‘Breaking Bad’ – ‘I See You’: Say hi to the badder guy

Senior Television Writer
05.09.10 84 Comments

A review of tonight’s “Breaking Bad” coming up just as soon as I eat with bacteria-infested silverware…

“Everyone knows who Pablo Escobar is, and nobody knows about the guys who brought him down.” -Walter Jr.

After last week’s insanely suspenseful parking lot shootout, “Breaking Bad” dials back on the intensity for most of “I See You,” a quiet but still dramatic hour in which the characters spend a lot of time waiting: Jesse for Walt to get back to the Walt-cave so they can begin cooking; Gus for the dominoes to fall in his plot to eliminate the Cousins and their cartel boss; and Walt, Skyler, Walter Jr., Marie and a virtual army of local cops and DEA agents for news of Hank’s recovery from the shootout and the surgery that followed.

We were introduced to the Cousins in the season’s opening minutes(*), which implied they would be this year’s major villains. Instead, both are now dead – Marco killed by Hank’s magic bullet, Leonel by some kind of lethal injection by Mike the fixer – and the master villain is clearly Gus. We knew Gus was much smarter than Walt or Jesse or Saul, but to be able to take out the Cousins and Juan from the cartel in one fell swoop? That’s some Michael Corleone setting all Family business stuff there, and Tio was absolutely right in his younger years to warn his colleagues against getting into business with “the chicken man.” By episode’s end, anyone who threatens Gus is dead, and Walt has been warned just how much Gus knows about him and how much power that knowledge gives him.

(*) In a scene that was eerily, awesomely echoed here when Leonel, now a double-amputee, dove out of his hospital bed and began crawling towards Walt, determined to finish the job he and Marco started south of the border, only to be stopped by Gomey and his buddies. Overall, “I See You” was a much more contemplative episode than “One Minute,” but that? That was seriously hardcore.

Hank, after his moment of triumph with the Cousins, is off-camera for most of the episode, and unconscious the few brief times we see him, but his absence dominates the proceedings. Everyone’s worried for him. Hs DEA boss feels guilty for having taken his gun away. Walt feels guilty because he realizes that, as Marie accused in what she later admits was an irrational moment, this is largely his fault. Even Walter Jr. – who’s gotten better fathering over the last few years from Hank than from Walt over the same span – feels guilty for never cracking open the book his uncle gave him.

And it’s in that discussion of “Killing Pablo,” and the line quoted above, that I feel like Hank is going to come out of the surgery okay, and soon be back on Heisenberg’s trail. Hank was mainly comic relief in the first season, but the writers and Dean Norris have really deepened the character and made him crucial to the show. I don’t know if Hank will actually be the one to bring Walt down (assuming anyone ever does), but I believe we’re meant to know the man chasing him almost as well as we know Walt himself.

Hank’s shooting, meanwhile, gives Walt entree back into his family’s life. In the hospital, he’s still treated as Marie’s brother-in-law, and Jr’s father, and Skyler even falls asleep on his shoulder at one point, and seems untroubled when she wakes up in that position.

Speaking of Skyler, though, while I liked seeing Marie unload on Walt – the second episode in a row where Walt has had to stand in a hospital room and be called out for all the misery he’s caused (and the second in a row where we see his eyes acknowledge that his accuser is correct) – and also liked Walt briefly calming her down with the story of the green lights on the day of his cancer surgery, Skyler’s behavior throughout this episode seemed odd to me. The character’s been taken to a place where she’s accepted the fact of Walt’s drug career but still despises it and hates what it’s done to her family, yet she’s the one defending Walt from Marie’s attack? And she only starts to seem troubled to be in her ex’s presence when she catches him preparing to lie to her about who was on the courtesy phone? That didn’t jibe with what we’ve seen of Skyler lately. If the idea was that she was making nice because she felt her sister and son needed all the moral support they could get, that didn’t come across (surely, she could have told him that while they were away from the other two).

And while everyone else of note is at the hospital fretting over Hank, Jesse provides some comic relief as he turns the Walt-cave into a playground, putting lots of the equipment to uses they were not designed for. But after the display Gus put on here, it’s clear playtime is over. Walt and Jesse need to get cooking again, and fast. Gus may seem less dangerous on the surface than Krazy-8 or Tuco and his family, but he is smarter, has a wider reach, and here proves to be just as deadly.

I imagine Walt is a crucial piece of Gus’s plan to break free of the cartel, but if he can’t produce and keep Jesse in line, I can imagine Gus sending Mike to take care of those two – and in a way neither will see coming.

And even if they do stay in line, there’s still Hank. I figure the next time Walt’s surrounded by so many law-enforcement officers, things aren’t going to be nearly as chummy.

Some other thoughts:

  • Gale gets unceremoniously banished from the Walt-cave – and Walt again proves to be an inept, transparent liar in his excuses even before Jesse shows up to horrify both Gale and Walt. Great “My god, what have I done?” expression from Bryan Cranston in that sequence.
  • Once again, we see Walt become obsessed with fixing something that doesn’t belong to him. Earlier this season, he skimmed trash out of the apartment building pool, and here he spends a few moments correcting an imbalanced set of table legs with a magazine subscription card. I don’t even want to imagine what he does if he sees peanut butter and jelly sandwiches at other people’s homes.

First “Breaking Bad” post at the new home, but same old commenting rules – be nice, no talking about the content of the previews for next wee’s episode (or any other kind of spoiler), etc. – still apply.

What did everybody else think?

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