Breaking Bad Season 5, Episode 3: "Hazard Pay" is another bloodless episode. Instead of violence it spotlights the business side of the show. Don't worry, though. Walter White reminiscing about the time Gus cut Victor's throat is almost as riveting as actually watching it happen.
A note: Breaking Bad is a story about moral decline and the reasons people commit crime; in that spirit, we'll be using our recaps to track the moral state of the key players each week. Sound good? Then read on for Wetpaint Entertainment's recap of Breaking Bad Season 5, Episode 3: "Hazard Pay."
Walter White: "Maybe He Flew Too Close to the Sun, Got His Throat Cut"
The good news: For a second, as Walter kicks back on some poor schmuck's couch and sips a nice cold brewski with his partner in crime, we actually believe that maybe, just maybe, he gives half a damn about Jesse's life. But that's probably naive, because his whole speech about truth and marriage is perfectly crafted to push Jesse to do exactly what he does — break it off with Andrea before she can become a problem. Totally intentional?
Beyond that, Walter has a cute scene watching Scarface with his kids. And as we noted last week, his continued lack of actual murder is … something.
The bad news: Where do we start? Walt is back in the game, and his new chosen place of business is other people's homes. Think about that for a second. This new plan speaks to the depth of his arrogance, manipulativeness, and lack of regard for every other person on the face of the planet. On a metaphorical level, there's something telling about the use of insect infested homes. Back in "Fly" Walter, weighed down by the pressure of working under Gus, became obsessed with the idea that a single fly could contaminate his batch. Now he's cooking in homes overflowing with pests, but who cares? He's in charge; nothing can get in his way...
… Not even Mike. As Walter tells Saul, "Yes, [Mike] handles the business. And I handle him." As far as Walter's concerned, his "partnership" with Mike and Jesse is anything but. He runs the show, at least in his own mind. If the Mike-Walter power struggle becomes as central to the season as it looks right now, we know whose side we're on. (Hint: It's the guy who pays people properly and doesn't poison children).
And then there's Walter's relationship with Skyler. Gone is the man who brought dipping sticks in a desperate attempt to win his wife back; now Walter gleefully shoves himself into his family's life, regardless of Skyler's feelings about it. And he tops off his familial failures by turning the truth into a weapon, painting Skyler as a cheater in Marie's eyes, conveniently positioning himself as the selfless victim. Classy guy, this Walter White. We can't imagine why Skyler is completely breaking down.
Jesse Pinkman: "We're Owners, Not Employees"
The good news: Thanks to Walt's little pep speech, Jesse realizes he can't keep lying to Andrea, so he breaks off their relationship (while continuing to help her financially, of course). It's the right thing to do — she may know he's into bad stuff, but we suspect she's unaware of the dangerous depths he's sunk to. There's dating a probable drug dealer, and then there's dating the second-hand man to a wannabe kingpin. Better break up now than turn her into Skyler years down the line.
We also appreciate Jesse's attempt to smooth over the Walter-Mike tensions by offering up his own cash when Walter balks. Unlike Walter, Jesse has a sane approach to their new life, willing to accept that having a bigger cut means something, even if it adds up to less cash. And the look on his face after Walter's comment about Victor says that he picked up on how creepy that little speech was. Is he starting to clue in to how off the deep end Walter has gone?
The bad news: The best thing for Jesse to have done with his realization about Andrea would be to, you know, quit the business, get a real job, and keep his makeshift family together. But perhaps that's too much to ask right now. Jesse is maturing, but that maturation is manifesting itself as increased expertise and involvement in the biz. Jesse has some smart ideas about how to pull off their new cooking method this week. While we applaud his ingenuity, is that really a good thing for him, morally? We want nothing more than to see Jesse take his newfound scraps of self confidence and get the hell out.
Mike Ehrmantraut: "The Deal Is the Deal"
The good news: Is it bad that Mike is quickly becoming our new favorite character? A man's gotta have a code, and Mike certainly knows how to live by his. He's an old hand at the business, and he plays fair. His guys are loyal, and he's loyal in return — he's even willing to work with Walter to make sure he can keep the money flowing for the people who've earned it with their silence.
The bad news: As always, Mike is Mike; his moral flexibility swings both ways. Even as we admire his dedication to making good on Gus's hazard pay, we know that his loyalty is based on self interest. He can play fair because he knows how to handle the situation when fair is no longer an option. We have a feeling he won't be nearly as easy for Walter to control as Walter thinks.
Skyler White: "Marie, Shut Up"
The good news: Skyler's palpable fear of Walt post-Season 4 finale continues to speak well of her. Her world has been turned upside down — she thought her husband was a man in over his head, but now she realizes he really is the one who knocks. She's trapped, but she isn't accepting her situation with open arms. Far from it.
The bad news: Skyler's meltdown is a thing to behold, one of those outstanding acting moments that's sure to be cited over and over come Emmy season next year. It's not morally wrong for Skyler to lose control, of course — though she isn't exactly nice to Marie during her little rant — but her final scene, shuffling quietly into the living room as the bullets fly on screen, suggests that she might finally be broken, willing to acquiesce to Walter's dominance because she can't see another way out. We hope not.
Marie Schrader: "Do I Sound Bitter?"
The good news: Marie, at her heart, remains a decent person. She's genuinely concerned for Skyler after her breakdown, genuinely worried when she asks if Walter's cancer is back, and genuinely bowled over by the news of Skyler's affair. It's almost surreal to watch her react to the world around her. Her moral scale, the way she approaches her life, the level of badness that she is capable of imagining — it's all so out of whack with what's actually going on. She has no idea that the Whites are dealing with something far larger than a little cheating.
The bad news: Marie is Marie. On the moral scale of Walter White to normal person, she does pretty well, but she's still generally unpleasant. She's pushy, bitter, rude, judgmental … the whole shebang. It's not exactly a surprise that her inane prattle pushes Skyler over the edge. We imagine it's hard to listen to someone shouting at you for smoking when you're worried about your meth-dealing husband moving back in without your consent.
Notable Scenes, Quotes, and Other Thoughts
- We have a feeling that the green and yellow tent is going to become as iconic a part of the Breaking Bad visual lexicon as the Winnebago or the super lab. We can dig it.
- As much as we enjoy Mike, we feel like Jesse has taken a backseat this season. We didn't get to see Walter approach him for the first time in the premiere, and we don't see him break up with Andrea here. We're not thrilled with that.
- "He gave me the dead mackerel eyes. He meant it." Saul, as always, is fantastic.
- Speaking of humor, this episode has some excellently, funny details. It's always nice to see Badger and Skinny Pete, and Jesse stealing a tortilla from one of the nixed locations is a spot-on touch.
- Watching Jesse interact with Badger and Skinny Pete is an amazing reminder of how much he's changed. He dresses differently than he used to, he talks differently, he even carries himself differently. He looks so confident in comparison to his former compatriots.
- Walter sitting on the couch next to Brock is one of the most disturbing images this show has given us, which is saying a lot. We found it physically nauseating.
- Every time we're reminded that only a year has passed in-universe, our minds are blown, just a little bit. These people have gone through a lot in a year.
- Mike line of the week: "Just because you shot Jesse James, don't make you Jesse James."
What did you think of the episode? Let us know in the comments below!
Read the rest of Wetpaint Entertainment's Breaking Bad coverage here.
Breaking Bad airs on Sundays at 10 p.m. ET/PT on AMC.
Rebecca Martin is an editor at Wetpaint Entertainment. Follow her on Twitter @BeccaMartin47.
For the latest from Wetpaint Entertainment, Like us on our Facebook page at facebook.com/Wetpaint, or Follow us on Twitter at twitter.com/WetpaintTV.