Breaking Bad: Live Free or Die

Mike: "You know, I can foresee a lot of possible outcomes to this thing, and not a single one of them involves Miller time."

I expected it to be good. I didn't expect it to be so damned funny.

The great magnet heist reminded me a lot of Walt and Jesse's pompom caper, but much better orchestrated and with classier disguises. I laughed. A lot. And I'm so glad it was a three-man job, because Mike adds so much to this series; his dry, sarcastic delivery always makes me smile. In fact, nearly every line that made me laugh was Mike's, starting with his complete befuddlement regarding the strength of Jesse's connection to Walt, to his observation that blowing up a nursing home just whet Walt's appetite for destruction. Joe, the old guy at the junkyard who turned the RV into patio furniture, was also back, and he was a hoot.

And it was all Jesse's idea. No one listened to him; he said "magnet" four times before anyone even heard. In fact, Jesse was uniformly terrific in this episode. Smart, loyal, on top of things, he came up with a winner of an idea, and he even stood between Mike and Walt, saving Walt's life. Plus he was the only one who had the necessary cash to put the plan into motion.

(Was anyone else worried that the cop at the evidence locker had an intimate piercing of some sort?)

So the heist, or more appropriately, since nothing was stolen, the caper, was the high point. Everything else was a bit depressing verging on heavy-duty. At first, it seemed that everything was going back to normal at the White house: Walt went home, disposed of his bomb makings and the lilies of the valley in the back yard, toasted his victory over Gus, and his family came home.

But things have changed. Emotionally, Skyler has crossed a line. She's never again going to see Walt the way that she used to. She actually went there and told Walt outright that she was afraid of him. The real Walt, the totally ruthless Walt who just killed a bunch of people, peeked out of his mild-mannered disguise and was seen three times in this episode (that I counted, anyway): when Walt said, "Because I said so" to Mike and Jesse; when he hugged Skyler at the end (shudder) and said, "I forgive you." And thirdly, the most frightening instance was when Saul explained the Ted situation. Saul isn't what I'd call a sympathetic character, but I actually felt bad when Saul tried to quit and Walt came down on him and said, "We're done when I say we're done." Saul was frightened. I didn't like seeing Saul frightened.

Speaking of the Ted situation, that was a surprise. I thought he was dead, and he probably wishes he was. He still wants money for his family. I sort of don't blame him.

Finally, the opener was classic Breaking Bad in media res. According to my unofficial calculations (and I'm sure someone will correct me if I'm wrong), it's only been about a year since the start of the series when Walt had his fiftieth birthday, so the flash forward probably took place a year in the future. It was Walt's 52nd birthday, he had a whole lot of hair and new glasses, and was living as a guy named Lambert in the state of New Hampshire. At Denny's (again with the grand slam breakfast, ick), he met our old friend Jim Beaver the gun dealer, and picked up what Dan identified for me as a "pig," an M-60.

It's sort of fascinating that this was such a call-back to the pilot episode, where Walt had hair and had just turned 50 and Skyler gave him tasteless veggie bacon on his plate in the form of the number 50. This time, Walt was alone, and it was real bacon. And Walt was coughing in the bathroom.

What's the M-60 for, Walt? And why did you go on the lam? Is that why he chose the name "Lambert," for "lam"? No, I'm being cute. That's Skyler's maiden name, isn't it? Does that mean she's still with him? Will we have to wait until the end of the season and series to find out what's going on?

Bits:

-- Characters in this series tend to wear bright primary and secondary colors, but this time, nearly everyone in the cast was wearing muted stuff like gray, beige, white and black. Except Saul, who wore bright purple (as well as the eternal blue ribbon for the plane crash victims). And Hank was wearing a white coverall with blue mask and gloves when he was sifting through the superlab rubble.

-- In the flash forward sequence, Walt was driving a white Volvo, but switched to a red car when he took possession of the M-60.

-- "Live free or die" is, of course, the New Hampshire state motto and it's on the license plates. The plate said 2013. But mine does, too, and it's 2012 right now. I'm assuming the motto applies to future Walt, somehow.

And pieces:

-- Absolutely loved Mike telling the chickens he was feeding to be nice to each other. Mike is a hit man. Why wasn't he telling them to kill each other? :)

-- Gus hid his critical Cayman Islands bank info behind the photo of himself and his friend Max. That makes sense.

-- I liked that future Walt left that nice waitress a hundred dollar bill.

-- In the U.S., right after the heist computer exploding sequence, we got an Internet Explorer commercial. I thought that was hilarious.

-- There were 42 batteries. 42, as we all know, is the answer to everything.

-- Walt hadn't heard that Hank took Junior along to Los Pollos Hermanos. Walt did not look pleased. I bet Hank is going to hear about that.

-- In this week's hair report, like last season, Anna Gunn again didn't quite match her look in the previous season finale. Her hair was noticeably longer (was it a wig?) and she looked thinner.

Quotes:

Gomez: "Apparently, the teeth do this popcorn thing when they get too hot. So they tell me."
That's something I really didn't need to know. Thanks, Vince Gilligan.

(Mike holds out his hand palm up and wiggles his fingers)
Walt: "What?"
Mike: "Keys, scumbag. It's the universal symbol for keys."

Mike: (on the phone) "Inspector Clark. Inspector Dave Clark, like the Dave Clark Five. (pause) Before your time. (hangs up) Oh, yeah. We're boned."

Mike: "You know how they say it's been a pleasure? It hasn't."

Mike: "So now you want to blow up a police station."
Walt: "I don't believe I said that."
Mike: "Nursing home full of old folks just whet your appetite. Now you want to kill a bunch of cops."

Joe: "What about that stuff you guys wear at the end of your pricks? Speak now, or forever sing soprano."
Jesse: "Why is everybody looking at me?"
And I loved how everyone looked at Mike when Joe mentioned artificial hips.

Jesse: "Yeah, bitch! magnets!"

Walt: "Ethically? I'm sorry, I must be hearing things. Did you actually just use the word 'ethically' in a sentence?"

Four out of four grand slam breakfasts,

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

7 comments:

Amy Ennis said...

I had a screaming toddler by the time BB was over, so I missed what Walt said to Skylar, but I knew it had to be significant. I was also screaming "Magnets" when Jesse said it, and I felt pretty good that I'm in no way scientific. I also knew the truck was going to tip over. I loved Walt in this episode, but I also loved Jesse and Mike. I have a few predictions for the ending: 1. Jesse kills Walt and takes over 2. Walt turns state's evidence against Mike. 3. Walt literally rides off into the sunset. My husband has a 4th: Junior takes over the drug trade. I think that one will take more than one season.

Jess Lynde said...

The humor was great, but I really liked the darkness. Walt has truly become terrifying, and I hope Mike sticks around long enough to get Jesse to see that Mr. White is a danger to him. He needs to get the hell away from Walt. I'd love for him to get out of the drug trade and find something safe and productive to do with his life, but right now, I'll settle for get the hell away from Walt.

I would also love for Skyler to get herself and their kids the hell away from Walt, but we'll see. I think she's only now realizing what a terrible mistake she made when she didn't turn him in long ago. Her fear when he was "forgiving" her was so palpable. I don't know where she goes from here. She probably doesn't know either.

You know what really burned Walt up in that scene with Junior? Not that Hank took Junior to Los Pollos. That Hank was the big hero. Walt won, but Hank was getting the hero credit in Junior's eyes. He hates not getting the credit he believes he's due.

Anonymous said...

Walt is really scary. The way he says things is so menacing, it made me shudder. He now really thinks he can get away with everything. The way he didn´t want to leave without putting the volume to its maximum was really megalomania kicking in.

Ted was a surprise and I find it interesting that Skylar cried in the beginning and as soon she knew that Ted won´t talk (I see a blackmail coming) she became "Walt-like" and said in this cold way "good".

I liked Jesse a lot in this episode. He has really grown up and I hope he gets away from Walt in time.

I missed Marie a little bit.

Jess, your last observation is really good. I could imagine that this is really eating him. Additionally to that Jesse had the ultimate idea and the cash to solve the problem. Nothing Heisenberg can take credit for.

Pontus said...

You missed the most important part - the broken glass when the policemen are cleaning up and doing an inventory in the evidence room. First explicit mention of this ubiquitous symbolism?

Jess Lynde said...

So, I've been pondering the opening scene from this premiere, and thinking about the possible reasons that Walt could have ended up in that set of circumstances. And it occurred to me that we never fully learned Gus's backstory. We learned enough to know that whoever he was in Chile, it gave the Cartel serious pause when they wanted to kill him. And if the Cartel wouldn't kill Gus out of fear of reprisal, then Walt just might be in for a world of hurt.

Billie Doux said...

Jess, that is a great point. Gus's mysterious past kept getting mentioned at critical points in season four, and it's a dangling loose string now. I bet you're right.

Azalea Bradley said...

Here's what I like about this episode:

After Season four, with Gus looming so large as the antagonist (it really felt like the whole season was about Gus), and with the immense satisfaction of seeing him finally die, the whole tone of the S4 finale almost felt like the series was over. Everything can just go back to normal now, right?

But no, of course. The police and DEA, and Hank, will be investigating this. Hank managed to find Gus; he could well find Walt as well. Mike is in Mexico, he's about to hear about it, and there will be hell to pay. Gus' security footage is out there somewhere. And Walt descends more and more into being the actual villain, and Skyler is now afraid ... of him. Jesse's loyalties will be tested. Is Walt going to keep cooking?

I'm really looking forward to season 5!