Breaking Bad Review: "Madrigal" (Episode 5.02)
“If what we do, we do for good reasons, then we’ve got nothing to worry about. And what better reason than family?”
“Madrigal” ends similarly to last week’s premiere “Live Free or Die,” with a terrified Skyler being caressed by Walt as he tries to control her fear. There’s sincerity when he mumbles “it gets easier." The closing scene paints a very clear picture of where Walter White is at. On the one hand, he’s fully accepted who he is and has even become comfortable with being a murderous criminal, yet, there is still a sense of denial with how he justifies his actions. I have no doubt that on some level, Walt still wants to provide for his family. But for Walt, providing for his family is now more about pride than a desire to be a good father. After all, if he truly wanted to just provide for his family, he could just cut his losses in the drug game and run the car wash, which would more than get them by—and with less danger. No, Walt is cooking for himself now. This is what makes the closing scene so scary. Anna Gunn does a great job continuing to portray a wife trapped in a hellish marriage gone wrong. The scene is creepy as Walt is almost forcing himself on her, kissing up and down her neck. But more telling is that Walt is trying to bring his family into his new world and justifying all of it as sacrifice for them. It’s his attempt to make all of what is going on seem normal and necessary. Considering what the premiere has shown us of Walt’s future, it makes it all the more terrifying when you factor in what his family may have to eventually face as a result of his actions.
Breaking Bad has always been great at meticulously laying down plot threads that are built upon later. Of course not every single plot development is planned out in advance. Creator Vince Gilligan has stated numerous times that each season is written as it goes along. But this is all the more reason that the writing is so impressive on this show. There is a real attention to detail, and if there is something that can be built upon, the writers go to great lengths to make it seamless with the rest of the show. This of course was seen with last season where Hector Salamanca, who was first introduced in Season 2, became one of the most important characters of the show with his backstory intertwining with Gustavo Fring’s.
Similarly, this week’s episode sees the show revisit Hank’s mention of Gus having ties to Madrigal, the German company that was buying parts for Los Pollos Hermanos laundry office. The massive scope of the DEA’s investigation into Madrigal shows us that Walt is making decisions that have a far greater impact than he might actually understand. The episode opens overseas with a top executive of the company committing suicide as the police arrive to talk to him about his connection to Gus. The current CEO is quick to deny that the company was ever involved with Gus and that the executive running their fast-food division was working on his own accord. After all, an innocent man does not kill himself. But then we are introduced to Lydia, the paranoid Madrigal executive who meets up with Mike and asks him to kill every single person that was on Gus’ payroll. The company’s involvement was beyond just one rogue employee, and they are scrambling to make sure any loose ends are tied up. The scenes with the DEA also cleared up a bit of confusion from last week. Hank did in fact look at the laptop before sending it into evidence, but it was heavily encrypted—a measure most assumed Gus would have taken.
Mike is again a clear stand-out in this week’s episode. His utter contempt for Walt as he tries to recruit him is great. It’s an interesting dynamic, because Mike sees Walt beyond all of his bravado. While Jesse looks at him as a mentor and a protector, Mike sees a man who is dangerous because of his ego and thirst for power. Every scene with him is just a joy to watch, because Banks has perfectly balanced the character with humor and the intensity of a hardened killer. Ever since that incredible “Half Measure” speech in season 3, Mike has been given scene after scene where he literally keeps you on the edge of your seat with his dialogue.
This week was no exception. From the diner scene with Lydia to his conversation with a fellow hitman who he has to put down, Mike has become one of the most enjoyable characters on the show. He’s also complex as well, as we see how good he is with his granddaughter. Tonight’s episode reveals that he had been saving a lot of the money he made in the business for his granddaughter in an offshore account. But when the DEA brings Mike in for questioning, they reveal that his Cayman account that was set up for his granddaughter has been taken by the feds. This causes Mike to reconsider and take up Walt’s offer as a full-time partner. It’s interesting that Mike actually seems to be doing this for family, whereas Walt is doing it for power and recognition under the guise of family. It’s an interesting contrast between two guys with different motivations, and I expect we will see the two butting heads over how the business is run.
Jesse and Walt’s relationship has developed substantially over the past three episodes (including last season’s finale). They always seem to be at odds, and yet, there is that father-son relationship that has always been there. And now that they are able to catch their breath with Gus dead, we finally see that relationship deepen. But it’s built on a lie. Jesse is still bothered about the cigarette missing, and Walt is quick to assure Jesse that he must have lost it. But seeing as Jesse can’t let it go, Walt makes a fake ricin cigarette with salt and swaps out the original and hides it behind the wall socket of his nightstand at home. Helping Jesse “search” his house for the cigarette, Walt drops it so Jesse’s Roomba sucks it up. After finding it, Jesse starts to break down—not because of what happened to Brock, but because he feels absolutely guilty that he went over to Walt’s place and was going to shoot him thinking that it was him that poisoned Brock. He feels awful for thinking Walt could ever do such a thing. Walt comforts Jesse, and they have a great bonding moment. But it’s a moment that feels tainted. Jesse beats himself up for doubting his mentor, but he was right. The scene is gut-wrenching, and it shows how deeply Jesse actually cares for this man. It also further solidifies the kind of loyalty that Walt has in Jesse. What stood out the most in all of this though, was Walt keeping the ricin. It feels like a Chekov’s gun, and I wouldn’t be surprised if he ends up having to use it again at a later time.
“Madrigal” did an incredible job setting up some very intense moments. A stand-out scene was Mike going over to deal with the hitman that was paid by Lydia to kill him. The DEA has put the squeeze on all of Gus’ employees by freezing their assets, and this was enough for Mike’s ex-acquaintance to turn on him and to try to kill him. Sitting across from Mike, he tries to save his life by talking Mike down. But Mike isn’t having it, and he asks him “are you ready?” before loading bullets into his chest. This leads to Mike getting the jump on Lydia in her home, where he tells her to be quiet, or else he will have to involve her daughter. We see Mike’s softer side as he decides to spare her life, partly because she has a kid in the other room, but he also sees a way in for making all his money back because of her connection with getting chemicals.
Season 5’s premiere was more over-the-top with the magnet caper, but it also tied up everything left over from season 4 so that we could move forward. And the writers have done a phenomenal job setting up this season with this episode. The groundwork that has been laid with “Madrigal” brings the story beyond New Mexico but also offers Walt either another enemy or potential partner who we could see greatly impacting the story. “Madrigal” had tight pacing and was filled with a lot of fantastic scenes. Besides being an incredibly well-paced hour of the show, it also showed that the writers are building towards something much bigger. As Mike put it, it’s like a bomb that will eventually go boom. Only, we are anticipating the explosion.