Breaking Bad 5.01 – Live Free or Die

Last season on Breaking Bad (in limerick form, naturally):

There once was a meth god named White
Who was in an unwinnable fight.
So he poisoned a kid
And made Gus blow his lid.
Walt’s gone to the dark side? Damn right.

Squee! It’s another season of Breaking Bad at last, and I don’t know about you, but I’ve missed these boys something fierce. Let’s see what’s happened since Walt got away with murder…and attempted murder…and betrayal…when last we saw him.

Ah, we’re back at Denny’s, the restaurant in which all evil dwells on this show. Someone’s having breakfast, and we find out through bacon hints that it’s Walt, and it’s his 52 birthday. He’s older and – holy shit – he has hair! And a beard! And new glasses! So we know it’s been a while since the last episode happened. He’s very alone, and far from New Hampshire, the place his driver’s license says he’s from. New Hampshire’s motto is “Live Free or Die”, by the way. That’s what this episode’s title refers to, not the Die Hard movies like I thought. Hee. Walt’s actually there to buy his way into a new stolen vehicle that just happens to have a big-ass rifle in the trunk. Why does he need that? Where’s Jesse and/or Skyler? What happened after Gus died? We simply don’t know…yet. All we can say for sure is he’s still dying of lung cancer and he’s an excellent tipper.

Time to jump into the time machine and scoot back to the day Gus died. Walt’s the last man standing, and his next move is to scurry home to get rid of the evidence that he built a damn bomb in his kitchen, plus poisoned a child. Good times! With not a second to spare, he finishes before Sky and Walter Jr. come home from Hank and Marie’s. After all, with Gus dead there’s nobody they need to be protected from. Right, Walt? Right??? Skyler shares my doubts. After this, there’s no more denying or refuting the fact that Walter is absolutely The One Who Knocks. Walt is both shocked and pleased with her fear of him. He raises his glass of booze to toast himself in the bedroom mirror, because that’s the only person he has with whom to celebrate his complete and utter owning of Gus Fring. Well, almost complete and utter owning. Not even mad geniuses can think of EVERYTHING. Which leads us to…

Hank finally gets to see the meth lab he’s been jonesing over for so long. Of course, it’s an incinerated shell now that Walt and Jesse burned it to the ground, but still. It’s eerie to see the meth lab that holds so many good gory memories for us destroyed, and the DEA agents walking around in their Hazmat suits like they’re on the surface of Meth Mars. They take photos and try to decipher the melted little globs of metal and plastic. Hey, what’s this one? Could it be – I don’t know – a security camera perhaps? With a record of everything and everyone who passed this way? How convenient! Hank looks at it like it’s the last piece of cheesecake in the entire world.

Yay, let’s see what Mike is up to, convalescing with his friends the chickens in Mexico, away from all the stress and strife of his usual life of…what’s that you say? Walt murdered Gus? Never mind. Screw the lacerated spleen, Mike tears across the desert in search of revenge. He doesn’t have to search very hard, because Jesse and Walt come looking for him. Mike really, really, really wants to shoot Walt, and his respect/love/friendship with Jesse is the only thing that stops him. Awww. They tell him about the security camera footage that everybody forgot about, that has enough evidence to throw all their sorry asses in jail forever. Mike’s the only one who knows where that footage is stored; it’s in Mike’s best interest to help them, it’s only logical. He tells them about Gus’s laptop, then walks to Walt’s car and holds out his hand. “What?” the resident genius Walt asks. “The keys, scumbag,” Mike wearily replies. “It’s the universal symbol for keys.” AKA: he’s damn well driving.

Whoops, too late. Hank watches with anticipation as his agents pack up the laptop and put it into evidence. He doesn’t actually turn it on and look at what’s on it or anything crazy like that. He just anticipates turning it on. Later. At some unspecified time that’s not now.

Mike gives the most convincing performance ever of a USPS employee who needs to know if the cops have the laptop because, um, Gus might have been skimming off the top of his postage costs and, um, that’s where the evidence would be. Believe me, only Mike could sell that story. Long story short, the cops have it all right, locked down tight in their evidence room. That’s all Mike needs to hear; he’s getting the hell out of Dodge. Walt wants to hear all the details about where the laptop is stored, because he’s not going to quit yet. He and Mike have a big scrap over how Walt can even suppose he could somehow steal or destroy the laptop, while in the background Jesse’s all, “Hey, I bet a magnet would wreck it. A magnet. A magnet!” Ha, I love Jesse. That’s right, the dumb kid thought of a solution before the two wily old foxes.

They’re going to need a fuck-ton of magnet to get the job done, and there ain’t no bigger magnet than those suckers that pick up cars in junk yards. Luckily, they’re acquainted with a guy who runs a place like that. Will he rent it to them even though he’s, you know, using it? “Hey, we’re living in a time of string theories and God particles. Feasible? Doable? Yeah, sure, why not?” Breaking Bad: always up-to-the-minute with their science jokes. Walt needs Jesse to spot him his share of the cost because Skyler blah blah, IRS blah blah, you know. Jesse agrees without a second thought. Mike tries to warn Jesse yet again about Walt’s strange and powerful stranglehold over Jesse, but he can’t possibly understand what Walt and Jesse have gone through together. Of course, Jesse doesn’t know that Walt has well and truly broken bad now and will stop at nothing to get what he wants. Bad, BAD Walt! ::smacks him with rolled up newspaper:: Mike should know something about misplaced loyalty, though, because the only reason he’s agreeing to be a part of this fiasco is because of Jesse.

Saul comes to visit Skyler at the car wash as she pores over website news stories about Gus’s murder. He’s there to tell her about the little accident with Ted after they tried to shake him down for the tax money Skyler loaned him. Oh my God, he’s dead?! Actually, much worse: he’s awake and in the hospital. Oops. A fate worse than death – at least for Skyler.

Okay, now they have to test the magnet to see if it works. Plywood and aluminum truck? Check. Monster magnet and a billion batteries to run it in back of truck? Check. Test subject brand new laptop? Check. They’re good to go. They take off every metal thing they could possibly have on them, including all metal rings any of them might have through the ends of their pricks. (Jesse: “What are you looking at me for?”) Jesse takes the laptop and slowly walks toward the truck as Walt turns up the juice on the magnet. Not too much too fast, the junkyard owner warns, or they might get more magnet than they bargained for. Sure enough, it wipes out the laptop hard drive, although from only a scant few feet away. No problem, says Walt. We’ll just use twice the batteries. Yeah, bitch! Mike tries to tell Walt all the ways this plan could go south, but Walt can’t hear him over the sound of his own magnificent brain synapses snapping.

Skyler goes to visit poor Ted in the hospital. He’s got one of those metal halos for his neck injury, and his life is pretty much ruined because of her, and she starts to bawl when she says hello to him. She’s on the verge of saying sorry and begging his forgiveness and questioning what the hell happened to the woman she used to be, but instead of condemning her, he’s scared and swears up and down he won’t tell anyone what happened. Gulp. So instead of being punished for her slide into sin, she’s being rewarded for it. That’s just great. Now she knows how Camilla Soprano felt all those years.

Mike, very much against his better judgement, spray paints over the security cameras at the cop station where Gus’s laptop is being held. I’m not exactly sure why Jesse and Walt needed Mike to do this instead of some street thug they could have paid twenty bucks, but okay. Mike’s in this up to his neck, just like them. He signals Walt and Jesse, who drive their truck full o’ magnet as close as they can get to the outside wall of the evidence room. Walt fires up the seventy bajillion batteries and slowly starts to turn up the magnetic electrical pull of the magnet. Heh, I have no idea what I’m talking about, but you know what I mean: it’s an Acme magnet. Inside the station, every metal object starts to slide toward the magnet. Alarms go off and Jesse implores Walt to finish so they don’t get caught. Time is running out, they have to hurry, but Walt wants to make sure it works, so he turns the dial up to eleven…and the truck tips right over against the wall as the magnet goes into overdrive. Ahahaha!

The cop on night duty is stunned when he opens the evidence room door to see the contents of the whole room stuck to the wall. Of course, when Walt turns off the magnet, all the stuff falls off and he knows somebody close has to be doing this. He and his fellow officers rush outside with guns drawn, but alas the truck is empty. Except for the hugie magnet and bajillion batteries and the remote control. Whatevs, close enough.

Jesse is beyond stoked that it worked, but Mike is livid they left evidence behind like the amateurs they are. Hank begs to differ. He’s thought of everything, like always, removing fingerprints, making sure the truck and magnet can’t be traced back to anyone. But did it even work? Walt assures Mike it did. And why should he believe Walt? Walt doesn’t hesitate whatsoever. “Because I say so.” That shuts up Jesse and Mike, mostly because they’re freaking stunned. Walt suddenly views himself as Dr. No instead of Dr. Evil, unstoppable and unquestionable. Jesse doesn’t know what the heck to make of that, but Mike does and the look he gives Walt in the rear view mirror is not one of admiration lets just say. Walt is NOT his new boss, that’s clear.

The cops have the unenviable job of going through all the evidence bags to take note of what’s been damaged. Gus’s laptop? Damaged beyond repair. Yay! A photo of Gus and his dead BFF? Broken. Yay! And something that was hidden behind the photo is now visible. Yay…what was that now? Isn’t there an old saying about every time a door closes, a window opens?

Walt meets with Saul to get an explanation as to why he allowed Skyler to take all his money and give it to Ted to pay backtaxes. Saul tries to squirm his way out of accountability, but Walt doesn’t say a word, just sits there staring at him. Who does that remind me of? Oh yes – Gus Fring. Ye gads. Saul finally gets so rattled he pulls out the ricin-laced cigarette from his desk drawer to remind Walt of just how loyal he is. We finally find out that it was Saul who stole the cigarette from Jesse, setting up the chess game that would end with Jesse taking sides with Walt and leading to Gus’s demise. Damn, Walt! Saul’s had enough and tells Walt to take the cigarette and get out, because they’re done! Walt calmly gets up and goes around the desk to confront Saul. Gone are the days of Walter White begging for favours. He gets all up in Saul’s personal space (not in the good way) and says, “We’re done when I say we’re done.” Saul unsurprisingly agrees to those terms.

Walt goes home to find Skyler in the bedroom with the baby. He tells her that he heard what happened to Ted, and gone too are the days of Skyler bossing Walt around. She says fearfully, “He’s not going to talk.” Because they both know that Walt could kill Ted without evening blinking now. But Ted is like a gnat to Walt, he’s just that insignificant. He puts his arms around a stiff-with-anxiety Skyler in a way very much reminiscent of Voldemort hugging Malfoy. “I forgive you,” he tells her. OMG, how very generous of him after he’s ruined the lives of everyone he touches. There isn’t a word for the level of gall the man has, so I’ll make up a new one. Walt, thy name is arroghubriosity. For the first time, I’m looking forward to seeing this king of the world fall down and go BOOM.