September 19th, 2011
11:07 AM ET
In a season that has often kept the main characters superficially active but substantively static, these last two episodes of “Breaking Bad” brought about significant shifts for all parties. From the calm of the expansive opening shot to the jittery closing shootout sequence, last night’s “Salud” was the most game-changing episode of the season.
First, the Bald Triumvirate descended upon Mexico for an interminably foreboding trip. Though Jesse seemed terrified at their departure, he quickly took control in the lab, belittling the Cartel chemist and cooking up 96 percent pure meth in the process. Cue Gus’ approving glance.
But the viewer knew what Jesse didn’t: this trip was only about revenge. We didn’t know how it would play out, but we knew it would involve that Cartel Patio of Death.
So when Don Eladio opened Gus’ gift box there, I was hoping for a “Seven”-esque reveal of Hector’s head. Instead, we got a pricey bottle of poisoned tequila which the Don divvied up for the crew (did Gus have a backup plan if everyone didn’t immediately imbibe the tainted liquor?).
After Gus vomited out the poison in the bathroom, a wonderful tracking shot followed him outside to reveal the Cartel lackeys crumpling like Snooki on any given Saturday (or Friday…or Tuesday) night. Don Eladio made one last charge at Gus before collapsing into the pool, killed where he killed Gus’ sidekick 20 years earlier. (I, for one, will miss Steven Bauer’s arrogantly menacing presence.)
But this was a bloody coup for both sides: in the end, Gus suffered the effects of whatever poison snuck into his bloodstream, and Mike was shot several times, leaving Jesse to waste the last gunman standing. Let’s get one thing straight: Gus staked much of his revenge plot, and thus his operation, on Jesse. Whatever the origins of Mr. Pinkman’s new role this season, Gus now sees him as more than a tool with which to manipulate Walt. And now that Jesse can cook without Walt, he could be faced with a big promotion...assuming Gus and Mike get out of Mexico alive.
As those guys served up Gus’ cold dish, Walt was busy doing a day-long impersonation of the bloody wad of napkins on his counter. Upon seeing Walt’s battered face, his son wanted answers. What followed led me to yelp, “Holy [expletive], it shows remorse!”
Hopped up on pain pills and booze, Walt bawled out an apology and acceptance of responsibility for his fight with Jesse. (The scene was very reminiscent of Walt’s drug-addled apology to Jesse in last season’s “Fly” which, like this episode, was the 10th of the season. Hmm…)
For those keeping score: After the Jesse-Walt brawl, Jesse showed up to work and saved his colleagues, while the guy who’s been a whiny manbaby all season was embraced, blubbering and in his undies, and tucked into bed. To cap off the moment (and roughly three seasons of Walt’s surrogate father-son relationship with Jesse), Walt called his ACTUAL son “Jesse.”
The morning after his emotional collapse, in a rather verbose scene, Walt explained to Junior that he didn’t want to be remembered by that unhinged display. But Junior wouldn’t mind remembering the “real” Walt (being high and being authentic aren’t mutually exclusive. In fact, if you believe any music critic, you can’t have one without the other.).
Meanwhile, Skyler was knee-deep in black market bookkeeping. To help Ted Beneke pay his IRS debts (and thus put her in the clear), she funneled money to him by way of an Uncle Saul inheritance special. But she soon learned Ted used the 600 large not to settle with the IRS but to buy a new Mercedes and start up his business again.
This is where Skyler should’ve resorted to some of Saul’s more uncouth tactics to nudge Ted in the right direction. Unfortunately, she has never come up with a bad idea she didn’t love, so she flat-out told Ted that she was the source of the money. That sound you heard was Saul’s exasperated sigh.
So will the Rebirth of Walt cease once he learns Skyler is siphoning money to his reproductive rival? And will the Rise of Jesse jeopardize Walt’s standing as lead cook?
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