After last week's strong opening, this week's Breaking Bad was actually a little bit less impressive. For a show that is always pushing the envelope, there were a few sections of this newest episode that moved along at a snail's pace. While I greatly enjoyed Skyler, Hank, and Marie this week, I found that Walt's and Jesse's stories didn't captivate me as well as I would have liked. As this show really works best when considered as a whole, it is sometimes difficult to judge each episode individually. And while I'm not disappointed with this week's installment, (nor have I ever been with this show) I was hoping for a bit more from our two main characters.
I'll start with Jesse. He was barely in last week's episode, and he took a backseat again this week. At the beginning, we see a man follow a trail of money to where Jesse's car is parked, door open and lights blinking. Jesse himself is lying listlessly on top of playground equipment. We don't see him again until the end of the episode: he has been taken in to an interrogation room for questioning about the bundles of money he threw out of his window. Hank tells the men interrogating him that since he has a special relationship with Jesse, he might be able to crack him. The episode ends as the door ominously clicks shut on Hank and Jesse.
I am hoping that next week's episode focuses on Jesse, because I seriously missed him these past two weeks. His plot is moving so slowly that I worry that soon I'll lose interest in it, even though Jesse is such a fantastic character.
Walt also wasn't the focus of this week's episode. We see him leaving Hank's house after last week's intense confrontation. He tries to call Skyler, but Hank calls her first. Walt runs to Saul, who arranges to get Walt's money from the storage unit. Walt then buries the money out in the middle of the desert. When he gets home, Skyler attempts to talk to him, but he passes out. Skyler takes care of him, and Walt says he will turn himself in as long as Skyler keeps the money and gives it to the kids. Sky suggests that maybe his best move would be to keep quiet.
There were a few moments I liked in here. The entire beginning moment, where he leaves the garage and gets into the car, was a really drawn out moment done entirely without dialogue. Bryan Cranston is such a fantastic actor that he manages to get so much across with just his facial expressions. Still, Walt was barely a presence in this episode, and with such a small journey left in front of us, I don't know how smart it is to spend an episode with such a weak focus on the main character.
All of that being said, the focus of this week's episode was Skyler White, and she. Was. Awesome. I am so glad we got to see how the newest development would affect Skyler. Anna Gunn's acting in this episode was absolutely phenomenal. Hank's first thought after confronting Walt is to talk to Skyler, which I thought spoke nicely of his character. I loved their scene in the restaurant. It was so subtly creepy the way Hank was trying to help but at the same time we were never quite sure how far he'd be willing to go to put Walt behind bars. When she finally tries to leave and it looks like Hank might not let her, the scene came to a scary climax as she asked, again and again, if she was under arrest.
Things got even more intense when Marie showed up. Skyler refused to talk to Hank again, but she did eventually let Marie into her house. When Marie discovered how long Skyler had known Walt's secret, she was horrified at what her sister had gotten involved in. This culminated in Marie trying to take the baby and leave the house, but Hank stepped in and diffused the situation before anything more could happen. Skyler is in too deep now for her to sell out Walter and get off free. Skyler's journey in this episode reinforced her commitment to Walt, no matter how twisted his actions have been. She advises him to keep quiet. She wants to keep his secret for him, especially in light of his cancer's return.
Hank is having a hard time deciding whether to reveal Heisenberg's identity or not. He wants irrefutable proof before he comes forward, but Marie points out that if they catch Walt and find out that Hank knew the truth, he could get arrested. This is an interesting dilemma, but it does highlight one of the flaws I found in this episode. Nowhere along the way does Hank try to think about why Walt did what he did. He instantaneously thinks that Walt is pure evil, and has no qualms about locking him up. It might have been more interesting if he was having a harder time giving Walt up. Maybe he can't quite believe that he misjudged someone so terribly. Maybe he has a second of doubt - maybe Walt was tricked into this whole thing? The show chose not to take that angle, and instead we are barreling straight through it all. Due to time constraints, I understand, but I still wish we could see Hank thinking about this a little less black and white.
There was one tiny subplot to mention - Lydia goes to investigate the meth operation and hides down in the underground lab while a shootout takes place upstairs. She doesn't want to see the carnage, so she is escorted out of the area with her hands over her eyes. This scene did very little to advance the bigger plots, and I am still uncertain where Lydia's character is going to go next. However, the scene did have some visuals with great impact, such as the sight of Lydia's pristine heels making their way carefully through the blood-soaked sand.
So, at the end of the day I have mixed feelings about this episode. In principle, I have no problem having a Skyler-centric episode. Skyler is great. I always want more Skyler. But as we are moving in on the final six episodes, I would have liked to see some larger steps forward this week.