Breaking Bad Review: "Shotgun"
In case you somehow weren't already aware of where Walter White's priorities stood on Breaking Bad, "Shotgun" made it clear.
The man who got into the meth manufacturing business to help his family was embraced by his wife and son more than he had been in years. Skyler went to bed with him and invited him to move back in, Walt Jr. made a point of telling his dad how nice it was to have him around.
But did Walter care? Did this personal inclusion make a difference in his mood, actions or outlook? No. Not when faced with such exclusion in his professional life.
Walt may truly love Skyler, he likely meant every word he said in that voicemail, but it's akin to those who have said they don't believe in God, yet would pray to Him if ever in a life-threatening situation. Rationality is a rare commodity when one panics. You reach for anything you can just to feel like you have some kind of connection, some reason for living.
Part of Walt wants to believe his family represents that reason - remember last week when he emphasized how he's still providing for them, a basis for his work that hasn't been true in years - but we know better.
We know Walt only cares about his role as Heisenberg at this point. It's the only time he feels alive, useful. The frustration over his dwindling role in Gus' operation, and his stubborn pride at Hank's gall to give Gale any credit, resulted in a brief dinner table monologue that didn't just put his own life at risk.
With Hank re-inspired, and really good at his job, Jesse will be in danger, too. And Walt Jr. could end up without a father. But this is something Walter is practically incapable of even contemplating anymore. He only sees the world through his own eyes.
Through mine, though, I couldn't help but chuckle at the utter lack of power Walt actually possesses. He's like Coach Eric Taylor at home, a man who wants to believe he's in control at all times, but who is actually at the mercy of everyone around him. Of course, Friday Night Lights played up that angle of Eric's life for laughs. There's a lot more at stake on Breaking Bad.
Elsewhere, what a genius move by Gus to set Jesse up as a hero. It accomplished two goals:
- Reinvigorating an employee who was endangering himself and the operation.
- Once again driving the point home to Walt: I'm in charge. I'm smarter than you are.
My only complaint centers on the unnecessary exchange between Mike and Gus. Breaking Bad isn't typically a show that dumbs anything down for the audience or feels a need to spell out any plot points. I was fairly certain that the botched robbery was a test for Jesse - Mike did leave the keys in the ignition, and also gave Jesse that smirk of approval when he returned with the car. A simple nod between Mike and his boss near the end would have been sufficient.
But that's a tiny nit to pick. The episode gave us Bryan Cranston in a number of moods - panicked, vulnerable, angry, bitter - along with yet another beautifully-shot, silent scene during which Jesse wondered about his fate while Mike dug a hole in the dessert and all we heard was one repetitive beat in the background.
We were also left with a question from Hank that felt like the set-up for a punchline: Since when does a vegan eat fried chicken? We doubt he'll be laughing when the answer is finally revealed.