Shane Ryan and Josh Jackson review Breaking Bad each week in a series of letters. Want to join the conversation and see your name on the digital pages of Paste? We publish a Breaking Bad Mailbag every Friday to whet our appetites for the new episodes. Mailbags require actual mail, so send your Breaking Bad questions, theories, and rants to BreakingPaste@gmail.com before Friday, and Josh or Shane—possibly both!—will answer the best ones.)
Let me start by gently advising Hank to enact his various victory rituals—rubbing his brilliant backyard-barrel plan in Walt’s face, gloating with Gomey, letting Walt defeat Jesse in a fight despite being handcuffed, and calling his wife to brag—until after he delivers his captive to a place that’s not in the middle of the desert.
So, Hank—please heed my suggestions, good sir, due to the fact that there are possibly some peckerwoods making haste to the desert, and frankly, I can’t be sure in which direction their moral compass points. These men may be prone to violence, I fear, and insufficiently impressed with your status as an officer of the law. All things considered, it may be best for you and the gang to hit the road post haste.
Or, as I put it while watching:
HANK, GET THE F*$W&(*&$(*W OUT OF THERE YOU BLUNDERING FOOL!!!1 HAAAAANKKKKKK! YOU FINALLY DID SOMETHING SMART SO PLEASE DON’T SCREW THIS UPPPP!!!! GET OUT! GET OUT! I SWEAR TO GOD I QUIT THIS SHOW IF THE REDNECKS SHOW UPP! GET THE F**$&($U($ OUT OF THE DESERT!
So, fun episode, right Josh?
I think the best thing for me to do right now is to throw some scattered thoughts at you, and see where this whole thing lands.
1. How did nobody get hit in that gunfight? How is Walt not cut to pieces in that car? If the peckerwoods (love that name) are so keen on Walt cooking for them, why are they just shooting at his location willy-nilly? I do appreciate Breaking Bad adopting the unhittable-target trope from westerns and action films, but as far as I can tell Hank and Gomey slowly advanced through about 20 yards of open terrain without getting a bullet. Bad shooting, rednecks. Baaddd shooting.
2. Holy shit, Walt made a morally positive decision! When he told Uncle Jack not to come out to the desert, it seemed an awful lot like he didn’t want Hank to die, right? (Unless he’s got a secret soft spot for Gomez that the writers have failed to explore.) I hesitate to believe that Walt had a “Breaking Good” moment so deep into his decline into evil, but I think we finally found his limit. He even tried to scream at Hank and warn him when they showed up. I mean, the real answer is probably that he just wants to torture Hank himself, or something equally depraved, but man, it felt an awful lot like a step in the right direction. If I were Walt’s therapist, I’d praise him for this modicum of progress. And then probably ask him about the parking situation at work.
Uncle Jack: Why does the meth have to be blue?
Flynn: Why do we have to say ‘have an A-1 day?’
Smarter women: BECAUSE THAT’S OUR BRAND, IDIOTS.
4. Did you notice the way Todd shot his gun? It was with the same sort of childlike innocence that he accomplished the rest of his awful deeds, his face a mask of simplicity.
5. Look, this may be weird, but I wanted Todd and Lydia to hook up. I’m just being honest.
6. The line of the episode, and why Saul is going to survive this mess while everyone else gets shot in the desert: “The kid is not as dumb as you think.” Unlike Walt, he doesn’t underestimate Jesse. Walt’s egomania was such that he can’t get in a mental space where he can even imagine Jesse doing something clever. So when the photo of the money comes in, all he can think is, “Oh no, the crazy punk kid is doing something stupid because he’s angry!” If he stopped to think about it for a second—if he ever considered that Jesse had some smarts—he might think, “Wait, why would the rental company release the GPS coordinates to some kid off the street?”
7. Seriously, seriously risky move by Hank to show Huell the fake photo of Jesse. That whole scene was one of the more demanding instances of Breaking Bad’s suspension-of-disbelief requirements. First, we have to believe that Huell would crack for nothing, and that in all his time with Saul, he wouldn’t have learned to lawyer up IMMEDIATELY if something like this went down. Then, we have to believe that Hank would do something that, if revealed as bullshit, would expose the fact that Jesse had turned informant. I really liked this episode, and I swear I’m not trying to be the proverbial wet blanket, but that’s my one complaint; it was a lynchpin scene, necessary to get us the money info, but I found it about 10 percent believable.
8. The song playing in the background for the cold open was “Oh, Sherrie” by Steve Perry (of Journey fame) and I had a strangely enjoyable time watching the long version of the music video. However, Josh, I don’t know the significance, and would love to hear your thoughts. I also don’t know the second song, “Thunder Island” by Jay Ferguson, playing just before Todd’s phone rings while he’s looking at Lydia’s lipstick. But seriously, dig that album cover.
Semi-Related question no. 1: Who has a better chance at the longshot romance—Todd with Lydia, or Landry with Tyra?
Semi-Related question no. 2: Look at the Jay Ferguson album cover again—was that the inspiration for the Iron Throne???
9. Everyone talks about the possible Saul Goodman spinoff, but what about a Walt-and-Brock spinoff, where Walt pretends to be a friendly fatherly type while Brock just stares at him suspiciously?
10. I need a tenth item, so how about this for a prediction: What if the gunfight ends when all the rednecks except Todd asphyxiate because they breathed the meth fumes in the lab?
Back to you, Josh!
This episode started with Evil Walt and Brilliant Hank. It ended with Sympathetic Walt and Stupid, Stupid Hank. I had finally become fully anti-Walt when he showed up at Brock’s house. “I know how to draw him out,” he tells Uncle Racist ominously, and I started sharing Maria’s let’s-murder-Walt fantasies. By the way, last week, I wrote, “I wonder if by calling Todd to engage his uncle in one more job, Walt is going to have to come out of retirement for one final cook. But I’m apparently terrible at predictions…” Which proves, beyond a doubt, that if a monkey at a typewriter makes 1 million predictions, one is bound to eventually come true. Or at least look like it’s going to come true until the shootout at the desert corral.
But then at the end, he’s ready to give himself up rather than have Hank killed. Family is all he has left, and even if he doesn’t have Hank as family any more, he knows he’ll lose the rest of his if Hank dies. A selfless act! Kind of!
And then there’s Hank. Oh, Hank. Finally showing us those DEA smarts—beating Walt with his brilliance—before dawdling in the desert. That shoot-out would have been almost A-Team comical if I wasn’t an emotional wreck preparing for Hank and Jesse’s demise. I mean, I get that Todd’s missing everybody. You’re dead-on there—he looks like he’s pointing his squirt gun at those little metal race cars at the fair. But the guy who has Hank in his sights with an assault rifle? It’s like he’s been breathing those meth fumes you mentioned.
Okay, skipping around to a couple more of your random thoughts:
7. I don’t think we’ve seen anything that would make us doubt Huell being easy to flip (except, you know…literally). This is the guy who napped on the giant block of cash. Who barely budged when Jesse barged past him to get to Saul. If he sees a photo of dead Jesse, hears that his own boss has given him up, hears that the DEA knows way more than he thought, he may just want to park his sizable ass in a safe place. I thought this was Hank at his TV-detective best.
8. “Oh Sherrie” was great. If you want to find meaning look no further than the final verse: “But I should’ve been gone / Long ago and far away / And you should’ve been gone / Now I know just why you stay.” Or you could just enjoy that sweet, sweet alto tenor voice of his. But even better was Todd’s ringtone: “She Blinded Me With Science.” He’s putting a real effort into this new career path. Tami Taylor would be so proud.
Since I finally got one (sort of) right, here’s another prediction: We’ve got a giant shootout with bad guys who want to get rich, good-ish guys who want to get Walt and Walt who wants to get away. What else do we have right there in the desert? Seven barrels of cold, hard cash. That’s got to factor in somehow in how this all goes down.
Oh, and I think Jay Ferguson was actually the inspiration for this guy.
This might reflect poorly on me, but I actually have no idea who that Jay Ferguson-inspired animated character is. Rather than looking it up, I’m just going to assume it’s some manga version of Ronald McDonald. I sense some disdain coming my way.
Also, congrats on the prediction! There’s nothing more satisfying than that. I have made roughly 8,000 Breaking Bad-related predictions in the past five weeks, and endorsed several thousand more from our mailbag respondents, and none of them have been correct. Most recently, an email had me convinced that Walt’s phone call to Todd at the end of the last episode was a red herring, and that he wasn’t actually going to take a hit out on Jesse. Vince Gilligan is so deep into my head that I don’t know left from right anymore, and I’m over-thinking and under-thinking at all the wrong times. So even if your correct guess was a typing monkey situation, I’m envious, because apparently I’m a typing monkey that’s also unlucky.
I like your money theory. My favorite shootout in cinematic history comes from “The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly,” and I’m hoping for a re-enactment with Jesse, Walt, and Hank. Pardon me while I take eight minutes to watch this piece of awesome for the millionth time. Okay, I’m back. Obviously Hank would be Clint Eastwood (Blondie), Jesse would be Eli Wallach’s Tuco (I wonder if that’s where the BB character name comes from?) and I fear Hank would be Angel Eyes, the one character who dies. We already have the set up, or at least nearly- all three are in the desert, and there’s a lot of money hidden nearby…only Walt knows where, just like Clint. There’s just the small problem of about five Peckerwoods with automatic rifles, but I’m sure Vince can get rid of them with some sort of deus-ex-machina. So my prediction is Walt and Jesse kill Hank, and then Walt puts Jesse in a noose, only to shoot him down from a mile away. Yes, this is outrageous, but it frankly can’t turn out any worse than all the other failed predictions I’ve made.
Here’s a question I had—in the flash-forward scene at the beginning of the half-season, Walt has all his hair. I’ve opined in the past that it means he gave up on cancer treatment, but the one thing we know for sure is that he’s still the same bald Heisenberg now, and in order to get to his hair back, some time has to elapse. Which means he not only has to escape this jam, but needs to escape for a period of, what…six weeks? At least? I have no idea what this means, and I’m all predicted out, but I have to say it doesn’t bode well for either Hank or Jesse.
And for the first time, I’m thinking that Walt might actually survive. Is that too crazy? Gilligan has me all tied up in loops Josh, so I’ll throw it back your way with a sign-off that I STILL BELIEVE IN:
Please don’t die, Jesse Pinkman.
I guess Thundercats was a little before your time. I’m not sure what generation Jay Ferguson is, but I’m guessing you’d call that proto-yacht-rock? Regardless, thank you Breaking Bad music supervisor Thomas Golubi? for saving that epic album cover from obscurity.
Last week, we talked about what a bad actor Walt is (compared to how great an actor Bryan Cranston—Cranston’s even good at playing characters who are bad actors). This week, we saw how good of an actor Jesse can be. He even seemed to be having fun with his little ploy to get Walt into the desert (“Fire in the hole, bitch!”). Please don’t die, Jesse, indeed.
As for the flash-forwards, here’s what we know:
1. Walt is alive.
2. It’s significantly enough in the future for his hair to have grown back—and a year removed from his last birthday party.
3. Judging from Carol’s reaction—dropping the grocery bags in fear—his involvement in the drug trade is probably public.
4. He’s got a really big gun and looks like he intends to use it.
I can only imagine him using that M60 on the peckerwoods, which leads me to believe they’re about to end up with Walt’s money—or Walt’s got someone to avenge. His efforts to save Hank (and indirectly, Jesse) and the presence of a gang of even bigger psychopathic/racist villains might just have us pulling for Walt in the end after all.
Remember, send your Breaking Bad questions to BreakingPaste@gmail.com and check back on Friday for more Breaking Bad goodness. Also, follow Shane Ryan at @ShaneRyanHere and Josh Jackson at @JoshJackson on Twitter.