BREAKING BAD Recap: “Bug”

     September 11, 2011

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When we learned that tonight’s installment of Breaking Bad was titled “Bug”, we might have suspected that tonight’s episode would be similar to last season’s gloriously sparse bottle episode, “Fly”.  In that episode, series creator Vince Gilligan dialed down the shenanigans until it was just two dudes in a room, and though the decision to set “Fly” almost entirely within a single set was almost certainly a decision made to help smooth out the season’s budget (that’s what “bottle episodes” are for, people), it also turned out to be a smart move dramatically:  “Fly” ranks among the very best Breaking Bad episodes ever produced.  So, did “Bug” follow in its footsteps, or was it something else entirely?  Find out after the jump, my precious snowflakes….

breaking-bad-image-1If you’re a longtime Breaking Bad fan, then you probably remember last season’s episode, “Fly”.  That was the one that featured Jesse and Walt in their souped-up lab, desperately trying to track down a fly that had somehow managed to find its way into their (not to be contaminated) space.  Immediately upon airing, that episode was hailed– amongst Breaking Bad fans, critics, and anyone else that happened to see the episode– as one of the very best that series creator Vince Gilligan had ever produced, and if you go back and watch that episode, you’ll find that it’s just as great now as it was then.  It’s so great, in fact, that when I learned that tonight’s episode was titled “Bug”, I kinda-sorta hoped that Gilligan might have something similar up his sleeve.

Turns out, however, that “Bug” had very little in common with “Fly”.  Whereas “Fly” was bloodless and serene, “Bug” is bloody and violent.  Whereas “Fly” took place in and around a single location, “Bug” unspooled across ABQ (and spent a fair amount of time in its second half talking about a far-off location, indeed:  Mexico).  Whereas…y’know what?  Doesn’t matter.  We needed an “in” for tonight’s writeup, we found it, and now we can move on to the recap.  Two episodes, similar titles, wasn’t that cute.  Here’s hoping you enjoyed that trip down memory lane!

breaking-bad-image-2Tonight’s episode began with a blood-spattered shoe (was that a canvas topsider?  Oh, Walt, between those and your Member’s Only jacket, you are a fashion icon in the making) and ended with those blood-spattered shoes walking out a doorway.  In-between, a whole bunch happened, so we’re going to do our best to remember it all.  Each week, we try and write our Breaking Bad recap while watching the rebroadcast, but this week, we’re having to operate from memory.  You’ll forgive me if I forget precisely what order these scenes played out in, won’t you?  Oh, who am I kidding?  Of course you won’t!

What struck me most about tonight’s episode was the sense of acceleration that hung over the proceedings.  You had Skylar’s recent foray into the “Bad” lifestyle finally catching up with her, and it occurred in a whirlwind of meetings, cooked books, and cheap costume jewelry.  You had the tension between Jesse and Gus reaching a fever pitch during a dinner date at Chez Fring, a meeting that will probably come to mark a turning point for these characters when we look back on this episode in the future.  You had Hank in a big hurry to get a look at Gus’ “chicken farm”, genuinely disappointed when he learned– from a stomach-flu-faking Walt– that he’d have to put off that trip for another couple days:  Hank wants to put the pedal to the metal on his investigation, and Walt’s “explosive diarrhea” has gotten in the way.  You had little interstitials that popped up throughout the episode, showing the ABQ traffic moving at light speed.  And– last but not least– you had the long-simmering tension between Jesse and Walt finally boiling over.  From the moment the opening credits stopped until the closing credits rolled, tonight’s episode whipped along at a breakneck speed, dragging our beloved characters along with it.

breaking-bad-image-3The biggest developments in tonight’s episode were as follows:  Hank figuring out where some of Gus’ illegal monkey business is taking place, which prompted a top-to-bottom cleaning of the “chicken farm” by Jesse and Mike;  you had Skylar’s old boss, Beneke, showing up to announce that the IRS would be auditing him the following day (a problem that Skylar found a very creative– if only temporary– solution for), and now that that meeting’s come and gone, we know that Skylar will probably be donating a whole bunch of money to her former employer to keep the IRS off her and Walt’s back; we got a dinner meeting between Jesse and Gus, one where Gus apparently explained his entire operation with the Cartel in explicit detail.  Those are the biggies, but the sequence everyone else is gonna be talking about is the marathon scene that closed the episode.

Perhaps in a nod to “Fly”, tonight’s ep ended with a long, long sequence at Pinkman Manor:  just Walt, Jesse, and a whole bunch of words.  Jesse laid it all out to Walt– that Gus wanted him to go to Mexico, that the Mexican Cartel wants to learn how to make Walt’s “Blue” formula, that he’s terrified that he’ll screw this up, end up dead, or worse (there are so many worse things than death in Mexico)– only to have Walt ignore virtually everything he’d said.  All Walt wanted to know was, didja put the poison in Gus’ food?  This blow-off led to Walt admitting that he’d been tracking Jesse, that he’d put a tracker on his car just as Hank had put one on Gus’.  Jesse didn’t take this development well, and– before long– the two were at each other’s throats.  Correct me if I’m wrong, but this had to be the most brutal, knockdown, dragout fight these two have ever been in.  I mean, easily.  The two have verbally sparred before, and I might even recall a few shoves along the way, but…tonight?  Walt and Jesse kicked each others’ asses.

It ended as it began, with Walt’s canvas topsiders getting decorated by a few drops of blood.  In the beginning, we didn’t know who the blood belonged to.  In the end, we had it figured out, but then Breaking Bad had one more twist-of-the-knife on offer:  Jesse tells Walt, “Get out of my f-cking house, and never come back.”  Walt leaves, the credits roll.

The “Next Week On…” seems to indicate that a field trip’s in Jesse’s future, along with Mike and Gus.  Based on what I saw there, it sounds like the Three Unlikely Amigos might be having a little problem getting back home.  Whatta you think is gonna happen, and what did you think of tonight’s episode?  Sound off in the comments section, Slappies:  we wanna know what you thought about all this.

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