Breaking Badass Power Rankings: 'Dead Freight'

Senior Pop Culture Editor
08.13.12 35 Comments

Breaking Bad is the greatest TV drama of all-time (THIS IS A FACT), so UPROXX is going all-out on our coverage of the show this season. Cajun Boy will be writing an episode recap (with GIFs!) every week, while I’ll be handling the Breaking Badass Power Rankings, which will, well, rank the most badass characters from every episode. Why “Badass?” Obviously, the so-not-clever-that-it’s-clever name, but also because Breaking Bad is the kind of a show that makes you want to drink an entire bottle of bourbon and/or Franch before watching it, to soothe your soon-to-be-tense nerves. That’s pretty badass.

Episode: “Dead Freight”

Not Ranked: Gomie, Hank Schrader, Helpful Truck Tower, Holly White, and Marie Schrader.

THE PRODIGAL FLYNN RETURNS. Or should I say Emo McGee? I’m going to say Emo McGee because Emo McGee was a whiny little bitch in “Dead Freight.” Yeah, sure, your parents want to kill each other and no one’s telling you what’s going on, but you do NOT say no to watching Val Kilmer in Heat.

(It’s worth noting that in the White household, Walt makes his kids watch Scarface, while in the Schrader residence, Hank puts on Heat, which ends with — SPOILER — cop Al Pacino killing criminal Robert DeNiro, rather than Pacino being murdered by the Skull.)

Skyler’s scenes were more than a little clumsy (ditto Emo McGee’s), but she got what she wanted — the kids out of the house, a temporary Band-Aid to cover an open, gushing wound — so she smoked her way into the Power Rankings (unlike Hank, who got played). If you’re upset about your spot, Sky, talk to Peter…something.

I enjoyed “Dead Freight” a bunch, but there’s one thing that bothered me: were the train engineers who got bamboozled by Heisenberg Enterprises blind and deaf? As seen above, Walt & Co.’s operation wasn’t that far away from where Kuby’s truck broke down, and considering the amount of noise the equipment made and the lack of any other volume because they’re in the middle of nowhere, it wouldn’t be out of line to assume the engineers would have heard something. Or maybe seen Todd walking around on top of the train. They were only 814 feet away. (Semi-related: how did the kid on the dirtbike see that tarantula from so far away? He should have been conducting the f*cking train.) I could easily be convinced to think otherwise, but for now, Train Guys #1 and #2 remain here.

Anyway, here’s a song about trains.

Most awkward ride back “into town” ever.

“Everyone sounds like Meryl Streep with a gun to their head.”

In another version of Breaking Bad, Mike’s defining characteristic is that he hangs out in bushes a lot. Oftentimes to spy on people, but occasionally just to relax; only the beautiful wildlife of Albuquerque truly understands him. Well, the beautiful wildlife of Albuquerque and Silkwood. But in our Breaking Bad, Mike, who does hang out in greenery but doesn’t seem happy about it, is the kind of guy who knows enough to say, “There are two kinds of heists: those where guys get away with it and those where they leave witnesses behind,” and thank God for that. But how will he react to Todd killing that tarantula-loving dirt biker? On one hand, the kid was a witness; on the other, he was only a few years older than his dear Kaylee.

It was a quiet episode for Walt, relatively speaking, so for this week and this week only, let’s not discuss his rotting marriage or increasingly ballsy moves, like buying an expensive watch or bugging Hank’s computer. Instead, let’s just appreciate his hat. That’s a damn fine hat, perfect for burying bodies.

So, it’s come to this, the moment that I’ve been dreading for weeks now: is shooting a kid a badass move? In real life, no; on TV, also no, and yet Todd’s ranked all the way up to #2. What gives? Well, not to defend his actions, but it wasn’t really his fault. During Mike’s speech in “Hazard Pay,” Todd was instructed to look out for and always listen to Yes Sir and No Sir, and in “Dead Freight,” they reinforce his understanding that “no one other than us can ever know that this robbery went down.” (He does know that they’re named Mr. White and Jesse now, too.) Well, someone did, and now that someone’s dead. He followed his companion’s words to a T. He would have done the same thing if it had been a grandma, a baby, an adorable corgi with a camera on its back, or a rapist. Todd didn’t see a person; he saw someone who knew that the robbery “went down,” and he eliminated them. As gross as it sounds, that’s kinda badass. I’m not even going to call him Landry anymore.

The top ranking is being shared yet again this week because without Lydia and Jesse, the train heist wouldn’t have been possible. First, as pretty much everyone guessed, Lydia isn’t dumb enough to put a tracking device on the outside of a barrel (unlike the Houston Police Department); in fact, she’s intelligent enough to think her way out of Mike popping her in the head. She tells the boys about a “dead zone” in New Mexico where a train carrying an ocean of methylamine will pass through — all they have to do is think of a way to heist it, and said ocean is all theirs. While Mike and Walt bicker over morals and ethics and carnal forbearance, minus the carnal forbearance, a light bulb turns on in Jesse’s head: why don’t they replace the methylamine they steal with water, and then blame it on China? Moral of the abbreviated story: always blame China.

Lydia and Jesse’s Jesse James*-inspired part of the plan goes superbly (the whole Todd killing a kid thing is separate), and Jesse even gets to duck under a moving train AND yell, “BITCH.” They needed it to. Both are looking out for others: Lydia would do anything for her daughter, including placing a hit on Mike (“Like the Mafia?!”), and while there’s no one specific Jesse’s protecting anymore, with the possible exception of Mr. White and maybe Mike, he doesn’t want an innocent person to die. The fact that an innocent person did die should take nothing away from their inspired idea, though I don’t think Jesse’s going to see it that way.

*Considering everything means something on Breaking Bad, don’t forget that in real life, Jesse James was killed by Robert Ford, an underling of his. Then again, that’d be tough to forget considering a movie called The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford came out all of five years ago.

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