For a few weeks, I’d heard that Vince Gilligan was touting episodes 5 and 7 of this Breaking Bad mini-season as the two that would cause the most discussion. Episode five, named “Dead Freight”, aired last night. As you can probably judge from my headline, I think Gilligan’s warning was spot-on. Let’s discuss, shall we?
-Nobody does a cold open as well as Gilligan and his crew. It all started in the pilot episode, with Walt frantically driving an RV through the desert in his tighty-whities, and then recording a message to his family. Last night was no different. For the entire episode, the audience is left to wonder just what the hell that kid and his tarantula would have to do with the episode. And given the high state of tension that has surrounded the show during the entire run, something as innocuous as a kid on a scooter in the desert picking up a tarantula takes on so much more meaning as a plot device than it has any right to have.
-It’s a shame that the last 20 minutes will overshadow the earlier scene in Hank’s office. Bryan Cranston acting as Walter acting as sad Walter acting as sad Walter (but acting just obviously enough that you could tell sad Walter was faking)… was tremendous. Give that guy some more awards. He deserves all of them.
-And how about those last 20 minutes? That sequence goes down as an instant classic in the series, right there with Don Tio ringing his bell, Jesse at Gale’s doorstep, the bathtub, the crawl space, Hank’s one minute with the twins, and all of the other great moments. It was an amazing homage to Michael Mann’s Heat (1995). They even referenced the movie earlier in the episode, when Hank tries to use Heat on blu-ray to lure Walter, Jr. out of his room. I’ve never seen any other TV show that has made me feel tension the way Breaking Bad does, even once. And Breaking Bad has done it multiple times at this point. That they punctuated their escape by the skin of their teeth with a colossal error (Todd offing Tommy Tarantula) makes it that much better.
-The show never loses its humor. My favorite exchange of the night: Skyler asking Walt if he’s been out burying bodies, followed by his cold, lifeless, non-chalant reply, “Nope. Robbing trains.”
-Tonight, it dawned on me that Hank’s career is probably going to go in the crapper the second his superiors find out that he couldn’t identify his own brother-in-law as a drug dealing mastermind. Add another thing that Walt’s choices will ruin to the massive pile.
-Lydia has been a great addition to the show. I was a little nervous when they introduced the idea of 11 Fring employees because I feared the show would become bogged down in its final season, wasting time introducing new characters. But Lydia stepped right into the void seamlessly and the others were deposited in prison, away from the chance to harm the show. The cat and mouse game she played with Walter during her interrogation scene was a fun scene, and it helped further establish the calm, calculating Walt as chilling.