Breaking Bad Hatewatch: Season 1, Episodes 2-3

Hello, again! The second episode is funny and kind of great, yo!

Season 1, Episode 2 “Cat’s in the Bag…”

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Summary: After their hijinks in the pilot episode, Walt and Jesse need to dispose of the drug dealers’ bodies. But–surprise! One of them is still alive!

Walt deals with this by dumping the bodies–alive and dead–at Jesse’s house and leaving him alone with them. Then the live body briefly escapes and Walt gets all mad at Jesse, because that’s fair. They decide to dissolve the dead body in acid and execute the live body, and flip a coin to see who will carry out which task. Walt tries to kill the live body, but can’t bring himself to do it. Jesse gets acid duty, but has some logistical issues, and the bathtub, along with the half-dissolved dead body, falls through the ceiling. Yum!

Meanwhile, Skyler already smells a rat. She figures out that Walt has some sort of dealings with Jesse, so Walt lies and says that he buys pot from Jesse. Skyler confronts Jesse and keeps calling him “yo” and it’s hilarious.

The Good

Holy shit, I forgot one of the guys is still alive! What an irresistible engine for an episode. In the pilot, the violence was contrived to be completely justifiable and morally low-stakes. This episode, you feel every second of Walt’s agony as he contemplates premeditated murder.

Walt talking about how all his female students have cleavage is creepy and gross, but Skyler’s nonplussed reaction totally saves the scene.

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That Skyler immediately knows something’s up with Walt. I knew I liked her.

The hilarious chase scene (or, should I say, anti-chase scene) where Walt chases the bloodied-up drug dealer down his suburban street, and the drug dealer crashes into a tree. It’s just silly enough to work.

The shifting dynamic between Jesse and Walt. In this episode, the power dynamic between them keeps changing: Jesse cowers at the thought of dissolving a dead body in acid or executing someone, which breaks his punk facade and adds dimension to his character. Walt acts the bad-ass, but in the end makes Jesse do the heavy lifting, which makes perfect sense. And Jesse gets to show his street smarts when he calls that the guy is (obviously) faking being passed out, so Walt isn’t just kicking him around all the time. Little details like Jesse still calling Walt “Mr. White” are just icing on the cake.

Jesse quote of the day: “Hey, nerdiest old dude I know, wanna cook some meth?”

Jesse complaining loudly to no one about how terrible Walter is is such a mood.

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OMG, OMG, that last shot of the bathtub falling through the ceiling! Blood and guts exploding all over the place has never been so funny.

The Bad

A POC serving as a silent prop right at the very beginning–in the World According to Vince Gilligan, do minorities only speak when their white friends are making racist jokes?

The heavy-handed “mirror image” classroom metaphor. The whole “our homework relates to what’s going on in our lives!” conceit (which is very popular on CW shows) was fine in the pilot, but now it’s just getting lazy. “It looks the same, but it may not act the same,” he’s CHANGING, we get it!

Walter “finally” stands up to Skyler: “I’d appreciate if you would climb down out of my ass.” Are we supposed to be with him in this moment? Because I’m not, but all we see is Skyler getting on his ass, so we’re almost tricked into agreeing with him, even though she’s completely in the right. She’s pregnant, and her husband is lying about being a meth dealer, she’s allowed to have a few questions/concerns!

Walt is still a drag to spend time with. Walt yelling at Jesse about smoking pot, in particular, is just pathetic. It would be pathetic even if he hadn’t literally just rolled a joint earlier in the episode.

The Overrated

You know what, I’ll give this one a break. Despite its flaws, this is a great, accurately rated episode of television. Long live the bloody bathtub.

Season 1, Episode 3 “And the Bag’s in the River”

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Summary: Walt fancies himself a bad-ass, but can’t follow through on killing the drug dealer. Instead, he keeps him alive for what feels like forever, feeding him sad crustless sandwiches and giving him a bucket to shit in. Looking for any excuse to let the guy go, he bonds with him. Turns out his name is Domingo, Walt once visited his father’s furniture store, and he likes really likes music! He’s just a nice kid who went wrong somewhere along the way! He’s totally not hiding a piece of broken plate in his pants to kill the shit out of Walt the second Walt lets him go!

After lots of suspenseful bonding (during which Walt tells Domingo that he has cancer, before he’s even told his wife), Walt gets all misty and decides to let the kid go. Right before he does, he figures out Domingo is planning to kill him, and he kills him in the most gruesome, personal way possible–garroting him to death with a bike lock–and gets a stab in the leg for his troubles. RIP Domingo.

Meanwhile, Skyler finds out that Walt quit his job and tells him not to bother coming home that night (whoop! Go Skyler). in the morning, after he kills Domingo, he finally tells her he has cancer. Whatever.

Oh, and it turns out Domingo might have been a snitch for the DEA! Woops.

The Good

The grossness of Walt and Jesse’s clean-up job, especially when Walt squishily wrings a sponge filled with blood and guts into a bucket. Yuck, yuck, yuck.

The drug dealer telling Walt that Jesse spilled his guts about Walt’s identity, even an anecdote about Walt teaching him about chemical reactions with grape soda. That’s… weirdly touching?

Walt and Jesse’s pathetic little kicking fight in the bathroom. Amazing.

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Maximino Arciniega’s performance as the captive drug dealer Domingo. The writers keep him alive just long enough that you start to feel sorry for him, and he plays the character with the right balance of humility and menace. (Plus, he’s kind of hot? Definitely doesn’t hurt.)

Walt’s pro-con list about killing Domingo. Con: “Judeo-Christian principles.” Pro: “He’ll kill you and your entire family if you let him go.”

That visual of the missing piece in the plate!

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Oh, shit!

The Bad

The sitcommy mix-up where Skyler mentions pot-smoking to her busybody sister and the busybody sister (whose name I still can’t remember) assumes it’s about Walter Jr. and tells Hank to talk some sense into him. Hank’s bemusement when she says he should show Walter Jr. autopsy photos is pretty funny (“An autopsy of a pot overdose? Come on.”) but like… why?

I cannot count the ways I don’t care about Skyler’s sister’s shoplifting storyline. Again, I have to ask–is this what women do in the World According to Vince Gilligan? Complain about their husbands, interrupt their husband’s important work to gossip about family members, and steal high heels because they’re frustrated about their husband being busy catching drug dealers?

Again, this is not just a sexism complaint (although–yeah, that too). It’s difficult to get the audience to care about any character shoplifting shoes, let alone a character that the writers have not bothered to characterize beyond “nosy and insufferable.” It’s amateurish to introduce this type of unsympathetic character flaw without giving the audience a reason to care.

The dumb flashbacks where Susan from Friends is being taught by Walt and hanging on his every word (because women love being taught things!). She dippily says that what’s missing from his chemical equation of the body is “the soul” (um… what? No scientist would say that) and he gets all up in her business and delivers the most cringeworthy pick-up line of all time: “There’s nothing but chemistry here…” BARF.

Racism is fun! Hank, who is positioned as the charming, down-home character, ribs his Latinx partner about the Hispanic drug dealers: “Your culture is in decline! You people used to be conquistadors!” (Nope, not kidding, he actually says that.) The Latinx partner (whose name I also can’t remember) tries to rib him back while he’s finding the trap in the car–“It’ll take more than your dumb white ass to find it”–but then–surprise!–Hank immediately finds it. White men are so good at things!

The Overrated

The death of Krazy-8 is hailed as one of the most intense scenes on television, which I think is a stretch. Yes, it was a well-constructed scene, and you’re definitely on the edge of your seat, but it was also a little contrived. I don’t believe for a second that Walt, who was clearly wilting about this whole murder prospect, would have chosen to kill Krazy-8 that way. It’s way too up-close-and-personal–he had clearly decided to kill him once he found the missing plate shard, so he would have gotten a gun or, like Domingo said, poison. The garroting was certainly cinematic–watching Domingo’s eyes turn red as his blood vessels popped was super gruesome and real–but it was cinematic by design. It would have been equally cinematic, and more true to the character’s development so far, if Walt had asked Domingo to turn around, closed his eyes, and shot him.

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