‘Breaking Bad’ Discussion: Tread Lightly

Last night, just shortly after 9pm central time, I sat alone on my sofa in the dark, my DVR paused on AMC just as Low Winter Sun was starting, staring blankly at the TV. And then, after a few seconds, I said one word aloud for no one but my dog: “Wow.” I don’t smoke, but I felt like I needed a cigarette in that moment. Good lord that was AMAZING.

So after waiting impatiently all these months, let’s get right to it, shall we? Here are a few notes I made during last night’s Breaking Bad about characters, scenes, etc. I found interesting for one reason or another.

– The two scenes that will be most analyzed and discussed in the coming days are the opening and closing scenes from last night’s episode, so let’s start with those. First, the opener, still frames of which I’m sure are being looked at under a microscope by Breaking Bad obsessives searching for clues as we speak.

In this scene we see the Walter White we saw in the season five opener — the future Walter White who has obviously been in hiding and on the run — returning to the family home, possession of which has been taken by the city, to retrieve the ricin he hid inside an electrical socket.

Presumably, this scene is taking place at least six months ahead of time from the rest of the episode. Remember, Walt’s 51st birthday came in the first half of season five, and his 52nd was celebrated at Denny’s in the aforementioned season five opening scene. So here he is, the heavy weaponry he purchased at Denny’s that day in tow, brazenly returning to his home in broad daylight. The house is abandoned, it’s been ransacked, it’s boarded up and covered with leaves, and skateboarders have taken over the family pool…

And it’s no longer a secret that the man who once owned the house was once the meth kingpin of the Southwest…

So we’re left to wonder: who is Walt so eager to kill that he would risk returning to his former home under the light of day to retrieve his precious vial of ricin? Hank?

– Also, over the weekend a new Breaking Bad theory was floated, one in which it’s noted that Walt’s penchant for adopting things from people he kills could point to him killing Skyler. Taking this into consideration, could Walt’s choice of jacket in this scene point to Walt murdering Jesse?

– One last thing about this scene: is it just me or does Carol seem like she’s looking at a man she thought was dead prior to this moment?

– Now, let’s fast forward to the final scene, the showdown in the garage between Hank and Walt that the series has been leading to and that we’ve all been waiting for. A couple of things: first, I was pleasantly surprised that Vince Gilligan and his writing staff wasted no time getting right to this. I’m not surprised that they did — seeing as how they only have seven episodes after this one to finish telling their story — but still, they could have easily dragged out the tension a little longer, leaving us all in suspense the entire time. They obviously chose not to, and we are all better for it.

Further, I’m a little surprised last night’s episode didn’t end when Hank closed the garage door, fading to black after it slammed shut with Walt and Hank staring intensely at each other. (I would have had no beef with that, btw.) But Gilligan and crew took it a step further and gave us the full-blown Walt/Hank confrontation we’ve all been waiting for, culminating in Walt’s thinly veiled threat, one that clearly translates to, “YOU DON’T KNOW ME MOTHERF*CKER!”

This, of course, has led to some hilarious meme-ing like this…

And this…

– One more thing about this scene: can we just go ahead and give Brian Cranston and our buddy Dean Norris Emmys now for their work in this scene? Good lord were they f*cking awesome! How great must it have been to be on set to watch these two act this scene out. Holy sh*t.

Okay, moving on to the rest of the show…

– Did you guys notice that the first line of present-day dialogue spoken in the episode was Marie looking at Walt and joking, “You are the Devil” just as Hank was walking onto the patio after having taken the sh*t that changed his life?

– I really thought Hank was going to have a heart attack behind the wheel as he and Marie drove home and I’m so glad that he didn’t as it would have likely put off the confrontation in the garage with Walt.

– Did y’all notice that Walter White, carwash magnate is back to wearing earth tone colored clothes just as he did in his pre-Heisenberg days?

– As if this episode wasn’t already great enough, we were all blessed last night with Badger and Skinny Pete getting stoned and discussing Star Trek at length, specifically how transporters could effect a pie-eating contest aboard the Enterprise. (“Spock has total Vulcan control over his digestion.”) Peter Gould, the Breaking Bad staff writer who penned last night’s episode, talked to Vulture about the scene’s origins.

Vince Gilligan had been telling the story of a pie-eating contest gone wrong aboard the Enterprise to the writers of Breaking Bad for as long as writer Peter Gould can remember. “Since probably the first season,” laughed Gould, the author of last night’s season-5.5 opener, “Blood Money.” When it came time to give Badger another stoned (and yet amazingly coherent!) speech, Gould says he asked to borrow Gilligan’s Star Trek fan fiction, which involved an ill-fated Chekov and the gross misuse of the transporter. “We talk about Greek tragedy in the writers’ room, but there are a lot of geeks, so there’s a lot of geek tragedy, too,” Gould said.

Badger’s Star Trek pitch (fact-checked by a Trek expert here) was dreamed up early in the writing of this last half of the season, when Gould and fellow Breaking Bad writer Gennifer Hutchison got into it over the true operational nature of the Trek transporter. The debate between Badger and Skinny Pete over how it works was lifted straight from their conversation. Gould, who said he was “a real Trekkie” as a kid, said he was the Skinny Pete in the argument: “I don’t want to go on a transporter because it’s essentially taking you apart and putting you back together. But Genni made a pretty good argument that that would mean there were literally 100 Captain Kirks.” He decided their debate (which no one won) was a natural way to get Gilligan’s gory lesson in transporter abuse on the show. “It would be the ultimate diet, really. Eat anything you want, and then Scotty beams it out of your stomach,” Gould said. “But like with great technology, there are terrible things that can go wrong.”

Matt Jones and Charles Baker, who play Badger and Skinny Pete, described themselves as “moderate” Star Trek fans, but admitted some of the story went over their heads. “I didn’t know what the f*ck a tulaberry was,” Jones said.

– About that scene, Vulture also had someone animate it, and it’s pretty fantastic…

– And you just knew Jesse was messed up when it was obvious he couldn’t care less about Badger and Skinny Pete’s amazing discussion…

– In case you were wondering, Drew Sharp, the person whose family Jesse wanted to give $2.5 million to, is the kid on the dirt bike who Todd killed in the first half of the season.

– Speaking of Todd, where the hell was he last night? Is he the one who’s cooking the crappy meth that has Lydia’s panties in a wad?

– At one point we learn that Walt is back to undergoing chemo, signifying that his cancer has indeed returned. When he mentions this to Hank later, he says that he hasn’t told anyone. Could this have something to do with Skyler’s comment about her wishing his cancer would come back in the first half of the season? My guess: probably.

– It’s interesting that Jesse still drives that same jalopy car he’s been driving from the start while Walt is hot-rodding it up, no?

– Is it just me or does it seem like Hank lost some weight while taking that dump at the White’s house? He looks a bit slimmer to me now.

– “Scenes from next week’s Breaking Bad can be seen during the first commercial break of Low Winter Sun.” F*ck off, AMC. The sad thing is, I would have given that show a try but using a Breaking Bad preview to try to force me to watch it turned me off so much that I decided not to watch it out of principle.

– With that said, nice to see Gale resurrected on Low Winter Sun

– Jesse is the world’s saddest Robin Hood-esque, millionaire paperboy…

– I kind of enjoyed Walt telling Skyler the truth about who Lydia was. It signified to me that at least for a brief moment he’d reformed himself. And Skyler going off on Lydia outside the carwash was pretty great, wasn’t it?

– Did any of you stay up to watch Talking Bad? Against all odds, I found Julie Bowen to somehow be more annoying than Chris Hardwick.

Finally, this girl probably loved last night’s episode more than you did…

Your own thoughts are welcome in the comments below. Have an A-1 day!

(GIFs via Chet Manley. Memes via Daily Breaking Bad. Screengrabs via AMC.)