BREAKING BAD Recap: “Dead Freight”

     August 12, 2012


It’s quite difficult to write a spoiler-free opening paragraph here after being so amped up by the hour’s finale.  As the rest of “Dead Freight” ambled on I took it as a middling episode.  Walt continues to hone, with exceptionally creepy precision, his ability to lie and manipulate those closest to him.  Mike, Walt and Jesse talk business, Jesse remains the moral compass and the greatest out of the box thinker of the trio, and screen time spent with Marie saturated us in purple.  Normal Breaking Bad stuff – and it was great, but not exceptional (I’m being a purposefully harsh judge – when a show sets a standard this high, I think it deserves a sharper critical eye).  And then that last thing happened, and my mouth just hung agape for several minutes afterwards.  For more on The Moment and why “it’s all about the weight, yo,” hit the jump.

breaking-bad-season-5-poster-1The cold open with that tarantula felt like one of those “am I on the right channel?” moments.  A quarter of the way through the episode I had already forgotten about our little motocross kid friend and his tarantula (sidenote: look, I love nature and what have you, but I would not under any circumstances pick up a deadly creature, especially out in the middle of nowhere. Let it crawl into the jar, sure, but dang, kid!).  The ultimate irony is of course that it wasn’t the deadly spider that hurt the boy, it was Walt.  Well, it was Todd (Jesse Plemons, Landry from Friday Night Lights who is now typecast as an unlikely killer I guess) but it was most assuredly the most important moment in the episode, and a clear turning point for the season.

For much of “Dead Freight,” Mike, Jesse and Walt debated death, starting with Lydia’s.  Though it turned out she did not plant the GPS on the barrel of methylene, one can see where each of the men is coming from in their opinion of her.  For Mike, she’s a shrill and unstable loose end who tried to kill him against all reason.  For Walt, her life is meaningless except in terms of methylene.  If she cannot provide that, he doesn’t care what her fate is.  For Jesse, of course, things are not about business or even the personal – it’s about his soul.  I haven’t gone back and watched the earlier seasons of this show in awhile, but I’ve gotten so used to this more mature and morally sound (as much as he can be at this point) Jesse that I think I would be shocked at his progression from the lanky, violence-prone meth addict of the early seasons to what he has become now.

breaking-bad-dead-freight-bryan-cranstonThe idea of killing Lydia changed once the idea for the heist began to form.  Then the morality discussion turned to the train conductor and engineer.  Why kill two innocents if it can be avoided?  Lydia pipes up, incredulous, “well you had no problem just now killing me.”  Of course Lydia is not an innocent, as she fails to see, but aside from the nitpicking she’s right.  These three men sit in judgement, weighing whether lives are worth saving in pursuit of their cause.  It’s something Breaking Bad does well and realistically.  As Mike said a few episodes ago, he’s not going to go around killing nine men.  He’s going to pay them off instead, and chastises Lydia for watching too many shoot ’em up movies.  Each of the three men has proven themselves capable of killing, but each one also lives by a code.  Mike’s code is cooly logical, Walt’s is intensely selfish, and Jesse’s has changed many times but rests now on, essentially, that death should be avoided at all costs.

The heist was great, nail-biting fun (just like magnets, bitch!).  The cuts back and forth from Mike to Walt to Jesse to Todd and the pantomime of a broken down car they planted to stop the train were heart-rate raising stuff.  I thought Jesse being nearly run over by the train would be the most intense moment (caused by Walt, per usual, pushing things), but never could have predicted our little motocross kid would show up again then and there.  It could turn out that the kid and his death could ultimately cause a chain reaction like Jane’s death did, but as far as our Triumvirate goes, the schism begins now.  How will Jesse react to another death – worse, of an innocent child?  Will he melt down again like last season?  It’s an interesting choice to have had Todd kill the boy rather than, say, Walt or Mike, because Jesse is no long choosing sides between them.  He can’t ascribe blame to either of them, because the situation could not have been more random.  Wrong time, wrong place.  It should have been expected, though.  Few positive things happen in the Breaking Bad universe without opposite and terrible reactions.

Grade: B

breaking-bad-dead-freight-paul-cranston-plemons-1Musings and Miscellanea:

— I left out the Hank and Walt scene above, but I found it also exceptionally telling.  Walt has learned to not just lie, but to use a large amount of truth in his manipulations to make them more believable and to benefit him by going on the offensive.  Skyler is not talking to Hank about Walt, but Walt is talking to Hank about her.  He says the truth about her not loving him anymore, about his influence on the kids, etc, and uses the tint of “Skyler is crazy” to get Hank on his side should it come to that.  His openness with Hank allowed him, in that scene, to not only plant the bug but also to plant the seeds of alliance should Skyler go to Hank to try and turn him against Walt.  Brilliant.  Awful.

— “I’m not your wife, I’m your hostage” – smoking Skyler.

— So Walt Jr is back to being Flynn.  Flynn annoys me in general and I often wish he had more to do than just eat breakfast and moan, but then I remember most 17 year olds are pretty mopey and annoying in general.  Therefore, I commend the writers for making him so believable.  And who can blame him for being annoyed and upset with Walt and Skyler kicking him out of his house?  I’d be pissed, too!

breaking-bad-dead-freight-paul-cranston-plemons-2— I am willing to suspend belief that the train conductors couldn’t hear the industrial stuff going on from 800 feet away.  800 feet is a long way, sure, but in a desert with no other sounds, some of those clanks surely would have resonated.  The engine pumping the water comes to mind, as does the lug-nut remover Todd used.  Those things are extremely loud.  But what do I know? Magnets, bitch, how do they work?

— I really like the way that, up until the final moments, the trio worked so well together.  Jesse as the idea man, Walt helping with his scientific knowledge, and Mike setting up the criminal and security aspects.  Heist on!  Perfect.

— Marie Purple Count: 9+ — chair, pillow, blouse, rug, 3 decorations on the coffee table, lamp, curtains, and everything in the kitchen (at that point I gave up).