, I know. We got a guy killed."

Gus: "You can never trust a drug addict."

Three out of four uneaten chicken dinners,

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


  1. Nice review Billie!

    Is healt care really that expensive? Wonder how many people turn into some sort of a Walt in real life!?

    Well, the Skyler moment made me feel very uncomfortable. Ted is a sleazy weasel. I really don´t like him.

    And as sad as Combo´s death was, at least we all know him by name now.

    Looking forward to your next review!

  2. What an interesting episode. I think Gus's statement that drug addicts should never be trusted is really interesting, because this episode seems to portray Walt as something of an 'addict' himself: his frantic rush to get the meth, his utter disregard for Jesse and Jesse's home, his prioritization of the deal over Skylar's phone call...Walt is as addicted to the making and selling of meth as Jane is to actually taking heroin.

  3. Forgot to add: I loved the moment when Skinny Pete said he didn't tell Jesse that his rep for the ATM killing had disintegrated because "we like you" or something like that. Jesse is such a nice guy that his friends didn't want to hurt his feelings--he is clearly not cut out to be a kingpin.

  4. I hate when people call California "Cali." It annoys me so freaking much. I think this is how San Franciscans must feel when they hear "San Fran."

    If business was so bad for Ted, why hire Skyler? Why hire anyone new?

    Jane and Jesse really reminded me of Amy and Jason in the first season of True Blood.

  5. In this episode we can also see the juxtaposition of Skyler's morals (not able to stay in a company that illegally underreports revenue) to Walt's criminal behavior.


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