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Breaking Bad: Half Measures

Walt: "Murder is not part of your twelve-step program."

Heisenberg. He's baaaaacccck.

When Walt asked Saul to help him keep Jesse out of trouble by having him arrested for something small, Mike came by the house to talk to Walt about half measures, trying to get Walt to see that it was time to have Jesse killed. Mike used to be a beat cop who couldn't bring himself to outright kill a man who was abusing his wife, and the abused woman ended up dead. It had to be a turning point for Mike, the reason he wound up working as an enforcer and assassin. Gold acting stars for Jonathan Banks. That scene was riveting, and told us everything we could ever want to know about what motivates Mike.

Walt took Mike's story to heart, but interpreted it differently. The ending of this episode was a shocker. It was like the secret Walt, hidden for such a long time and so quiet, especially during the meeting at the chicken ranch, made an unexpected comeback. Walt killed those two despicable drug-dealing child killers in the space of a few seconds, and without hesitation. Jesse looked as shocked as I was. The genuine surprise for me was that Walt saved Jesse's life at his own expense.

Jesse has courage. It took real nerve to stand up, look directly at a man as powerful and ruthless as Gus, and say, is it okay with you that your employees are using an eleven-year-old kid to kill for them? Yes, Jesse shouldn't have done it. It was a half measure, and it got little Tomas killed. It took real guts for Jesse to go kill those two men, afterward; it was suicide. I actually found it touching that Walt took those murders away from Jesse and took the burden on himself.

Walt was a lot calmer with his family, too. It was like he was ready to just let some things go. He was ready to let Skyler have her way with the money laundering scheme (in exchange for dinners at home) and okay with Junior driving the car using both feet on the pedals, something Walt was radically opposed to last season. Maybe Skyler is ready for the reconciliation he proposed, now that she's jumped into the criminal life with both feet. (Absolutely loved her looking up "money laundering" on Wikipedia.)

The opener of this episode was freaking brilliant, too. Wendy the crack whore is such a minor character and I'd never given her much thought. In the space of one brief montage, we got a glimpse into her sordid, pathetic reality, and I felt such pity for her. The music was perfect. "Who's bending down to give me a rainbow?" "And Windy has wings to fly above the clouds..." Poor thing. I liked that she was ready to help Jesse poison those two dealers because she's a mother, too. No one-dimensional characters on this show.

After several episodes of unexpected heaviness, Hank and Marie again delivered some delightful comic relief. Hank was refusing to leave the hospital until he could walk, and Marie couldn't get him to budge. It was so clever of her to change tacks and link going home from the hospital to Hank's manhood, so to speak. Their expressions as they were leaving the hospital (hers triumphant, his defeated) were so much fun.

This episode ended with a monster cliffhanger. When I saw it the first time, I had absolutely no idea what they could possibly do next. Because Gus will find out. He always does. And there is no way Gus will forgive Walt killing two of his faithful employees, no matter what they did.


-- I've been unhappy with Jesse for several episodes, and now I'm feeling sympathy for him again. I was certainly unhappy to see him get high again. Which of course, he did while sitting directly in front of his sobriety medal.

-- Walt's car still has blue tape on the windshield.

-- Was Skyler's blouse blue-green this time?

-- This episode's water imagery was all the cleansing water pouring into the lab machinery.

-- Saul was wearing a brown suit with a green shirt and a pink tie, plus he was still wearing the blue ribbon. That outfit just said "clown" to me.

And pieces:

-- During the tense meeting at the chicken farm, Gus told Jesse that he had one friend in the room, and that was Walt. Gus was right.

-- Walt gets to eat dinner at home four times a week now.

-- If Walt didn't make ricin for Jesse, and it's clear that he didn't, what was in the burgers?


Skyler: "I'd rather have them think I'm Bonnie what's-her-name than some complete idiot."

Walt: (to Jesse) "You are not a murderer. I'm not, and you're not. It's as simple as that."
But he is. And they are.

Mike: "The moral of the story is, I chose a half measure when I should have gone all the way. I'll never make that mistake again." And I don't think Walt will, either.

Marie: "I'll tell you what. If I can get the groundhog to see his shadow..."
Hank: "It's not gonna happen."
Marie: "I'm betting it will. And if he does, you check out of here."
What a fun way to put it.

Four out of four paper bags full of poisoned hamburgers,

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


  1. This is my second time watching this episode, but it had been a while. I vaguely remembered what happened, but it was still a shocker and the episode had me glued to my seat.

    I knew the episode titles for this show were brilliant, but I just noticed how clever this one is:

    "Murder is not part of your twelve-step program," says Walt. By now 12-step has been mentioned a few times.

    The words "half measures" will sound familiar to any AA member, or a member of any 12-step group that reads AA literature. In context it goes: "Half measures availed us nothing. We stood at the turning point." That sounds a lot like what's happening in this episode.

    Interesting that Jesse breaks his sobriety right before going full measure.

    I also noticed that this was episode 12 of the season! Maybe not an accident.

    I liked this episode a lot partially because we got a nice, long, riveting monologue from Mike. I love the character of Mike! He's a shady character with questionable ethics, of course, but I just love how calm, professional, and no-nonsense he is. He's seasoned and unflappable. He's at peace with his life, enjoys his job, and does it well. And, like everyone in this show, he's impeccably acted.

  2. The ending was shocking, but certainly a Plan B for Walter who was acting out on a whim in the heat of the moment. Surely he was trying to reach Jesse before it got as far as it did.


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