BREAKING BAD Recap: “Hazard Pay”

     July 29, 2012

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When things work out as well as they did in Breaking Bad’s “Hazard Pay” for almost all parties involved (minus Skyler), it’s Vince Gilligan mercifully throwing us a bone.  The violence and intensity takes a break, briefly, and we get a comic interlude that features Badger (Matt Jones) and Skinny Pete (Charles Baker).  Badger and Skinny Pete may be the most underrated performers on the show, actually, and often get some of the funniest lines (the only funny lines?).  Introducing Skinny Pete in “Hazard Pay” with him artfully and flawlessly dancing through a piano melody on a keyboard in the music store was funny, but also deeply sad.  How did this talented and sweet young man turn into the drug-addled and often brainless wisp?  That moment was as good of a “Meth: Not Even Once” campaign as any I’ve seen.  You can imagine Badger always having been a little educationally subnormal, but Skinny Pete?  What a waste.  Hit the jump for the specifics of the episode, and what will make tortillas smell like cat piss.

breaking-bad-season-5-poster-1“Hazard Pay’s” cold open wasn’t as engaging or illuminating as many on the show have been.  It just reinforced the fact that Mike is not only a badass but incredibly well organized.  Walt needs him even more than he knows.  Skipping to the end of the episode, I understood Walt’s hesitation at not wanting to have the “legacy pay” come out of his share.  As he rightfully points out, “what are they doing for us?” These are Mike’s men, but from Gus’ organization.  While they could easily squeal on what limited part of the business they knew about connected to Gus, that wouldn’t matter anymore.  The problem is that they know about Mike.  Still, Walt did offer an equal partnership, and the cost of the “legacy” comes down to the cost of doing business with Mike.  It was surprising in a way that it was Jesse who had to remind Walt that even though they had made less than on a Gus cook, their percentage was much higher because the cook itself was smaller.  Walt is a genius with figures, why didn’t he see that?  Has his ego taken over so much that he’s blind to everything else?

Speaking of Jesse, he’s grown so much.  The Jesse of “Hazard Pay” is an exceptional leap from the Jesse of early Breaking Bad seasons.  Not only did he bring up some of the logistical problems of the warehouse spaces Saul had found for them, but he was drawing up and manipulating plans on how to build a portable meth lab.  Shouldn’t Walt have been doing that?  Not that Jesse can’t handle it.  Like my earlier mention of Skinny Pete, Jesse is also a talented kid from the ‘burbs who just went massively astray.  And though he has come so far, his brief moment with his old friends showed how easy it would be for Jesse to slip back into that life, and how easily manipulated he is (something people take incredible advantage of).  He needs guidance, and seems to know innately that though he will always be tied to Walt, he needs Mike’s influence as well.

breaking-bad-hazard-payThere was a promo picture that surfaced before the season began that showed Walt and Jesse in their cook gear sharing a beer and watching TV.  Fans speculated over it endlessly – why would they be drinking a beer on a cook?  What on earth could they be watching in common? (old movies, apparently). No one believed it would really happen in quite that way, though – just two friends hangin’ out – after all that had transpired.  It was a nice moment, and one where it was easy to forget how much Walt had fucked up Jesse’s life (in some ways, and rescued him in others).  After having met Brock (that’s right, sweat Walt, sweat over having finally met the tiny human child whose life you played with so irresponsibly. Notice how Brock wanted nothing to do with Walt? Kids know!), Walt seemed to be thawing, slightly.  When he brought up Andrea, Jesse panicked and reassured him multiple times he wouldn’t tell her a thing.  “Why not though?” was essentially Walt’s reply. “I trust you.”  Does he?  Or is this just another manipulation?  It lead to Jesse breaking up with her, news that Walt glossed over as if it was nothing.  Jesse’s fear and cautiousness around Walt mirrored Skyler’s, and both have good reason to be wary.

breaking-bad-hazard-pay-1As for the cook, every season Walt and Jesse seem to find some foolproof place to cook in peace, and I always get a weird sense of calm.  The RV, the lab, and now a mobile meth lab in bug-bombed houses.  It’s a stroke of genius, and one that can nearly be “ripped from the headlines,” since meth makers have been known to use foreclosed homes or abandoned buildings on a temporary basis in the real world as well.  The juxtaposition of the family’s portrait though and the plastic enclosure where the men worked was a nice touch.  Still, the feeling of “how and when is this all going to fall apart?” looms.

The cracks, in fact, are already starting to show. Jesse defuses (yet another) argument between Walt and Mike, and Skyler has a massive breakdown in front of Marie (which Walt naturally blames on Skyler’s affair).  Walt’s cryptic remarks to Jesse about Victor and the Icarus parable set Jesse on edge.  We also learned that Walt’s birthday is soon approaching – presumably the birthday we saw him celebrate alone under an alias in the first cold open of the season.  We’re nearly halfway through this truncated season with its eight episodes, so there doesn’t seem to be much time left to dally.  Things are about to break apart, fast.  Get your oxygen mask on.

Grade: B
breaking-bad-hazard-pay-2Musings and Miscellanea:

  • Plenty of folks might have felt this episode was slow. I thought it was engaging (like finding the new cook space), though I was tempted to give it a C in Breaking Bad standards (meaning “ok but not spectacular, still better than 98% of all other TV”). Ultimately though the Skinny Pete scene and the cook montage made me settle on a B.
  • Saul: “Mike looked at me with those dead mackerel eyes …”  Walt: “He probably threatened someone before breakfast today. It’s just what he does. Grow some balls!”
  • Walt proved his own usefulness finally in this episode with his scientific expertise and life experience regarding finding a perfect place to cook.  It was a key part of him not losing his life last season, but it’s been underplayed so far in this one.
  • The greenhouse-looking plastic structure the men erected for their home cooks reminded me of Dexter.
  • Poor Skyler.  It’s implied that Walt sexually overpowers her, and then he moves back in without warning or discussion.  Icing on the shit cake, he then watches Scarface with Walt Junior and the baby, declaring “everyone dies in this movie!” in front of her catatonic expression.  Skyler took on a pretty badass role last season, but I cannot see her doing much to stand up to Walk this time around.
  • Hey, was one of those bug bomb burglars (Todd) Landry from Friday Night Lights?
  • The music montage was great as always, even adding a few cool new dimensions with the animation and time lapse.  Most stylish show on TV.
  • BTW if you aren’t familiar with Breaking Bad Comics, familiarize yourself.
  • Also great: The Breaking Bad actors before they were Breaking Bad stars.
  • Marie Purple Count: 3 — shirt, blouse and purse.

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