Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Bad Men

A lot of big moments in Breaking Bad have happened out in the desert, and now we've got one of the biggest.  So big the latest episode--"To'hajiilee"--couldn't contain it all.  More on that later.

We're down to the last four hours, and everyone and everything is in play.  The teams have formed.  Hank, backed by wife Marie and partner Gomie (playing outside the rules) on one side, and Walt and Skyler, backed by Saul, on the other.  Junior still has no idea what's happening and, in a surprise move, Jesse has joined forces with Hank.  On the sidelines but ready to be called in are Todd and Lydia.

In fact, as the hour starts we get some face time with Todd and Lydia, who have been absent a while.  Todd has cooked his latest batch. Decent purity, though nowhere near Walt or even Jesse level, and worse, not blue.  Todd and his supremacist family wouldn't mind except Lydia understands branding, and if the cook doesn't work, they all lose millions. (There's been some debate among fans about just how much purity matters.  Some say it only matters because dealers will pay more for it and then adulterate it--users aren't so picky. I disagree.  Look at marijuana.  Various "brands," or so I've heard, cost a lot more than others.  Even if meth-heads are out of their minds, they can still tell the difference in the kick and would probably shell out more for the blue stuff.)

Lydia--who's gone from working with Germans to neo-Nazis--has a sit-down with Todd.  She thinks he can come through (though we know she's already approached Walt and he's out).  Meanwhile, Todd seems to be taking a liking to Lydia. Odd. Just then, he gets the phone call that we saw Walt make at the end of the last episode. Something needs to be done about Pinkman.

Hank and Gomie still have Jesse on ice, right after he screwed up the wire last week. (Once again, we assume Hank has gone mad in pursuit, but Gomie is putting his career on the line going this far off the books.) Hank is willing to try Jesse's new plan--not surprising, since Jesse has gotten as good as Walt at strategy. As many fans guessed, it's to threaten Walt's money, the one piece of evidence he'll never get rid of.  But how to flush him out? Well, Jesse knows someone who might just know.

Of course, we know only Walt knows.  In fact, this has seemed a weakness to me. The GPS numbers are available only to him on a lottery ticket. If he dies suddenly--an occupational hazard--or is even taken away, his familiy gets zip, so what's the point? Yet he's smart not to tell anyone, even Skyler, for just the reason that someone like Jesse or Hank might exploit it.

So Hank picks up one half of the A-Team, Huell, and stores him in a safe house.  He's not officially under arrest--they claim they're doing it for his safety--and while I know the DEA is given a fair amount of leeway, and Hank has gone nuts, can they really get away with this?  Meanwhile, at Hank's home, they put some brains on the floor for a fake photo making it looks like someone killed Jesse.

Then Hank tries to get Huell to talk by claiming he's got a phone call proving Walt is going to kill him--Saul has sold him out and his red-headed partner is already dead.  As for Jesse, look at this photo.  I don't know.  Hank going insane I can buy.  Jesse going over to the cops and I can sort of buy, though it's questionable. But Huell breaking like a little bitch?  He's been around.  Can't he see he's being played?  Sure, Hank is playing hardball, and we know Huell is frightened of Heisenberg, but being told not to call Saul under any circumstances and then being told he knows where the money is when he doesn't, can't he sniff out that something isn't quite right? Why tell them anything before he can hear more proof. How about using Hank's phone to call Saul and ask him some questions?  Or at least call some other lawyer before he continues.

Anyway, Huell spills what he knows about the money, so Hank can check the the van rental place.  Meanwhile, Walt meets with Todd and the gang, and puts the hit out on Jesse. He's still got warm feelings and wants it done painlessly.  Sure. Just one thing--we don't want your money, we want you to cook for us again.  Who's in charge here?  Walt has to agree, so he'll give just one more lesson to Todd. Walt also has a plan to flush Jesse out.  So who's the flusher and who's the flushee?

A little note here.  Some time last season I stopped rooting for Walt.  I thought he went way too far and I couldn't see being on his side. But then he decided to end the empire and live out his life, leaving his family the money. If only Hank hadn't stumbled upon who Heisenberg is, everyone would be happy (including Hank).  Then if Jesse hadn't gone off the reservation and later discovered who Walt really is, Walt would have made it.  So I guess I'm back on team Walt, down with Hesse.

Walt pays a visit to Andrea and Brock, playing the old, meek Mr. White. Andrea still doesn't know what really happened.  Brock seems to sense something is wrong, but he can't do anything about it anyway.  Walt convinces Andrea to call Jesse and tell him about the visit.  He leaves Andrea's house and let's the Nazis know Jesse might be by soon.  The plan might actually work if Hank weren't monitoring Jesse's calls.  In fact, Hank plan is ready to go into action.

At the carwash Skyler is teaching Junior how to be a cashier.  They're not quite ready to go home.  Then Saul comes in--Junior even recognizes ABQ's most notorious lawyer.  Skyler knows something is afoot but can't talk openly.  Then in walks Walt holding Holly like it's old home week.  Walt doesn't want to see Saul (he never wants to see anyone until he's forced to) but Saul tells him Huell has disappeared.  Could this be Jesse?  Walt can't believe it--he still half thinks Jesse is high, but Saul knows better.

I'm a bit disappointed in Walt. No matter how deep he's in, he's always been the master strategist. He can't find Jesse anywhere, and the pressure is building. Can't he figure out Jesse has teamed with Hank? I guess that's his one blind spot.  Walt, no matter what, would never go to the DEA, and perhaps he believes Jesse signed up for the same deal.

Then he gets a photo of money in a barrel, and Jesse calls, claiming to be in the desert where the dough is buried.  Once again, I can imagine Walt under duress--we've seen him race through the streets in danger more than once. (We've also seen him burn money himself.) Jesse keeps him on the phone, threatening to burn the money, and Walt doesn't have the time to figure out he's being played.  So this gives Hank and the rest the chance to follow him. It also gives them a chance, if they take it, to tape Walt admitting to a bunch of crimes while he's trying to justify what he's done. Is it necessary for Walt to talk this way?  I guess it's that blind spot acting up again.  It's also his heart acting up--he does care for Jesse in his own way, while Jesse just doesn't care any more.  But it also means they're probably recording it and will use it in a later episode, or why would the writer bother to have Walt confess. (Though it's a pretty weak confession.  First, it's sort of under duress, and he could certainly claim he's saying whatever he has to say to stop Jesse from destroying his money.  Second, the killings of Emilio and Krazy-8 and even the two drug dealers happened when they were directly threatening Walt or Jesse's life, so he may have a self-defense or even "stand your ground" argument.  The Brock poisoning is a little trickier, but there's no physical evidence and he can just claim he pretended he did it to keep Jesse talking.  No, I'm not impressed with this evidence--it's the barrels of cash that would be a lot more convincing.)

Walt gets to the eponymous desert spot and no one's there. He realizes he's been played, and removes the battery from his phone, but too late.  He hides behind a rock.  Is this the end of Walter? He calls Todd and pals and gives them the coordinates.  Up pulls Jesse, as Walt expects--with Hank and Gomie, which shocks him.  We know he's got scruples about killing Hank, and apparently they're still in place.  He calls off the hunting party, except we know Aryans don't play that game.

Jesse recognizes the spot--it's where they first cooked. I wonder if that brings back any happier memories.  Hank calls for Walter to show himself.  And he does!  A huge moment.  Ultimately, it's because Hank and Jesse ended up to be more ruthless than Walt that they won.  Walt surrenders, but won't talk, except to call Jesse a coward.  Hank's just doing his job, but Walt never thought Jesse would sink so low.  Jesse spits on him and they have a little scuffle before Walt is put in the back of Hank's truck.

Gomie congratulates Hank--all this stuff that would get anyone fired has been worth it, they got their man.  Hank does a victory lap and calls Marie, telling her it's all over.  Her Purpleness is practically in tears. (Wonder if she'll call her sister?) All the while we're wating for the other shoe to drop--perhaps a head shot, which so often happens in the movies after a cop says it's all over.

Sure enough, two trucks' worth of white supremacists pull up.  Walt knows who it is, but Hank and Gomie are confused--tribal police, looky-loos? So it's a stand-off in the desert, which Hank has had before, but he wasn't outnumbered like this.  Walt tries to warn Hank, and also tries to call it off, but no one's paying attention.  Jesse's in Walt's car, watching as well, not sure what's going on. (He knows Mr. White always gets out of tough spots. Is it happening again?)

The gang won't drop their weapons, of course, and the shooting starts.  They've got pretty bad aim, seems to me, since Hank and Gomie are sitting ducks, yet manage to run behind the truck. Then they shoot at the truck--hey, the goose who lays the golden eggs is inside.

And with the bullets flying, the episode ends.  Very memorable, but I'm miffed that we didn't see the results yet.  I predicted Gomie wasn't long for the world, but I think it'd be cool if Hank died with three hours left.  Hey, someone's gotta start dying.  Anyway, if any of the three get free, the hiding spot is finished.

However, it seems possible Hank might survive a little longer to make a better ending.  Perhaps the gang will realize they've got a great hostage, along with Jesse--now Walt has to do what they say.  The other question is will they realize this is the hiding spot of hundreds of millions of dollars. If they do, they might as well kill everyone.

Except we know Walt won't be killed.  He'll get away, perhaps hide for a while (with help from one of Sauls' contacts?),  return in disguise, get a huge gune, go back to his bombed out place with Heisenberg graffiti on it (now who did it?--Marie?) and retrieve the ricin.  He's gunning for someone.  Is it Todd and his family?  Is Lydia involved?  Will he be fighting Jesse and/or Hank, or trying to save them?

No matter how it turns out, I'll be watching next week.  The title is "Ozymandias," so expect to look on some mighty works and despair.


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