BREAKING BAD Recap: “Say My Name”

     August 26, 2012

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One of the occasional perks of this gig is getting to see episodes in advance, but this week no such luck as, clearly, the spontaneous head combustion of critics across the country would have tipped somebody off.  One of the things that makes Breaking Bad such a phenomenal show (and the list is long) is its ability to elicit strong, visceral reactions from viewers.  There aren’t many shows I shout at, talk to, coax, cover my face and have to pick my jaw up from the floor and remember to take deep breaths because of.  Breaking Bad knows just when and how to punch us in the gut.  Sometimes the trick is half an element of surprise (as in two episodes ago), but perhaps even worse is the dread of watching the slow march towards the inevitable.  And no matter how it plays out for viewers, the terrible consequences are never glossed over.  Hit the jump for more of the specifics of this incredible episode.

breaking-bad-season-5-poster-1R.I.P. Mike.  We knew you were probably going to die by Walt’s hand at some point — no half measures, right? — but you died as you lived: like a badass.  No one gets out of this game quickly or easily (or, so far, alive), as Jesse is just starting to realize.  Mike’s fate was suspected for quite some time, but once he hid the bag and Walt found it, a mental flashback to the season’s first cold open told the story.  Walt would use the bag for his own purpose, but how would he get to that point?

Mike was an interesting character for so many reasons.  He was more than just a henchman, and his relationship with Jesse and his grand-daughter, not to mention his fair but still ruthless business practices made him a complex and, oddly, extremely likable character.  Within the fandom there are those who will side with Mike and those who will side with Walt, and many who oscillate between the two like Jesse — but the duo’s unholy alliance, fostered by Jesse for barely one heist this season, was never meant to last.  They are too opposed.  But of course, what is (and was) Mike’s fatal flaw?  His underestimation of Walt.  The look on his face when he checked the bag was of genuine shock and the horror of realization.  Still, he composed himself enough in the end that when Walt, like a fucking idiot, said suddenly, “oh … I could have just asked Lydia for those names.  She has them,”  Mike had the wherewithal to say, “shut the fuck up and let me die in peace.”

That moment, and the fantastic cold open (which restored my belief in Walt briefly. Or should I say, Heisenberg) were most certainly the highlights of the episode (and the cake pops, obviously), but “Say My Name” was heavy with foreshadowing, too.  Nothing in Breaking Bad is ever arbitrary, and I cringed mightily when Hank walked out of his office to avoid a (fake) sniveling Walt by jokingly pretending to shoot himself in the head.  Don’t even joke, Hank.  What if Hank finds out what Walt has done, who he is, and the massive, massive betrayal of his sister and brother-in-law?  Right under his nose, him a DEA agent?  Perish the thought.

breaking-bad-say-my-name-paul-cranston-banksThe other important foreshadowing came from a look exchanged between Skyler and Jesse.  Might they team up?  Walt played a good card by trying to shame Jesse into working with him and not getting out of the game, and his tactics during their later argument were well attempted (he went from flattery to manipulation to teacher-mode to shaming and finally to being tough, sarcastic and even a touch of reverse psychology), but it all bounced off of Jesse.  He’s grown up, matured, and learned.  He’s learned Walt is a liar, and whatever money he is offered is not worth staying in this business with him or for him.  His cutting glances when Walt has done something lately Jesse doesn’t approve of or is confused by seem telling.  Many have predicted the series will end with Jesse killing Walt.  I’m not sure where I stand on that, but the two are most certainly headed for a huge falling out.  It’s tragic, too, given what their relationship really could have been.  But Breaking Bad never takes the easy way out.  That may be why we love it.

There were other complexities to “Say My Name” that also bear consideration (like Todd as Walt’s new apprentice, and how that might actually work out, and Skyler’s attitude towards Walt) but the episode belonged to Mike, which is a bit ironic considering how badass Walt was in taking over the cook situation and the trade in the cold open.  Walt is chaos and an endless void of need when it comes to ego.  It’s a black hole that will, eventually, suck up everything around him until it also destroys him.  It claimed another major name tonight.  Who’s next?

Rating: 9.9 out of 10

Next Week: The hat is back!  Walt and Lydia go after the nine, and “there’s no ‘us.'”

breaking-bad-say-my-name-jonathan-banksMusings and Miscellanea: 

— Oh lord, Mike’s face at the park when he realized he couldn’t say goodbye to Kaylee … and she’ll likely not get the money he left for her now, either.

— I believe the film Mike was watching when the DEA searched his house was The Big Heat (maybe). [Matt’s note: I think Allison is right.]

— Great camera work tonight, from the cinematography of the cold open to the hand-cam in the bank vault and of course the cook montage with Walt and Todd.  Nothing else like it on TV.

— Walt and Skyler having dinner (of sorts) was damn depressing.

— The final Walt and Mike scene felt very Shakespearean to me.  A great moment.

— “Thanks for the 5 mil? Sorry for chaining you to a radiator” – Mike.

— Saul’s cell phone drawer!

— Jesse: “Vamonos.”  Skyler: “I wish.”

— HEISENBERG!  “You’re goddamn right”

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