Monday, August 13, 2012
Breaking Bad - "Dead Freight"
Fuck new guy Todd. Here, all this time I considered him a goofy wannabe gangster who was probably too simple-minded to amount to much; turns out he's Henry Fonda in Once Upon a Time in the West. And make no mistake about it, the final moment in "Dead Freight" was a direct homage to Leone's classic. As any Breaking Bad viewer is aware, Vince Gilligan has made no secret his respect for/indebtedness to spaghetti Westerns. Yet, knowing that, it was still a shock to me when Todd shot the kid after giving him the goofy wave...much like Henry Fonda shot a kid after smiling at him in Once Upon a Time in the West.
But yeah, you could say I had Todd pegged wrong. I assumed he was just a petty-thief with foolish aspirations toward something bigger, who would inevitably get chewed up by Walt's evil manipulations. But he's the most ruthless of the bunch (I don't even think Mike would shoot a kid). In fact, it seems the theme of this episode—for me, anyway—was, "shit, I had misconceptions about some of these characters." Which reminds me, I should apologize to Lydia for not believing her story about the silly-puttied GPS devices. Yep, just the shoddy workmanship of drug agents. My bad. That doesn't mean Mike ain't still itching to kill her, though—regardless of her knowledge of methylamine train shipments.
And oh how I wanted that train heist to work. My God, how often has Breaking Bad excited me, only to bring me crashing down to Earth. Indeed, Jesse's story-line continues to be the one reliable source of heartbreak on this show. How thrilling was it to see him concoct another brilliant scheme? Much as with the magnet caper in episode one, Jesse's plan is clever, but not beyond the realm of possibility for his mind to think up. After fiddling with his straw, it comes to him: siphon the methylamine; Walt and Mike can figure out the specifics.
You see, Jesse hates violence. Why can't they just be silent criminals? Get in, get out; make a quick buck. No harm done. So, forced into a corner by bickering parents Walt and Mike, knowing that a railroad heist would mean certain violence (see Mike's quote below), Jesse's brain goes into overdrive thinking of a way out. And so is born the perfect plan.
And I will admit, part of my excitement for this story, aside from nostalgia for the brilliant schemes of earlier seasons, is that I just love me a good heist story. Alright, after all of the dreary, descent into darkness we'd had this season, we'd get ourselves a breather; we'd get to see a thrilling, non-morally-ambiguous, good old fashioned heist.
But Todd showed that just isn't possible. And that's one of Breaking Bad's greatest strengths. Gilligan knows that, as with Scarface, the allure of gangster entertainment is the chance to live vicariously through the wanton criminality of other folks. Yes, we the viewers at home would never partake in such shenanigans, but it sure is fun to watch fictional characters get rich quick. Yeah, they always die at the end, but it sure was fun watching their ascent. And this is where Breaking Bad diverges from typical crime entertainment. It isn't the simple morality tale of: bad guy gets caught, or bad guy gets dead (though one of these options will certainly greet Walt by series' end). No, that story would be too easy; Gilligan's series is about the death of the soul in pursuit of such ends (and that's without even mentioning the vast sea of meth-addicted human wreckage left in the wake of Walt's superior product).
The second we are able to experience the vicarious thrill of a flawless heist well-executed, the world comes crashing down. We are brought back into reality. A child witnessed their crime. Living witnesses mean jail time. Living witness becomes dead witness. Jesse, and we the viewers, may want clean crimes; we may delude ourselves into believing that we can have all of the flavor with none of the fat; but that just ain't possible. There are real consequences. More than most any other narrative peddling the vicarious thrills of criminality, Breaking Bad makes us question why we enjoy such entertainments. In partaking in these thrills, we as viewers become culpable.
Also, fuck new guy Todd.
Eww, spider, gross.
I love that Walt knew Hank would be so uncomfortable with any display of emotion from him that, if he cried enough, Hank would leave the room, and he could plant the bugs.
Lydia's delivery of the line "assholes" was superb.
I like Mike's use of the old-timey slang "skells."
My apologies for not dissecting the terrific domestic scenes this week. I just got too caught up in the heist story. But please comment on this, if you'd like.
During the heist Walt wore kneepads, so that Skyler wouldn't notice dirt again on his clothes.
Yay, Bill Burr! Also, I know he's mostly on the show as comic relief, but I thought Burr had a great subtle, easy-to-miss actor moment. When the good Samaritan offers to push Burr's truck, Burr clenches his fist in frustration.
I wonder if Walt is OCD. When Mike radio'd that they had to hightail it, Walt wouldn't stop because he didn't have 1000 gallons yet. Yes, this could be a sign of Walt bucking Mike's authority, but I think Walt just had to have 1000 gallons for no other reason than OCD—oh yeah, and also to increase dramatic tension.
Aww, spider, sad.
“Everyone sounds like Meryl Streep with a gun to their head.”
“Like rob it? Like Jesse James?”
“Bottom line, I have done this long enough to know there are two kinds of heists: those where you get away with it, and those that leave witnesses.”
“You guys were gonna murder me? I thought you were professionals.”
“Yes, they will notice, at which point they will blame China, for sending a marginally weaker batch.”
“I’m not your wife, I’m your hostage.”
“Out burying bodies?”
“Robbing a train.”
“Hey, do either of you guys know about engines? Of course you don’t. That’s why they call you an engineer.”