Breaking Bad Review: Prophylactic Measures

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If last week's season premiere of Breaking Bad showed us Walter White at his most egotistical (We're done when I say we're done...), then "Madrigal" depicted the new king at his calmest and his most confident.

His most Gus Fring-like.

There was no panic in Walt as he manipulated Jesse with the Ricin cigarette placement, no concern when Mike initially turned down his business offer, no celebration when Mike later changed his mind. Walt even received that news and took it in expected stride while washing the dishes, the same kind of setting and reaction we so often saw out of a certain dead chicken man.

Walt, Jesse and Mike

Yes, Walt has learned from his past and has grown into a scary, intimidating drug lord as a result.

Mike, conversely, spent the episode attempting to learn from his, but in the opposite direction. As he told Jesse in the above scene, he can see the danger in Walt, he's dealt with men like that before, and he wanted no part of such a life on the edge.

Until circumstances gave Mike little choice.

The DEA knows about the laundered money in his granddaughter's name, a business associate is sloppily trying to take out those around him and there's no Happily Ever After option available to this former cop. He can't even win at Hungry Hungry Hippos.

So Mike makes the decision to team up with Walt and Jesse after all. Did he let Lydia live because he realized she could be the source of the missing meth ingredient? Did her unabated, desperate love for her daughter make it impossible for Mike to pull the trigger? I lean closer to the latter than the former. He wasn't killing Lydia, not when she was facing death and cared solely about how her fate would affect her child.

The gun-drawn staredown between these two was as tense as Breaking Bad - as television, really - can get. We know Mike can be a cold-blooded killer (he referred to the friend he just gunned down as a "good man," yet didn't waste a thought before taking him out) and we truly had no idea whether Lydia would live or die. Her cries for her daughter were heartbreaking, and this is someone we had only just met.

Through its attention to detail, direction and dialogue, Breaking Bad possesses an uncanny ability to enrapture and enthrall. You can't help but be invested in every moment.

Overall, just a terrific showcase this week for Jonathan Banks. His portrayal of Mike paints the picture of an exasperated career criminal who excels at the game - in a diner talking business, in an interrogation room under pressure, in a house as the target of an assassination attempt - and is resigned to his fate. He's funny (Drink your hot water), and he somehow manages to be the moral center of this operation, despite his willingness to kill and kill and kill.

As Mike angled to get out this week, Walt relished just how fully in he has become. It's hard to determine which scene was more chilling:

Walt's comforting of an hysterical Jesse, someone who worships him as a father figure and someone he continues to toy with in the most unimaginably emotional ways possible... or Walt's attempted seduction of a petrified (also crying) Skyler, who is now fully aware of just who she shares a bed with.

Rewind to the series premiere, when Walt's manhood, or lackthereof, was laid bare for all to see and a pregnant Skyler nonchalantly used her hand to get her husband off. It was a jarring, revealing scene in the same way as this conclusion, but for entirely contrasting reasons.

Walt is simply a monster now to Skyler, as brilliantly captured from her point of view on this episode, where we only hear his voice and we only see his face in the final, chilling moment.

Of course, "Madrigal" also took us inside Madrigal. More than just a character study of Walt and Mike, the installment moved the actual story along significantly. Who at the conglomerate that owned Los Pollos Hermanos was in on Gus' actions? Clearly the executive who committed suicide. And Lydia.

What about the guy who claimed to the police that his company was open to investigation and he wanted to get to the bottom of the corruption as badly as they do? Do we believe him?

It's way too early to say, but the seeds are planted for this summer's main storyline. Walt and Jesse and Mike are building a new business, powerful forces at Madrigal are circling above them, Hank is inching closer to the truth. The walls will soon be in around The One Who Knocks.

But he's anything but concerned. He's cleaning the kitchen and cuddling his daughter and getting into bed with his wife like it's just another day in his controlled world. And he's doing it all for family. Of course.


Editor Rating: 4.8 / 5.0
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User Rating:

Rating: 4.7 / 5.0 (89 Votes)

Matt Richenthal is the Editor in Chief of TV Fanatic. Follow him on Twitter and on Google+.


"Walt is a purely evil human being?" He still has a special feeling for Jesse and the fact that he hasnt whacked his wife just to shut her up with her not stop cranky behavior makes him Mother Theresa to me. What series are you watching? So he's getting a little those around him. So what? Every human being to survive would have to do the same.


The scene where Mike had the gun on Lydia and the kid and nanny don't go into the kitchen was ridiculous. I love this show and everything is usually tightly written but this scene was wrong.


I hate walt - so much, someone should just shoot him right now! poor poor skyler!!!! and lovely jesse crying his eyes out.. cant wait for that day when he kills wallt (well i hope ;) )
and die u see how scared Saul was..? i mean it seems like EVERYBODY knows how evil Walt is now.. except for Jesse.. why doesnt mike talk to him?
I think this whole mike story wasnt the best - if he really needs money he could do something else aswell.. ok maybe u wouldnt get so much money, but i guess he knows some jobs - without working with the ,,bomb"
and this whole german thing - it gets complicated ;) even im from austria so i understood them - first i thought: he was ist los? haha we will see how far Walt can go before Jesse starts thinking! if i think about it now: I wish Gus would have won


The attention to detail in this series is intense, everything could be key. Like the look on Hanks face as his boss lamented how someone can be someone totally different than the person you are looking at. Great foreshadowing. I think Mr. White is blinded by this attention to detail. Mike is going to take care of business while Walt cooks, this will further distance him from the reality going on around him in the vacuum he created by killing Gus. He will be caught up in the minutia and miss the big picture. Jesse understands the meth addict, Walter does not. (The best scene in my opinion is the one where Jesse approaches the meth house with a shovel and starts digging... how deep you going? How deep do you think....); that scene summs up the whole series for me, how easliy one can be distracted from the big picture. I think Walt is blinded by his product purity. Are meth addicts that quality concious? Once you are hooked can you even tell the quality is 99%? His hubris will both get him far and be his demise. I relish this season as the best is yet to come.

Matt richenthal

@John: You aren't supposed to like Walt. Not one bit. He's a purely evil human being. The fascination has been in watching him devolve into that and seeing how it affects all those around him.


This series has gone the way of the last seasons of The Sopranos, for me: The plot now calls for suspension of disbelief. Walt pushes ahead to cook, again, even as Hank is closing in on Gus' old empire, and the people who had a part in it? Mike, a seasoned, smart, ex-cop and enforcer, decides to go in on the partnership? Come on! Just as I came to strongly dislike Tony, I now am seeing Walt in a very negative way. I guess that speaks to the great acting of both actors. I just want the series to be over with. I see nothing good coming out of this year's episodes. I wish BB had ended, for good, with Season 4. It was a great end to a great series.


to the critic above: sky blue meth can only be 99 percent pure a certain way. this was discussed last season in salud when jesse cooked with the cartel. any other way would be below 99 percent mike spent a lot of time in the lab, and watching walt and jesse on camera in season 4. walt and jesse also discussed what they needed to cook again in madrigal at the table discussion


I don't understand how Mike knew he should ask about methylamine. He was not present during Walt and Jesse's meeting with Saul and didn't speak to any of them until the final phone call, so it is very odd that he knew exactly what to ask Lydia. Even if he had already known methylamine was hard to find, it's hard to accept that it would be the first thing on his mind when speaking to Lydia. I wouldn't call this a "plot hole", but its certainly a hiccup in the writing when they need to utilize such a coincidence. I also have a problem with methylamine being used as the macguffin in the episode. The show has made it clear that Walt is a master chemist yet he never once considers the idea that he could synthesize the methylamine himself. Obtaining hexamine and a bunch of HCl would be much easier than finding a batch of freshly-produced pure methylamine. This will probably fly over many viewers' heads, but anyone with knowledge in chemistry would raise an eyebrow at this plotline. It was a solid episode though. Those minor hiccups not withstanding, I give it an A. Nothing beats Breaking Bad.

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