Lots of fallout from the Tuco incident. Even more whining from Walt. But in the end, we get our reward: Jane!
Season 2, Episode 3 “Bit by a Dead Bee”
Summary: Walt covers up his kidnapping by taking off all his clothes in a grocery store and pretending to be in a fugue state, which is–not a bad plan, actually. The doctors want to keep him for psychiatric evaluation, and Walt is not happy–but like, what did he think was going to happen??
A psychiatrist (the Mayor from Buffy!!) evaluates him, and Walt admits that he faked the fugue state so he can get out of the hospital. He goes home, and Skyler asks him about the second cell phone. He denies he has one, but she–smart woman that she is–doesn’t believe him.
Jesse, whose car was shot up by Tuco and Hank during their gunfight, purposely gets caught by the DEA in a seedy motel and pretends to have been on a bender for the last few days. But Jesse is a terrible liar, and Hank sees right through him, so they bring back Tuco’s scary uncle (!), and Jesse thinks he’s a goner. Luckily, the uncle is, as Gomez calls him, an “old-school gang-banger,” and takes a literal shit on the floor rather than help the Feds. So they both go home in the end, and agree to start cooking again ASAP.
The whole weird, dreamy cold open, especially that poor grocery store clerk finding a trail of Walt’s clothes and then Walt’s butt near the ice cream.
Marie’s burning question about Walt’s grocery store adventure: “It wasn’t Whole Foods, was it?”
Jesse lies to Hank and then immediately looks down at the table, because he’s basically a guilty child.
The terrifying bell sound is back!
Jesse’s dumb-as-a-rocks friend legit humping the chemical barrel. I mean… why?
Hank gleefully degrading the sex worker he catches with Jesse, who is clearly going through painful and medically dangerous drug withdrawal. Dialogue includes: “You going through penis withdrawal?” and “I know you want to get back to giving windys, Wendy.” Vom. It’s not necessarily unrealistic for a cop to behave this way, but it’s bad writing to present it uncritically.
Speaking of which, Jesse’s meth-addicted prostitute just so happens to be the prostitute whom Hank harassed to scare Walt Jr. straight? Seriously, aren’t there any other prostitutes in New Mexico?
Poor Gomez. Hank calls Tuco his “homie,” and Gomez replies, “He wasn’t my homie any more than Charlie Manson was yours.” I bet the writers felt super race-conscious when they wrote that line.
A little nitpicky, but they go out of their way to explain doctor-patient confidentiality and then don’t even get it right! The Mayor tells Walt that the only reason he could break confidentiality is if Walt threatened someone, but he would also have to tell if there were ongoing child abuse, elder abuse, or if Walt threatened to kill himself, which, since this therapist believes Walt to be mentally ill, is pretty relevant.
How did Walt sneak out of the hospital and sneak back in without getting caught? There are night staff, and he’s under psychiatric hold, for God’s sake. None of this makes any sense.
The contrivances. All the reviews I’ve seen praise this show’s ability to ratchet up the tension, and sometimes I agree. Bringing back Tuco’s uncle makes sense, for example, because the DEA use their investigative tactics to tie Jesse to the shootout at the ranch. Fair enough. But when you need to rely on ridiculous coincidences and convenient plot holes, like Hank knowing Jesse’s prostitute personally or Walt sneaking out of the hospital without getting caught, even when he’s under strict supervision right after a supposed fugue state, that’s less “greatest drama of all time” and more “typical entertaining genre show that requires a huge suspension of disbelief.”
Season 2, Episode 4 “Down”
Summary: Walt tries to make amends by cooking breakfast for Skyler and Walt Jr., and they’re completely blown away (because naturally this is a rare enough occurrence that it counts as a grand gesture). They both see right through him, though, and when Walt starts trying to sell Skyler a very obvious lie about the second cell phone, she responds by literally just walking out of the house while he isn’t looking (ha!).
Meanwhile, Jesse is in dire straits. The DEA took all of the money in his car, which was all of it, and his parents, who apparently own his house, are evicting him, because they found out about his meth lab and are worried about being accessories to a felony. Harsh, but fair. He tries to crash with an old friend who has his life remarkably together–nice house, beautiful wife, completely precious child–but the beautiful wife nixes that idea. Then, his bike gets stolen, he climbs a barbed wire fence to get into the impound lot and his RV, but then falls through the ceiling of a port-a-potty and gets covered in shit. Poor Jesse, he just can’t catch a break.
After the guy who towed the RV tries to sell Jesse’s cooking equipment, Jesse steals back his RV and drives it to Walt’s house, just as he’s having a huge fight with Skyler. Walt flies into a rage, calls Jesse a stupid loser, and refuses to give him his half of the money, because he’s actually five years old. Jesse and Walt make up over a schoolyard scuffle, as children are wont to do, and Walt gives him (almost) his half of the money. It’s amazing that the writers always manage to make Walt come off like a special kind of asshole, even for a drug dealer.
The tension during the breakfast scene. Everything is ostensibly normal, but both Walter Jr. and Skyler are alert and wary, as if Walt might have poisoned them.
Skyler’s passive-aggression. After all of Walt’s gaslighting, it’s good to see her reclaim some of the power in the relationship. I especially love when he says he made omelettes, super proud of himself, and she says, “I’m going out, but thanks though!” It’s petty AF and I am here for it.
Jesse realizing that his mom found his meth lab because she has a key to his house. Lol.
Of course Jesse once had a band called Twathammer.
Jesse crying and putting on an oxygen mask so he can sleep through the shit smell. So tragic.
“Shut up and say something that isn’t complete bullshit.” Go Skyler! I love that she’s finally getting angry.
Yet more melodramatic flash forwards–to the same stupid teddy bear, no less.
When Jesse and Walt get into their little fight, Jesse gets the upper hand and starts choking Walt. Walt goes sort of limp and gasps, “Do it.” Because he hates himself! He’s so tortured! He wants to be a good person but he just can’t! Ugh, kill me.
As much as I root for Skyler and want her to succeed, their relationship is a problem. In their fight at the end of the episode, for example, Walt goes on and on about how much he loves her and like–does he? We’ve seen very few indications of that. He doesn’t seem to take her into account when making any life decisions, and only apologizes when she’s making his life harder. This isn’t even a complaint about his jerkdom, it’s just that their relationship is so thinly drawn that I honestly don’t understand how we’re supposed to feel about it. Did Walt ever love her? Why were they together to begin with? Did they change at some point? Why should I care that their marriage is falling apart when I have no idea how he even feels about her?
This is a symptom of a larger problem, which is that, with the exception of Jesse, every character is filtered through Walter, to a suffocating extent. We don’t know who Skyler is beyond being his wife, so when she nags him, the fandom gets annoyed, and when he lies to her, we want him to get away with it. It’s nice that she’s not an idiot who blindly swallows all his bullshit, but that’s her only real personality trait so far. And because we don’t know her, we can’t know their marriage beyond how it affects Walter. And most of the time, it doesn’t feel like he desperately loves Skyler but just can’t bring himself to tell her the truth (which would be a more compelling conflict, if a little Clark Kent/Lana Lang-ish). It feels more like his marriage is just a speed bump on his way to becoming a drug lord, which is less interesting.
Season 2, Episode 5 “Breakage”
Summary: Walt finishes his first round of chemo, and even with the drug money, he and Skyler are in the hole, especially considering his fake-amnesia hospital stay. Jesse tries to get his life together and rents a house from Jane–an early-career Krysten Ritter, practicing the “disaffected yet vulnerable” performance she later perfected in Jessica Jones. Walt and Jesse come back together to cook and make more money, but they don’t want to get in bed with another Tuco. Jesse suggests that they become the distributors, and starts building a network of dealers from his group of dumb-ass friends. One of them gets held up at knifepoint by some junkies and loses an ounce, so naturally, even though Walt gets $15,000 dollars in the end, he still finds something to complain about.
The doctor asks Walt re: Skyler: “How are you two holding up?” and then the camera pans to an empty chair. That’s a nice touch.
The lady at the treatment center slaps Walt with a huge, potentially life-ruining bill and then gives him a smiley face button and congratulates him. Pretty much our healthcare system in a nutshell.
Jane! Krysten Ritter is always a delight, but early in her career she was too often typecast into perky roles that didn’t suit her skills quite as well. This was the first time she got to play a truly dark role, and she knocks it out of the park, which led to her genius turns in Don’t Trust the B and Jessica Jones.
The power play between Jesse and Walt, which has always been one of the stronger aspects of the show. I especially liked when Jesse finally informed Walt, “You need me more than I need you.” Because it’s true! Walt could teach Jesse a recipe, but Walt would never be able to navigate the drug world on his own.
When Walt confronts Skyler about the cigarettes, because he’s physically incapable of leaving well enough alone, she says, “Perhaps I smoked them in a fugue state.” HA! How can anyone hate Skyler?? She’s so funny.
Marie’s racist rant about how the Mexican cartel “litter” the border with human heads. I know Marie is supposed to be insufferable, but this show isn’t nearly woke enough for it to succeed as satire, so it just hangs there, leaving a bad taste in our mouths.
Skyler confronting Marie about the shoplifting–again. Marie deserves it, but God, I don’t care.
Walt’s general annoyingness. He gives Skyler, his seven-months pregnant wife, a hard time about eating a panini–a PANINI–and then berates her for not knowing where their son is, when, as she points out, he doesn’t know either. I get it, I get it, he’s a flawed antihero, blah blah blah, but we still have to want to watch this person. If I weren’t doing these posts, and Krysten Ritter weren’t here, I would stop watching out of sheer irritation.
Hank’s experiences with PTSD. The scenes are well-done, but would hit harder if this weren’t the first time Hank felt remotely like a real human being. And again, it feels like a half-hearted exploration of toxic masculinity that the show flirts with, but isn’t really interested in unraveling.
Walt asking Hank “what makes criminals the way they are.” It’s a super cheesy moment, slightly redeemed by the fact that Hank has no answer.
Walt’s “Breakage” speech. It helps that Jesse points out his hypocrisy–he’s safe with his family at night while Jesse and his friends are putting themselves in direct physical danger–but it crosses the line from “bad” to just “irritating.”
Which brings me to my primary problem with this episode–I get that Walt is supposed to be somewhat terrible, and that the show is aware of this. What I don’t get is who exactly this show is supposed to be for. It’s certainly not for people like me, who are looking for a real, substantive critique of Walt’s toxic masculinity. But it can’t really be for people who like macho characters either, because Walt is such a weenie. He pawns all the violence off on Jesse, who’s basically a child, and he constantly complains. Honestly, I think 80% of his scenes are spent whining. So who exactly does this character appeal to?
The only answer I can think of is men who are a lot like Walt–privileged white men who feel disenfranchised (when they almost certainly are not). I realize this is a huge overgeneralization–almost everyone liked Breaking Bad, including women and people of color. But the target audience, the people this show is made for, seem to be white men who enjoy this type of fantasy, where a wimpy nerd magically turns into the biggest badass around. Which is why none of the half-hearted critiques of Walt’s behavior really work: even when the show is admitting he’s terrible, it relies on people enjoying his brand of terribleness to sustain itself. Mad Men had a similar issue: sure, Don Draper is portrayed as an alcoholic sociopath, but an extremely glamorous alcoholic sociopath, who constantly fends off advances from 20-year-olds and pretty much gets everything he wants all the time. It undercuts itself at every turn.
Next week: the ATM!