Breaking Bad Season 5 continues its slow burn with Season 5, Episode 2: "Madrigal." Heck, only three people die this week. Pshaw.
Despite the bloodshed, this episode really is relatively quiet, focused far more on character moments than explosive plot twists or fun capers. There are few laughs and only a couple of gasps — but that doesn't mean there isn't a lot to talk about. So let's get down to it!
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 2: "Madrigal."
Walter White: "There's No Better Reason Than Family"
The good news: It's been two whole episodes and Walter has managed not to murder, maim, or poison anyone. Good for him, we guess.
And one other thing: Buried under the layers of lies and manipulation, we think there is something genuinely sweet about Walter planting the fake ricin cigarette for Jesse to find. Even if he doesn't care about easing Jesse's mind — even if the whole thing is entirely staged as a chance for him to reinforce Jesse's reliance on him — it's still telling that he wants to keep Jesse around. He wants Jesse as a partner. Their relationship has always been at the center of the show and Walter's affection for Jesse, which we do think still exists, is a constant reminder that deep under the Heisenberg exterior there is a man with a heart, albeit a twisted one.
The bad news: When the best news we can come up with is a lack of murder, you know things aren't looking up. Walter may not be be leaving a trail of bodies (yet), but he continues to embrace his wannabe kingpin status. He refuses to walk away; indeed, he explicitly parallels his new drug ring to Gus's: "If Gus can manage it, than so can we." Like Gus, Walter has become the model of an in-control businessman, approaching dealing drugs with disturbing precision.
At the end of the episode, Walter assures Skyler that doing bad things — that living with doing bad things — gets easier. Clearly, it has gotten far too easy for him; people with even partially working moral compasses don't keep poison stashed in a light socket for a rainy day. As Mike says, the man's a ticking time bomb. The only question is, who will he take down in the blast?
Jesse Pinkman: "I Don't Know What's Wrong With Me, Mr. White"
The good news: Oh, Jesse. If your heart doesn't break a little as he sobs an apology about almost killing Walt last season, we don't know what to tell you. To us, that is one of the standout scenes of the episode. We know that he's being played, that Walter would have deserved that bullet, but from Jesse's point of view fining the "ricin" cigarette is yet another reminder that he almost killed his friend, his mentor, his partner, over a misunderstanding. And, being Jesse, he feels incredible guilt over it.
Being bad may get easier for Walter, but it doesn't for Jesse — at least not when it comes to life and death. (See also: His distress over the idea that the cigarette could be out on the street, waiting to kill whoever innocently picks it up). One of our favorite things about this character is that even though he's immersed in a deadly business, the actual act of killing is the opposite of easy for him; killing Gale ate him up, and, clearly, so did almost killing Walter.
The bad news: Walter's little stunt with the cigarette works; Jesse seems to be firmly back on his side. Some combo of greed, loyalty to Walt, and stubborn inability to learn from the past means he's willing to jump back into the biz, and he's doing it with Walter. He should know that that's a bad idea. Really just the worst thing he could be doing. But he's never been able to resist the lure of the game or Walter for very long. If Jesse doesn't get out of this TV show alive, at least it will be easy to pinpoint his tragic flaw.
Mike Ehrmantraut: "Two Good Men Died Because of You"
The good news: Now that Walter has crossed the line into true villainy, Mike seems to have taken his place as the morally-dark grey pseudo anti-hero; other than the part where he's a ruthless killer, he has a moral code we can almost get behind. Despite being a hitman, he's appalled by the idea that he would kill 11 men just to keep them quiet; he has faith that his people won't turn him into the DEA, and in return he brushes off Hank's attempt to make a deal with him. He even appears genuinely broken up about having to kill the man who does flip.
And, of course, there's that final scene with Lydia. Does he go into it planning to kill her, and then change his mind after he sees her distress over her daughter, or is he planning to ask her about the Methylamine the whole time? Either way, he doesn't kill her, even after she put a hit out on him and all of his men. That's got to count for something.
The bad news: He did still shoot a guy dead, so there's that. Plus, we're guessing getting involved with Walter's new business will end up adding more minuses to Mike's morality ledger than killing Lydia and moving on with his life would have.
Lydia: "Don't Shoot Me in the Face, Please"
The good news: Like Walter, it would appear Lydia's best side is tied to her kid. When Mike points a gun to her head, she doesn't beg for her own life; her only concern is that he leaves her body where it can be found, so her daughter doesn't think she voluntarily abandoned her. We wonder if Lydia's parents left her at a young age. That might explain her hysterical desperation to save her daughter from the same fate.
The bad news: Unlike Mike, she is willing to kill 11 (12, counting Mike) people to protect her own skin. She seems to be motivated by fear — we don't get the sense she went around ordering hits left and right before Gus's organization fell — but come on. That's a hell of a lot of people to up and murder. Lydia seems frightened and malleable now, but she could be very dangerous down the line.
Hank Schrader: "You Are Not Under Arrest … Currently"
The good news: Hank's still the good guy in this whole mess, trying his best to get to the bottom of the drug ring and put the baddies behind bars. He may be sarcastic about it, he may have an ego and a mean sense of humor and generally not be a person we'd want to hang out with, but he's in the right.
The bad news: As far as we can tell none of Mike's men actually fessed to anything, which would mean Hank and his partner lied in that interrogation, which isn't exactly playing clean. But … yeah, that's all we've got. Man's pretty much on the straight and narrow these days. He's not even rogue copping it up anymore.
Saul Goodman: "Can I Offer a Thought?"
The good news: Saul's lottery ticket metaphor is right on: Walt and Jesse are lucky to be alive, and they should walk away once and for all while they have the chance.
The bad news: Despite his protests, Saul's still helping. As we said last week, he may be willing to voice the occasional moral qualm, but he's too weak to stand up to Walter.
Notable Scenes, Quotes, and Other Thoughts
- That cold open. A+. We're not sure what we love most: The gorgeous POV shot of all the splotches of sauce, or the toilet auto-flushing after Peter Schuler kills himself.
- This week in Breaking Bad Is Great With Color: We really appreciate the intense red in that bathroom. Very striking.
- Since the episode was called Madrigal, we figure we'd better mention it: It's the German corporation that, amongst many other things, is Los Pollos Hermanos' parent company. Now the big players are in town to talk to the DEA.
- We get confirmation that the laptop was wiped. However, the offshore bank accounts the DEA found in the back of Gus's photo last week do give the DEA some leverage and help create the pressure that leads to Mike's man turning on him. Walter and Jesse's little magnet caper wasn't as harmless as it seemed.
- We're already intrigued by Lydia. It's nice to finally see a woman deeply involved in the criminal side of the show.
- We love the scene between Hank and Mike. Mike's deadpan expression is excellent. In fact, Mike owns this episode in general; both of his scenes with Lydia are also riveting.
- Mike line of the week: "Here in the real world we don't kill 11 people as some kind of prophylactic measure."
- Stop the presses, guys: Walter Jr. didn't eat breakfast.
- All of the evil and broken men on this show are at their best with children. Walter and his family. Jesse and every child that crosses his path. Now Mike and his granddaughter. We don't care how stone cold a killer is, you show them playing Hungry Hungry Hippos with a 10-year-old, and it will humanize them.
- That final scene, between Walter and Skyler. Damn. And we thought last week's closer was disturbing. Walter kissing Skyler's back, whispering sweet nothings about the ease of being a drug lord while she holds back tears … chills. Chills.
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.
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