'Breaking Bad' recap: Episode 5, 'Dead Freight'

  • Jesse Pinkman (Aaron Paul) and Todd (Jesse Plemons) on "Breaking Bad."
Jesse Pinkman (Aaron Paul) and Todd (Jesse Plemons) on "Breaking… (Gregory E. Peters, AMC )
August 13, 2012|By Wesley Case, The Baltimore Sun

"Breaking Bad" could have mined the familiar territory of rapidly deteriorating relationships all the way to the finish line, but that would have felt too easy and lopsided. Last week, after Skyler channeled Virginia Woolf and made a slow walk into a swimming pool her most obvious cry for help, it was time for "Breaking Bad" to get back to its increasingly complicated drug business. 

When Walt "defeated" Gus, he believed he had conquered the biggest hurdle to controlling the Southwest meth trade. "It's over," Walt infamously told Skyler after Gus had been blown to bits. For Walt, it was now time to make a lot of meth and a lot of money; cooking would be his main concern. He did not account for the left-field complications, the distribution of profits or how generally meticulous Gus was with running his business. Now, he, Jesse and Mike are learning on the fly.

As "Dead Freight" showed us, that includes pulling off a heist of methlyamine that made me wonder if "Ocean's Eleven" director Steven Soderbergh was in the chair this week (no, it was George Mastras, co-producer, who wrote and directed this episode).

The set up was deliciously tense, with Lydia Rodarte-Quail (played with feverish intensity by Laura Fraser) setting the heist in motion by reading a script to the DEA over the phone to find out about a chemical barrel's GPS, and thus, saving her life (for now). The rest of the story felt familiar like other Hollywood heists: quickly mold a half-baked thought into a plausible plan, map out the details so this. might. just. work and then execute the plan with the brilliance and just-plain luck needed to pull off the difficult caper. Of course, the plan came to fruition, and the Cook Team obtained "an ocean" of methlyamine.

Cue the fireworks, man-hugs and Jesse Pinkman's celebratory "yeah, bitch!" — they did it!

For any other show, the audience would have been given a week to simply enjoy the teamwork and effort it took to secure the treasure. Hell, a demented show would have given us a commercial break, at least. But this is "Breaking Bad," where the viewer is reminded time and time again that, in this world, there is no time to bask in glory because something really awful awaits. At the conclusion of "Dead Freight," we see one of the show's most shocking and disturbing murders yet — a young boy on a bike that happened to watch the heist go down. The episode's cold open foreshadowed the end, but the conclusion would have been jarring either way.

(Andy Greenwald of Grantland points out the "Breaking Bad" writing staff must have taken a lot of joy in having Jesse Plemons, formerly good-guy Landry Clarke on "Friday Night Lights," to shoot the boy who was at the wrong place at the wrong time. Some of us have seen Plemons kill before but the circumstances couldn't have been more different. (Tyra and Landry 4ever.) Now, he becomes a much more interesting secondary character on a show with no good guys. This is a bit meta for an insular world like "Breaking Bad," but as a TV fanatic, it's twisted and awesome.)

Dead bodies are nothing new to "Breaking Bad," but an inncocent child still gave me pause. I don't expect Mike to just make the boy's body disappear (if anyone can, it's him, though). We only have three more episodes before the year-long break, and this section of Season 5 has felt more formless than the others. In Season 4, the viewer could feel the crescendo building each episode, racing toward an explosive finale that would change everything. Season 5's first half hasn't felt that way — it's expanding with more layers, characters and complications, but what's the end game? "Dead Freight" doesn't answer the question — it really just adds more — but it proves Walt's quote from Episode 4 to be true: "Nothing stops this train. Nothing."

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